Next time you decide to take a day trip to Napa Valley, be sure to head to La Toque for dinner! Located within The Westin Verasa Napa, the restaurant is excited to announce that Australian Winter Black Truffle season has officially begun. Chef Ken Frank is kicking it off with mouthwatering and extravagant offerings to highlight this decadent special ingredient.
Entirely self-taught, chef Ken gives a personalized charm to his contemporary French cuisine at La Toque. Chef Ken admiration for French cooking traces back to his childhood spent in Yoivre, France. He initially achieved national acclaim at the tender age of 21 at the Los Angeles restaurant La Guillotine. He had first opened La Toque in Los Angeles, prior to moving the restaurant to Rutherford, and then to The Westin Verasa Napa in 2008. To top it all off, La Toque maintains a Michelin Star and recently earned the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, the highest honor for a restaurant’s wine list.
The Daily Meal had the opportunity to chat with Chef Ken about his excitement for truffle season and favorite truffle dish!
The Daily Meal: What do you find most special about the Australian Winter Black Truffle and what makes you so excited about its season?
Ken Frank: First I think it’s important to acknowledge that the flavor, freshness, and quality of the Australian Truffles is simply stunning. They are every bit as good as their European parents, where they got their DNA. Having top quality fresh black truffles available from early June to late August opens up a range of flavor combinations never before possible. Sweet fresh corn and fresh baby peas are two good examples of ingredients that are well suited to truffles that are simply not available in the winter.
How have chosen where and from whom to source truffles from?
I was introduced to the team at The Truffle and Wine Company in Manjimup years before they had enough truffles to sell. I remember when they sent samples of the very first truffles over 10 years ago. I said, “ Wow, this is the real deal.” Their operation is incredible and they’re strongly committed to producing the best truffles anywhere. Just like my European Winter truffle sources, I think it’s important to know the people you work with. Loyalty is good for both the vendor and the chef.
What do you want your guests to gain from their truffle tasting experience?
Truffle is one of my favorite flavors. There’s something magical about it, almost primal in its appeal that I like to share with our guests. To get the best flavor out of truffles and end up with a great dish takes some practice. My goal is always to serve dishes that guests will crave again and again.
Where do you draw inspiration from when cooking and what inspired these two specific truffle dishes (Fresh Corn “Polenta” with Australian Black Winter Truffle and Seared Foie Gras and Potato Gnocchi with English Peas, Crème Fraiche and Australian Black Winter truffles)?
The “fresh” corn polenta with foie gras is really a modern version of creamed corn. It has been in our repertoire for a long time, but never with truffles until recently because corn in January is awful. Corn, butter, and truffle is pretty hard to beat. Just last week I made corn on the cob with a large amount of fresh truffle in the butter. My first truffle dish outdoors on the BBQ. It rocked. Fresh peas have a similar earthy natural sweetness, and that’s why the truffles work so well with the gnocchi dish. That, and the fact that crème fraiche is an incredible sponge for truffle flavor.
What is your absolute favorite truffle dish?
Soft scrambled eggs!
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