Winter is truffle season, and here at Junction we are lucky enough to stock the most beautiful truffles sourced by Alpine Truffles.
Mark, Taola Baldwin and their gorgeous truffle hunting pup Charli are family producers of fine quality French Black Périgord Truffles in the Alpine Valley of North East Victoria, Australia. Located on the bank of the Ovens River and at the base of the Victorian Alps, the Alpine Valley surrounds them with pure mountain air, clear water and the cool climate truffles require.
How long have Alpine Truffles been operating?
Established in 2010, Alpine Truffles produced its first truffle in 2017.
How did Alpine Truffles get started? What was the inspiration?
Growing up in Western Australia there was a lot of talk about Manjimup and its truffles. After relocating to the Alpine region to be closer to family, we realised the perfect opportunity to attempt to grow truffles due to its uniquely European climate.
What did you do previous to starting Alpine Truffles?
Mark is an Aircraft Engineer by trade and was a manager of a national aircraft overhaul maintenance facility. Taola owned a jewellery store in the centre of Perth CBD. Whilst living in East Fremantle we also had a 160-acre farm north of Perth on which we ran 80 head of steers for the beef market.
Truffles are such an elusive and unique product. They are unpredictable and can be temperamental but they always fascinated Taola. After visiting the snow whilst holidaying with family and after quite a bit of research we discovered truffles need hot summers with summer rains and frosty winters. All the climate features that the Alpine Valley held.
Is there a specific dish or way you would recommend using Alpine Truffles, or other products?
Truffles love fat and salt but keep it simple! Truffle Butter can be used in so many different ways; it makes it a very versatile ingredient to have in the freezer. Add it to mash potato, finish off with a dollop in risotto, cook up a creamy alfredo pasta or our favourite, a slab of truffle butter on a ribeye steak. Oh, and scrambled eggs with fresh truffle is a great start to the day.
What are some common misconceptions about truffles?
Our biggest issue is with ‘truffle oil’. If you have a bottle in the cupboard, that’s your first problem! Fresh truffle will send oil rancid in a few days so if the bottle has been sitting in your cupboard for a few months – what’s in it? Unfortunately, if you read the fine print you will find a number of ‘describing’ words, aroma, essence, flavouring. Most (not all) of these describing words are made synthetically with ingredients like 2,4-dithiapentane, an aromatic molecule that gives truffles their distinctive smell, this is also a component of formaldehyde. The best way to overcome this is to make your own with fresh truffle or freeze-dried truffle and your favourite olive oil.
If you could visit any city for a day’s eating and drinking experience, where would it be and why?
We’d have to say Paris. The pride and passion they put into their food is amazing.
What other local artisans or producers do you admire? Why?
Tasmanian Truffles. Being the founders and first producers of the French Black Périgord Truffles in Australia, they have paved the way for us to follow our dream of being fine truffle producers.
Where would you take a visitor for an essential country food experience?
The gourmet region of the Alpine Valley has everything a foodie could want. Fresh produce includes a trout and salmon farm where you can catch your own dinner, apple, nut, and seed producers. Amazing craft gin, cider, beer, and wine producers. And most importantly a number of amazing chefs who together create fantastic dishes with our produce.
If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?
I’d have to say a grass feed ribeye steak, with truffle mash potato and broccolini all topped with truffle butter and a glass of Nebbiolo on the side. A serving of dark chocolate pudding with thick cream and ice cream. And to finish a selection of stinky cheeses with a glass of port. By then I think I’d pass out into a food coma but with the biggest smile on my face.