The American Truffle Company’s (ATC) Robert Chang and Dr. Paul Thomas kicked off the fest’s fourth annual gathering of truffle aficionados and aspiring truffle growers with a day-long seminar. Packed as tightly as a truffled foie gras tin with an eager audience, the session addressed all the agricultural, botanical and economic know-how needed to become a grower, as well as many questions about every aspect of truffles and truffle cultivation.
Thomas, a mycorrhizal expert and Scottish scientist who is one of the world’s foremost truffle authorities and along with Chang has been instrumental in building one of the world’s biggest truffle research networks, covered key growing considerations. Among them: geographic location; the balance of climate and soil best suited to particular trees types; which trees relate to specific truffle species; and soil amendments needed to boost ground preparation for successful orchard planting.
Chang, the Managing Director and financial brain behind ATC, explained the economics of truffles, the difference between American and European truffle businesses, and how markets have been stimulated by supply and demand, with prices rising 4% over the last two decades.
- An established orchard requires no more water than a vineyard, and can be ten times more profitable.
- There should be truffle-producing orchards in northern California in about 2-3 years. A truffle’s shelf life is a short 5-6 days, meaning we should soon enjoy homegrown truffles at their peak—hours instead of days old.
- Real truffle’s volatile organic compounds are not found in oil and salt—they’re synthetic—so stay away!
Lolo, a Lagotto Romagnolo, Italy’s most popular truffle hound, napped at her owner Alana McGee’s feet, gearing up for her Saturday training demo at which she will be joined by the festival’s unofficial mascot, Rico. A Master Dog Trainer from Toil & Truffle and the Truffle Dog Company, McGee presented the Science of Canine Truffle Scent Location. She shared some amazing canine facts about how dogs are biologically designed to capture smell: they have about 250 million scent receptors—and humans only 6 million.
The delicious treats—Truffle Gougeres,Truffled Sunchoke Soup Shooters, and Crispy Sweetbreads with Black Truffle Butter—rolling out of Chef Ken Frank’s Michelin starred-La Toque’s kitchen were tantalizing, and perfectly paired with super-premium Nickel & Nickel, Hall, Domaine Carneros and Olivia Brion wines. Joining reception guests were the festival’s three other Michelin-starred chefs: Alessandro Boglione, Carrie Nahabedian, and Jarad Gallagher.
You might still be able to snag a ticket for Saturday’s deluxe truffle feast featuring all four chefs by calling (415) 407-7648. Follow the action and tweet along at #trufflefest!