Oh the lure of the truffle! That delicate little nugget highly prized by gourmands and well to do pigs the world over for it’s musky and intoxicating aroma, and its ability to sex up any dish it’s added to.
I’ve been very lucky over the years to have my winters punctuated with some very special meals where I’ve indulged in my fair share of fungi, and so this year when I was invited to go and stay at a working trufflerie, I gladly accepted.
Now it might seem that truffles are popping up all over the place lately, but I can assure you they are no overnight sensation. A tree that’s been inoculated with the spores to produce black truffles (tuber melanosporum) can take up to 7 years to produce its first truffle. So it’s not exactly a business to enter into lightly.
Fortunately for us Sharon and Dion RangÃ© were just the hopeless romantics needed to pull such an undertaking off. They originally discovered a piece of pristine bushland 15 minutes out of Pemberton on the banks of the Warren River and only had thoughts of buying it so they could bring their kids up in the country. Of course a property like that tends to have a life of it’s own, and after ideas of planting grapes proved…fruitless, a fortuitous conversation with a former colleague of Australian truffle pioneer Dr Nick Malajczuk put Dion onto the right path and a plan was formed. A guest house and a truffle farm.
Stonebarn now exports it’s truffles to restaurants around Australia, and the world, and have increasingly large harvests each year. The trees are a mixture of Hazelnut and Oak (Dion sourced the acorns from the 100 year old Oak tree in the main street of Donnybrook), and Nick Malajczuk is entrusted with the important job of inoculating them with the truffle spores.
So there we were, a mere 12 years later, with my beautiful wife and son, owners Dion & Sharon, their business partner Graeme, Executive Assistant Adrianne, bride to be Hannah, and pasta guru Danny, eating one of the finest truffle meals of my life. Harold had a great time playing with Peri the truffle dog, and made some more new friends on Sunday when were joined by Aviva Shpilman and her kids. Aviva is the Paris based, Australian architect of the Stonebarn.
We took their generous offer to come and relax for the weekend in the guest house, and stocked up the pantry with some great produce from Newy’s Vege Patch in Kirup, enjoying a Jeruslaem artichoke soup, wood oven roast chicken, and the most decadent Colombian arepas with truffled scrambled eggs. Suffice to say we enjoyed ourselves. The accommodation is wonderfully luxurious and we felt immediately at home. With ducks and guinea fowl living around the house, and Peri the truffle dog entertaining our son, it was a magical weekend.
We managed to do some truffle hunting of our own, and watched the process as Peri marked locations in the trufflerie and every time a truffle was uncovered in that exact spot. It’s still a hard and very manual process mind you. Following a dog through a few kilometres of farm land and digging small holes is not a way to make quick money. Thus the lure of the truffle continues.
I for one am very grateful that people like Dion and Sharon are around to do the hard work to make sure we can enjoy a little taste of perfection every winter.
Stonebarn Lodge & Trufflerie
phone +61 8 9773 1002