Terrible Truffle Tragedy

Truffles…those legendary little balls of fungus that pigs snort up…. people pay piles of cash in order to have the privilege of enjoying a few shaving on top of a dish. Are these overpriced orbs of culinary  fascination really worth it?

Even the Fed Up ‘sous-chef,’ Dozer, has no idea what to think about truffles…is all the hype true? Is a little jar of these prized morsels really THAT special?

All my life (well at least for the past year or so), I have admired truffles from afar… hoping that one day I would get to sample them and experience their luxurious taste. Judges on Iron Chef and other television cooking completions all becoming giddy children whenever fresh truffles are used by one of the show’s combatants. And the menus of famous restaurants serving exquisite entrees, always have a few ‘truffled’ items available to order. Then there are the gourmet grocery stores where small glass jars of truffles with ridiculously large price tags, are carefully reserved for only the most ‘respectable’ of clientele.  But I , Mr. Fed Up, have always been an outsider looking longingly in on the gourmet world of the truffle.

I decided to change that though and figured that FedUpFood.com could use a first-hand account of the miracles that truffles are supposed bless upon each dish they grace.

Being the stingy man who I am, for my truffle introduction I figured I would try something relatively cheap, simple, and easily found. Truffle Oil. While browsing the gourmet section of a local market, I was offered a sample of some of this olive oil that is supposedly ‘infused’ with truffle flavor. Well I tried some and could not find anything unique or special…just oil with a slight hint of dirt. But then I remembered one of the rules of Iron Chef, Chopped, and all those other addicting cooking competitions: Whenever a contestant uses truffle oil, they ALWAYS lose.  In the Fed Up household, the idea of ‘truffle oil’ is a joke now, and we mention the dangerous ingredient whenever something is going to cause your meal to suddenly suck or ‘lose.’ So I should have not been surprised when I tasted the stuff for myself and was unimpressed.

A beautiful sight presented to me in Tuscany; A fresh salad topped with a pile of freshly shaved truffles. Was this meal going to finally show me what I have been missing out on?

But then I figured, this was not REAL truffle. This was just some flavored oil, which likely  could never do the flavor of fresh truffle any true justice. I luckily had a plane ticket to Italy and got so spend 2 weeks roaming around Tuscany. I was determined to try  fresh Tuscan truffles right from the source. One night after spending a day exploring a small town and checking out local grocery stores, I sat down to a dinner in a quite little restaurant off the beaten-touritst-track, where half the items on the menu seemed to contain truffles.  FINALLY, I had my chance to try fresh truffles and I eagerly ordered a chicken based salad, and mentioned to the waiter how I was eager to try truffles. Luckily I was not footing the bill, and so I did not worry about the cost of my meal when the waiter proudly presented me with a bowl piled high with truffle shavings! There was a crazy truffle to lettuce ratio…this truly would be my chance to savor the gourmet ingredient at its finest.

I took my fork and pierced several huge truffle shavings and a leaf of lettuce, and took my first bite of my ‘gourmet’ entrée. I chewed slowly, and kept searching for ‘that’ prized flavor…there was nothing. I mean. It was not bad, but the slightly mushroomy/earthy taste was not life-changing. I would easily prefer some fresh protabellos or shitakis over these truffle shavings (and they would cost a fraction of the price).  Were these things stale? Were they ‘counterfeit‘ truffles used by cheap restaurants to dupe unassuming guests? I had to assume that the truffles that topped my dish were just flavorless leftovers that this tiny restaurant served to the dumb, international diners who did not know better. I left the restaurant that night with an unsatisfied appetite that yearned to experience  what so many people seemed to rave about.

Nope. That is not dried out French Bulldog poop. These made up the entire contents of one VERY EXPENSIVE jar. These are thee whole truffles…and note the truffle ‘juice’…not a drop was wasted.

When I got back Stateside, I knew I had to accept NO substitutes; I, myself would make sure the next truffles I tried were going to be truffles at their peak. They would not be some diluted truffle-oil-nonsense, and they are not going to be some stale truffle ‘impostor.’

