In Western Australia’s Southern Forests region winter means truffle season. Join the truffle dogs hunting for the world’s most valuable fungi or swing in to truffle town – aka Manjimup – for the annual truffle festival.
By Fleur Bainger
Western Australia digs up more black truffles than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere – at least eight tonnes this season – and sends them to the world’s best restaurants. Less than 48 hours after being sniffed out by truffle dogs and gently unearthed, they can be on a menu at New York’s Per Se. This is hardly a secretive industry. Truffles might be worth their weight in gold, but in Western Australia local truffières often invite visitors to join their dog-led hunts for the subterranean treasure. The annual three-day Truffle Kerfuffle festival is a hedonistic celebration of truffle consumption that’s on every serious foodie’s to-do list.
A truffle party like no other
Western Australia’s pungent Périgord truffles are certainly sought-after: they retail for about AUD$3000 per kilogram and are the major reason for the Truffle Kerfuffle festival. If you like truffles, you’ll love this long weekend. As well as international and local chefs cooking degustation-style meals incorporating the delicacy, there are heart-fluttering truffle hunts held through the rows of oak and hazelnut trees, a forest feast with one of the "50 Next Generation Top Aussie Chefs", a market at the bustling festival village where you can buy your own truffles, enjoy guided wine tastings and plenty more.
The festival is held at the centre of Western Australia’s truffle-growing region in the town of Manjimup. You’ll see none of the snobbery often associated with the artful shaving of a truffle at a fine-dining restaurant at this little hamlet, a 3.5-hour drive south-west of Perth. Rather, Truffle Kerfuffle is gaining a cult following for its grassroots feel and lack of pretension. The weekend is a wear-your-boots-and-get-dirty affair, with plenty of flushed cheeks and wide smiles as people devour the region’s farm-fresh produce.
Pick the produce, meet the makers
Manjimup’s productive black soils and rolling green hills are home to an astonishing diversity of produce. No matter when you visit this emerging hotspot, something will be in season. Roadside stalls and farm shops are everywhere. The stall at Lyster Orchards is particularly popular for apples, including the pink lady, which was actually developed in the region. A must-visit is Fontanini Fruit and Nut Farm, where chestnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and feijoas can be handpicked from April to June. You can join one of the Truffle & Wine Co’s 12 truffle dogs on a truffle hunt between June and August. To discover the South West region’s phenomenal wines, stop at local wine hub and restaurant Tall Timbers where you can sample their huge range and buy wine at cellar door prices. Pinot noir and chardonnay are standouts in the Manjimup area. As you explore the countryside, drive slowly through the beguiling tall tree forests where white-trunked karri trees up to 400 years old soar 75 metres (246 feet) into the sky.
Three months of truffles in Canberra
It’s not just West Australians who love truffles. The Truffle Festival – Canberra Region offers plenty of opportunities to taste truffles. Running from June to August, the entire Canberra region comes alive with truffle-inspired menus, truffle-cooking classes, truffle hunts, degustation lunches and truffle market days.
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