Photo courtesy of La Toque
Winter truffles have arrived
Truffle season has begun and will last all winter, with the most pungent Périgord black truffles and Alba white truffles commanding top dollar. Here are ten restaurants around the country where you're sure to find a steady supply of redolent fungi, if you're willing to pay the price.
Photo courtesy of Spiaggia
Spiaggia | Chicago, Illinois
Last winter, Spiaggia spent $70,000 purchasing truffles from Giacomo Marinello's family estate in Umbria. Chicago's only Michelin-starred Italian restaurant offers fresh truffles shaved tableside ($85 for 5 grams) to complement earthy mushroom soup ($20) with pine nuts and pesto or perfectly al dente caramelle pasta ($27) stuffed with a blend of pumpkin and foie gras.
Then there's Spiaggia's signature white truffle gnocchi ($80) drenched in the silkiest ricotta and parmesan cream sauce – a classic dish that's been on the menu since opening. Chef Eric Lees handpicks each truffle and gets first pick before Marinello's other restaurant clients.
Photo courtesy of Rider, Hotel Theodore
Rider | Seattle, Washington
You might not know that you can find truffles in North America, but the Pacific Northwest has a bounty of indigenous white and black truffles that local chefs love. At Rider in Seattle's Hotel Theodore, chef Dan Mallahan works closely with truffle hunter Sunny Diaz and her dog Stella to serve fresh local truffles all winter.
"The flavor and aroma is so complex in the native truffle," he says. "For me, there are hints of pineapple and passion fruit, very tropical on the nose. Then the flavor is super earthy and savory." These truffles are found at the base of Douglas fir trees and Diaz says overgrown Christmas tree stands in Oregon are perfect hunting grounds. The season begins in October or November and can last through March or April depending on annual rainfall and temperatures.
Mallahan likes shaving fresh truffles to finish dishes, using olive oil and sea salt to help accentuate their flavor and bring out the natural oils of the truffle. "Truffles love fat and salt," he says. "The aroma intensifies when slight heat rises through the truffle from underneath."
Some of his favorite food pairings with truffles include eggs, risotto and earthy beets. Last year, his charred carrot pasta with brandied French Perigord truffles and fresh Oregon black truffles was a hit.
Photo courtesy of Rey Lopez
Masseria | Washington, DC
The innovative Italian tasting menus at Masseria earned chef/owner Nicholas Stefanelli a Michelin star. Stefanelli's cooking is inspired by his Italian roots and suburban Maryland upbringing, offering a warm but elegant ambiance.
For winter, his Truffle & Game tasting menu ($250) includes dishes like Scottish wood pigeon ravioli with foie gras and Alba white truffle, and a paw paw semifreddo dessert with truffle honey. You can also order an off-menu foie-noli – foie gras-filled cannoli shell bookended with slices of shaved black truffle.
Photo courtesy of Mark Abramson
Jean-Georges | New York, New York
Fat molecules absorb truffle aroma, so most truffle dishes are prepared with dairy or fatty protein to enhance their potent flavor, but vegans will rejoice in the steamed silken tofu at Jean-Georges, topped with shaved truffle and served with crackling yuba.
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten pioneered a lighter, brighter interpretation of French haute cuisine, and this dish from his vegetarian tasting menu (10 courses, $228) perfectly encapsulates his culinary ethos.
Photo courtesy of auburn
auburn | Los Angeles, California
Pastry chef Dyan Ng serves an ingenious white truffle risotto ($52) dessert on the bar menu at auburn. "We use the classic technique to make a risotto but swapped out the savory ingredients with white chocolate and vanilla beans," Ng explains. "We end up with a dessert that visually and texturally looks like the traditional savory white truffle risotto but is actually sweet."
Towards the end of the cooking process, she folds in white chocolate, hazelnut milk and mascarpone. "Then it's topped off with a layer of rice milk skin and shaved hazelnuts with white truffles shaved table-side."
Photo courtesy of Eataly LA
Eataly LA | Los Angeles, California
Purchase fresh truffles from Urbani Truffles to take home from all Eataly locations, and at Eataly LA, you can add white truffles shaved tableside to any dish of your choosing for $45 per four grams at rooftop restaurant Terra.
Earthy truffle aromas are especially prominent over smoked butternut squash risotto and slow-braised Wagyu short rib in a rich Barolo wine reduction with creamy wood-fired polenta.
If you're feeling especially adventurous, try a sweet and savory combination of fresh truffle shaved over fior di latte gelato from the roaming gelato cart, topped with roasted hazelnuts, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
Photo courtesy of La Toque
La Toque | Napa, California
Chef Ken Frank is obsessed with truffles. He was the first American chef invited to participate in the Fiera Internazionale Tartufo Biano D’Alba, the world-renowned Annual White Truffle Fair in Alba, Italy.
At his Michelin-starred Napa Valley restaurant, La Toque, Frank serves an all-truffle menu for guests during winter and summer, alternating between French and Australian black truffles depending on the season.
For $250, diners will enjoy freshly shaved black truffles with every course. If you're ordering a la carte, the grilled black truffle sandwich features a full ounce of fresh truffles, offered nightly for $120 – and it's enough to feed four.
Photo courtesy of OAK at fourteenth
OAK at fourteenth | Boulder, Colorado
OAK at fourteenth in Boulder, Colorado hosted their second annual truffle dinner in early December, featuring Burgundy and Perigord black truffles and Alba white truffles across an array of dishes. Best sellers from the truffle week menu will be available on the regular menu through January.
Chef/partner Steven Redzikowski offered an a la carte menu ($12-$42) of nine dishes from prime rib with white truffles and mushroom jus to 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano ice cream topped with olive oil and fresh truffles.
"I wanted to give our guests an opportunity to try truffles in a bunch of different applications and not be forced into a pricey tasting menu," Redzikowski says.
Photo courtesy of Felidia
Felidia | New York, New York
At this upscale, Northern Italian restaurant, chef Fortunato Nicotra loves working with truffles. He'll be serving a white truffle menu (three courses and dessert, $320) at Felidia through December, where every course from grass-fed veal tenderloin with hazelnut fonduta to fresh, buttery tagliolini with parmigiano vacche rosso is topped with freshly shaved white truffle.
Starting in January, Nicotra will switch to using black truffles (three courses and dessert, $245) with individual dishes from both menus available to order a la carte.
Photo courtesy of Evrim Icoz Photography
Joel Palmer House | Dayton, Oregon
Chef Christopher Czarnecki doesn't use any European truffles at Joel Palmer House in the Willamette Valley, only Oregon black and white truffles. The menu most prominently features fresh truffles during peak season from January through March, but Czarnecki makes truffle oil to use year-round as well.
"Oregon truffles are to pinot noir as European truffles are to Cabernet," Czarnecki explains. "Ours are subtle, yet complex and beguiling. Oregon truffles have their own unique aromas as compared to their French and Italian counterparts but without the brawniness."