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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘truffles

Fungal Feast, Take Two

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Chef Jack Czarnecki's famous white truffle oil: made with real wild Oregon ones, not the chemical lab-produced stuff.

It’s comforting to experience and blog about events we’re having the fortune to experience for the second time in 2010, as we’re well into our second year here. Like with the recent Oregon Truffle Festival and tonight’s Fungal Feast, also in Eugene, which we again attended this year with our mycologist neighbors, Joyce and Dan. The meal (except for the appetizer) was even better this year. Feel free to compare with last year’s review. I was especially excited since the guest chef staging the feast with the Lane Community College culinary students was none other than mushroom specialist Jack Czarnecki, owner of the world-famous Joel Palmer House (where my parents graciously took us for my birthday last year).

Followed by a truffle-infused cheese and salami salad.

A hedgehog mushroom and Yellowfoot winter Chanterelle soup

The meal began with rosemary ciabatta bread dipped in Czarnecki’s glorious white truffle oil, purportedly the only all-natural one manufactured with domestic truffles here in the U.S. Delicious as it was, we couldn’t bring ourselves to pay $30 to bring a small bottle of the oil home. I prefer to enjoy my truffles on rare special occasions. I wouldn’t want to get too used to these things, like the son of the Mycological mushroom distributor at our table who wrinkled his nose at truffles, complaining of “truffle breath” and the way they made him burp. That’s a burp that smells good to me. But when they’re past ripe, a rotting one, such as a rare Oregon Brown (Calapooia) truffle specimen I sniffed tonight, can smell putrid.

The entree: roasted pork loin with dried morels, with winter chanterelle-studded wild rice and an unusual sauerkraut-split pea-porcini mushroom puree on the side.

Buttermilk panna cotta with mapley candy cap mushroom syrup for dessert.

Though last year’s black truffle and gnocchi appetizer was more memorable, it was incredible in the salad tonight how refrigerating the salami and cheese with truffles allows the oils in the fat of the meat and cheese to absorb the fungi’s pungent aroma over a period of weeks. That’s the same process folks use to infuse butter or even eggs (through the shell!) with a truffle’s essence.

The entree was stellar; the Polish-influenced side dishes particularly unique. Dried morel mushrooms floated in a caraway-and-sweet pepper cream sauce bathing the perfectly-braised pork loin. Note to self: go foraging for morels when they appear in April. I fell in love with the creamy Polish kapusta, the humble sauerkraut and split peas dish Czarnecki gussied up with porcini mushrooms. The sweet peas temper the bracing brine of the kraut. I should make some with the jars of homemade kraut sitting in the fridge. This dish was sure new to me. And for dessert: panna cotta (like creamy Jello) topped with a candy cap mushroom syrup. I bid on some of these surprisingly maple syrup-flavored dried mushrooms (only when dried is that sweet aroma revealed). Neighbor Dan said mycologists think candy caps contain the same chemical compounds used in artificial maple syrup. But I did have a winning bid–only $3– for a small bag of hedgehog mushrooms. They’ll make a nice sauce for Valentine’s Day steak.

Written by baltimoregon

February 12, 2010 at 1:39 am

Where Have All the Truffles Gone?

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Last year this table was full of wild Oregon white, black and even brown truffles, freshly harvested.

The sole example of an Oregon Black the leading purveyor Oregon Wild Edibles! had on hand, and even it was starting to rot without fully ripening first.

What a difference a year makes.

We’re starting to feel more like real Oregonians going to events for a second year in a row. We’ve got a track record, a history, here now.

Sunday I attend my second Oregon Truffle Festival in Eugene (not the $1,000 gala weekend affair, just the very worthwhile $15-20 marketplace, with its truffle samples and wine-tastings galore). Attending the event with my mycologist neighbors Dan and Joyce last year inspired my recent Oregonian FOODday article and radio show on truffle dogs. That’s where I first met Jean Rand, trainer of Oregon’s most proficient truffle dog–Gusto–who conducted a special truffle hound training seminar this year.

But what a depressing truffle harvest it’s been. A cold snap in December really damaged this year’s wild crop just as it was starting to ripen. The above table was piled high with white, black and brown foraged truffle specimens last year. But Sunday it was bare. Oregon Wild Edibles! instead made the truffle butter they served with frozen fungus from last year’s season. Sad. People mushroom for their livelihood here. Given how sensitive truffles are to their environment, freezes and droughts, you wonder how climate change will affect future harvests.

