This may just be the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us!
(No, being in Truffle News is the most exciting thing!)
LynLes Pastras truffle hunts are in the news, featured in the travel section of the Chicago Tribune! The story is online now, in print on May 29. CLICK HERE to read all about it!
“A trip to Provence isn’t complete without at least one decadent meal featuring truffles. The precious fungus, also known as black gold, can sell for hundreds of dollars a pound, and its distinctive earthy flavor can be found on seasonal menus and in everything from salt to cheese.
Former Chicagoans Johann and Lisa Pepin are willing to show you if you visit their farm in the Luberon region of southern France. There, the Franco-American couple offer English-speaking visitors a unique truffle-hunting experience.”Kind regards,Lisa and Johann Pepin, www.lespastras.com
I sat next to a truffle hunter in the Barolo Region of Alba.
As the Michelin-starred food arrived and the wine flowed, he told me a lot about the local truffle hunters.
Although he wouldn’t admit to being one of them, he kept slipping up and saying ‘us’ instead of ‘them,’ and then he would correct himself – but not very emphatically, and he had a smile on his face, as though to let me know that he’d made a mistake on purpose!
Alba’s truffles are the white varieties. They sell for 3-4 euros a gram locally, and for 10 euros per gram elsewhere.
No tourist will ever buy from a local truffle hunter. They’ll find it almost impossible to find one. And the truffle hunters mainly sell their buried treasure to restaurants.
He waited for my reply with a twinkle in his eye.
‘Oh yeah, right,’ I said, ‘And I expect they wear little black cloaks and mortar boards and everyone applauds them when they go up to collect their diplomas!’
Of course he’d pre-empted my reaction and handed his phone to me.
Sure enough, there it was! The University of Truffle Hunting Dogs was founded in 1880 in a house in the hilltop village of Roddi.
Giovanni Monchiero, aged 42 runs it now. It was founded by his great-grandfather.
There are no truffles growing on private land. They grow in public woodland.
The truffle hunters go out at night. They know where they’re going, even in pitch darkness.
Some plants encourage truffles to grow. Wet and humid conditions are perfect.
A rising moon means a rising truffle.
The knowledge dates back to Roman times and is passed down from father to son.
I asked what happened when someone new tried to muscle in on the local hunting. Was there any violence?
There was no way that I could imagine a fiery Italian who could earn enough money in a few weeks to keep his family for the rest of the year politely saying, ‘Hello, I haven’t seen you before. Don’t look here. It’s better over there.’
Again, it was what my friend didn’t say that explained a lot. He told me that the truffle hunters all carry a long baton which is used to push the dogs’ noses away when they find a truffle.
Hmm, yeah, and the rest, I replied. He just smiled.
Actually, the truffle hunters are willing to talk about what they do. They’re just cagey about where they do it!
One of them took a BBC journalist hunting with him at night. Then she asked to see his 50-year-old notebook, listing his truffle sites, and he said that his even wife would never ask to see it – and he angrily rushed away, leaving the journalist alone in the dark wood.
At the Asti wholesale market, which runs from 5-6am, truffles are discreetly sold. A journalist from the Washington Post went there and he looked around, totally confused. There wasn’t a truffle to be seen anywhere. It was just full of people in groups chatting.
Then one of them looked up and announced, ‘It’s OK, he’s a colleague of mine,’ and truffles appeared out of bags, boxes and pockets!
Personally, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. I’m not a truffle aficionado, although I’ve tried different varieties several times. I’d rather have a big, meaty cep.
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Truffles in Sussex? Really? I wondered as I drove to a secret destination in West Sussex.
I was meeting Melissa Waddingham who is a registered Truffle Hunter and Wild Mushroom picker.
Pulling into a car park area, I couldn’t see any sign of Melissa, so I phoned her. But it was a bad reception area, so we had to talk a couple of words at a time before we were cut off again.
Eventually I realised that I was in the wrong car park, so I drove back down the road for a few yards. And there she was, with her trained truffle dogs, Ella and Zebidee.
We set off into the woods. And Zebidee started digging at once!
