My close encounter with $$ truffles $$

This is the face of a chef who’s less than 24 hours away from getting to cook with a rare and expensive ingredient.

I stopped by Newport Grill last night, not only because it was $5 martini night (and that place has some pretty amazing martinis) but also because executive chef Aaron Whitcomb was in town. I met Whitcomb this summer when I wrote a story about his fun and informative cooking class at Cooking At Bonnie’s Place, and the manager told me he’d be back in town on Tuesday. Whitcomb, the executive corporate chef for Wichita’s Newport Grill, lives in Denver and also oversees Ya Ya’s Eurobistro restaurants in Kansas City and Little Rock. He comes to Wichita every couple of months.

Whitcomb is in town this time because he’s cooking a big-deal private charity dinner tonight for 50 people who support Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas. Because the dinner’s a big deal, he wanted to do something special, he said.

Here are the truffles. For your sake, I wish this picture was scratch-n-sniff.

He emerged from the kitchen last night gleefully cradling a small plastic container filled with rice. “Look what I got,” he said, opening the container and waving it under my nose.

Truffles.

But not just any truffles. Imported white Italian truffles that cost $100 an ounce. Whitcomb had nine ounces of them, nestled among the grains of rice in the container.

He’d carefully transported his $900 worth of truffles from Denver with him in his luggage and was busy dreaming up ways to use them in tonight’s dinner.

I’ve never so badly wished I was a supporter of Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas. But I’ll settle for my up-close whiff of such a rare treat.