Darrel Truett, exec chef of Barolo Grill, on bacon everything, truffles and "Insalata 21, 31, 41, 51"
What are your ingredient obsessions? This time of year, it's white truffles. If you're in the restaurant from late October to mid-November, you'll catch whiffs of white truffles wafting from the kitchen. They only come from Alba, Italy, which is fifteen minutes from the town of Barolo.
What are your kitchen-tool obsessions? Juicers. I like using fresh vegetable juice to make purees, sauces or gelées. Freshly juiced vegetables and fruits give you super-vibrant colors and pure flavors.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: Right now, it's the red kuri squash from Grant Family Farms. It has this amazing deep-orange color after it's been roasted, and I use it a lot for making soups, sauces or pasta fillings; it's just so eye-appealing.
Best food trend of the year: I don't know if it's a trend, but something I've noticed this year while dining out is that chefs are putting far more thought into presentation, and those first impressions are important, because we eat with our eyes. Dishes are brighter, more colorful, sprinkled with microgreens, and one ingredient on a plate is showcased in several different ways. At Barolo, for example, our beet salad has sautéed beets, a beet gelée and petite beet greens, all on one plate.
Worst food trend of the year: Bacon everything. I respect the pig, and bacon is delicious, but when you start blending it up in a milkshake, you've crossed the line.
One food you detest: Raw oysters. I like them fried and I like them baked, but when it comes to slurping down a raw oyster, I'll typically pass.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: This past summer on our annual trip to Italy -- it was on my birthday, actually -- we ate at the famous Piazza Duomo, and it was just insane. Before we even ordered, we'd been given seven different amuse-bouches. The attention to detail, meticulous food, enormous variety of microgreens, harmonious flavors and impeccable service made this restaurant the total package. The salad we had was called "Insalata 21, 31, 41, 51," and the numbers represent the number of ingredients in the salad based on the season; we were there in the summer, and the number was 41. It had every type of microgreen available, plus pickled ginger, three types of crackers, dried fruits, flowers and nuts, and we were even given tweezers to eat it with. It was a great birthday present.