French · Special Occasion · Vegetarian

Muse – The Hunt for White Alba

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The month of November is truffle and mushroom mania at Muse Restaurant. I met Heather Wighton, one of the proprietors of Muse, at past functions at the restaurant. So, when I asked her about the type of truffle showcased on the menu, she invited me to pop by Muse to see the famed white Alba truffle myself. I took Wighton up on her offer and dropped by Saturday afternoon. Executive chef JP Pedhirney and Muse’s other proprietor, Stephen Deere, were also on site.
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Pedhirney brought out Alba truffle for me to smell and examine. After I found out how much white Alba truffles cost, I was scared to go near it. The going price for the two golf ball sized truffles? Two hundred and eighty dollars. By gram, white Alba sells for five to seven dollars.
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Muse’s supplier for the white Alba truffle is Mikuni Wild Harvest. In Italy and France, their hunters’ harvest for truffles with trained dogs. Pedhirney is on the phone 24/7 with truffle brokers, monitoring their search for buried treasure.

The Muse team is on the hunt for an extra large white Alba. I learned that finding a big truffle is rare, which is desirable for its stronger taste and fragrance. Deere added that when the team buys the truffles for the restaurant, they pick it for its flavour and aroma. Muse also orders from Fifth Element Imports, which has a stand at the Crossroads Farmer’s Market.
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Wighton and JP showed me the mushrooms featured in their six course menu: porcini; chanterelle; cauliflower; fried chicken; black trumpet; and burgundy. Deere informed me that cauliflower mushroom, which resembles ocean coral, has a meaty flavour that works well with seafood.
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Mushroom and Truffle Six Course Menu

As for the set menu, I got a sneak peek. To begin, a gift from the owners. An amuse bouche shooter of Double Cross Vodka with blue cheese and black truffle Spanish olive. The second amuse bouche is mushroom flan, green onion tapioca pearls, chiffonade of tarragon, and charred onion salsa.

The first course is a cold appetizer, consisting of a 63 degree egg yolk, sliced radishes, hearts on fire greens, flower pedals, pickled radishes, croutons, sliced house cured pancetta, crimini and porcini mushrooms.

The second course is a hot appetizer. A classic favourite with Muse guests – seared quail, mushroom duxelle, dehydrated Swiss chard, chanterelle mushrooms, ricotta gnudi, dyhydrated buckwheat, sherry emulsion, viola flower, micro Swiss chard, and shaved burgundy black truffles from France.

The third course is a seafood dish. Striped bass, mushroom dashi broth with ginger, mushroom, black bean and scallop dumpling with braised cauliflower mushrooms, fried chicken mushrooms, nori vinaigrette green scallion and nasturtium greens.

The fourth course is 48 hour braised short rib with caramelized pomme puree, crispy fingerling potato, black trumpet mushrooms, shaved white alba truffle, cippollini onion pedal, and brussel sprout leaves.

A palette cleanser is offered after the four course, following a cheese course of truffle brie from Burgundy France, honeycomb, lemon gel and grilled sourdough.

The six course is a chocolate dessert. Caramelized white chocolate, coffee and chanterelle mushroom crumble, rosemary powder, pine nuts, cremini mushroom milk chocolate dipped in nitrogen, burnt lemon gel and burnt lemon sorbet.

I asked Deere about the work that went into creating the menu. Deere credited Pedhirney, noting it takes a deft hand to create six dishes with truffles and mushrooms, yet employing different methods and unique ingredients.

Deere believes the tasting menu is an experience. He finds that his customers who have eaten truffles in Italy, come to recreate their past experience. For newbies, its about having that first experience with truffles.

Before I left, I asked Pedhirney if he learned anything from mushroom and truffle festival. He responded, “I learned truffles are super expensive and it is very stressful getting that extra large truffle. It is a real challenge to get the right size and quality for our customers.”

Before I spoke to the Muse team, I was excited to try the mushroom and truffle menu. After listening to Wighton, Pedhirney and Deere, I am salivating at this chance. This is a rare and value packed opportunity for Calgarians to sample something special. The six course menu is ninety-eight dollars per person.

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