Greetings from Robbi and Jim

A warm welcome to all of the members of our Aroma Tours Newsletter in more than 35 countries from around the world.

robbi zeck and jim llewellyn provence lavenderRobbi and I are excited to be at the beginning of another delightful year of adventures and we feel blessed to be living our passion and to see our dream of sharing the wonderful places, people and experiences that we love continuing to unfold each year.

Once again we will be welcoming back a significant number of returning Aroma Travellers who currently make up almost 50% of our guests; which is quite remarkable and something that we are are very grateful for and proud of.

This year is all set to be our most successful tour season ever and Robbi and I hope that you will be able to join us.

For detailed information about any of our tours please visit our information request page and if you would like to join us please visit our booking request page to reserve your place.

Memorable Photos Pages

One of the best ways to enjoy the spirit of our Aroma Tours adventures is by taking a peek at a few of the 1000's of photos we have taken during our travels as well as some of beautiful images taken by our guests during their journeys with us.

We invite you to visit our Picture Gallery where you can enjoy browsing through dozens of pages of lovely photos from Spain, Dordogne, Turkey, Provence, Italy and Bali. We have also included a page of photos from our new Flavours of Italy Tour

Also please be sure to take a peek at the new photos of Provence we have included a little further down in this newsletter

Aroma Travellers Our Thanks

Without doubt, the main reason that we continue to grow and flourish, is the on-going support we receive from our past Aroma Travellers.

This year we are enjoying an outstanding number of returning Aroma Travellers and new guests who are joining us because of direct referrals - currently over 49% of our guests!

For Robbi and myself, it is such a great delight to welcome back so many good friends and to see our Aroma Tours continuing to flourish.

We would also like to give our heart-felt thanks to all of you who continue to support us with your kind words and referrals as you spread news of our tours and retreats amongst your friends.

Robbi and I also greatly appreciate your wonderful words of thanks, it means so much to us to know that we have shared a special time with you during our journey together.

If you have not already done so, please take a peek at our Guest Comments from 2013

Flavours of Spain - A Gourmet Pilgrimage

Each year we begin our tour season with a delightful gourmet pilgrimage to northern Spain with our Flavours of Spain Tour.

We will journey from Rioja Alavesa, one of the world's premier wine regions, along the legendary pilgrim's path of the Camino de Santiago, to the magnificent coastline of the Bay of Biscay renowned for its beauty and culture and for being home to the highest concentration of Michelin starred fine restaurants in the world.

You will experience enchanting villages, glorious seaside vistas, rich culture, stunning architecture, lush vineyards, colourful markets, ancient abbeys, amazing art, beautiful countryside and fascinating historical visits.

We have compiled a page of photos of our Flavours of Spain tour for your viewing pleasure and to give you a sense of the wonderful places, experiences, fabulous food and wines that we will enjoying with our guests.

There are also more lovely photos of Spain on our Memorable Photos of 2013 #1 page

Flavours of Spain is fast becoming one of our most popular tours and Robbi and I hope that you will be able to join us next May.

For more details please visit our information request page and if you would like to share this wonderful adventure with us you can reserve your place via our booking request page

Photos of Provence

Of all the regions that we visit, Provence has a special place in our hearts. It is where our Aroma Tours began and where we first fell in love with another land.

"To be in Provence is to be in a joyful dream full of beauty and delight." ~ Jean Moreau

Please join us in this beautiful land and it will be our great pleasure to share the wonderful places, people and experiences that we love with you. 

For more details please visit our information request page and if you would like to share this wonderful adventure with us you can reserve your place via our booking request page

Our Current Booking Status

We are enjoying our best ever season with more bookings than we have ever achieved for this time of year and we are once again on track to fill all of our tours. It is also a delight for us to see 47% of our guests returning for another journey with us.

Our booking status at the time of this newsletter is:-

2014 Tour Season

Robbi and I hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you to one of our delightful aromatic adventures and to sharing a wonderful and memorable time with you.

For detailed information about any of our tours please visit our information request page and if you would like to join us please visit our booking request page to reserve your place.

