BEAVER CREEK — Wrapped in newspaper and packed tightly in a cardboard box, Riley Romanin’s most cherished Christmas gift arrived five days before Santa is slated to take to the skies, and in humble fashion for what’s considered a jewel of Italian gastronomy.
After anticipating its arrival for days — the FDA held it up in Washington, D.C. for three days — it showed up at Hooked restaurant in Beaver Creek on Friday, immediately announcing its presence with a pungent, unmistakable smell — at least to any foodie worth the moniker.
And it was worth the wait.
“It’s everything I dreamed it would be,” said Romanin about the 1-pound white alba truffle that traveled more than 5,300 miles, from Alba, Italy to Beaver Creek, where it will be shaved and served atop a special six-course menu the restaurant is offering to celebrate its one-year anniversary, which is today. They’ve dubbed it the “Hooked One-Year Anniversary and Holidays Monster Alba Truffle Party.”
And the word monster doesn’t just describe the weight of the truffle.
“It was two bricks of gold,” Romanin said, or $2,000.
And, as Romanin, the restaurant’s chef-owner says, he’s “literally giving it away.”
“White truffles are twice the price of black truffles,” Romanin said, but he’s figured the pricing based on black truffle prices. Why?
“I want people to be able to experience white truffles,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to try something that’s as great and true as white truffles.”
The six-course menu is $135, or $200 with wine pairings with each course. (You can also partake in the entire menu sans truffle, for $95, or the courses individually at a la carte pricing).
“It’s basically my cost,” Romanin said. “I’m giving the truffle away and saying come party with us. We just want to get good publicity, get people up here to come and celebrate with us. We want to blow doors and be exciting.”
Romanin planned the menu around items that are decadent and will showcase the truffle rather than overpower it.
“The flavors should all play very well,” Romanin said.
First up is Kusshi oysters — Pacific oysters from Deep Bay off of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada — flanked by fatty tuna. The sommelier is pairing the course with NV Bollinger Champagne.
Next is a choice of 7X Beef, which comes from Colorado, served as tartar with Dijon mustard, parsley and dried shaved bonito fish, or a spicy scallop cannelloni, either of which will be paired with a 2005 Lorentz Grand Cru Riesling from Alsace, France.
The third course — what Romanin calls “Crimpster ‘n’ noodles” — is a dish based on a Hooked signature creation. Homemade semolina pasta topped with butter made in the Parmigiano region, is topped with a farm fresh poached duck egg and shaved “Crimpster” — a play on “CRab, shrIMP,and lobSTER,” which is a de-shelled lobster tail stuffed with a shrimp, which is then stuffed with a snow crab leg and wrapped in bacon.
“It’s like seafood turducken,” Romanin said. “And a very traditional pairing with truffles is homemade pasta typically done just with butter.” Alongside, a 2012 Caldaro Moscato Gialla Alto from Adige, Italy will be poured.
For the fourth course, diners can choose between sea bream sashimi served with barrel-aged soy ponzu, made in house, or creamy risotto with Colorado blue oyster mushrooms. A 2012 Jean Paul Brun Chardonnay from Beaujolais, France will be poured alongside.
The fifth course is Romanin’s play on surf and turf. Baja white shrimp — a “very sweet, very delicious” shrimp from Rocky Point, Mexico, which is Romanin’s favorite shrimp, he said — is paired with pork belly, whipped potatoes and bathed in pork au jus and crispy pork skin. If that isn’t decadent enough, the meal ends with foie gras, done simply with vanilla honey and macadamia nuts. Diners will toast the end of the meal with a 2005 Guissepe Cortese Barbaresco from Italy, made with the Nebbiolo grape.
“It’s going to be the best meal the valley has seen in awhile for the price,” Romanin said.