I made peace with the fact that a heavy price would be paid, but I finally had a jar of QUALITY whole truffles purchased from a gourmet food shop. I stared at the tiny jar for days. I was terrified to open the damn jar because I knew that than any chance of making a return would be voided. The three round truffles teased me constantly…and finally I broke down and opened up the jar.

I carefully inspected each truffle; they had a soft texture and an earthy smell. They seemed to be of good quality, but then again I have no idea what a ‘good quality’ truffle is supposed to be. Still, these could not possibly disappoint me…right? They were freaking expensive…

I shaved the three truffles as delicately as my massive hands could manage. I then sampled some of the raw shavings, trying my hardest to truly appreciate the taste…Nothing. NOTHING. I was shocked to find that there was only a weak taste similar to mushrooms.  There was no eye-opening savory explosion that permanently changed my perception on the possibility of what tasty food can be like. Nope. there was nothing…just a sad, little, pathetic hint of flavor.

Three whole truffles shaved up…that is one expensive pile of shavings.

But I figured I would give truffles one last shot…I took ALL the shavings from the 3 full-sized truffles that once filled the jar, and piled them on top of a flatbread pizza. I was hoping that the truffle flavor would increase and the aroma would be infused into the entire dish, just like when you heat a good cheese.  Well…cooking the truffles in with the rest of the pizza did make there be a noticeable more ‘truffle taste’…but still nothing special.

This was a sad day for me. My hopes, my dreams, my fascination with truffles was instantly destroyed. To me, truffles are just a scam. A way to pawn off the pig-found-fungus on gourmet diners who rely on the price of a dish to determine how good it is, instead of their own taste buds and common sense.

So maybe I have just have only experienced truffle tragedies, maybe I have been unlucky with the truffles that I have gotten to sample so far…So if you are a truffle fan; feel free to send me a few of your favorite overpriced fungus-orbs, and I will happily give them a try to attempt at proving myself wrong…otherwise shut up and realize that truffles are only going to cause  trouble for your peace of mind and for your wallet.

So what did I do with three whole truffles? They were added to this flatbread pizza along with mushrooms Grayson cheese, rosemary and roasted broccoli. The pizza could have used more truffles.

Truffles: you have been added to the Fed Up list of disappointing foods. You are no better than Cookie Crisp cereal, dragon fruit, Red Delicious apples, or even Canadian Bacon. Truffles…you only cause tradegy

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Categories: Mr. Fed Up Dishes, Rants

Author:Mr. Fed Up

A guy looking for good grub. and YES....I have a website...and I am not going to bore you with one of those personal journal type of blogs. I promise. Check it out; www.FedUpFood.com

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12 Comments on “Terrible Truffle Tragedy”

  1. October 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    I have a friend who made the most amazing mac and cheese using truffle oil. Maybe it was so amazing because she used Smoked Gouda and Fontina Cheese. I don’t know. But I’ve never had better mac and cheese.

    • Mr. Fed Up
      October 11, 2012 at 8:10 am #

      She cheated…anything with smoked Gouda is going to taste amazing.

  2. Sylvie
    October 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Yep. I never really got it either. The difference between portobello mushrooms and truffles is for me the same as the difference between a $30 bottle of wine and a $800 bottle of wine: not worth it.
    But i have to say that a purchased a “truffle salt” one time that i really liked in many different dishes.
    Ps: the pizza looks really good!

    • Mr. Fed Up
      October 11, 2012 at 8:16 am #

      Hi Sylvie,

      That wine comparison is really good…While I do think I have a VERY good sense of taste and can really appreciate the small flavor variances….truffles must just be too fancy for me.

      And while plain truffles have yet to impress me, I can see how truffle salt can be good. I really like a Truffle Tremor goat cheese (made by Cypress Grove). I am not sure if it is the truffles or just the quality goat cheese, but the combo is pretty tasty.