It is our pleasure to assist you with any questions you may have and we invite you to get in touch with us either by email at info@aroma-tours.com or by phone on: +613 5331 3254 (afternoon/evening USA time zones, mornings from other countries). 

Please note

  • Our up-to-the-minute booking status is available via our calendar page
  • If the tour you would like to attend becomes fully booked you may like us to add you to that tour's waiting list as sometimes we receive late cancellations or transfers.

Truffle Tales

Fruit de Terre

Most people have heard of the mysterious culinary delicacy known as the truffle; how it is rare, hard to find, very expensive, grows on the roots of oak, hazel and holm trees, is hunted with a pig or specially trained dog and is the cause of much skullduggery in certain winter market places in the Perigord and Provence.

But what is a truffle?

Simply put it is the fruiting body of a fungus similar to a mushroom that grows underground.

Truffles require a moist, warm environment to allow the symbiotic relationship between the fungus ( which synthetizes minerals for the tree ) and the tree root ( which releases sugar to feed the truffle ) to occur. As a result, the success of each year's truffle harvest is subject to the vagaries of annual weather variations.

There are more than a hundred different varieties of truffles growing in the wild but the vast majority only offer appeal to the creatures of the forest who enjoy eating them with gusto.

For us sapien types however, there are only a few  specific truffle varieties that appeal to our sense of taste ( and not all of us at that ).

The main varieties are:-

Black Truffle - Tuber melanosporum

The Black truffle is renowned as the most flavoursome of all truffles and is the preferred variety used by most chefs. As a result of its strong flavour it can tolerate being heated briefly, usually in butter, before being added to enhance a dish's flavour. It has an earthy, minty, nutty flavor and is found in the Perigord, Provence, north eastern Spain and Italy from early December until early March and Australia from June to early September! It has a rough black exterior with intricate white internal veins.

White Truffle - Tuber magnatum pico

The Italian White Alba truffle is the most expensive variety of truffle with a smooth "felt-like" surface. Its rarity and delicate, perishable flavour are the reason it fetches the high prices it does. It has a strong cheesy-garlic aroma and is available after mid- September. It is very important not to heat this delicate treasure, rather it should be shaved directly into the finished dish - pasta is perfect as an example - just prior to serving.

Summer Truffle - Tuber aestivum

The Summer Truffle is found in abundance throughout Europe, most commonly in Italy and Provence. It has a rough black exterior but an interior quite pale compared to the black truffle. It has a mild taste, reminiscent of hazelnuts. The Summer Truffle is found between May and August, and has an immense amount of flavor for its price.


 
The Black Diamonds of Provence

Every winter in Provence between mid January and mid February is a very exciting time for lovers of fine food. This is truffle season, full of fevered activity, colourful characters and Machiavellian mischief.

At this time of year in markets across Provence crowds gather, people jostle and the atmosphere is conspiratorial with whispers and surreptitious glances into baskets and plastic bags. People sniff, grunt and feel the wares before scales are produced and significant sums of money changes hands.

The object of all of this activity are what appear to be small lumps of dirt - they are in fact the aromatic and highly prized Tuber melanosporum, the Truffle or "Black Diamond" of Provence which can fetch more than US$3000 per kilo!

Black Truffles almost exclusively grow on the roots of oak trees in a very few regions of Provence and the Perigord.

In years past, pigs were used to help find truffles because of their acute sense of smell but they have now been replaced by dogs, who unlike the pigs, are easier to handle and not hell bent on eating the prize.

There is a lovely story from the Perigord about a man who found to his horror that his prize truffle pig had broken out of its pen and gone on a truffle eating spree - quelle horror!

Truffles are best left in their covering dirt to help preserve them after harvest and as such they last for 3-4 days before starting to loose their aroma and flavour.

One of the best ways to enjoy truffles is to make an omelete with lovely fresh farm eggs and add slivers of fresh truffle - absolutely delicious.

During several of our Provence tours we visit a restaurant renowned in the Guinness Book of Records for producing the world's largest truffle omelete which contained 30,000 eggs!


 
Lobster Risotto

If you are not sure about all of this truffle business, a lovely way to sample the delights of the truffle at any time of the year is to make a truffle and lobster risotto.

