Celebrating the Decadent Truffle– à la périgourdine – in January
“The most learned men have been questioned as to the nature of this tuber, and after two thousand years of argument and discussion their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated, and have answered simply: eat us and praise the Lord.” ~ Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)
What truffles lack aesthetically they make up for in flavor. French gourmet Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarian called them “the diamond of the kitchen,” and while he meant for their rich flavor, he may as well implied their price: These dark, lumpish fungi are the most expensive food in the world – a pound can fetch $100-$400 on the world market.
A truffle has a rather unappealing appearance — round and irregularly shaped with a thick, rough, wrinkled skin that varies in color from black to off-white. The truffle is the fruiting body of a fungus that is typically found 4”-12” below the surface, making it difficult to locate. Historically, dogs and pigs have been trained to sniff out the “black diamonds,” but in the Pacific Northwest, the hungry critters that truffles rely on are squirrels, chipmunks, and moles.
Fortunately for us, the Pacific Northwest is also the perfect breeding ground for truffles, since they thrive in moist, warm forests. Reportedly, they are most easily found two weeks after a good rain, and buddy up at the base of fir, oak, hazelnut, hickory, birch, beech, and eucalyptus trees. The truffle is essential to the trees’ ability to acquire nutrients, and the truffles count on animals to disperse their spores to help the fungi thrive.
The two most common types are the white truffles of Italy and the black truffles historically found in France. The “white truffle” or “trifola d’Alba Madonna” are the most valuable and expensive and are found mainly in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of the Piedmont region in Italy. The flesh is pale cream or brown with white marbling. They are frequently sliced raw over pasta and other dishes.
The black truffle, or black Périgord truffle, is named after the Périgord region in France and grows with oak and hazelnut trees. Black truffles are harvested in late autumn and winter which make them a perfect match for the dishes we will feature this month.
Celebrate and Enjoy Truffles with us this Month
Our chefs have created three decadent truffle preparations, offered on all menus, for the month of January. For starters, try Black Truffle Gnocchi, served with arugula. This is sure to satisfy your comfort food craving, and is the perfect accompaniment to grilled steak, or stands alone as a vegetarian entrée.
If you desire total decadence, don’t miss the Truffle Butter Poached Maine Lobster. If that doesn’t leave your mouth watering, then imagine it with béarnaise sauce and a truffle herb salad. Last but certainly not least, try the Porcini Truffle Butter as an accompaniment to your favorite protein. It’s incredible on both steak and fish. Bon Appétit!