Truffle season is upon us. The exotic and unique mushroom is no longer available only to prized chefs, but can be found at your local Farmers’ Market. Although there are over 50 varieties of truffles worldwide, only about half a dozen of them are worth eating. Domestic truffles grow underground in mountain elevations and are dug the same way as those in all other parts of the world. Domestic truffles come from North and South Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee, but the best truffles in the United States come from Northern California and Oregon. The western truffle is the closest you will find to a European truffle.
Although the domestic truffle is one-third to one-quarter as powerful in flavor as the European truffle, it is only one-sixth to one-twentieth of the price, making it an exceptional value. At the Wednesday and Saturday Downtown Markets you can find wild domestic truffles for $15 per ounce at Clearwater Farms. Generally, purchase half an ounce of truffles per person. Clearwater only sells wild, not farmed, truffles.
David West of Clearwater advises that truffles need to be the star of the dish, and not to serve them with other strong, competing flavors like garlic, overpowering herbs, or red wine sauce. He suggests serving truffles over a blank canvas of simple foods like eggs, pasta, or rice. Clearwater will have truffles through the middle of February or early March.
Another interesting winter mushroom is the black trumpet. It is a famous mushroom in France and also called “horn of plenty” or “black chanterelle.” It has a wonderfully deep, earthy, rich, and meaty flavor. Black trumpets grow in clusters in the woods and most of them grow in the Fort Bragg and Mendocino area. Serve black trumpets in place of meat as a main course, or sauté them and serve them over meat, particularly steak and grilled tuna. Black trumpets are also excellent in soups. Black trumpets tend to be in season at the same time as leeks and the two go wonderfully together. For a delicious dish, David West recommends dicing three to four leeks and slowly cooking them over low heat, then add black trumpets and let the flavors mingle together. Clearwater sells black trumpets for $16 per half pound and $32 per pound.