Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Clarissa Villondo
ThinkFoodGroup has a truffle guy. His name is Nacho and he lives in Spain where he forages with his dogs and is probably living a more magical life than all of us. Last year, Nacho surprised José by swinging into town on a whim with all the truffles he could carry, sending both chefs and the PR team into a tizzy, crafting menus and sending out tweets alerting the D.C. food community that it wasn’t going to be any ordinary night at Zaytinya, Jaleo, Oyamel, or China Chilcano.
This year, they worked with Nacho to plan ahead. From February 13th until the 26th, you’ll be able to enjoy Nacho’s truffles in a variety of special dishes, but the trufflemania doesn’t stop there, you’ll even be able to request truffle shavings on your tried and true favorites. It’s really a choose your own adventure kind of deal.
At Zaytinya there’s the truffle pide, a sister of Compass Rose’s khachapuri, this dream boat of bread, egg, and cheese is delicious enough on its own, but with a liberal coating of truffle, it takes on an earthy, salty, heady taste that catapults it into new rich territories. You probably shouldn’t eat one buy yourself, but I’m certainly not in the business of telling you what to do.
If you’re looking for something even cheesier than that, the muhlama is a good bet (and another good plate to share). Made with Turkish cornmeal and cheese fondue, the dish is covered in truffles and decorated with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and pita chips. It’s like a far more serious (and delicious) hummus. The gooey cheese and rich cornmeal negates any real nurtition you’d be getting from the broccoli or cauliflower, but that’s okay. It’s Truffle Fest and you’re allowed to do whatever you want. I bet Nacho does whatever he wants. Don’t you want to be like Nacho?
If you truly want to get in the truffle spirit, take a trip down to Jaleo where you can order a truffle cocktail with your truffle meal. The When Bears Are Around combines vodka, lime juice, sangria, truffle honey, and raspberries. It’s pink, sweet, and incredibly easy to drink. I could knock back a million of these without a care in the world.
Paired with savory and snacky dishes like the huevo frito con trufa (a fried egg with black truffle) and the pan de cristal con trufa (a stupidly crispy bread topped with black truffle), it’s clear that the key to serving truffles is to pair them with the kind of foods you made in college. Lots of cheese, lots of bread, lots of egg. Keep it simple and let the pungent flavors and aromas of the truffles take the wheel.
If you can only go to one place for Truffle Fest, make it Oyamel. Their truffle cocktail (the Truffleable) was the highlight of the entire meal. Made with tequila, mezcal, granny smith apple water, truffle honey, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar, it’s smoky, sweet, earthy, and acidic all at the same time. It’s magic in a glass. It’s what I imagine Nacho has every morning for breakfast instead of orange juice. I want one right now.
Of course, the food at Oyamel is delicious as well. Sticking with the theme of simple, cheesy plates to share, there is the yuca gratinada (a less fancy version of the muhlama at Zaytinya) made with creamed yuca root, chihuahua cheese and truffles. Paired with yucca chips or Oyamel’s crunchy tortilla chips, it’s everything you want in a cheesy dipping sauce. If you want to mix it up a little bit (but still want to stay on the rich and savory train) the tortitas de papa con trufas involve crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside potato fritters paired with parmesan, Mexican crema, and truffles. The truffles don’t quite stand out as much here, but this would be an insanely good drunk snack.
Finally, there’s China Chilcano, where the team has stuck with the theme of simplicity but with their own little spin. The flounder tiradito con trufa pairs flounder crudo, a white soy truffle vinagrette and truffle shavings. After all of the cheese and chips, it’s a refreshing salty bite. Paired with the Earth Diamond, which is essentially a Pisco Sour with truffle honey and truffle shavings, it’s a great way to wind down from the heaver food.
For another take on truffles, there’s the tallarines zhen fe con trufa. The base is a Hong Kong style rice flour noodle that’s topped with tomato stew, black garlic, egg, cilantro, Chinese five spice, and (of course) truffles. The sweet acidity of the tomatoes play nicely with the richness of the truffles and the noodles have an excellent chewy texture. This would be a fantastic dish to have on a cold night when all you want is something homey and warm.
Finish it all off with the Down to Earth, a truffle dessert with chocolate mousse, algarrobina ice cream, sesame, and cocoa nibs. A mix of different textures and flavors, it manages to be delicate and hardy depending on what your spoon has picked up.
It’s a lot of food. It’s a lot of cheese. It’s a lot of bread. It’s a lot of truffles. But just think, What Would Nacho Do?