Melissa pulled her off and, getting down on her knees, she sniffed the ground like a dog. Then she began digging too, and emerged out of her hole, all excited, gently brandishing a tiny white truffle. She said it was a rare type of truffle, and she placed it gently in her basket, rewarding Zebidee with a titbit.
Recently, Melissa found an unknown species of truffle that hadn’t been seen for 200 years!
As we walked along, Melissa talked about truffle hunting and pointed out signs in the landscape.
Sussex is chalky in places, which gives the soil a high PH, which is good for truffles.
We were in a wood with a lot of beech trees. If you look up at the canopy, the root area will be the same, and there’s potential to find truffles everywhere, 360 degrees under a tree in that area.
Suddenly Zebidee started digging again, her front paws working rapidly, pausing now and then to stick her nose in the ground with her tail wagging. She was obviously having a great time.
Melissa gently nudged her aside and bent down to sniff in the hole. Then she called me over to have a sniff. I could distinctly smell a sweet, musty smell. And, success! Melissa dug out a large black truffle!
It was a bit too old to eat, and an animal had nibbled the edges. But it was an exciting find, and there would be enough traces of the truffle in the ground to produce more truffles.
Melissa is an expert at sustainability, and she carefully covered over the hole.
It was an exciting, interesting morning, but I had to leave for another appointment.
‘Do you know the way back?’ she asked me.
Of course I did. England’s supposed to be a built-up country and I was in the woods, not far away from a main road!
Melissa pointed South and told me to go that way, so off I set.
No problem. I was heading roughly towards the sun.
But then I came to a fork in the woods. Oh dear, which way should I go?
I went left for about 10 minutes, then as the woodland got thicker, I retraced my steps and followed a more obvious track. I was bound to meet someone walking their dog or riding a horse soon! I could ask them the way.
No, I didn’t meet one person. The woods were deserted!
Finally, I emerged at the first car park, so all I had to do was turn left and walk down the road.
But there was no sign of the other car park. What on earth was going on?
Again I retraced my steps – several times. Where was it? It should be there down the road from the other car park!
Again, I didn’t see anyone outside their house, and the few cars that passed me had no intention of stopping.
Finally, I walked up to a house and knocked on the door. The man who opened the door looked at me very strangely when I told him I’d lost my car! But then he said he’d take me there in his car, and said it was up the road.
No it isn’t, it’s down the road! I replied.
He told me we’d go up the road, then he could turn round if necessary.
We drove past the first car park (as I thought!) and there was car park no 2!
I found out that there were two identical car parks, so I’d turned left instead of right!
And there was my little car, waiting for me. Oh, the relief!
As you know, Dear Regular Readers, I am not a fan of hiking, etc.
See my Nordic Torture Walking article on our sister magazine B-C-ing-U!
As Hubby John says, I’d drive to the bathroom if I could!
And where did I go truffle hunting? Aah, that’s a secret and I’ve promised not to tell!
Melissa Waddingham is a truffle hunter and wild mushroom picker. In the spring and autumn months she runs mushroom forays, truffle hunts, talks and courses and throughout the year she provides truffle hound training days for your truffle hound to be.
She also manages woodlands for the sustainable production of truffle. For more information regarding these services, contact her.
Dates of up and coming events will be posted and group numbers are small with a maximum of ten people so Melissa does advise that you book well in advance. One to one and smaller group forays/courses are also available.
Truffle hunting is an uncommon practice here in England and the rare opportunity to have a go with a trained dog and its owner is an experience not to be missed for a great day out!
- e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Blog http://truffleandmushroomhunter.wordpress.com
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Whether they are black or white, big or small, French or Italian, the season of one of the most gourmet products in the world it’s coming! It’s time to hunt truffles!
Did you know there is a special University in Italy for training truffle hunting dogs?
Known as white and black gold, truffles are a very special delicatessen because they are usually found only in some regions of Italy and France. They grow naturally underground, so it is necessary to train a dog to hunt them! Therefore, truffle dogs are the real protagonists of the truffle hunting, as they have the best sense of smell and can detect a truffle even from 100 meters away. In fact, there is a truffle dog University in Italy were they are trained to detect truffles since they are small puppies, being able to find thousands of euros in truffles just walking around the hills, it’s like a game for them! In the past, pigs were used as well but it was very hard to make them stop eating this edible treasure!
