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Jun 19, 2007 08:16 AM

Whole preserved black truffles

Where can I find whole preserved black Perigord truffles (Tuber melanosporum Vitt.) locally, preferably SF or Berkeley/Oakland area? I know I've seen them at Draeger's in the past but that's not very convenient.

Anybody seen them at the Made in France warehouse sales? FWIW their Web site lists only black summer truffles.

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  1. Robert I am not sure but Say Cheese in Cole Valley may have them- I saw someone buying whole black truffle in there a few months ago.

    Here is the number-(415) 665-5020.

    1. I believe Lunardi's has them. I'm not sure of all their locations.

      1. I think I've seen them at Made-in-France before, Robert, but you should phone. (Preferably speak French, because most people there seem to.) Also the small local chain A. G. Ferrari Foods, based in Oakland, carries several truffle products and I've gotten preserved T. melanosporum there, and at Draeger's which might ship if you talk to them. Check the ingredients, though. Because I've also seen at Ferrari, and elsewhere, Italian products based on "summer truffles" (Tuber aestivum, sometimes aestium or aestiuum) conspicuously labeled "black truffles" which is badly deceptive.

        In case any reader doesn't already know this -- Robert does, I'm sure -- beware the so-called "summer truffle." It's nothing like the famous black truffle of PĂ©rigord and elsewhere. It looks uniform inside, almost like a dark Jerusalem artichoke, compared to the distinctive interior of a true black truffle with light-colored canals surrounding pockets (asci) of the black spores. It has relatively little flavor and is sometimes sold in liquid that imparts a flavor of real black truffles. It's one of two minor dark truffle species that are nice mushrooms but nothing like the Real McCoy. Lately they are being marketed to inexperienced users in ways easily mistaken for the true black truffles of literature and lore. They are specifically not a "summer" version of the true black truffle. Another minor species being marketed now, less misleadingly than those I mentioned, is Tuber oregonense ("previously T. gibbosum"), the Oregon White, a pleasant wild mushroom again, normally with far less flavor or aroma than a true white truffle, and less expensive.

        1. What about the mushroom guy at the Ferry Building?

          6 Replies
          1. re: cheesemonger

            "Summer truffle" products only, at least today.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Side observation: Black "summer truffles" are nice little wild mushrooms but have become a trap for the budding truffle enthusiast. Vendors exploit the reputation of (or even substitute them deliberately for) the much rarer, much more famous classic black truffles, which they resemble only on the surface.

              "... Tuber aestivus, the summer truffle, dark brown or black, with an aromatic odor but not much taste." -- Waverly Root, some 30 years ago

              (The common black "summer truffle" is usually rendered T aestivum, sometimes aestium or aestiuum.)

              1. re: eatzalot

                Yeah, a lot of the stuff I've been finding is prominently labeled "black truffle" and only in the fine print does it say "Tuber Aestivum." Perfectly nice ingredient in its own right, but not similar to the real thing.

                One jar at Far West Fungi didn't even have the fine print.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Exactly, I have other examples. This scam is fairly recent. I first saw it a few years ago in good restaurants elsewhere in US that got tourist trade. In a real black truffle slice, fresh or preserved, the wavy black-white patterns are memorable. With the cheap imitation, you just see a uniform interior (like a slice from a cooked mushroom stem). The euphemistic name "summer truffle" and the surface resemblance even mislead some people to think they are some kind of summer crop of the famous truffles! Enthusiastic truffle writing that blurs the distinction has also appeared from people selling cheaper species.

                  If someone sold skim milk as "cream" there'd be outrage, because many people know and buy milk products. Labeling a cheap species as "Black truffles" is the same fraud but causes less reaction, and some people now trade on that.

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    Apparently it's not a recent scam, I just came across a diatribe against it in the first edition of Paula Wolfert's "The Cooking of Southwest France," published in 1982.

            2. re: cheesemonger

              I love that place! I just posted something about that...will delete so I don't duplicate.

              1. re: poulet_roti

                Seriously? Seems pretty upscale for them.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I understand your reaction. I am relatively certain that I have seen them at Lucca and a bit surprised myself. Obviously, I would call before going if out of your way.