Hunting Black Diamonds in Provence…

truffleIn Provence, Truffles (known as Le Diamant Noir, or Black Diamond) are an object of veneration, with their own confraternity, hunted down (“caver” in French) in fields and woods, admired and exchanged in dedicated markets and welcomed in the greatest Chefs’ kitchens. They can be savoured with a good bottle of wine among family or friends, at home or in fine restaurants. Truffles are all about taste and conviviality!

Truffle harvest season lasts from early December to March and in Uzès (where A La Carte’s rental house is located) the climax was reached this weekend.

For saturday night’s Soirée de la Truffe (Truffle Night), the local restaurants in Uzès had all prepared special 100% Truffle menus and – I kid you not – there was even a special late-night mass to honor this little black mushroom! Only in France… 😉

First stop was the evening truffle market in the central square of Uzès (Place aux Herbes). The closing darkness gave the stalls had a slightly undercover feeling that added a frisson to proceedings.

18

Carole and I bought 17g of Black Diamond (about 15€ at the going rate of 80€/100g), beautifully presented in a jewel-like glass pot, for use at home.

17We then continued on to the special truffle diner we had booked at Le Comptoir du Sept in Uzès. The Comptoir’s chef had concocted a truffle-only 7-course menu comprising a truffle appetizer, two truffle entrées, a truffle main courses, a truffle cheese, a truffle deserts, and even a final truffle sweet! Only the wine and sparkling water were truffle-free – that night those who didn’t fancy the black stuff had only to turn and RUN! 😉

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The stone dome of the dining room of Le Comptoir du Sept in Uzès

It’s hard to convey quite what eating a truffle dish is like. Whatever the food, truffle seems to enhance and embalm it with its unmistakable aroma. The truffle perfume somehow manages to be wonderfully rich and strong, yet also impossibly delicate and subtle. The aroma reminds me of a beautiful woman lying naked on a mound of slightly humid earth, her body decorated with flowers in bloom. Like I said: irresistible!

3So what is a 100% truffle meal like? I’ll show you.

But first, let me make one thing clear: I am NOT a food blogger and I had NEVER EVER taken photos of my food in a restaurant before. Nevertheless, I decided to make an exception on the great Provence occasion of the Fête de la Truffe!

As well as my Canon, I also had a notepad & my trusty dictaphone out on the table. I must have been just a stopwatch short of the poor restaurant staff thinking I was a (not so) undercover restaurant critic!

Now, let’s dig in!

1APPETIZER:
Meringue vapeur, truffes, oeuf aéré
Vapored meringue with truffles and aired egg
2ENTREE n°1:
Foie gras truffé, héliantis, poire, écume yaourt, brioche bergamote
Truffled foie gras, heliantis, pear, moussed yogurt, bergamote brioche

4

ENTREE n°2:
Jaune d’oeuf fume, carotte ancienne, truffes, terre végétale, écume homard, capucine, noisette

Smoked egg white, old style carot, truffles, earth vegetable, lobster mousse, capucine? (not easy translating some of this!), hazelnut
6
MAIN COURSE:
Turbot farci, pommes de terre camargue, truffes, epinards

Turbot flatfish, camargue potatoes, truffles, spinach

7

CHEESE:
Beignet de chèvre, truffes, poires, pousses de jeune salade, brioche romarin
Goat’s cheese donut, truffles, pear, young salad sprouts, rosemary brioche

10

DESERT:
Gateau fromage truffe, pommes, caramel salé, crème glacée au foin
Truffle cheesecake, apple, salted caramel, straw ice cream

13Er, straw flavored ice cream!? Really?

No, they hadn’t accidentally left the “berry” off the “straw” on the menu ; it really did taste like cold straw!

So, not too sure about the straw ice cream… could it be because I suffer from hay fever?

15

SWEET:
Caramels truffés, truffe armagnac
Truffled caramels, armagnac chocolate truffle

All things considered, straw ice cream notwithstanding, this 100% truffle special was truly outstanding. And despite being a 7-part meal, we came away without feeling stuffed (thanks to almost zero carbs I suspect). 🙂

Then, on sunday we got to enjoy our 17g of “Black Diamond” at home, with scrambled eggs.

