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Jul 26, 2010 06:04 PM

Rise in "truffle" products - disappointing and gross.

I went to a bistro on saturday that's fairly new in town, and I won't disclose the name.
I ordered osso bucco, which was decent, but it was served alongside "white truffle risotto". I live in Nebraska, so I should have known that there weren't fresh white truffles (and it's july), but I went for it anyway. When I ate it, It tasted almost rancid. Really pungent, just unappetizing.

I have also had truffle fries (mentioned earlier on this board) that had the same chemical flavor (chef says they were cooked in truffle oil...), and smoked gouda and truffle mac n cheese. That was by far the best, but was still rank and barely edible. The smoked gouda helped.

These 3 places were totally different styles, one was a chain, and in different parts of Nebraska, but they all were awful. I am just sad that there aren't fresh truffles served anywhere around here, and chef's are opting for unnatural "truffle oil".

Can anyone else share my pain? I think Im going to start probing the waitresses asking if they have fresh truffles, etc.

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  1. I've been trying to get an "objective" take on truffle oil for a long time. Many people rave about it, and I've in one instance enjoyed it--it was an additive to real turkey gravy on a thanksgiving dinner. But apart from that one instance, I share your pain and "rancid", while perhaps not totally accurate, pretty much describes my experience with the stuff. There's no question that nearly all of this stuff is in fact just chemicals. There may somewhere be oil infused with real truffles, but I've never seen it. My experience has been with oils purchased from extremely reputable places, but the stuff still struck me as crap. It's permanently on my "don't bother" list. P.S. In fairness, I've never tasted a real truffle, and I suppose it's entirely possible that "truffle oils" do really capture the flavor of truffles. If that's the case, sad to say, I'll never be a truffle fan.

    1. As a chef I admit the use of truffle products have gotten out of hand, I would love to use fresh truffles but for up to $90/lb for black and up to $300/lb for white they are not only hard to come by but hard to sell when you have to up the menu price.

      As far as the truffle oil there are way too many cheap(er) varietys that are horrible or may be good but chefs dont know how to use them propely. There is a white truffle oil I use very seldom its expensive but worth it when you use it right and does have its place in a few dishes such as lobster bisque or to finish other cream based soups. I never say its real truffle just say truffle essence casue thats what you get just a suspicion of truffle

      2 Replies
      1. re: ZagChef

        Wow, those are amazing prices. I go to France/Italy every December and even there a real perigord black truffle (melanosporum) is around $400/lb. White truffles start at twice that.

        I don't bother with any menu item that says "truffle". At best it's a summer truffle which has little to no aroma. If you're only paying $5 extra for it, I guarantee you it's not real.

        1. re: ZagChef

          I wasn't super impressed by truffles the three times I tasted them. I'm not sure if I'd pick a dish featuring them over morel's. I mean they were really good, but I guess I was expecting to be blown away. I've had morels that blew me away, but black truffles were a bit of a let down (maybe because I was expecting my mind to be blown I should of gone with psilocybe instead of truffle…). I mean, they were good, but I expected them to be wonderful and they weren't the high point of any meal I had them in.

          Also, I can get fresh wild morels for 30 dollars a pound. I wonder if the prices were reversed, and black truffles were widely available for 30 per pound and morels were 900 a pound, if the respect cooks had for them would change.

        2. I agree the use of 'truffle' products has got out of hand. While I certainly enjoy truffle products (I am fortunate to live in a place that does produce excellent quality truffles and related products) their overuse is inappropriate and unappealing. If I was having osso bucco I would much rather a straightforward milanese risotto - simple and perfect in its own right with osso bucco. I do enjoy a sprinkling of truffle salt over my scrambled eggs occasionally and truffled mash can be fantastic with beef they do have a time and a place.

          1. I have never tasted real truffles but really liked some white truffle oil I had. A tiny bit goes a long way and I didn't use it often. In fact, I used it after a time and it had gone rancid - the oil. Maybe if a restaurant has it in a big jug it really is rancid oil.