Having spent the past forty years as a passionate foodie in France and the US the only luxe food I have yet to experience "as they should be" is truffles. Seems my travels were either in the wrong season or when I was traveling under budget restrictions.
We plan to spend the first fifteen days of December in Paris this year and I hope to correct that omission on this trip.
Your suggestions on how best to accomplish this mission would be greatly appreciated.
Story on one of the US networks a couple of days ago said that China exported more than 22 tons of truffles last year. Unfortunately they don't match the flavor of French or Italian truffles. Some unscrupulous cooks and packaging companies are mixing them with the real thing.
And a link http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/15/gar...
Why not take a quick TGV ride to Avignon (2 h 40 min) to the Rhone Valley. Visit a truffle market (Friday Carpentras) or Saturday Richerenches. There are restaurants in both towns that feature truffles, but for the absolute best go to the Beaugraviere in Mondragon for their ALL TRUFFLE menu, about 125 euros or so for a truffle feast. They also have less expensive truffle menus. The best known place in the Rhone Valley for truffles (where 80% of black truffles originate,) and also one of the best in France.
Thanks for the input. Souphie expressed one of my fears; them not really being in season yet. Maybe I'll get lucky and some first-of-season will be available and also be good. I would sure hate to have to come back in January ;)
I think what I want is something relatively simple that really show off the truffle. Most of what I have had so far have been bland, unexciting and in such small quantity that it would be hard to tell much about them except texture.
What are the differences between white and black truffles? Am I correct that the white are to be preferred?
La Truffière sounds good if only for the wine. I'm still not sure what my take on truffles will be but I am absolutely certain about wine - my great passion.
When l used to sell them, a small young French girl would come into the Manhattan market l worked in with a backpack. She had white from Piedmont, and black from France, always changing due to source and season.The things l learned from selling and eating them is that the summer truffle is pretty but flavorless and that the summer season runs very long, as our beloved Souphie mentioned. The winter black while excellent pales next to the white in aroma, which is what l want. l have tried a number of truffle dinners at home and Michelin ** and *** in France and was disappointed every time when l used black truffles, notably the whole truffle cooked in puff pastry at Le Cote St Jacques in Burgundy. My best experiences were the scrambled egg mode and a whole white cooked inside a potato, that was an oh my. Two asides, a truffle is very time important. We kept them about 2 weeks then THREW them away as just a aromaless lump after that, thus fresh is better, and secondly the truffle oils with very rare exception, Manni for one, are chemical not truffle and while interesting, not the real mccoy. Please contact me on my info page for additional info.
I'm not sure how/if they are different, but the "Burgundian" truffles will be in season then. Special truffle menus and items abound in Beaune and the surrounding area in late November/December. DCM, do you know if/how the Burgundian truffle differs from a black truffle?
Maybe a day trip?
The Burgundian truffle is very akin to the summer truffle -- it has a nice smell that does not resist any heat, and is a joke compared to the real black truffle, tuber melanosporum.
As I said, only a few specialists know how to chose, buy, and properly cook truffles. Unfortunately, some, like Rostang, even though they pretend to be specializing, are not good with it.
White truffle is a stronger but much more evanescent flavour than the black one. This is why white truffle is typically (or should) shaved table side, on your dish, at the last minute: because the flavour goes away very quickly.
White truffle will totally be in season in december.
Black truffle, by contrast, requires some heating to give its best. BUt overheating kills it. Again, you need to eat at someone's who is a member of the club to taste the true wonders that they are, and many top restaurants are not. If you take the poularde demi-deuil, for example, most have no interest because the skin is not closed enough and the truffle flavours goes away in the stock, when it is not purely destroyed (like the chicken itself) by boiling. Not to mention the fact that truffles are often crap to start with.
Le Divellec is one of the few in Paris who knows his truffle. Try his scallops with truffle for instance.
I'm not saying that only the expensive restaurants know how to cook truffles. I'm saying that most restaurant, expensive or not, don't. And, at a retail price of 1000€/kg, and considering that a good truffle dish requires at least 20g, I don't see how it could be very affordable.
Again, my recommendation outside of starred restaurants: good Italian. Truffle are expensive, but they are not a luxury ingredient. They are at their best with potatoes, eggs, pasta, and rustic dishes in general.
La Truffière on the rue Blainville just off the place de la Contrescarpe in the 5th also has a few specialités de la maison built around truffles. Not exactly cheap but doesn't require a second mortgage to eat there. Highly recommended.
Not to be obnoxious, but december is often too early for decent truffles.
Truffles are a very delicate matter, best left to specialists -- from buying to cooking to serving. Many very great chefs are actually bad at it, starting with my beloved Briffard and most of the Robuchon boys in general.
Truffle is definitely a reason why I miss Gérard Besson, who was a master of them (and other things).
So where? I'd have to say Savoy, Ducasse, Nomicos, Senderens, La Régalade to some extent (their pot au feu de foie gras de canard!), and Italian places such as Sormani. For scrambled eggs w truffle, Joséphine is good, as is Quincy. Maybe the Loiseau places (Tante Marguerite and Tante Louise).
Rostang is too often disapointing for truffles. La Maison de la Truffe, usually not good.
Does l'Ami Louis do truffles? I would trust them for that.
My only observation is that the truffle menus at Savoy, Ducasse, etc. are likely to cost more than 325e, making the food only cost for such an outing near the $500 level, per person.
So, iock, if cash is no problem, spend away. I was at Rostang last January and they had a picnic basket full of fresh truffles they brought around to show off, really intoxicating smell throughout the dining room. Some guy came in and was seated at the table next to us and ordered nothing but the truffle sandwich and a glass of wine, so that is an option for sure if you do not want to drop the cash for a full menu.
For me, the truffle menus were a good deal about 11-12 years ago when 1e = 0.90$, but for now they are off limits which is why is say try Maison de la Truffe, still expensive, but not like the starred places.
There is a place caled Maison de la Truffe, two locations in Paris, one on the Place de Madeleine, the other in the 8th I think, maybe on Rue Marbeuf, for sure that one is across the street from the l'Entrecote in the 8th. They sell truffles to go but both locations also have restaurants that sell dishes that feature truffles, this should be your go to place, but is high priced, as you might expect.
You can try trullfes in many ways; the rather famous Michael Rostang truffle sandwich. I had it several years ago. Nice restaurant.
You can also find a quite common scrambled egg/truffles.
You can't miss the smell of them in restaurants where being served
Some people do not care for them!