Pungent, Please: Napa Truffle Festival

Noses and palates, prepare: January is taking a turn for the ultra flavorful.

THE MENU'S MAIN STAR: You can enter just about any fine restaurant with a total plan on your mind regarding what you'll order. You've been thinking about the lobster quiche for days -- lobster quiche, lobster quiche is scrolling across your mind, much like a crawl along the bottom of a television screen -- and you're so eager to eat it that you almost order it at the host stand, before you're even seated. And then... you spy it, on the menu, a few listings down from the lobster quiche: A truffle risotto. A truffle pasta. An omelet speckled with truffles and drizzled with white truffle oil. And suddenly the crawl in your brain stops and you find yourself not ordering the very thing you came to order. Because truffles happened. It's a common situation, among diner-outers, but one that all cuisinaires can be forgiven for indulging. For there are few flavors and scents to compare to the superstar fungus, the knobbiest of the knobby and as dear as all get-out (and with good reason). Napa, being something of the foodie center of the universe, loves the truffle with a hot heat, and pays tribute to the pungent knob each winter with a long weekend of seminars and tastings. Are you ready, truffle-minded obsessives? Then make for wine country from...

JAN. 16 THROUGH 19, 2015: The Napa Truffle Festival roster goes well beyond the supping, though there is that. There's a truffle orchard tour with dog training demo -- on-the-ground info for those truffle fans wondering how the little vaguely round-ish, rock-looking gems are found and gathered -- and there's a wild mushroom forage, too. And, you betcha, there shall be wine sipping and truffle-laden lunching, which sounds like a most excellent thing to do at the start of the year. (Isn't there a good luck wish to be made upon truffles at the beginning of a new enterprise? If not, such a tradition should be started at once.) And the Oxbow Public Market is hosting a free Napa Truffle Festival Marketplace on Monday, Jan. 19. You'll need to ticket-up for the other events, though, so get perusing, truffleans, much in the way you peruse an online menu before visiting a restaurant, forever on the search for dishes that include that knobbiest knob and flavoriest flavor.

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