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Paris Truffle Dinners

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Hoping the financial crisis will at least do something good and bring truffle prices down from their stratospheric heights, I show you how they eat truffles in Paris.

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Many people have never tasted truffles. I'm writing this not to taunt you if you haven't, but rather to show you what they are and how they are best enjoyed. If you mark down 'Eating a Truffle' on your life's to do list, I'll tell you how to do it properly. And if you think you'll just never be able to afford one please don't feel bad about it. Truffles are not magical. They taste as good as quality vanilla bean, only their scarcity and short shelf life makes them horrendously expensive. You may be surprised to learn that worldwide truffle production has been going down for a solid 100 years. Truffle gatherers today collect less than 15% of what they did in the late 19th century. Less pastures, less truffle-friendly orchards, you name it. Truffles don't even preserve so well, no matter what truffle preserves producers would have you believe. All of this makes for astronomical prices and scarce availability no matter who you are. That's all. So you can enjoy vanilla, saffron, good red wines or great oolong teas - they are all at the same level with truffles but much more affordable.

Some of the components of truffle flavors are not perceived by everyone. It's a genetic thing. But unless you try a really fresh truffle, you'll just never know whether it's the truffle that's vapid or your nose that can't smell it fully. Don't buy any truffle preserves. Don't buy truffles in a shop unless you are experienced with truffle. Go to a really good restaurant that uses a lot of truffle, and go in season. For black truffles, that's December to March. The later in the season, the less truffles, but the more flavor they have. If you want to bring one back home, ask the maître d' whether you could buy them a truffle.

For Easter I had a black truffle lunch at two restaurants in Paris. It's not as expensive as you'd think so please don't envy me. If you can afford to go to Paris, you can probably afford at least one good dish in such a restaurant. If you can't, you may one day. Don't give up!

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My first lunch was at Hélène Darroze, a young female chef from the French SouthWest. A couple years ago, I called her last restaurant and the rugby mom Maître d' laughed at me for daring to ask if she had a table free for the next day - But it's a Saturday, Monsieur. It didn't encourage me to try another time, but when the place went bankrupt and she set up shop somewhere else, I decided to give Mrs Darroze another chance.

The restaurant is located near the Bon Marché department store, in a converted 1st floor appartment. Sitting down, a youthful waiter came and sliced excellent Basque ham on a huge vintage Italian machine (lead picture). Very entertaining and great product.

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We get to pick from large collection of breads before moving to the first course. I like the white glove to handle the breads.

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The first first course was a truffle escautoun, similar to the one I had cooked from her instructions but merged with the Mont d'Or Vacherin Truffle Fondue, not a success. The version I cooked at home was much better than this one, here the cornmeal was too coarse or too undercooked, and had a sandy, gritty feel under the tooth. Too salted also. But the dish is brilliant and I've never quite understood how it could be the very least popular article on FXcuisine.com.

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A very decent foie gras terrine with truffles, although nothing fancy compared to my own.

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Brie, a soft cowmilk cheese from Normandie, aged enough so that the bacteria have transformed it in a creamy heaven, sliced through and filled with fresh black truffle. You can buy it at the cheesemonger's (at least I can round the corner) but it's never as good as this one, since they use canned truffle and Daroze uses fresh ones.

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The dessert got it all wrong. Truffles in the ice cream - you just can't feel a thing, with truffle dices on the plate and chocolate sauce. A good-looking disaster and a waste of a perfectly good truffle.

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A great place for a quick truffle initiation is Terre de Truffe just off Place de la Madeleine in Paris. You could be excused for thinking this is a urban showcase for a cult focused on the truffle yes, but mainly on its owner, larger than life 'Bruno des Truffes'. As you enter the shop a small altar with pictures of this Provence chef and his books, with framed quotes. In his restaurant in Provence, Bruno has a wall covered with a huge fresco, Bocuse-style, with him at the center. But contrary to Bocuse's, Terre de Truffe offers value for money in its restaurant.

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Truffle is best eaten simply - on eggs or potatoes. Here is a simple piece of toasted baguette bread with black truffle shavings, sea salt and truffle oil.