As luck would have it, just a couple of days before, I discovered that the post office in our little village of La Bruguière sells fresh farm eggs directly from the local farm.

I should be ashamed, but being a long-time city dweller meant that this was the very first time I’d seen fresh farm eggs presented in their natural filthy unwashed state. I guess I had never realised that eggs are only usually squeaky clean thanks to industrial processing…

25

How charming to find fresh farm eggs for sale at the village post-office!

20

In that little hexagonal jar lie 17g of finely cut black diamond…

The eggs are beaten and mixed with the laminated truffle several hours before cooking, to allow the flavours to diffuse.

Beware: truffles are very sensitive to heat and have to be cooked gently to withhold their full aroma. The solution is to scramble the egg & truffle mix in a dish placed in simmering water, thus ensuring that they never go above 100°C.

home-truffe

The result is a very simple yet delicious meal! 🙂

19Try it for yourself when you come to stay in Provence.

You can sample the “Diamant Noir” all year round in Uzès, thanks to La Maison de la Truffe on Place aux Herbes.

For further information about Provence truffles, ProvenceGuide.co.uk is a good ressource.

Reminder: Our Provence rental home just outside Uzès is starting to fill up with bookings, so if you’re interested in a week or two unwinding and exploring the Provence countryside, you can take a look at and book our Provence house here.

Let me know in the comment box below what you think of the infamous “Diamant Noir” (aka truffle).

– Have you tried a truffle-laced dish before? What did you think?

– Truffle has a very strong and unmistakable aroma. Do you find it an easy taste to appreciate or do you think it’s more of an acquired taste?

25 Comments Add yours

  1. Yvonne Hudacek says:

    Unfortunately, we neglected to seek a menu of Truffle while in France, so have no idea what the divine taste might be like. However, the local deli has a truffle infused cheese, so there is an intention to have a try when next in Town. At more than $83.00 a kg, it better be good.

  2. Will duval says:

    Start with one item featuring truffles. A full menu might ruin the experience.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have not tried truffles either, but I certainly would like to. Your restaurant blog and information was excellent. Thanks, as I have learned something new!

  4. Coral says:

    Fantastic blog – thank you for the tips on cooking the eggs!
    (Capucine is “Nasturtium,” one of the most commonly used flowers in dishes. It’s slightly peppery and comes in a pile of different colors.)
    The first time I encounters farm eggs, they were SO fresh that they hadn’t hardened yet, allowing us to kind of manipulate them into slighty different shapes – like hearts and rounded cubes. It was both fascinating and creepy.
    And speaking of fascinating and creepy – I’m quite curious to try the straw ice cream.

  5. Ken Hope says:

    We stayed at Millthorpe Truffles ( http://www.millthorpetruffles.com.au/) near Orange in country NSW Australia last July 2013 (we participated in a truffle hunt with the owners) where we shaved truffle into our scrambled eggs one morning.
    It certainly added to the flavour of the eggs in a delicious way. I think it would be an acquired taste for some people as there will always unfortunately be someone who prefers their scrambled eggs with tomato sauce.LOL

  6. You made me long to be back home! But you translated Jaune d’oeuf as egg white,which
    it’s not! Jaune d’oeuf is the YOKE!
    N21et1@gmail.com

  7. Francine Huffman says:

    Bonjour, Alex!
    Your splendid bogs delight me and this one is no exception! Based on this review, I believe you would make an excellent food critic and your accompanying photos are equally spectacular!
    I had the good fortune of spending time in Uzes in June of 2013 as well as a total of three months in France last year. I see now that I must return to that captivating town to experience firsthand La Fete de la Truffe!
    On your next trip to Paris, be sure to dine at l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon at 5, Rue de Montalembert in the 6th arrondissement or at the Etoile location on the Champs-Elysees for a side dish of the chef’s iconic pommes de terre aux truffes.
    I also enjoyed your article regarding Paris Packing Tips in your previous installment. Many thanks for your insightful and helpful advice as I plan my next trip to La Belle France!

