Rare Shrooms Come to Vancouver for Mushroom and Truffle Fest

Fungi lovers, prepare yourselves.

The eighth Festa del Fungo is coming to Vancouver’s CinCin restaurant this Nov. 1-30.  The annual rite, held each autumn, celebrates the best of wild mushrooms and truffles from around the world.

Among the rarities on hand are spicy and aromatic matsutakes, golden and bluefoot chanterelles and lobster, trumpet, oyster and cauliflower mushrooms.  All of these delicacies are served up in CinCin’s award-winning Tuscan dishes, including a special wild mushroom risotto.

But for true fungus snobs, the real highlight of the festival are the truffles.  The caviar of the mushroom world, truffles grow underground near the roots of certain types of trees.  Dubbed the “diamond of the kitchen,” they come primarily in white, black and burgundy varieties and are a staple of haute cuisine.  The most coveted wild truffles come from Italy and France, though varieties are found throughout the world, including in the Pacific Northwest.

And they’re not cheap.  Italian white truffles, the most prized variety, go for between $1,000 and $2,200 per pound.  A single exceptional specimen weighing 3.3 pounds was sold at auction in 2007 for $330,000.  As serious foodies know, truffles are so expensive that all you ever get in restaurants is a few shavings – grated like cheese and sprinkled fresh on top of dishes.

Why the high price?  Gourmands go crazy about the flavour, which is mushroom-like but orders of magnitude more nuanced and intense.  The emphasis is on so-called “umami” taste: a hard-to-define pungent taste often found in seafood and fermented products.

Black truffles. Photo credit: ulterior epicure | Flickr

For the Festa del Fungo, chefs have sourced truffles from around the world, collaborating with experts who hand-picked the best specimens.  The prized ‘shrooms will be featured in a selection of special dishes, including beef carpaccio, ricotta gnocchi, tagiolini and ricotta ravioli.

True truffle fiends can even sign up for the Wine and Truffle Dinner ($175) on Nov. 21.  It’s a rare opportunity to sample a five-course truffle tasting menu, paired with wine’s from Tuscany’s Antinori Estates.

The Festa del Fungo runs through November at CinCin restaurant on downtown’s Robson Street.

Any truffle lovers out there?  What makes truffles so special?  

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