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Veal with asparagus and truffle shavings was good, but with truffles, simplicity is the way to go. I ordered a much simpler dish:

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My favorite truffle dish - one large oven baked potato with reduced cream, truffle oil and as many fresh melanosporum truffle shavings as you can afford.

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Ice cream with truffle shavings in a honey sauce at Terre de Truffe. Very nice, but you do need some heat to sense the truffle flavor, truffle ice cream is an idea that just doesn't work. Nothing like La Truffière's delicious Black Truffle Soufflé.

Terre de Truffe
www.terresdetruffes.com
+33 (0) 1 53 43 80 44
21 rue Vignon
75008 PARIS
Truffle shop and restaurant. There is another one called Maison de la Truffe on the Madeleine square 3 minutes from there, but I like Terre de Truffe better.

Hélène Darroze
www.helenedarroze.com
+33 (0) 1 42 22 00 11
4 rue d'Assas
75006 PARIS
They also have a more affordable brasserie downstairs.

La Truffière
www.latruffiere.com
+33 (0) 1 46 33 29 82
4 r Blainville
75005 PARIS
I love this restaurant, very cosy and truffles from start to dessert. Read my article about their Black Truffle Soufflé for more.

Published 23/10/2008
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38 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Alan
  • on: 23/10/2008
More tantalizing glimpses of a heavenly world! Francois, please give a hint of how much I have to save up to enjoy a meal at either restaurant
  • FX's answer→ Alan, in fact the truffle potato is really not that expensive (for truffles at least!), it is on the menu at €21 out of season with Tuber Aestivum, a cheaper cousin of the grande dame, the black Tuber Melanospermum. And you can ask them to grate a whole truffle on top for as long as you can afford! Reall worth visiting if you are in Paris.

  • #3
  • Comment by Rosa
  • on: 23/10/2008
That must have been a real taste experience! I love the flavor of truffles!

Cheers,

Rosa
  • FX's answer→ Absolutely, and you can get the same at many gastronomic restaurants here in Switzerland. My favorite is of course Rochat in Crissier!

Great article. I have tried and loved truffles before and would really like to buy my own, but I don't have a clue of how to proceed. Do you know any places online where I would trustingly buy a truffle (and have it delivered to Greece)? Thanks
  • FX's answer→ Buying truffle is an expensive proposition fraught with many disappointments. Canned truffle producers all claim they are as good as fresh, but often you find a bland blob inside with no flavor at all. Apart from buying a fresh one in France or Italy, there are several options in Greece. First you can call up some fancy restaurant that uses truffle, there must be at least a few in Greece that serve truffle. They might sell you one. Price might even beat what you could find in Paris. This is what I do with a local restaurant. alternatively, I am convinced there must be many native species of truffles growing in Greece, not the Tuber Melanospermum but other ones. Try to look it up online, there might be some Greek Truffle Enthusiasts Leage. That might make for a fun and altogether more affordable expedition!

I usually look to you for the ultimate in food porn but this time I am very grateful for your *GUIDANCE* on what to do and more importantly ($$$$) what NOT to do in regards to truffles.

I must admit that I have never experienced truffles in their solid incarnation.  I have had some incredible mushroom bisque with truffle "dust" on it and I've had truffle salt.  Both of these items gave me a pretty strong truffle experience, short of actually chewing one.  The scent.  The unmistakable Earthiness that hovered over the dish like an ethereal halo.  Not quite as "in your face" as biting into a truffle but my curiosity was piqued and my appetite whetted for a more "substantial" truffle outing.

(Sigh...)  Someday.
  • FX's answer→ Chiffonade, you might want to experience truffle oil, an fine product especially in its non-rancid incarnation. Make sure to check the packing date. Oil really does trap well the flavor of truffle shavings, and although it's not exactly the same as the actual truffle-in-your-hand epiphany, it still makes for an immensely enjoyable experience.

I have had the experience of eating risotto with truffles and truffled lasagna  while visiting Umbria a couple of years ago.  I still remember the wonderful aroma and taste of those dishes.

Thanks for writing this most informative article. I hope to visit Paris one day and have added your recommendations to my list of places to visit.

  • FX's answer→ Liliana, the white truffles you have eaten in Italy have an even more delicate taste than the black truffles sold in France. You should have no regrets!

