French Fungus Among Us

By Wine Press Staff

Old World France will meet New World Oregon for a fête du truffes (celebration of truffles) at the fifth annual Oregon Truffle Festival, to be held Jan. 29–Jan. 31 in Eugene.

For the past four years, truffle enthusiasts, chefs, foodies, truffle hunters and truffle growers have gathered at the festival for three days of tastings, tours and workshops to celebrate Oregon’s most prized native ingredient.

According to Charles Lefevre, festival co-founder and owner of New World Truffieres, culinary truffles are found in just a handful of regions around the world, and are among the world’s most expensive foods.

“Within the rarified world of truffles, Oregon is known as the premier center of research and expertise outside of Europe,” he said. “We are extremely honored to host our European counterparts at the festival to celebrate this joyful community and our mutual passion.”

The 2010 festival, the only one of its kind in North America, will feature a decidedly French connection as Oregon’s truffles begin to join their famed European cousins on the international culinary stage.

Traveling from France to share their culinary passion and prowess with other participants will be renowned chef Jacques Ratier and his wife, Noëlle, whose restaurant, La Récréation, was prominently featured in the popular book “From Here, You Can’t See Paris,” by American author Michael S. Sanders.

Sanders, a widely published travel and food writer, will also lend his insight at the festival. “From Here, You Can’t See Paris” is the story of his year in tiny Les Arques, a hilltop village in a remote corner of France untouched by the modern era. It chronicles the dying village’s struggle to survive, and the efforts of the Ratiers, whose bustling restaurant—the village’s sole business—has helped ensure the village’s future. The village is in a region known for many local delicacies, most notably, black truffles.

Also on hand to share his expertise at the Oregon Truffle Festival will be Pierre Sourzat, a fifth-generation truffle cultivator and scientist, who directs a truffle college in Le Montat, located just a few kilometers from the Ratiers’ restaurant.

These special guests will be on hand for the entire festival, and will launch the event Friday, Jan. 29, with La Récréation, an evening of conviviality around the table that will celebrate the magnificent truffles from the Old World of France and the New World of Oregon.

Also new for 2010 will be a two-day seminar, believed to be the first of its kind in North America, to train dogs for truffle-hunting. Twelve lucky New World dogs will learn Old World techniques for finding truffles that are ripe and ready for eating. The seminar will be taught by Jim Sanford of Blackberry Farm Resort in Tennessee and Jean Rand, owner of Oregon’s most accomplished truffle dog. Participants will get the singularly authentic experience of joining the dogs on the hunt for wild truffles in their native habitat.

Other activities will include experiencing all aspects of the fabled fungi, including methods of cooking with them, learning to cultivate them and pairing them in sumptuous meals with Oregon’s legendary wines.

Four of Portland’s most celebrated chefs will join hosts Rocky Maselli and Stephanie Pearl Kimmel of Marché in Eugene to prepare the five-course meal served at the fifth annual Grand Truffle Dinner, to be held Saturday. The four chefs include: Philippe Boulot of the Multnomah Athletic Club and Heathman Restaurant & Bar; Naomi Pomeroy of Beast; Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon; and Pascal Sauton of Carafe.

“In keeping with the festival’s Old World France meets New World Oregon theme, the selected chefs bring French sensibility to combine with our fabulous local ingredients at the Grand Truffle Dinner,” said Leslie Scott, festival organizer. “Each of this year’s chefs has been recognized around the nation for their application of classic techniques to contemporary cooking, and we’re eager to see what they come up with this year.”

Registration is now open for Oregon Truffle Festival weekend experiences and the Grand Truffle Dinner. Six weekend and several stand-alone options are available, variously including lectures, cooking classes, winery luncheons, truffle forays, farm tours and receptions. 

Event Information

2010 Oregon Truffle Festival

Location: Valley River Inn • 1000 Valley River Way, Eugene
January 29–31 (See website for schedule.)
See website for details.

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