Like most, my truffle hunting knowledge is quite limited. In fact, it could easily be summed up in a single image: old men in wellies tugging hogs on ropes.
So when some visiting friends and I decided to take a trip down to the Périgord—a ravishing, rocky region about a six-hour drive from Paris, well-known for its truffles, foie gras and Medieval castles—we couldn’t think of a better activity than ratcheting up our “black diamond” IQ with two of the area’s connoisseurs.
A few hours of research and a couple of phone calls later we had a time and date set to meet two of this elusive edible’s leading experts: Edouard Aynaud and his truffle-sniffing associate, Titeuf the golden Labrador.
This truffle tag team resides in a tiny hamlet called Pechalifour. Nestled within a Tuscan-like landscape of rolling hills and sun-soaked pastures, the minuscule village consists of a handful of homes, each belonging to one of Aynaud’s family members (except one, which is owned by Rita, a very friendly American, we are told).
Within minutes of meeting Edouard, an energetic truffle activist with over 40 years experience, we are ushered into a truffle atelier filled with home-made extracts, powders, oils, and truffles the size of baseballs, freshly cleaned and ready to be shipped to a chef in Belgium. Before we know it our truffle education commences, and we’re thrust into a thicket of fascinating truffle trivia, including, but hardly limited to:
- The number of days that a freshly-picked truffle remains fresh? Answer: 10 days.
- How to keep truffles fresh for longer than that? Answer: Slice into thin strips, drizzle with olive oil, cover with plastic and freeze.
- Why Italians pick their prized Alba white truffles at night? Answer: So that their neighbor’s can’t see them.
- Foods that truffles pair best with? Answer: Neutral ones, like potatoes, rice, pasta, salad and bread.
- Why female pigs make great truffle hunters? Answer: Truffles smell like the sex pheromone of boar saliva, a scent they find irresistible.
- Why dogs make better truffle hunters? Answer: They learn easily, are clean, don’t try to eat the truffles (unlike pigs) and are easier to work with than sex-crazed sows.
This is the first phase of our two-hour tour, and our noggins and noses are loaded already. Once out on the property, we weave our way through truffle trees of all varieties.
Not all of them are giving up the gold, we’re told. Some are dormant for the season or are too young, some had record output decades ago and may not reproduce for at least another, some are part of a magnetic field experiment that Edouard says won’t bear fruit for three more years…
Truffles clearly require patience, something we’re loosing in proportion to our increasingly freezing toes (this was back in January, and damn was it cold!). Just as we start to wonder if we’ll ever see a black diamond in its natural habitat, we’re introduced to Titeuf, a fabulous truffle hunting mantra, “Elle est où Titeuf. Je ne la voie pas. Cherche Titeuf, cherche” (Where is it? I can’t see it? Search Titeuf, search.), and the intoxicating scent of truffles plucked straight out of the earth.
Here’s a clip of Titeuf in action:
Reserve your own private tour with the dynamic duo by clicking here. The site is in French but you should get the gist of it.
And, if you want to stick around for a lengthier visit, Edouard and his wife Carol have a wonderful guest house that they rent by the week, free truffle tour included!
For more Titeuf truffle hunting videos, visit my ParisBAO YouTube page.