La truffe

Their rich yet subtle aroma is earthy and reminiscent of rich chocolate. They are prized for the intense flavour they bring to cooking and the rarity of their supply. They are most often found in certain regions of France and Italy.

Truffles are found growing in the root systems of trees like oak, beech, birch, hazel, pine, and poplar, especially where the soil is light and high in limestone. In France, the Périgord region in the southwestern part of the country is most famous for its prized black truffles or ‘la truffe noire du Périgord.’ The best white ones are said to come from Alba, Italy.

Truffles can be cultivated but are most often found growing wild under trees. Truffle pigs or dogs can be trained to earth them up, but the pigs are more inclined to eat the bounty before the hunters can grab them. I guess because they are, um, pigs?

Oddly enough, some of the best truffle dogs look quite like the prized truffles themselves, don’t you think?

One of the things I love most about truffles is the word play in French. ‘La truffe’ is either a truffle or — you guessed it — the canine sniffer that finds them. In other words, a dog’s nose.

The resemblance is quite remarkable, n’est-ce pas? Although I wouldn’t want to eat a dog’s truffle, especially if it looked like my dog’s (not the one pictured below, which actually doesn’t look bad…). And also as I know where it’s been!

However, as much as the authentic truffle is to be savoured, there is a disturbing trend in restaurants these days to use truffle oil, a fake, chemical flavour that bears little resemblance to the real deal. Personally, as I am highly sensitive to perfumes and other synthetic (chemical) smells, it gives me a headache.

I enjoy the taste of truffles but am not crazy enough about them to go truffle hunting or pay the price for the privilege of slicing off shavings from one of the little nuggets to flavour a nice risotto. I will happily order such a dish if prepared with authentic truffles by a good chef. I recently heard about one such place in Paris, an Italian restaurant: http://www.prestofresco.fr/

How do you feel about truffles? Have you ever been truffle hunting?

30 comments

  1. midihideaways · October 24, 2019

    I love the taste of truffles, but I’ve never been out to look for them! I always find that there is a kind of garlicky flavour when I taste a dish with truffles in them, but it’s far more complex than plain old garlic.

    • MELewis · October 24, 2019

      Yes, it certainly is…I like it but not when it’s overpowering as it is with the oils. And I also like another kind of truffle (in English) which has nothing to do with either! (Chocolate!!!)

      • midihideaways · October 25, 2019

        Oh yes, I love that kind too!! 🙂

  2. francetaste · October 24, 2019

    Truffles grow around here and surrounding villages have truffle markets. They are worth it–here, the truffles are inspected, with any bad bits trimmed off, so buyers don’t get ripped off. We usually buy one or two per season. A golf-ball-size truffle costs about €20 and flavors recipes for a week.

    • MELewis · October 24, 2019

      You are very fortunate indeed. I’ve never even seen them sold at local markets around us, and if I did I’d be quite suspicious about both quality and price. Your golf-ball size version sounds like a steal! But can’t you keep it longer than a week? 🧐

      • francetaste · October 24, 2019

        The maximum is 10 days. But who wants to risk having a truffle go bad?
        The truffle markets are their own thing, not part of regular food/produce markets. The sellers’ tables are lined up, with a rope holding back the crowds. The mayor shoots a gun, the rope drops, and everybody lunges. Usually everything is sold within 15 or 20 minutes.
        I have the phone numbers of a few truffle folks to beat the crowds.

      • MELewis · October 24, 2019

        Wow! What an experience that must be…

  3. pedmar10 · October 24, 2019

    We get once in a while here but my father-in-law from Auvergne goes there to collect them for years, second home just for this hobby. The association and where to get them for info is here
    http://www.truffes-farat.com/pages/les-syndicats-en-rhone-alpes/auvergne/auvergne-1.html
    Cheers

    • MELewis · October 24, 2019

      Ooh, good reference! Thanks for sharing that. The Auvergne can be a lonely region so it’s good to know there is a reward waiting!

      • pedmar10 · October 24, 2019

        indeed! that is why I let him go there not me lol!!!

