It’s a chilly February morning, and we are out walking through the woods near Issaquah. A gauzy veil of wintry sunshine hangs like gossamer around the treetops, the forest smells damp and inviting, and Stella and Lidia, two adorably moptopped dogs, scamper through the undergrowth at breakneck speed, so excited and joyful that you can practically see the smiles on their faces. I’m somewhat worried about breaking my neck as well, as two neon-bright leashes, which the dogs trail behind them so they can be instantly spotted, hiss and flash across my path. But we’re out on a treasure hunt, and I’m almost as excited as the dogs.
Nose to the ground, Dante races through the hazelnut orchard. The fluffy Lagotta Romagnolo is trained to search for truffles – a pungent mushroom that expert dogs can sniff out 100 yards away.
After a few minutes, Dante beelines toward a tree and scratches at its base. Pat Long rushes over, flicks out his pocketknife and starts digging. He unearths a gumball-sized Perigord truffle, named for the region where they were first commercially cultivated in France.
More than 5,000 miles away in the Willamette Valley, the Corvallis veterinarian is growing the famous – and famously expensive — mushrooms. This one is perfectly ripe.
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Eugene, Oregon: Oregon Truffle Festival
For some, wintertime is synonymous with hitting the slopes, but for gourmands in Oregon, it’s all about the arrival of white truffle season. The Pacific Northwest celebrates the harvest of their native truffles with a culinary festival in the Willamette Valley wine region from January 20 – 29. Not only will there be seminars and foraging excursions with truffle dogs, there’ll also be dinners cooked by top chefs like Chris Cosentino, Renee Erickson, John Gorham, and Greg and Gabi Denton. Authors and culinary icons Harold McGee and Dave Arnold will moderate talks on Oregon truffles featuring experts in the industry from around the globe. Aspiring mycologists can purchase tickets for the weekend, starting at $575.
It’s a fragrant, pungent partnership: truffles and wine.
And the flavors of both combine for unforgettable pairings.
“It’s a euphoric match,” says Steve Baker, owner of Authentica Wines. There are a lot of intriguing possibilities.
Baker recommends pairing a strong black French truffle, such as the périgord—which goes well with bold flavors—with Cahors, a southwestern French red, made from native malbec grapes. He notes that Argentinian malbec has evolved into a much different wine, more fruit-forward. That’s why he specifically cites Cahors, which is dark, earthy, and tannic, making it an excellent truffle match. Oregon black truffles work well too, but they’re milder and more delicate than French versions.
An original competition in North America, the Joriad™, held this year on January 26, 2017, is a one-day event offering the ability to watch and experience some of the world’s most talented truffle dogs as they compete in a qualifying trial to find truffle-scented targets. The only competition of its kind in North America, winners of the indoor, spectator friendly qualifying round then move on to a field trial for an authentic head-to-head and nose-to-ground action in the wild where nature alone determines location, variety, and quantity of rare Oregon truffles.
The Oregon Truffle Festival is back! For the unacquainted, the event—which runs January 20–29, 2017—is one of the few truffle celebrations in the United States, and allegedly the first offered in an English-speaking country—Italy, we’re glaring at you. Now in its 12th year, OTF is a gala for food lovers (major names in food will attend this year to cook with Oregon’s musky treasures), but also for serious enthusiasts and industry folks, from dog-led truffle hunting to a two-day truffle growers’ forum.
Splurge on one of the many weekend packages, or go a la carte. Whatever you do, make it snappy—the festival sells out quick. Here are three events we’re particularly excited about.
Yes, it’s true — Oregon truffles, some of the region’s most decadent bounty, will be on full display at Pine Street Market next Tuesday, Sept. 20 as three top local artisans collaborate to produce their decadent limited-time creations.
“By the second course, even if you’ve never had the experience of eating truffles, you learn the first abiding rule of truffle consumption: You want more.
If there are four perfect, petal-like shavings of Oregon black truffle on your plate, you want five. Six would be nice. If you’ve had six courses infused with truffles, you want seven. The brioche roll from Carlton Bakery dotted with a pearl of black truffle? Great, but how would it be with two pearls, or four? Unlike nearly any comestible I’ve experienced, the musky, earthy truffle engenders its own cycle of longing and satisfaction.
The occasion for this particular reverie was a dinner held at The Allison Inn & Spa celebrating the opening weekend of the Oregon Truffle Festival, a two-week affair in January, first in the northern Willamette Valley and then in Eugene, the event’s home base.”
Attention foodies– don’t miss your last chance to attend this year’s Oregon Truffle Festival! The event returns to its roots for the final weekend, back where it began, in the Eugene area. Whether you want to make an entire weekend of it or enjoy a single memorable dinner, passes are still available if you act quickly.
Charles Lefevre inoculates trees with fungi that produce truffles.
While the technical craft of Charles Lefevre’s job is complex, the purpose is simple: Encouraging the natural symbiosis between trees and fungi.
In Lefevre’s case, the fungi are of the Tuber genus, which produce highly sought-after truffles and colonize the roots of numerous tree species.
Truffles are known for their culinary desirability and high cost, but the primary role of the fungus is as an extension of the tree’s root system, helping it absorb water and nutrients. In exchange, it’s supplied with starches and sugars for growth.
The Oregon Truffle Festival Celebrates Everyone’s Favorite Fungus.
Three terrific, truffle-filled weekends coming in January.
By Don Root
They’re strangely neither plants nor animals, but as every chef knows, fungi are indispensable partners in the kitchen. The mushrooms in your spaghetti sauce? Fungi. The yeast in your bread? Fungi. The bleu in your bleu cheese? You guessed it. And in the culinary realm, one fungus stands out, exalted above all others: the truffle. Top European specimens of this flavor-packed delicacy routinely fetch around $4,500 per pound.
In January, truffle fans will celebrate the undisputed Dom Perignon of the fungus world at the 11th annual Oregon Truffle Festival, which offers three weekends of events in and outside of Eugene. It’s a veritable “Truffle Summit,” acknowledging our region’s increasingly lofty place in World Truffledom. Some 40 distinguished chefs from the Pacific Northwest and Brittish Columbia will be participating, and a host of guest truffle experts will be on hand.
Cultivating truffles in Sonoma County? It has been an intriguing idea since Henry Trione first explored it with his friend J. Ralph Stone in the 1970s. But growing truffles in Sonoma County didn’t gain much traction until now.
Serendipitously, Fran Angerer, 68, and his son, Nathan, 36, became intrigued by the idea at about the same time a few years ago. Fran saw an article in a local paper about William Griner, who had planted truffle trees in Mendocino County, at the same time that Nathan was intrigued by an article on the subject in GQ magazine. After much exploration and study, in 2011 they planted hazelnut trees inoculated with truffle spores on a parcel of land in Geyserville.
Fran Angerer trains his dog, Tuber, a Lagotto Romagnolo, to smell truffles in the ground attached to the roots of the hazelnut trees at the Angerer Family Farm in Geyserville. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)