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  #1  
Old 06-04-2011, 06:31 PM
Two Many Cats Two Many Cats is offline
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What Do Truffles Taste Like?

Not the chocolate treats.

This thread is inspired by the Hearts of Palm one.

I've had pasta dishes in fancy restaurants that were flavored with truffle oil, but I couldn't really taste any difference than what you'd expect pasta to taste like.

So, if I were to shave off a piece of this most treasured fungus, what would it taste like? Is there a difference in flavor between the black and white varieties?

Is it worth every expensive bite? Or is it just hype?

Has anybody here cooked with truffles? Or hunted for them?
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  #2  
Old 06-04-2011, 06:49 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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I used to be married to someone in the exotic foods importing business. I have had all kinds of truffles, even the most expensive ones available. They are very distinctive tasting and not something that is easily compared to other tastes. The quality ones are also extremely strong tasting. It only takes a little bit to go from "Ummm, tastes fancy" to "it is overpowering, the dish is ruined.". Quality truffles are rather nasty at high concentrations which is good because they are one of the most expensive food ingredients by the pound. I like them when used sparingly but I wouldn't be disappointed if I never has one again. There is a big snob appeal to expensive truffles because of the rarity but that doesn't always match the experience you get with them.

I am not that good at describing tastes. They taste extremely earthy and oily (because they are almost always stored or cooked in oil). Some people don't like them at all but they can be an memorable ingredient if used correctly.

There have been related threads before. I started one of them.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...light=truffles
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...light=truffles

Last edited by Shagnasty; 06-04-2011 at 06:53 PM..
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  #3  
Old 06-04-2011, 07:36 PM
Athena Athena is online now
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Pretty much what Shagnasty said, though I don't think I've had the best in the world. I have had them at some of the best restaurants in the world, so maybe I have.

Like a lot of really high-end flavors, they're both subtle and overwhelming, if that makes any sense at all. The first time or two you have them, you might think "well, that's not a big deal", but then something lingers in your head and after the third or fourth time, you begin to pick out the earthy, mushroomy perfume they bring to a dish and it starts to become something you find yourself looking for. (And yes, I know that's a really over the top way to put it, and I kind of hate myself for saying it that way cuz it sounds so pretentious, but I can't really think of a better way to describe it)

Saffron has a similar thing going on - it's almost undetectable until you figure it out, and then you can't miss it.
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  #4  
Old 06-04-2011, 08:20 PM
needscoffee needscoffee is offline
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It tastes slightly similar to garlic, and kind of mushroomy, but more earthy, and just like Athena says, once you taste it in your food, you won't forget it. The restaurants probably didn't use enough of it to be able to discern, which is almost a good thing, as it can become overpowering easily. You can get a small bottle of truffle oil for not much money at the grocery store. Take it home and smell it, and then try adding a few drops to pasta sauce, either red sauce, or a cream or cheese sauce.

A shop here that demos it puts creamy potato soup into dixie cups, and has you try it before and after adding a drop or two of truffle oil to it.
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Old 06-04-2011, 08:20 PM
shantih shantih is online now
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One of my favorite dishes is freshly made pasta tossed in olive oil and then tossed and scraped in a Parmesan wheel, and finally topped with freshly shaved truffles. When the truffle is good, the whole dish has an earthiness that is just delectable. This is something that some of the Italian restaurants around offer when truffles are available, and oh, I'm so glad when they do!
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Old 06-04-2011, 08:25 PM
Two Many Cats Two Many Cats is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by needscoffee View Post
You can get a small bottle of truffle oil for not much money at the grocery store. Take it home and smell it, and then try adding a few drops to pasta sauce, either red sauce, or a cream or cheese sauce.

A shop here that demos it puts creamy potato soup into dixie cups, and has you try it before and after adding a drop or two of truffle oil to it.
Here's what I'm going to do. Thanks!

Keep the truffle stories coming though.

