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Truffle-hunting in Paris

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It is not easy to find a truffle worth the unreasonable asking price nowadays. I tried my luck at Terre de Truffe and La Maison de la Truffe in Paris. See how it works!

I bought my first truffle at Terre de Truffe ('Truffleland') about 2 years ago. The Rue Vignon shop in the upmarket Paris food district around Place de la Madeleine is a copycat from the older Maison de la Truffe ('The Truffle House'). Both have a small everything-with-truffles restaurant in the back and a counter selling truffle-laced delicacies. They also sell the real thing when they have it.

First stop: Truffleland
Although I had been very pleased with my Terre de Truffe black truffle - my first ever, I wasn't impressed with the bulging personality cult about its owner, 'Bruno des Truffes', with its altar by the entrance with pictures and books and quotes about truffles. The Terre de Truffe guy showed me a plastic box filled with black truffles in the window. I said I was looking for a 40 gr truffle and we both started rummaging in the box. Very disappointing. All I could find were disfigured truffles straight of a leprosarium. Some had big drops of condensation on them, others a start of white fur. None smelled anything. 'Ah but the taste is not related to the smell Mister' said the shopping attendant. Yeah, right. I bought them a pot of truffle honey for my next truffle soufflé and left.

 

Next stop: Trufflehouse
I had visited this nice shop (picture) bang in the middle of the famed Place de la Madeleine, the Parisian gourmets' Kaaba. But I had never bought a truffle. The man here showed me a similar plastic box of truffles in the window and we searched together for a suitable 40 gram truffle. What a smell! We settled on a reasonable looking truffle with its little incision, trademark of a first quality truffle.

The truffle, pictured above, cost me €84. This boils down to €2200 a kilogram and it's not a bargain, but top quality truffles are indeed scarce and at Terre de Truffe they were asking €2500 a kilogram. I also bought their very good truffle book, written by the shop owner. 

 

Last stop: Home alone with the Trufflehouse truffle
I was back home the next day and decided to use the truffle on a homemade tagliatelle in a truffle cream sauce. Using the Japanese soba noodle technique, I made 4 eggs' worth of tagliatelle in a large cut. As soon as this transnational noodle technique works to my complete satisfaction I'll make an article, but here is a preview.

The noodles were cooked for 2 minutes and resulted slightly more al dente and thicker than I would want the next time. I made my sauce with cream, butter and parmesan and served it immediately with a large plate of the finest truffle shavings. An amazing result!

Black truffle pasta

This used only about half my truffle. The next day I used it on a cream of polenta with truffle pecorino based on a recipe by French chef Hélène Darroze. An even more resounding success! Nest time I'll do it I'll tell you how it's done.

 

Truffle buying tips
If it doesn't smell nice, don't buy it. No matter what the guy says. He knows more about truffle than you do, sure, but if he's stuck with poor quality truffles, he will need to sell it. And he knows he can sell only to a newbie. He won't sit on a hundred Euros just to be nice to a tourist he will never see again. So don't rely on what the seller says. If you see droplets of water or a whitish fur on the truffle, leave it there. Maybe it affects the taste and maybe it doesn't, but at this price level you can't afford to take a chance. Usually truffles will have a little cut. This is done when the wholesaler buys it from the gatherer to check the inside. It should show a dark flesh with well-contrasted white veins. For white truffles, when the guy opens the box the entire shop should smell a strong truffle odor within 60 seconds or don't buy.

 

If you're in the market for a truffle in Paris, I would visit at least both shops below. They are very close to each other and the staff is very nice in both. Just don't buy a truffle just because of the guy tells you.

Maison de la Truffe
www.maison-de-la-truffe.fr
Place de la Madeleine 19
Paris
+33 (0) 1 42 65 53 22

Terre de Truffe
www.terresdetruffes.com
Rue Vignon 21
Paris
+33 (0) 1 53 43 80 44

Published 08/02/2007
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6 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Gail
  • on: 15/02/2008
Your article is exceptionally accurate.  I just returned this week from Paris with the exact same experience.  We now have in our possesion two sensational truffles.  They were vacuum sealed at Maison de la Truffle.  He told us it would keep for l week or so.  Once home we devoured the firts truffle, this weekend I have plans for the other...which will now include your sumptuous recipe for a souffle.  But I would like to experiment with freezing  a bit of the truffle without immersing it into any fat or butter.  Do you have any suggestions that could later be applied to a whole truffle. Thx.
  • #2
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 18/02/2008
Gail these are amazing gifts you brought back from Paris - better than the Three Kings! Preserving a truffle is difficult, professionals do it in little jars with some water, but frankly the result is hardly impressive. Your best bet is to shave whatever is left and throw everything in an olive oil bottle. Use the peel as well. This will give you a ready source of intense truffle flavor for months. Good luck!
  • #3
  • Comment by carmen
  • on: 26/05/2008
I bought some truffles from a website here in the states. I noticed they come in water or seems like a black water (they are black truffles). I have not opened it yet because I don't know what to do with them. Can you give me some ideas? Remember they are not dried there in liquid. I look forward to your advice. Warm Regards Carmen   
  • #4
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 04/06/2008
Carmen, canned truffles can be used like fresh truffles but mostly for sauces. I recommend you try something simple such as boiled potatoes or toasted bread. Good luck!
  • #5
  • Comment by George
  • on: 13/09/2008
Hi, I am going to Paris soon and was wondering if one can eat a bowl of pasta with truffles without having to go to a 5 star restaurant.
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 14/09/2008
George, in fact I have an article ready to publish about truffle eating in Paris for all budgets. But the season for the black truffle starts in December, so I'll give you the answer now. You must go to Terre de Truffe in Rue Vignon near la Madeleine square, and order the potatoes with truffles, it's one of the best dishes I've had with truffles and they do it out of season too and the price is really affordable. Their website is http://www.terresdetruffes.com
Let me know how it goes!

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