Drawing globe-trotting gourmands to the south of France, truffle tourism (the non-chocolate kind), is becoming an increasingly popular activity with an estimated off-season growth that’s worth over 20 million dollars a year to the region.
Culinary divas and bucket list travellers alike come, stay, and revel in the forest of flavours they experience as they immerse themselves in the mysterious world of truffles. Unlike mushrooms, truffles grow underground near tree roots in the woods, vary in size from that of a strawberry to an apple, and can command sometimes as much as a thousand dollars a pound. Depending on the taster, truffles can be referred to as fiery, garlicky, earthy or gamey. And, as one writer so aptly put it, this elusive edible fungus is “difficult to find, a pain to grow and loses its sexy aroma within a week.”
On the hunt
The day dawns with excitement as trekkers embark on a truffle journey in search of this French delicacy that’s known worldwide for both its powerful scent and unique taste.
The first step in the adventure is to learn more. To do that, it’s a trip to the fabulous Vaucluse markets where participants will be greeted by vendors and learn about the heady, yet unmistakable, scent of fresh truffles. (Unfortunately the unique odour starts to fade as soon as the truffle is dug up. Truffles don’t last longer than 7 to 10 days.) Sure to tantalize taste buds, the truffle market is the destination for locals in search of these seasonally foraged morsels in all shapes and sizes as well. Of note: in Provence, the coveted prize is the illustrious black truffle. (White truffles are from Italy.)
Franck and Alexis
Moving on to La Truffe du Ventoux, it’s time to meet seasoned truffle hunters Franck and Alexis Jaumard for an exclusive tour of their truffle farm led by the noses of their two resident truffle hounds, Mirette and Polka. Pigs were originally used to sniff out truffles but today, specially trained dogs are employed since they don’t gobble up truffles as pigs do.
Here, culinary aficionados can relish in the ultimate earthy scavenger hunt, which offers the ultimate behind-the-scenes look into one of the world’s most secretive business. As third-generation trufflers with vast knowledge of the terroir, an invitation from the Jaumard Brothers to discover the mysteries of the exclusive truffle trade is a once in a lifetime experience.
The ultimate tasting
After discovering how the “black diamond” of Provence is cultivated and harvested, the adventure continues with an indulgent truffle-themed lunch at the Domaine Jaumard. Imagine, cheese stuffed with black truffles, scrambled eggs with truffles, créme brulée with truffles, wine and coffee. Of note, truffles are cleaned by hand and grated or sliced paper-thin atop warm food, which absorbs the truffle’s aroma. You don’t need much since a little goes a long way!
Later, end the day’s adventures at Coquillade’s Avelan fine dining room where Chef Thierry Enderlin’s seasonal tasting menu showcases regional flavours—a sort of gourmet trip around the world—the perfect finish to a very memorable day!
The ultimate truffle hunting experience
Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa serves as an ideal backdrop for this quintessential experience. Offered Thursday to Sunday from mid-November to mid-March at $1,607 for two people.
This experience includes:
• The rental of a Mercedes SMART car for the day
• A visit to the Provence truffle markets
• An introduction to truffles with the Jaumard brothers at La Truffe du Ventoux
• A truffle-themed lunch at the Domain Jaumard with wine and drinks and dinner at Avelan restaurant with a wine pairing.