Last edited by Two Many Cats; 06-04-2011 at 08:26 PM..
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  #7  
Old 06-04-2011, 08:39 PM
salinqmind salinqmind is offline
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I have a bottle of truffle oil I got for Christmas, it's not very pungent like I thought it would be, in fact it's a little bland. It has small bits of black truffle on the bottom. I've heard this stuff is olive oil with a fleck of truffle and some kind of truffle flavoring. But i use it anyway on pasta and vegetables.
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  #8  
Old 06-04-2011, 08:49 PM
Kamino Neko Kamino Neko is offline
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They taste like fun, guy.
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  #9  
Old 06-05-2011, 09:19 AM
Sri Theo Sri Theo is offline
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I have heard that most (all?) truffle oil is completely void of actual truffles. It's chemically synthesised flavours - if your bottle has actual bits of black truffle in it, that's a very expensive present.

If they say anything like truffle flavoured or scented they definitely contain no truffles.

Edit: See this article for more details

Last edited by Sri Theo; 06-05-2011 at 09:20 AM..
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  #10  
Old 06-05-2011, 09:28 AM
beartato beartato is offline
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I came into the thread to post the article that Sri Theo did. Big difference between truffles and truffle oil.
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  #11  
Old 06-05-2011, 09:32 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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My name is jjimm and I am a truffle obsessive

Here's what I said in an earlier thread on the subject:
Quote:
Truffles really are special. They represent a taste most of us have not yet experienced: the first time you taste it, it seems to wake up taste buds that have never worked before - a surprising and weird experience. It's not necessarily "nice", but it's a rich, distinctive flavor that's almost an emotional experience.
It's a rounded, earthy taste, and the odor mixes with the taste in the back of your nose too. I don't think it's anything like garlic at all. More like a very rich scallop but not really like that either.

Another post I made about truffles:
Quote:
I was making a truffle tarte for a girlfriend who had never encountered them before, and when I took the lid off the jar she looked startled and said "something is terribly wrong". It tastes how it smells, but it tastes awesome - she loved the tarte.
I was recently in Tuscany and saw a restaurant that said "Tartuffi Fresci" outside. So I made my girlfriend come back that evening and had bistecca con tartuffi. I was disappointed when it arrived as I couldn't smell any truffle from the sauce. But then the most wonderful thing happened: the waitress came with two whole fresh truffles dug from the mountains nearby. And when she asked "nero o bianco?" I tentatively asked for both... and she grated HALF OF EACH TRUFFLE ONTO MY STEAK. I nearly wept with joy. And they were astonishingly good. And the whole experience cost 12. Goddamn it, amazing.
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  #12  
Old 06-05-2011, 10:16 AM
Gilles de Rais Gilles de Rais is offline
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The first time I ate at the French Laundry, they offered a white truffle supplement for $50.

No brainer, I thought... For a $500 meal, what's an extra $50?

Three of us were dining and the white truffle course was a sampling of three special carb dishes; fresh pasta, risotto, and polenta. They brought out a beautiful box (probably made for cigars) and opened it at our table. Inside was a pool cue-sized white truffle which got shaved onto our dishes.

For a 6 1/2 hour, 22-course meal, I still remember how amazing that truffle was...
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  #13  
Old 06-05-2011, 10:23 AM
MikeG MikeG is offline
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Jjimm said it better than I could. Truffles are incredible. The best ones aren't stored in oil but in a box of arborio rice. That way you keep the truffle and truffle scented arborio rice bonus!

The oils I've tried have all been fairly insipid. The Spice House sells a truffle salt that is fantastic though! I highly recommend it.
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  #14  
Old 06-05-2011, 10:27 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is online now
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The first few times, I didn't detect anything and I am curious about new tastes.
Then I had a very good truffle mayonaise a few weeks ago, and it was nice. Not "vavavoom", but nice.

The crude way to describe the taste is like garlic with a bit if gas. Not gasoline, but cooking gas. Plus an earthy, oily basis.

