“Allez! Allez!” Cried our truffier, Eric Jaumard, to his dogs as we wandered through the woods near Mont Ventoux in Provence. We were hunting for truffles. These earthy delicacies are considered a luxury around the world thanks to their unique taste and high price. During the truffle season which runs in Provence from November to March, Eric takes his dogs hunting for truffles a couple of times a week, carefully combing the area beneath the oak trees on his farmland.
Eric leading the truffle hunt
I was invited by the hotel Crillon Le Brave
on a truffle hunting weekend in Provence. We spent three nights learning how to cook truffles, tasting wine that would accompany truffles and now we were at the main event, the hunt for the truffles. The main truffle from this part of France is the tuber melansoporum, the truffles grow just underneath the surface of the soil so they are very difficult to find without a dog or pig to sniff them out. Eric told us that while pigs were traditionally used to find truffles the pigs liked the truffles to much so dogs were a safer bet as they were less likely to try and eat the truffles. “Also it is easier to talk to a dog than a pig”, laughed Eric.
The dog digging for the truffles
Hunting for truffles really did feel like we were searching for buried treasure. Every now and again the dogs would stop and start sniffing the ground with particular interest, “Allez!” Eric would cry. The dog would dig into the earth towards the truffle and then Eric would take over with a small pick to uncover the precious delicacy. There was a great bond between Eric and his dogs and it was a privilege to see them working together to find the truffles.
Goats cheese salad dressed with truffles
When Eric felt satisfied we had found all the truffles we could for the morning we wandered back to a large kitchen and dining area Eric has set up on the property for what Eric describes as a “rustic” lunch. There were truffles with every course. They appeared unadorned and thinly sliced on thin slices of toasted baguette as we drank an apertif outside. They were swirled through thick, creamy pumpkin soup to add depth and earthy flavour. They were scattered over a rich goats cheese salad. However most memorably the musty truffles were layered in soft folds of scrambled egg which was served with jamon and toast. It was perhaps the ultimate brunch dish.
Truffle laced scrambled eggs
The truffles did not stop there though. We also had truffles with our dessert, scattered like confetti on the créme anglaise with the combination of earthiness and sweet making the whole concoction taste almost like a strong blue cheese. I am still not entirely convinced by truffles in a dessert! Of course, truffles were not limited to the food alone and our truffle feast was accompanied by a truffle wine, a robust Terres de Truffes red which was produced from vines that grew next to a truffiere. Eric is currently working on a truffle liqueur so even the last drink of the day can have a touch of truffle to it.
Dessert with truffle creme anglaise
Details: Crillon le Brave
, Place d’Eglise, 84410 Crillon le Brave, France (Ph +33 (0) 490 65 6161)
Damage: Budget Breaking
Gourmet Travel Tips
- To get to Crillon le Brave from London you can fly to Marseille or take the more relaxing option and travel by train. Catch the Eurostar from London to Lyon and change to a TGV to Avignon. Ticket prices are around €300 return.
- We visited Crillon le Brave for a truffle and wine weekend which included three nights accomodation, breakfast and dinner every day, wine tasting at Chateauneuf de Pape and a day and lunch truffle hunting. We were guests of the hotel but usually it costs €1,130 for a couple for the weekend. Rooms are usually €230 to €470 a night.
The fields next to the truffiere
Part two coming soon with details of my stay at Crillon le Brave and more truffle feasting.
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Crillon le Brave and Eurostar.
A video of the truffle hunting experience
Thanks to everyone who entered the Gourmet Giveaway to win a Hotel Chocolat luxury Advent Calendar. The winner is Vicky chosen using random.org. Vicky, your prize will be winging its way to you shortly thanks to Hotel Chocolat.