Types of truffles.
There are different types of truffles and they mature at different times of the year, depending on the region. Therefore, different truffles are available throughout the year. They are usually classified by their colour, season and region; white truffles are considered more special than black truffles because they grow only at limited latitudes and regions, they have a broader unique bouquet and they don’t need to be cooked to show their intense aromas, so they are traditionally shaved directly on simple risotto, pasta, and egg dishes, allowing the truffle to be the protagonist of the dish. In the other hand, black truffles are grown in more regions and they have a delicious earthy, subtle bouquet, you can enjoy them with meat, risotto and pasta.
Would you like to experience the unforgettable thrill of truffle hunting?
Definitely Italy and France are our favourite countries for enjoying the best truffle hunting experiences. So we prepared for our gourmet food lovers a list of the best truffle hunting tours around the world!
Indulge in a journey into gourmets’ paradise searching for the most valuable truffle in the world! You will be part of the white truffle of Alba celebration experiencing truffle hunting, wine tasting and gourmet dining in beautiful Langhe hills of Piedmont, added to the ‘World Heritage Sites’ List in June 2014. This tour is perfect for wine and truffle lovers that prefer the best of the best!
Go on a white truffle hunt in San Miniato and participate in a cooking class! You will enjoy the beautiful Tuscany in a place that offers you an amazing view with a great food, tranquillity, comfort and not last great wines and truffles!
Spend a colourful day in the rolling hills of the splendid Val d’Orcia, UNESCO World Heritage. Enjoy a truffle hunting adventure with this full-day truffle and cheese tour. Delight in a great walk in the woods with licensed truffle hunters, dogs and spectacular views in the background made of charming hilltop towns and cypresses.
Enjoy a truffle and cooking experience in Tuscany during the fall season with this full-day truffle, cooking and wine tour. You will hunt for truffles with a licensed hunter and his precious dog immersed in the woods and you will enjoy a delicious truffle lunch paired with amazing Chianti and extra virgin olive oil!
Enjoy a weekend break in Marche, Italy, where you’ll become a truffle hunting expert. Experienced chef, Monica will help you prepare a meal showcasing the truffles of the season. You will learn tips on how best to store, prepare and use fresh truffles. Also, you will enjoy a tutored wine tasting of a selection of the red and white local wines, led by a professional sommelier. If you are a truffle and wine lover, this is the tour for you!
Experience an authentic truffle hunting experience with the Truffle Hunters. You’ll take part in an exciting truffle hunt in the foothills of the Sibillini Mountains. Afterwards you will enjoy a fun cooking session at a truffle cookery school followed by a long, lazy truffle-based lunch.
Escape to the serenity of Tuscany for pure tranquillity, relaxation and rejuvenation. This break promises a boost to your wellbeing and a whole lot of fun too! You will stay amongst the vines and enjoy the unique experience of truffle hunting. Your truffle expert will take you to a secret location where you will partake in the hunt for the elusive Tuscan truffle. A delicious, truffle-themed lunch will be served afterwards at a traditional osteria and you will also enjoy a wine tasting in the hotel’s extensive cellar.
You will stay in the magnificent 11th century Villa Maddalena situated in the centre of Montisi, a medieval hilltop village near Montalcino and the package includes your own private chef and sommelier for the duration of your stay. Chef Selina and sommelier Matt work together to create an unforgettable dining experience using the very best local ingredients and wines – including your truffle if you are lucky enough to find one!
Nature has bestowed upon us several luxuries and Umbria has some of our favorites; chocolates, Sagrantino wines and the ultimate, black and white truffles. During this amazing tour, you will indulge in all of these pleasures and more! You will taste Sagrantino wines under an awe-inspiring architectural dome and tour the town where this obscure grape grows. Not yet convinced? You will visit Rome, Todi, Assisi and Perugia and make our own creations at Perugina, Italy’s oldest confectionary! If you like to indulge, this tour will prove to be the ultimate!
This tour allows wine lovers and foodies to experience Provence away from the beaten track with one of France’s most historical countryside traditions. Whether summer or winter you can go on a truffle hunt, sample delicious truffles, world-class Champagne and rich olive and truffle oil. This is a unique and unmissable experience for any Winerists looking to explore and discover Provence.