There are lots of other tastes that are just as subtle but that I would prefer, if I had too choose. Like non-canned artichoke. Yum.
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  #15  
Old 06-05-2011, 10:41 AM
Athena Athena is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sri Theo View Post
I have heard that most (all?) truffle oil is completely void of actual truffles. It's chemically synthesised flavours - if your bottle has actual bits of black truffle in it, that's a very expensive present.

If they say anything like truffle flavoured or scented they definitely contain no truffles.

Edit: See this article for more details
I recently picked up both black and white truffle oil from La Tourangelle. I haven't opened the white, but the black is amazing - heady, strong, very reminiscent of truffles. It lists "Black Truffle Extract" as the flavoring. I'm very happy with it.
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  #16  
Old 06-05-2011, 10:54 AM
TruCelt TruCelt is offline
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For black truffles, I'd say macadamia nut oil, but stronger, + roasted pine nuts + tiny touch of anise + deep rich black earth, like a raw potato grown in a pine forest.

The white ones, more anise, less earth, and something else.

There's a lot of "something else" in both, but that's as close as I bring it to things you may have experienced before.
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  #17  
Old 06-05-2011, 11:41 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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Was it ever used in the chocolate variety?
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  #18  
Old 06-05-2011, 11:41 AM
Swords to Plowshares Swords to Plowshares is offline
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The only time I had truffle was when it was stuffed in homemade fresh ravioli with cheese and dressed with a light cream sauce. Absolutely delicious. The earthiness permeates through the whole dish. TruCelt's flavor description is quite good IMO.

Edit - Not sure if truffles have ever been used in chocolate truffles. Chocolate truffles were named for their resemblance to the fungus.

Last edited by Swords to Plowshares; 06-05-2011 at 11:42 AM..
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  #19  
Old 06-05-2011, 11:46 AM
beartato beartato is offline
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I have made dessert dishes with chocolate and truffles - the earthiness of the truffle and a really bitter chocolate are nice together, throw in an element of pine oil and maca root and you have something really interesting.

The chocolate dessert is named for the appearance of the truffle, indeed, but think of a cocoa-powder-covered truffle, not a chocolate dipped one.
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  #20  
Old 06-05-2011, 11:54 AM
Hockey Monkey Hockey Monkey is offline
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I don't like them at all. To me they just taste like dirt.
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  #21  
Old 06-05-2011, 01:42 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Out of curiosity: Is there anyone who likes truffles, but dislikes other fancy mushrooms like morels? If the flavor of truffle is anything like a morel, then I know not to waste my money.
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  #22  
Old 06-05-2011, 02:08 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Out of curiosity: Is there anyone who likes truffles, but dislikes other fancy mushrooms like morels? If the flavor of truffle is anything like a morel, then I know not to waste my money.
Truffles taste nothing like any mushroom. I don't believe they are technically mushrooms, in fact - they're the fruiting body of a symbiotic tree/fungus organism.
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Old 06-05-2011, 02:14 PM
Omniscient Omniscient is offline
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Originally Posted by Hockey Monkey View Post
I don't like them at all. To me they just taste like dirt.
+1

I dined at Alinea and they had multiple truffle dishes and I eventually stopped eating them. The stuff is nasty.
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  #24  
Old 06-05-2011, 02:31 PM
Gilles de Rais Gilles de Rais is offline
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I concur that truffles taste nothing like mushrooms. They are clumped together because they are both fungi but I would use the analogy that an apple and an orange don't taste similar even though they are both fruit.

They ARE both earthy and exude a sense of umami, but other than that, I think they are very different.
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  #25  
Old 06-05-2011, 02:34 PM
fumster fumster is offline
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nm

Last edited by fumster; 06-05-2011 at 02:34 PM..
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  #26  
Old 06-05-2011, 02:34 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Originally Posted by Omniscient View Post
+1

I dined at Alinea and they had multiple truffle dishes and I eventually stopped eating them. The stuff is nasty.
In the prior thread I linked to, someone was saying that about 1/3 of people can't taste them, 1/3 of people go wild from them, and 1/3 of people think they taste like ass. A bit like cilantro. Unfortunately no cite was provided though the WSJ (?) was mentioned.
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Old 06-05-2011, 03:20 PM
FoieGrasIsEvil FoieGrasIsEvil is offline
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Ah, truffles. Along with foie gras, sweetbreads and caviar among the foods I most enjoy eating/smelling but can't afford. That's one thing I definitely miss about the restaurant business...free samples (scooby snacks)!

