Truffles and Provence go hand in hand and if you ever take a trip to Provence you have to taste the truffle a prized and elusive fungus , which grows in the oak forests of Vaucluse. It brings diners to gourmet bliss- and is said to drive rival truffle hunters to the occasional gun battle for the precious harvest.
The town of Richerenches takes the truffle so seriously that every January it holds a mass in honor of Saint Anthony, patron of truffle hunters. the mass’s hallmark : Instead of money , worshippers drop truffles into the offertory plate.
Truffle hunting is definitely an old art, part woodcraft and part witchcraft and its techniques are closely guarded. Many truffle hunters can work under cover of darkness to avoid detection, sniff out the quarry with the help of specially trained dogs and pigs.
The famous black diamonds are brought to specialized markets, such as those of Carpentras and Aups, where they are sold through a combination of high stakes bidding and covert pacts.
Not all truffle hunters agree with the secrecy . Some say it’s a shame to keep such a great and fascinating tradition to ourselves, says third-generation truffle hunter Marc Giardini, who from December to March invites guests at his country B&B ( http://www.leviguier.com , French only) to accompany him on a truffle hunt, then learn how to cook it and enjoy the meal.
The communication with the dogs, the beauty of the mountains on a winter morning, the emotion of unearthing a truffle…. are all part of Provence. It is a passion too precious not to share with someone.
Two very good truffle restaurants in Provence that I have gone to are Bruno near Lorgues (www.restaurantbruno.com), which also sells truffle products at its shop and Les Chenes Verts ( 4-9070-5506) in Tourtour.
Join us in October 2015 for a gastronomic tour in Provence.