I know I am mixing my metaphors but in fact the Italians, and the Spanish for that matter, are great fans of the truffle.

Fresh truffles are very seasonal and expensive but truffle infused olive oil should be available from any quality delicatessen or provender store.

Ingredients for 4 people

4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
0.25 cup of finely chopped onion
1.5 cups of Arborio rice3 tablespoons of truffle oil
0.25 cup of brandy
6 cups of chicken stock
1 1.5kg cooked lobster
0.25 cup of chopped fresh Italian parsley

 Method

  • Remove the flesh from the lobster and slice into bite size pieces.
  • Place the lobster shells in a pre-heated oven at 200 C and bake for 10 minutes.
  •  Fragment the shells and place them in a blender with 1 cup of chicken stock and blend thoroughly.
  • Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or muslin cloth to remove the shell fragments, and add the resulting broth to the remaining chicken stock.
  • Warm the combined stock in a suitable saucepan - do not allow to come to the boil.
  •  In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter until melted then add 1 tablespoon of truffle oil.
  •  Add the finely chopped onions and cook gently until translucent.
  • Add the rice, making sure that it is well coated in the truffle/butter mixture.
  • Slowly add the brandy, and stir continually over medium heat until it is absorbed by the rice.
  •  Add 0.5 of a cup of the warm stock to the rice and continue stirring until it is absorbed.
  •  Continue to gradually add the stock with continuous stirring - don't rush this part. The rice is cooked when it is still slightly firm and this should take a total of about 20-25 minutes.
  •  Add the lobster meat and mix well.
  • Remove from the heat and stir through the remaining butter.
  • Add a small drizzle of truffle oil just before serving and garnish with fresh herbs and shaved Parmesan cheese.
     

Lobster and truffle is a combination made in heaven and a wonderful delicate dish that will really set tongues wagging at your next dinner party.

During our Provence tours we will enjoy sampling summer truffles ( Tuber aestivum ) which are in season in June and July - deeelicious!

Turkish Aromatic Odyssey ( repeat )

Turkey is a land of contrasts and wonder and it is very appropriate to call our journey there an Odyssey with the diversity of experiences from ancient cities to the spectacular beauty of Cappadocia, magnificent countryside, the glorious turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, sleepy seaside villages and spectacular ancient sites. And always we have the beautiful spirit and friendliness of the Turkish people to welcome us along the way.

Some of the world's greatest civilizations including the Persian, Byzantine, Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires have left behind them a rich legacy of culture, architecture, art, antiquities and aromatic heritage in this place.

We invite you to join us as we explore this exotic and amazing land full of breathtaking beauty and wonder.

For more details please visit our information request page and if you would like to share the wonders of Turkey with us you can reserve your place via our booking request page

Arranging Your Travel

Once you have reserved your place via our tour booking page, all your need to do is make your travel arrangements to meet us at the tour rendezvous point. You can either ask your travel agent to assist you, or for the more adventurous you can book your flights and connections yourselves. All of our rendezvous are easily achieved and naturally we provide all of the information and assistance that you will need.

Just a reminder that we have a frequently asked questions page to help answer the most common questions including how to book, travel arrangements, group sizes etc.

Previous Newsletters and Stories of Interest

Our past newsletters contain a lot of interesting stories and are well worth a read. You can find them by visiting our newsletter archives

You may also enjoy reading a few of the stories that we have compiled over the years on our stories of interest page

Our Invitation

Robbi and I look forward to welcoming you to one of our delightful tours or retreats in the near future and invite you to take a peek at the latest photos of our travels in our photo galleries

For detailed information about any of our tours please visit our information request page and if you would like to join us please visit our booking request page to reserve your place.

As always if you have any questions or if you would like us to assist you personally with advice about your travel arrangements or with any other details please contact us either by email at info@aroma-tours.com or by phone on +61 3 5331 3254 ( afternoon/evening USA time zones, mornings from other countries ).

Please note you need to replace the '+' in our phone number with your country's international dialing prefix: from the USA/Canada it is 011 from most other countries it is 00.

Warmest regards,

Jim and Robbi


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