  • #11
  • Comment by chez us
  • on: 23/10/2008
What do I think?  I NEED some of those truffles!
  • FX's answer→ Denise I recommend you wait for the right opportunity to buy a really good truffle rather than rushing and get a bad one. Canned truffles are tricky, restaurants use them all the time but they sometimes turn out totally bland. Good luck!

  • #13
  • Comment by Nigel Redhead
  • on: 23/10/2008
With a friend in the dordogne and with the help of a dog, we picked a kilo of Truffles.
Made an omelette with some eggs and truffles, I didn't think the taste was particularly great. Then had shavings of truffles on buttered baguette. That was better.

  • FX's answer→ Nigel, this sounds like an exciting trip you had with your friend! Now are you sure the truffles you gathered were Tuber Melanospermum? There are dozens of types of truffles and they all look somewhat the same, but with rather different tastes. Also, an important component in the truffle taste is not perceived by some people - it's a genetic predisposition that saves them from eating truffles into oblivion.

  • #15
  • Comment by Channah
  • on: 23/10/2008
Those photo's are LOVELY! Such an inspiration.

Dear FX, I regiligiously visit your site. It inspires and cheers me up. I'm a vegetarian myself (so I tried the onion soup already and it was deelish!), but I love to cook some good meat for my family & boyfriend....and often do so. Your recipes are loved in our house.

Thanks for all the great recipes, pictures and amusing commentary. Never stop!
  • FX's answer→ Channah I am glad you like my site despite the sometimes gory unvegatarian recipes! The pastry is always fully meatless and there are loads of veggie things you can do with truffles.

  • #17
  • Comment by Lily
  • on: 23/10/2008
Sadly, I wish that I was fancy enough for truffles and red wine.

I really can't taste the difference expensive pasta dinners and canned spaghetti-O's.

Although, that dessert looks delicious! Why does it seem that the elegance of a restaurant has a direct correlation to how tall its dishes are?
  • FX's answer→ Lily, if you see on the same table canned spag bowls and real pasta you'll know the difference, no doubt about that! Yes, French pastry chefs try to make spectacular plates but the proof is in the pudding and that dessert did not taste that spectacular despite its good looks!

  • #19
  • Comment by LauraC
  • on: 23/10/2008
This article reminded me of an incredible meal at Alain Ducasse in Paris.  It was a five course truffle dinner. The restaurant is beautiful and our meal was spectacular, a salad hidden under a shaved truffle dome was a memorable course as well as the pigeon ravioli with a very rich broth and shaved truffle. Great article, as usual you have me dreaming of a trip to Paris (my favorite place to visit).
  • FX's answer→ Laura, I wish I had the meal you mention at Ducasse's, never actually eaten at his main restaurant in the Georges V.

  • #21
  • Comment by LordBest
  • on: 24/10/2008
I am one of those unfortunate people who suffer from an addiction to truffles. I had them for the first and only time a couple of years ago, for my 21st birthday. IT really was an epiphany, and I dream about truffles atleast four times a week. I have just heard that same restaurant that I first tried truffles, Vue du Monde in Melbourne (spelling mistake deliberate) has recieved a fresh shipment of white truffles. Now I will have to go and pay the $80 extra to try them.
Love the site by the way, I have tried many recipes, and have been experimenting with many sorbet variations amongst other things.
  • FX's answer→ Lord best I'm glad to hear of a fellow tartufomaniac!

  • #23
  • Comment by Nigel Redhead
  • on: 24/10/2008
I can send you a snap of the truffles I found and ate on an omelette and on plain baguette and butter.
Frankly I think they are a little bit like the emperor's clothes
  • FX's answer→ Nigel I'd be most interested to see the pictures! In my experience there are three reasons why truffles don't taste like much: 1) Wrong sort of truffle - only Tuber Melanospermum and Tuber magnatum really have an outstanding smell, the others are just curiosities but there is not much market for them due to the lack of smell. If you gathered a kilogram of Melanospermum and ate them with your friends, well, that's one expensive lunch which I would very much have liked to participate in! But maybe you got one of the many other sorts of truffles. 2) Truffles lose their smell rapidly, even when in the ground 3) Finally and most disturbingly, a number of people just do not perceive the molecule that makes the distinctive smell of truffles - this is a genetic condition that places them above the rest of humanity in resisting the urge of gluttony. Perhaps you are one of them and don't really perceive that molecule.