Though most chefs prefer the chocolaty, fruity Oregon blacks, it’s the smaller, more abundant white ones, redolent of garlic and ripe cheese, that I like best. You’re more likely to find black truffles in ice creams and other desserts; white truffles are almost exclusively savory. But they starred in a salty-sweet white truffle with Parmesan panna cotta and passion fruit cream the chef of the local Nib Dessert and Wine Bar demonstrated. Surreal. I also got a heady jolt of the whites in the housemade truffle oil the Joel Palmer House offered samples of. We’re hoping Joyce and Dan bring us along to this Fungal Feast again, since the Joel Palmer’s chef is planning the menu for the Lane Community College culinary students this year.

Truffled milk and biscuits.

Black truffle-topped tenderloin on gnocchi in a foie gras (of all things!) broth.

I’m certainly developing a culinary appreciation for truffles. Yet I’m almost just as interested in their delicate ecosystem, how they grow symbiotically at the roots of young Douglas firs, the foraging experience, etc. But of course I’m in it for the food. Boy though, they sure do make one’s flatulence smell.

A Lagotto Romanoglo truffle dog visiting from the Blackberry Farm resort in Tennessee.

A rare Oregon Brown found by the forager known as "Chicken of the Woods" was also starting to turn.

Written by baltimoregon

February 1, 2010 at 2:42 am

Adventures in Truffleland

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How fortunate are we to have forest mycologists for next-door neighbors who are among the premier truffle experts in the state. I leaped at the opportunity when they invited me to hitch a ride with them to the Oregon Truffle Festival in Eugene today. It’s a hoighty-toighty gourmet event, but luckily today anyone could attend the marketplace event for $15. It was well-spent

That admission price included indulgent samples of truffled dishes and truffle-accented cheeses and olive oils. And this budding food writer absorbed numerous story ideas from panel discussions and other conversations there. Truffles could become a tobacco-like cash crop salvation for struggling small farms, the writer Kevin West said in a talk. Unfortunately most of us can’t afford to cook with truffles, as they go for $100 to $1,000 a pound. Hence the reason so many amateurs here try to forage for them themselves. I saw a festivalgoer today bartering some Oregon white truffles for wine and first-press olive oils, as if the truffles were gold.

The festival hall was redolent with the heady, pungent perfume of the truffles. The rare Oregon Brown Truffle (see above) had an especially potent, Roquefort-like aroma. Only the relatively more common white and black truffle varieties were featured in the food we sampled.

The chefs from Caprial’s Bistro in Portland whipped up a truffled fennel-potato soup and a simple roasted carrot salad. (See recipes below).


A cloyingly rich marsala pasta with white truffles and flecks of foie gras followed from Newman’s at 988 in Cannon Beach. And Vitaly and Kimberly Paley of Paley’s Place in Portland were on-hand to sign their new cookbook.

Truffles are a gift of nature that fruit in the earth in all regions of the world. Desert truffles, I learned today, are abundant in the Kalahari region of sub-Saharan Africa, in Austrailia and in the Middle East. In fact, there’s evidence that shows the “manna from Heaven” that fed the Israelites was likely morsels of desert truffle. How cool.

Roasted Carrot Salad with Sherry Dressing and Goat Cheese and White Truffles (have you noticed sherry vinegar is all the rage? I just got some for the first time.)

Serves 4

4 large carrots, peeled and large dice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and black pepper


2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons olive oil

salt and black pepper

2 bunches watercress, washed and spun dry

2 ounces soft goat cheese

thinly sliced white truffle

Preheat oven 425 degrees convection bake setting. Place a heavy gauge sheet pan in the oven to pre-heat for about 10 minutes. Toss the carrots with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on the hot sheet pan in a single layer. Cook until tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

While the carrots are cooking, prepare the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, garlic and mustard together. While whisking slowly add the oil and whisk til incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve the salad, divide the watercress onto 4 plates. Top with the warm carrots and drizzle with the dressing. Top the salad with goat cheese and sliced truffle and serve.

Courtesy of Caprial and John Pence of Caprial’s Bistro

Written by baltimoregon

February 2, 2009 at 1:44 am

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