  4. 355101pkl · October 24, 2019

    i lived in London and you don’t get a lot of Truffe’s about in town although you would probably find them at the expensive restaurants and on the chopping boards of TV chefs. To tell you the truth I cant remember ever tasting one, not that it bothers me. I don’t like food snobbery . The media sets itself up as the arbiter of good taste and the masses follow. You can stuff the Truff 🙂

    • MELewis · October 24, 2019

      Give it a try if the real thing comes your way — no snobbery intended, but it is worth tasting from a good chef!

  5. 355101pkl · October 24, 2019

    Sorry should read “I live in London”. It is not easy typing with a cat on your lap

    • MELewis · October 24, 2019

      Ha, ha…I totally get it! Am thinking of having the cat rewrite the end of my novel.

  6. Ally Bean · October 24, 2019

    I’ve never been hunting for truffles but I’ve had authentic truffles sliced over my pasta in an upscale restaurant in NYC. I was completely unimpressed with the flavor, texture, and price. However, I’m glad I tried it and am saving myself big dollars by not wanting them.

    • MELewis · October 25, 2019

      At least you tried them! As you say, if they didn’t float your boat, something less to want in this world is probably a good thing. 😇

  7. Becky Ross Michael · October 24, 2019

    I’ve been in love with the idea of truffles ever since reading Peter Mayle’s wonderful books. The flavor is like heaven, but the closest thing I’ve found here in the U.S. stores that I can afford is the shiitake.

    • MELewis · October 25, 2019

      Hmm…on the whole I’d rather have plentiful shittake mushrooms than a few scrapings of ridiculously priced truffles. Enjoy them if you find them on the menu on you next trip to France!

  8. Dale · October 25, 2019

    I went truffle hunting in Italy (with dogs) and it was hilarious. The dogs will also eat them if they are left long enough with their discovery 😉
    II cannot stand truffle oil. I swear. Do the chefs not realise that a splash of that stuff completely takes over whatever they are splashing it on? Blech…

    • MELewis · October 27, 2019

      You and I are on the same page when it comes to truffle oil, Dale! Are you by any chance allergic to MSG? I find the effect on my head is quite similar. Truffle hunting with dogs does sound like fun — especially if you have to keep on top of them to ensure they don’t gobble them all up! 😅

  9. A new life in Lille · October 26, 2019

    I enjoy truffles and definitely prefer the black Périgord kind or white ones. Less taken with black summer truffles. Have been truffle hunting with dogs in Italy. Great fun!

    • MELewis · October 27, 2019

      You certainly sound much more of a truffle connoisseur than I! How fun indeed to go hunting for truffles with dogs. Certainly the only kind of hunting I would enjoy!

  10. nessafrance · October 27, 2019

    I’ve never been truffle hunting, although truffles are harvested (I can’t say grown, since they’re difficult to cultivate, hence the high price) in our area. I’ve been to a truffle market, which is an interesting cultural experience. Truffles are a bit overrated, unless they are very fresh.

    • MELewis · October 30, 2019

      That’s interesting about the freshness — I had no idea it played a part in the taste! I guess I just assumed that the flavour remained even if dried, but it jives with what FranceTaste was saying about using the one she bought at the local market within a week. I enjoy truffles from time to time but like any delicacy, I would probably quickly tire of too much of a good thing!

  11. Al in France · October 27, 2019

    I can take them or leave them…certainly not that mad about them and I certainly wouldn’t pay the price they command. To some I am considered a heathen! LOL

    • MELewis · October 30, 2019

      If there’s one thing I detest, it’s snobbery around such things as taste. Long live the heathens, lol!

  12. Joanne Sisco · October 28, 2019

    hmmm – I always thought I didn’t like truffles but from the sound of it, perhaps the problem is actually from an artificial version of the truffle.

    I’ve never had real truffle shavings so now I will have to reserve my opinion about truffles until I actually do (if ever).

    • MELewis · October 30, 2019

      I’ve had the real thing in scrambled eggs and pastas — they do have a rather nice aroma. But it’s definitely not something that everyone would rave about. Really a matter of taste in my opinion. But that oil — berk! — as we say around here. 🤮

      • Joanne Sisco · October 31, 2019

        Glad I’m not the only one who feels that way!

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