An Underground Taste Sensation

As one of Australia and New Zealand’s most well-respected and recognised chefs, Sean has a passion for fresh and locally-sourced foods. He loves to find out where his food and wine comes from – making him the ideal candidate for winemaker Jamie Marfell’s food and wine pairing challenge. Jamie pours Sean a glass of Stoneleigh Wild Valley Pinot Noir – a wild-fermented wine crafted with minimal human intervention, thereby capturing the essence of the naturally-occurring flavours. Detecting the wine’s earthy, textural tones, Sean is then tasked with finding a wild food pairing for Jamie’s latest Marlborough Pinot Noir.

After heading south down New Zealand’s South Island, Sean meets up with Gareth Renowden at Limestone Hills; a small farm in the Waipara Valley, an hour north of Christchurch. Along with his wife Camille and dog Rosie, Gareth has been growing, hunting and harvesting gourmet truffles in the area for 18 years. Gareth, Sean and Rosie soon set out to forage for rare Bianchetto white truffles – a delicious discovery that is seldom found outside Italy. However, here, in this particular slice of New Zealand countryside, Gareth is provided with a wonder of nature in the form of a unique limestone soil. Not usually found in this part of the world, the highly-prized truffles grow in secret beneath the ground.

Sniffing out the location of the truffles below, Truffle dog Rosie zeroes in on the buried bounty. Digging the truffles from the limestone soil, the earthy aromas of garlic and parmesan are immediately apparent to Sean. He has uncovered the perfect wild harvest for his challenge – now it’s time to create a special dish to match the Wild Valley Pinot Noir.

Surrounded by majestic North Canterbury landscape, Sean gets to work creating a truffle fonduta with fresh damper. First, he creates his damper mix; a simple bread recipe using self-raising flour, salt, sugar and water. Placing the damper into a pot over an open fire, he starts on the fonduta; a traditional Italian cheese fondue made from milk, cream, semi-soft cheese and truffle-infused butter. Sean retrieves his freshly-baked bread from the fire, adding a liberal serving of the warm fonduta, topped with a generous grating of Gareth’s wonderful wild white truffles. Overlooking the Limestone Hills, Gareth and Sean relax to enjoy the fruits of their labour, complemented by a glass of Stoneleigh Pinot Noir.

Sean Connolly Discovers White Truffles of Waipara
Sean Connolly Discovers White Truffles of Waipara
White Truffles from Waipara
Truffle Fonduta with Fresh Damper Prepared by Sean Connolly

Combining a complex wine with complex ingredients, Sean creates a wild food and wine pairing that is simply delicious. Watching the sun go down on another beautiful winter’s day, Gareth and Sean toast a challenge successfully completed.