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Biltmore Farms Plants Truffle Orchard in the Ramble

Monday, February 9th, 2009

ASHEVILLE, NC – Continuing the Vanderbilt tradition of visionary thinking, the great-grandson of famous pioneer George W. Vanderbilt and CEO of Biltmore Farms, Jack Cecil will continue his ancestor’s unique approach to community building, one that creates sustainability by initiating programs far beyond the scope of typical developers and builders.

Hundreds of trees, inoculated with the appropriate fungus to grow truffles, will be planted as part of a new gardening initiative to be introduced in The Ramble Biltmore Forest. Cecil envisions it as a wonderful way to encourage community residents to come together around one of the country’s most popular activities of food and wine.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to realize that the locally cultivated truffles market could be highly coveted. "Even with a conservative yield of 15 to 35 pounds per acre — a typical yield in France — truffles are an extremely lucrative crop," says Franklin Garland, owner of Garland Truffles (www.GarlandTruffles.com). And because local products would be fresher and more reliable than those shipped from overseas, local growers would have an advantage. After all, there’s a track record in this area for high-end specialty crops, beginning with wine and organic produce. With a profusion of upscale restaurants clustered around Asheville and tourist spots in the region, there’s no shortage of potential customers. In fact, small growers may be able to develop direct relationships with chefs or form co-ops to market their fresh product.

"Fresh, locally grown truffles would be beautiful," says Joe Scully, executive chef of The Corner Kitchen (www.thecornerkitchen.com), and truffle aficionado. He emphasizes that he prefers buying directly from local producers. "I buy fruit that way and tomatoes. I know I’m getting the best and freshest products, and the producers deliver them directly to me. Also, they call ahead to tell me they are coming, so I can plan menus and specials around their seasonal produce."

The First Annual National Truffle Fest, sponsored by the National Truffle Grower’s Association (www.TruffleGrowers.com) will be held in Asheville, North Carolina, March 5th – 8th, 2009. The three-day fest features fresh truffles, fresh talent, and fabulous flavors for true truffle aficionados and those epicurious folks intrigued by the rare mushroom. Detailed information and registration information is available at www.NationalTruffleFest.com. Held amid the tranquility of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is ready to show us they know all about fine wine and dining.

The Fest officially opens with Thursday evening’s "Meet & Greet" where truffle-legend Jose Barbarin, general manager of the largest truffle orchard in the world near Soria, Spain, will welcome us. Dozens of the nation’s finest chefs will be partnering with a prestigious winemaker for Thursday’s Winemaker Dinners, held in Asheville’s premiere restaurants and private homes. One chef will be awarded "Best Truffle Creation" for their creative culinary finesse with pasta and the resplendent Perigord truffle.

This is a rare opportunity for serious truffle growers and curious consumers to have stimulating conversations while indulging all their senses in honor of the coveted truffle. Fine food and wine will be abundant at Saturday’s "Chefs’ Dinner" – where seven top chefs will prepare a once in a lifetime seven-course meal to the lucky guests. Culinary icons like Walter Royale, Todd Gray, and Martha Stewart are among the VIP attendees/chefs.

Guests can view the art exhibition entitled "The Interpretation of the Truffle" where amateur celebrity and professional artists compete for top prize. This is a rare opportunity for serious truffle lovers and curious consumers alike to have stimulating conversations, learn about truffles, wines and their pairings, while indulging their senses in honor of the coveted truffle.

For more information about this special Winemaker Dinner program and the National Truffle Fest, and to register, visit www.NationalTruffleFest.com. Tickets to the National Truffle Fest start at $100, with all-inclusive guest passes starting at $500 before February 15th and $750 thereafter.