Ahhh, truffles. King of all fungi. One of the most expensive foods in the world. Redolent of forest, musk, compost and aged cheese, they are uniquely funky and unlikely to win any beauty contest based on appearance alone. But…the brain floods with dopamine as soon as you catch the unmistakable whiff of a ripe truffle nugget. Pupils dilate and thoughts turn impure. Salivary glands kick in as your mouth awaits connection with that distinct scent. Truffles are transformative, bordering on magical.
I am really lucky that we don’t live too far from the bountiful Willamette Valley, annual host to the incredibly well-coordinated Oregon Truffle Festival. OTF celebrates native Oregon truffles and wines at their finest. Packages for the weekend-long event include gourmet meals with all the wine you can handle, winery visits, opportunities to learn about and participate in foraging, dog training classes (dogs are ideal for truffle hunting since they don’t eat them upon discovery like pigs do), cultivation seminars and cooking lessons. One nice detail: Busses take participants everywhere so you don’t have to worry that you always have a glass of wine in your hand. The festival is put on by Leslie Scott and Charles Lefevre of New World Truffieres, a company specializing in truffle cultivation and controlled inoculation of oak and hazelnut seedlings with a range of culinary truffle species.
For me, OTF is a shining beacon during the grey Seattle winter and a grand way to start the new year. This was our third time attending and I appreciate the work that goes into each year having different themes, chefs and menus; it’s enough to keep us coming back for more and bringing food-minded friends with us. This year the festival weekend was inspired by the book One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking, and the opening act on Friday evening was hosted by its creator Molly O’Neill, James Beard award-winning author and former New York Times food writer. One Big Table is the nation’s community cookbook, the result of Molly’s journey of more than 500,000 miles across the U.S to discover why we eat what we eat. As part of the ongoing effort to gather and preserve American recipes and food stories, Molly, with her friends and colleagues, are building One Big Table Across America, a series of large and small events that “celebrate American home cooking, support local agriculture, and prove that community begins when people gather around a table to eat, drink, talk, laugh, think, and dream”–all things that resonate strongly with me.
OTF is one of the best food experiences I’ve had the good fortune to attend, and I’ve been to a lot of them. In the spirit of sharing some great food porn and maybe convincing you to attend with us in the future, let’s dive into this epic food and wine journey, shall we? Continue reading