Truffles are indescribably aromatic. Intoxicatingly so.
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Old 06-05-2011, 04:05 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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I'm sensing some cognitive dissonance there with your screenname...
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  #29  
Old 06-06-2011, 02:52 AM
needscoffee needscoffee is offline
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I notice a similarity to a mushroom scent, and the first time I used it at home my daughter asked me if I was cooking mushrooms.
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  #30  
Old 06-06-2011, 03:18 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
I'm sensing some cognitive dissonance there with your screenname...
It must be evil like chocolate cake is sinful.
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  #31  
Old 06-06-2011, 05:36 AM
capybara capybara is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
In the prior thread I linked to, someone was saying that about 1/3 of people can't taste them, 1/3 of people go wild from them, and 1/3 of people think they taste like ass. A bit like cilantro. Unfortunately no cite was provided though the WSJ (?) was mentioned.
I am one of those for whom it tastes like ass. At best a kind of oily-mushroomy-rich-dirt taste, at worst like, well, poo. One of very few foods I'm super not-keen on (uni is one other, to get a baseline).
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  #32  
Old 06-06-2011, 05:55 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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The right truffle in the right amounts in the right dish is a taste to remember all your life.

And I mean that in a good way.

Last edited by Gyrate; 06-06-2011 at 05:55 AM..
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  #33  
Old 06-06-2011, 08:09 AM
Musky Moon Musky Moon is offline
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I love truffles too, but my first experiance tasted like jellied dirt.
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  #34  
Old 06-06-2011, 08:30 AM
MikeG MikeG is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
Truffles taste nothing like any mushroom. I don't believe they are technically mushrooms, in fact - they're the fruiting body of a symbiotic tree/fungus organism.
FYI, all mushrooms that you eat are fruiting bodies of the much larger underground (or inter tree) mycelium.

Mushrooms taste very different from one to the other. my gf and her parents are cray about morels and have hundreds if not thousands dried in the pantry from the last two bumper crop years. I far prefer the chanterelles that grow around here and the porcini that grow out in CO.

I am ok with hen of the woods (maitake) which grow abundantly near me but don't care for the taste or texture of chicken of the woods (sulfur shelf).
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  #35  
Old 06-06-2011, 09:30 AM
Old Eel Old Eel is offline
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I've used a truffle salt that was so aromatic I had to keep it inside a second container. A little truffle goes a long way.
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  #36  
Old 06-06-2011, 04:18 PM
BigT BigT is offline
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Thanks to this thread, I dreamed about eating these things. And I still remember what they tasted like in my dream. I wonder if they will taste the way I dreamed.
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  #37  
Old 06-08-2011, 06:41 PM
kath94 kath94 is offline
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Just found this thread, so sorry I'm late to the party.

I had never had anything resembling or pretending to be truffles or truffle-y until this past Monday. Had the macaroni and cheese @ Serendipity 3 in Las Vegas, supposedly with "truffle essence." I'm guessing that's the synthetic truffle oil, but that's just a guess. Anyway, it was the BEST mac & cheese I've ever had in my life. I couldn't tell you why, it just was. And I grew up on and love Kraft.

My mother, who can't stand mushrooms, and will only cook with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup if it's been blended to remove any resemblance to mushrooms, was hesitant. Then she tasted it. She LIKED it.

Then she gave me the leftovers to take home. Then she asked for some back if I hadn't eaten it all.

If it truly is truffles or "truffle essence" that made the difference, I'm hooked!
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