Written by Sophia McDonald | Photos by Kjersten Hellis
Mist was still rising from the ground when John Getz and his dog, Chloe, set off into the woods. Covered shoulder to ankle in waterproof camouflage, Getz could be hunting elk or deer, his yellow Labrador retriever loping ahead. But he was looking for something different and much more valuable—Oregon truffles.
Chloe took the lead on this hunting trip. She’s trained to sniff out mature truffles growing on the shallow roots of Douglas fir and other trees. As soon as she picked up one scent, she began digging frantically, throwing aside soil and pine needles with her front paws.
“Easy, easy,” Getz said, stepping in. Less than a minute later, he pulled a golf ball-sized truffle out of the ground. He checked the lump and was satisfied that it was mature but not yet ripe. He rewarded Chloe for her good work.
“You throw the ball, give her a treat, then say, ‘Let’s go,’” Getz said. “You keep it fun and fast.”
The truffle-tracking duo spent the next four hours repeating this routine. Before they left, Getz estimated they’d found between 5 and 6 pounds of truffles—one truffle so big it covered the palm of his hand.
Geoducks. Startups. Grunge bands. Coffee. These are the attractions—and exports—for which Seattle is most celebrated, along with its well-earned reputation for embracing the weird. Of course, the frequent rain and mild temperature also have their place in the region’s storied identity, providing chefs and diners with a uniquely lush selection of produce year-round. Yet beyond the beloved satsumas, salmon and rainier cherries, Seattle chefs are beginning to discover a more mainstream luxury in their backyard: truffles.
The first harvest of black truffles from Jackson Family Wines produced 17 of the valuable tubers.
Photo by Jackson Family Wines
In the great race to grow black truffles in Wine Country, Sonoma County has beaten out Napa Valley despite getting a later start.
Jackson Family Wines — owner of Kendall-Jackson, La Crema, Freemark Abbey and other wineries — just announced it harvested 17 of the prized fungi in the hazelnut and white oak orchard it planted and inoculated with Tuber melanosporum (Périgord truffle) spores in 2011 outside Santa Rosa, beating out similar efforts in Napa Valley. The harvest took place several weeks ago, and though the pioneering truffles themselves have disappeared in a cloud of risotto and Pinot Noir, it was the first successful harvest among several orchards betting on Wine Country as the world’s next great truffle-growing region.
Read the entire article in the SanFrancisco Chronicle here.
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.