Winter truffles are one of the best kept treasures in the Lot valley. The soil and climate of the region so come and let your guide unveil the secrets around this noble mushroom. Your private guide will arrange and accompany you to a range of truffle oriented activities such as a truffle market, a demonstration of truffle hunting, a truffle lunch, a winery and the only exclusive truffle merchant of France.
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Go behind the scenes of the world’s most secretive business. Take a tour of a Provençal truffle plantation, learn how truffles are cultivated and truffle dogs are trained, and go on a hunt for France’s elusive “black gold” with professional hunters who know all the tricks of the trade.
You’ll be regaled with stories of successes and sabotage, and learn to tell the difference between the different types of French truffles and the “fakes” from China. Tours are followed up with a sampling of fresh truffle hors d’oeuvres, Champagne and a tasting of our Les Pastras olive and truffle oil. A real treat!
Want to see what our guests say about our truffle-hunting tour? Click here.
Truffle Hunting Tour: Truffle hunt, truffle hors d’oeuvres, Champagne, olive and truffle oil tasting: 70€ per person (winter), 60€ per person (summer). Minimum of 2 people.
Summer season: May 1 – September 30*
Winter season: November 15 – March 15*
* Weather permitting
Please contact us for more information or to schedule your tour.
Johann & Lisa Pepin, www.lespastras.com, +33 6 26 05 30 49
Follow us on Twitter @LesPastras and on Facebook www.facebook.com/LesPastras
50% of the profits from Les Pastras products go to the One Family orphanage in Haiti
With kind regards,
Johann & Lisa Pepin
This autumn, Villa Lena in Tuscany will be hosting special weekends in celebration of the white truffle, trifola d’Alba Madonna, which grows amid the roots of oak, ash, and white poplar trees in their own forests.
Guests will learn to forage with their specialized agriculture team and Lagotto Romagnola dogs, to prepare and cook the truffles with the Chef-in-residence Guillaume Rouxel, from Le Dauphin in Paris, and enjoy multiple courses and variations of the Tuscan delicacy at degustation meals.
Set in 500 hectares of beautiful woodland, rolling hills, olive groves and vineyards; Villa Lena is much more than just a traditional Tuscan retreat. Founded as an artist residency and a hotel by contemporary art consultant Lena Evstafieva, her musician husband Jérôme Hadey and their friend Lionel Bensemoun, a successful entrepreneur and founder of the hip Parisian nightclub Le Baron, the three have collaborated on a retreat to bring together their experiences in entertainment, music, art, film and other creative fields in one place. As always at Villa Lena, guests at the Truffle Weekend will be included in the community of resident artists and musicians who will host special cocktails, a concert, and a creative workshop.
Date: first date – 9th -11th of October
Price: 600 euros per person inclusive of VAT
The package is separated into two fees. The Truffle Package includes the weekend’s gourmet menu and all the activities (which are optional, in case guests would like to opt out of one or few).
Accommodation fees are separate since there are different sized apartments on offer. Guests are invited to stay in Fattoria – old stables converted into airy apartments with tall ceilings and views over the rolling hills or the adjacent 19th century Villa.
One bedroom suite for two people – 300 euros for 2 nights
Two bedroom suite for three people – 380 euros for 2 nights
Two Bedroom Suite for four people – 520 euros for 2 nights
Riccardo and his truffle-hunting hound Turbo take us to find the truffles buried in the soil around the roots of trees near San Miniato (Tuscany). He explains the life cycle of truffles and shows us how he trains his dogs. We take our truffles back to his house to learn how to clean them and prepare traditional dishes with them, which we eat for lunch — truffles in every course! There are truffles to be found in every month of the year: bianco (white precious) and uncinato (black autumn) from September to December, marzuolo (whitish bianchetto) from January to March and the scorzone (black summer) from April to November. Choose from lots of other seasonal activities to create a personalised tour of whatever length you like including accommodation and transport.
Fee for two people for truffle hunt day: 570 EUR, includes local transport, activities described, truffle lunch with wine, friendly Sapori e Saperi guide to explain and translate; excludes extra snacks and drinks, personal purchases.