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 thoughts on “La truffe

  1. 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.

    1. 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!!!)

  2. 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.

    1. 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? 🧐

      1. 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.

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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!

  6. 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…

    1. 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! 😅

    1. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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!

  8. 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).

    1. 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. 🤮

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