There’s something quite special about truffles; their rarity, uniqueness of flavours and history, and whether you like them or not, the process of harvesting and preparing is a real art - something which Andres and Lynette Haas from Black Cat Cottage and Truffles have managed to successfully do over the last ten years.
Their gorgeously transformed sheep paddock in Wattle Flat, just outside of Ballarat, is a true testament to their hard work and their love of truffles. It was something that was always on their wish list, but never really came into fruition until some many years later. “We call ourselves long-term impulsive, as we’d been looking and researching truffles for 3-4 years and then after a trip to Europe and a visit to a trufferie in Tasmania, we started the venture within the space of 3 months," Andres says.
It’s easy to see what makes this place so special and why it has quietly been gaining attention. The gorgeous 20 acre property has been adorned by the ultimate veggie gardens and fruit trees, as well as their truffle orchard, which includes 1000 truffle trees. The peace and serenity of the property makes it appealing for both guests and visitors alike and it’s no wonder Andres and Lynette have called this home for over a decade.
With no prior experience in farming or truffles, Andres and Lynette’s produce has been steadily growing in popularity as their annual harvest gets greater and greater. With the help of their gorgeous truffle dogs - Ella, Narla and charmer Harry - they are able to produce and harvest a range of truffles each season, as well as produce a plethora of vegetables and fruits. Then, whatever extras are leftover are donated to the Food Is Free Laneway in Ballarat. “It's feast or famine in regards to produce, so we love sharing as much of it as possible," Lynette proudly exclaims.
For a former IT consultant and aged-care worker, they are doing great things in the produce industry - producing and selling their own truffle butter, truffle honey, truffle mustard, truffle oil, truffled and herbed salts - and it doesn’t stop there. Black Cat Cottage and Truffles offer quaint country accommodation on their farm, where the kids can run, pet the dogs, explore the farm, pick some produce and eggs from the chickens, as well as go for their very own truffle hunt. They also offer several truffle hunts throughout their season, and can provide private hunts for groups. “A lot of people have heard of us now and people recognise Black Cat Cottage and Truffles. A lot of accommodation stays come from word of mouth too," Lynette says.
With a passion for supporting local producers themselves, they are regular suppliers to locals Red Duck Brewery, Craig’s Royal Hotel, Eclectic Tastes and many more across the region.
Lynette says it’s an exciting time for the food and wine scene in Ballarat, one which hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Ballarat is growing hand-over-fist as a culinary destination. It's growing fast. The quality of chefs that are coming to Ballarat and the slow food movement, all these things are just building nicely here”. And as Lynette mentions, “we’re not just a sleepy country town, we’re a town where things are happening."
Black Cat Truffles hosts a series of truffle hunts during the winter season, finishing up at the end of August. Make sure to book a spot in advance though, because places are limited!