  8. Helen Lieberman Fenske says:

    I actually hunt my own truffles in Oregon, USA. We have the white ones similar to the Italian truffles found around Alba. I loved the smell and taste of truffles from he first bite. Also, I find the inevitable truffle burp appealing.

  9. Steve M says:

    $83/kg would be a screaming bargain. The price quoted above was 80 Euros (about $108.50) for 100 grams, not 1000 grams! And that’s a very good price. Yes, fresh truffles are *that* good!

  10. Ellen A. says:

    Having first shown us how lovely your property near Uzes looked at Christmas, and now highlighting the truffle market, I dare say you will have folks clamoring to rent it out with the same frequency as the A la Carte Paris apartments. Perhaps your extraordinarily beautiful wife Carole could be persuaded to take us on a brocante/antiquites tour of Uzes? Thanks for the tip on making truffled eggs in a bowl set in simmering water. Will try that when I next have an apartment stay in Paris. Miam!

  11. Jim Beebe says:

    I enjoyed truffles in eggs in both Florence and Geneva. Light taste but worth going back for.

    1. Yvonne Hudacek says:

      Have not yet tried truffles of any type, but still looking. Even the Aussie deli’s, so far, have no stock containing this deight.

      I

      I

  12. Anonymous says:

    looks absolutely fab

  13. Anonymous says:

    So enjoy your emails and especially food details. Unfortunately, I am not able to travel to my beloved France but can dream, can’t I?! Have had perfect times when in France and hopefully the memories continue. Thank you for your presentations.

    Mariam McGillivray
    Bloomfield Hills, MI
    USA

  14. Rosemarie Rauzino-Heller, Rockville, MD, USA says:

    My friends and I all adore truffles and, as we will be in Uzes this year, make note of your restaurants which we will certainly try. Only the Italian white truffle beats the black or brown.

    1. Yvonne Hudacek says:

      Can this possibly be true? Have heard only the black one is the diamond quality.

  15. Anonymous says:

    My son, a chef in North Carolina (USA), won a truffle cooking competition for his complete truffle menu and tastings a few years ago… Delightful!

  16. Gail Boulay, Ste - Adele, Quebec says:

    If you buy a little jar of preserved truffle, use all the contents of the jar in your dish. I threw away the liquid, which, as I was later informed, has a lot of flavour. Live and learn.

  17. Linda Hollander says:

    I like them, but in a restaurant, where the air is full of that smell from the time you walk in til the time you walk out…ugh!

    I recently gave a dinner party in honor of Marcel Proust. Each of the guests made a dish, and I made several more, one of which was the sinfully easy, quite delicious and interesting pineapple/truffle salad, served on mixed, dressed baby greens.

    This is an authentic fin de siecle recipe, and one I’ve seen mentioned in many, many books of the period. It is simplicity itself: one pineapple, crushed with juice and one shaved (or chopped) truffle (more if you can afford it!), with the juice. Mix gently and serve on the greens (which have previously been tossed with a light vinaigrette of olive oil and lemon juice).

    Loved your photos, especially the one of you tasting the straw ice cream! I think most of us would have a similar reaction. Keep up the great work.

  18. Gundie says:

    I am currently in Provence and had an 8 course lunch today at a resturaunt called LaBeaugraviere and the entire menu was truffles including the dessert which was truffle ice cream! What a wonderful experience. The chef came out afterwards and showed us his truffles, some where almost as big as the palm of your hand! It is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Love truffles–loved them the first moment I tried them! Lucky enough to have had a multi-course black truffle dinner at a wine shop in Pasadena (CA) a few years ago. Your photos of the stall, restaurant and meal are great…but what is “aired egg”!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Food looks great !! Enjoyed your article. Will go and try the infamous Black Diamond Truffle

  21. Lorraine Young says:

    On our way home from France in November 2013 we experienced a most wonderful 7 course Truffle Menu in Singapore. The well-chosen wines that accompanied each course made created a joyful ‘marriage’ of tastes. The chef (Italian) arrived to share the story of the ingredients with each plate and add shaved truffle – white or black. We were in heaven! Next time we are in France we will most certainly seek out a “Soiree de la Truffle”. Lorraine Melbourne Australia

    1. Yvonne Hudacek says:

      Lucky you!

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