on breadOne of the saving graces of winter is tuber melanosporum: the black truffles that perfume dishes from December to February.

There’s another variety, called tuber aestivum, or the summer truffle, which is whiter and has a more subtle taste.

Barriere
Philippe Barrière

A couple of years ago, Philippe Barrière opened his Atélier de la Truffe on rue Trivalle, the street just below la Cité. He long was the person who inspected each and every truffle sold at the markets in Aude. As I mentioned before, the truffle trade has long been an under-the-table affair, with unknowledgeable buyers sometimes paying fortunes for nothing more than rocks. In Aude, by contrast, all the truffles sold at the markets are inspected.

Interior
A few tables inside, as well as seats at the bar. More tables outside in front and back. A bounty of good wines.

So M. Barrière knows his stuff, and we and a bunch of our friends decided to spend a summer evening enjoying his expertise.

sel
A tip from the master: a sprinkle of salt heightens the truffle flavor. It worked! Gruissan is not far from here, on the Mediterranean, and has sea salt production.

Truffles are costly, so we limited ourselves to having an apéritif chez Barrière and then moving to a main course in the Bastide. First, we went for foie gras with truffles on toast.

foie gras
There’s foie gras under each row. He wasn’t stingy with the truffles!

I am not a foie gras fan, but I must admit it was beyond succulent. When the slates were set on the table, the scent of truffle from the generous portions was intoxicating.

wineWe had a lovely bottle from Borie de Maurel in la Livinière part of Minervois. If you ever see a wine from la Livinière, you can bet it is good.

chevreThen we had truffled chèvre, again delicious, though the foie gras was better. It’s like poor Aly Raisman. She is an amazing gymnast, better than everybody at the Olympics….except for Simone Biles, who got the gold. (Raisman won silver.) The chèvre was amazing…except that the foie gras was even more amazing.

menuHere’s a quick translation of the menu (truffled plates):

Smashed summer truffle on toast

Shirred eggs with summer truffle

Potatoes with summer truffle

Goat cheese with summer truffle

Beef carpaccio with summer truffle

Foie gras and summer truffle (notice the “and”–it means they’re sliced on top and not grated and mixed in like the others)

Fish carpaccio (he said it was tuna), with foie gras, summer truffle

Homemade summer truffle ice cream

bread basket
Do you see what the bread basket is made of?

We’ll be back….

grattou
Truffle tools: a scraper for €60; €70 if it folds.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Summer Truffles

  1. There is a monthly truffle market near us in the winter. The smell is amazing, but we’ve been disappointed by the truffles we’ve bought — fairly sawdusty. According to one of the truffle growers black truffles are best in the new year, but most people buy before Christmas, and the biggest market is before Christmas. But apparently those in the know come to the smaller markets after the New Year.

    A friend described to me how you train a truffle dog. It turns out to be really easy. Just impregnate a cork with truffle oil and throw it for the dog. Praise lavishly when the dog finds it.

    The truffle industry is dead scared that the lookalike Chinese truffles will naturalise here. They are almost impossible to tell apart visually, but have no taste.

    A botanist friend told me that until the advent of modern intensive farming with its pesticides (especially fungicides) and fertilizers, truffles could be reliably found under oak trees in wheat fields. Now it would be a miracle to find a truffle in the wild here in the Touraine. They are all farmed in truffle groves using inoculated trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true that the harvest is smaller than in the past. Probably because of pesticides and also just the diminishing of wild spaces. I think the first market is before Christmas because people want to use truffles in their holiday dinners. We’ve had good luck, but as I note, the truffles in this department are inspected.

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  2. Great photos. There is something so appealing about these French métiers, where one’s whole work life can revolve around seeking excellence in one particular food.

    Liked by 2 people

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