  3. October 11, 2012 at 1:06 am #

    I’ve never tried truffles at all and I’ve always been curious too as to what they tasted like. I always assume that since the ingredient is one of the priciest in the world, it would be like some incredible party in my mouth. I gotta say it is disappointing to hear that is not the case.

    The thing that is really gonna blow your mind though is that Truffle oil doesn’t even usually have any actually truffle essence in it. That is why it is so much cheaper than the real fungus. It’s made from an organic compound called 2,4-Dithiapentane which is derived either naturally or from a petroleum base and mixed together with oil (olive, grapeseed, etc…). Apparently this 2,4-Dithiapentane is the chemical that is the strongest part of the actual truffle flavor but can be synthesized to make “cheap” truffle oil.

    I know you frequent Serious Eats, so here is a full blown rant on the topic that you’d probably be proud of from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt… http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/04/rant-enough-with-the-truffle-oil-already.html?ref=title Enjoy!

    • Mr. Fed Up
      October 11, 2012 at 8:23 am #

      Wow. GREAT RANT from Kenji Lopez! I had heard that much of truffle oil was made from chemical compounds, but I had to at least try it.
      I really am annoyed with when you purchase something that contains almost nothing of what the packaging says…for example, much of the dried fruit in cereals advertising that they are packed with dried berries (or peach) pieces are actually packed with dried APPLE bits that are dyed/flavored to meet the expectations of the unassuming shopper. Apples are just a far cheaper ingredient that berries (or peaches). The same goes for many juices; like cheap cranberry juice where one of the dominate ingredients is actually apple juice. Everyone now is just trying to save a buck…

  4. Rodzilla
    October 11, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    I think your best bet is a well regarded restaurant state side. Yes – you’ll pay a boat load, but it’s the better chance that you’re getting the real deal.

    I think they’re alright, but I don’t seek them out like some. There are many other expensive ingredients that I find a lot more appealing.

    • Mr. Fed Up
      October 11, 2012 at 8:30 am #

      Hi Rodzilla, you are probably right…I need to find a reputable restaurant that can ‘guarantee’ a quality dish. Not only will they provide premium truffles, but they will know best how to use/cook them so that they shine.
      And, yes, at least with my current limited truffle experience, I will be saving my food splurges for expensive, aged imported cheeses (Sainte-Maure, Monte Enembro, etc) and those overpriced mushrooms (shitaki, chanterelle, etc), and quality crab (King Crab).

  5. October 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Definitely second your post. Tried truffles… colour me unimpressed. Sure, I probably got bad quality ones, as plain closed cup mushrooms actually made a much more significant flavour difference in my omelettes.

    Didn’t know about the dyed apple bits in cereals, not that I’ve ever caught on to eating “processed” cereal. Anyway I get worked up as well when once again the marketing department tries to deceive us. One pet pieve of mine is a certain brand of “Strawberry flavoured Fruit tea with real fruit” which contains exactly 0.1% strawberry. While *technically* it may be true that there’s real fruit in there, the 2 milligrams per teabag just isn’t impressive. Just imagine how much of the intense strawberry flavour is actually produced by strawberries, once you turn it into a mug of tea.

    Another one was when I was looking for *any* kind of blackcurrants for a recipe- pureed, juiced, canned.. anything. Of all the blackcurrant products out there, there wasn’t a single one that had over 20% of blackcurrants in there.

    Half-lies, they’re the only thing worse than blatant lies.

    By the way, congrats on your new kitchen. I’ve been there… best to enjoy it!

    • October 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

      THANKS for reading and the comments.. I will have to watch out for any ‘black currant’ flavored things! Just yesterday I saw a “blueberry” bar whose first ingredient was APPLE…the worst part was that the bar was labeled as JUST PLAIN FRUIT…I really was expecting it to be ONLY dried-out blueberries…nope. Oh, and thanks for the ‘congrats’…life for me now is much MUCH better. And having an awesome kitchen is just the ‘cherry-on-top’

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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