  • #25
  • Comment by Jay Rosenberg
  • on: 24/10/2008
Wonderful!  But Bocuse is appears to be slightly slighted -- my goodness we are going to Lyon Monday and a reservation at Bocuse for Tuesday night.  What can we dare to order there?
  • FX's answer→ Jay I hope you had fun in Lyon, Bocuse's place in Collonges is a tourist rip-off, see my article about it "The Chef is Naked".

Thank you for the informative post on truffles. I have used a lot of truffles in the past, so I can attest for the short shelf life. We like to use all sorts of ways to extend the shelf-life of the black gold, like storing it in our aborio rice.

I have never had the pleasure of eating a truffle so close to its birthplace though. One question, have you ever experienced what a truffle is like when it comes out of the ground?
  • FX's answer→ Jason I have never eaten a truffle straight off the ground but if I did I might turn into a werepig on full moon!

  • #29
  • Comment by Juliet
  • on: 25/10/2008
Wow. Looks like you ate well in Paris!
  • FX's answer→ Juliet, I always eat well in Paris, a difficult place not to like and with options for every budget!

  • #31
  • Comment by chef4cook
  • on: 27/10/2008
I agree with the need for warmer temps to fully get the truffle taste and aroma. I personally like truffles shaved over pasta in cream sauce, over lightly scrambled eggs, and with potato puree.
  • FX's answer→ Exactly, the simpler the better with truffles.

  • #33
  • Comment by jeanne warren
  • on: 28/10/2008
Thank you for the great article. I much prefer the white truffles in Italy. In fact, I just got home last night from Italy and will be making homemade tagliatelle with shaved white truffle on top, along with white truffle oil and truffle salt and pepper. Simple is best with truffles, as you say. I have had them on multiple dishes and I think truffles on eggs, truffles on pasta or truffles on risotto is the best way to go.

This year was too dry, so the truffle prices, which are always through the roof are now worse. I brought home just one truffle to enjoy. I also bought dried sliced truffle and will put this in olive oil which makes it taste divine!

We had the good fortune to go truffle hunting near Alba 3 years ago. It is a fascinating thing, to watch the dog find the truffles. He was right every time!


  • FX's answer→ Jeanne, I agree with white truffles beating black ones, no question there! How did you organize the white truffle hunting in Alba?

  • #35
  • Comment by Lulu
  • on: 31/12/2009
En busca de recetas de trufa,

Gracias por el articulo. Me gusto tu sencilles, me agrada el que pudieras tener presente que muchos no sabes que es el sabor de una trufa. Te cuento que hoy, despues de varios years, consegui aceite de trufa importado desde Italia. En estos dias me decidire por la elaboracion de la primera receta, al aceite de trufa blanca. Gracias por tu articulo, quiza algun dia pueda probar un platillo con trufas, por ahora me conformo con un platillo al aceite de trufa blanca. Hasta pronto

Lulu's

USA   
  • FX's answer→ Gracias por tu recado, yo comì trufas en Madrid la semana pasada, tambien muy ricos!

  • #37
  • Comment by Omí Wale
  • on: 19/04/2010
.



What I think about your article is what I think about all your articles:  Excellence, just so much fun.

I've never had truffles but my head is spinning, some from the pictures.... but most from the article.

I've never liked caviar to the point where I do not want to even try it anymore.  May be I will be a flop in front of some trufa thing.

A kiss and a hug to each one of the readers that have pitched in with so much gusto.


Omí Wale



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  • #38
  • Comment by Armando
  • on: 04/01/2011
Me gusto mucho este articulo.Desde un tiempo a la fecha he estado intrigado con lo todo relacionado a las trufas, solo imaginando el sabor, como se preparan, como se disfrutan.Definitivamente no soy un conocedor culinario,solo espero poder algun dia disfrutar de las trufas.
pregunta: Es posible disfrutar de trufas en algun lugar de San Diego, CA?
Saludos.

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