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#1
Old 06-04-2011, 07:31 PM
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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?
#2
Old 06-04-2011, 07:49 PM
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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.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...light=truffles
http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...light=truffles

Last edited by Shagnasty; 06-04-2011 at 07:53 PM.
#3
Old 06-04-2011, 08:36 PM
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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.
#4
Old 06-04-2011, 09:20 PM
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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.
#5
Old 06-04-2011, 09:20 PM
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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!
#6
Old 06-04-2011, 09:25 PM
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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 09:26 PM.
#7
Old 06-04-2011, 09:39 PM
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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.
#8
Old 06-04-2011, 09:49 PM
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They taste like fun, guy.
#9
Old 06-05-2011, 10:19 AM
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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 10:20 AM.
#10
Old 06-05-2011, 10:28 AM
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I came into the thread to post the article that Sri Theo did. Big difference between truffles and truffle oil.
#11
Old 06-05-2011, 10:32 AM
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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.
#12
Old 06-05-2011, 11:16 AM
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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...
#13
Old 06-05-2011, 11:23 AM
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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.
#14
Old 06-05-2011, 11:27 AM
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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.
#15
Old 06-05-2011, 11:41 AM
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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.
#16
Old 06-05-2011, 11:54 AM
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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.
#17
Old 06-05-2011, 12:41 PM
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Was it ever used in the chocolate variety?
#18
Old 06-05-2011, 12:41 PM
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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 12:42 PM.
#19
Old 06-05-2011, 12:46 PM
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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.
#20
Old 06-05-2011, 12:54 PM
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I don't like them at all. To me they just taste like dirt.
#21
Old 06-05-2011, 02:42 PM
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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.
#22
Old 06-05-2011, 03:08 PM
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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.
#23
Old 06-05-2011, 03:14 PM
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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.
#24
Old 06-05-2011, 03:31 PM
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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.
#25
Old 06-05-2011, 03:34 PM
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nm

Last edited by fumster; 06-05-2011 at 03:34 PM.
#26
Old 06-05-2011, 03:34 PM
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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.
#27
Old 06-05-2011, 04:20 PM
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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.
#28
Old 06-05-2011, 05:05 PM
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I'm sensing some cognitive dissonance there with your screenname...
#29
Old 06-06-2011, 03:52 AM
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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.
#30
Old 06-06-2011, 04:18 AM
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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.
#31
Old 06-06-2011, 06:36 AM
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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).
#32
Old 06-06-2011, 06:55 AM
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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 06:55 AM.
#33
Old 06-06-2011, 09:09 AM
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I love truffles too, but my first experiance tasted like jellied dirt.
#34
Old 06-06-2011, 09:30 AM
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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).
#35
Old 06-06-2011, 10:30 AM
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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.
#36
Old 06-06-2011, 05:18 PM
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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.
#37
Old 06-08-2011, 07:41 PM
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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!
#38
Old 09-19-2017, 06:12 PM
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truffle oil is flavored with synthetic agent such as dithiapentane. it may have a few small little morsels of truffle at the bottom but it is not the main way they flavor it. (too expensive)
#39
Old 09-19-2017, 07:14 PM
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Truffle oil is an Abomination Unto Nuggan. Truffles, OTOH, are divine. One of my all-time favorite appetizers is at Sinatra in Las Vegas, where they occasionally have Truffled Fettucini, done in a light butter sauce with shaved at the table truffles on top. Last time I had it the waiter said "Say when" and started shaving. My reply was "Stop when it becomes obscene."
#40
Old 09-19-2017, 07:35 PM
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I like zombie threads because I missed them the first time around.

Truffles grow on my land and I hunt them sometimes, both black and white varieties. I agree with others who have described the flavor as oily and earthy. In fact, I can always tell when I'm in a vein by the scent. To me, they almost smell like turpentine, in a subtle way.

They are very distinctive. I don't get garlic at all and only a little mushroom scent. I do find they are enhanced by butter and are a natural match with scrambled eggs. They are also lovely in a non-citrus risotto.

I have found if you harvest them too late, they lose their charm.
#41
Old 09-20-2017, 06:08 AM
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Anyone interested in trying truffles for the first time should be aware that there's a cheap substitute that's sometimes sold as the real thing. It looks like and presumably is a small piece of real truffle in clear oil in a very small jar, but it has no flavor or aroma. I saw no such indication on the label and felt deceived, although I've been told that it's supposed to be used for decorative purposes. WTF? I can understand the appeal of something like bento grass, but this stuff just looks like dirt. The fact of the matter and reason for this post is that I should have known better. The real thing will set you back at least twenty or thirty bucks (or much more) and is not readily available everywhere year round, and I found the substitute on a shelf at a local "gourmet" food store and figured it was worth a gamble at five bucks. Boy was I wrong.
#42
Old 09-20-2017, 11:23 AM
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It's interesting to me to see truffles and saffron described as "subtle." To me, both are quite overwhelming flavors and scents, and a very very little goes a long way. (I do like both, though.)
#43
Old 09-20-2017, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
It's interesting to me to see truffles and saffron described as "subtle." To me, both are quite overwhelming flavors and scents, and a very very little goes a long way. (I do like both, though.)
I think you took my modifier of "subtle" in the wrong way. I agree the flavors/scents are distinctive and said so. I can't personally quite get to "overwhelming."

I used the word, "subtle," in its meaning with respect to truffles smelling like turpentine. I get a quality of turpentine in the scent, but that characteristic is subtle to me. Yet it is strong enough that I can immediately tell that I'm going to find a truffle in that spot when I'm digging for them, so in that respect, not subtle at all.
#44
Old 09-20-2017, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Aspenglow View Post
I think you took my modifier of "subtle" in the wrong way.
Actually, I wasn't responding to your description, but rather earlier ones in the thread, like Maastricht saying the first few times she couldn't taste it or how jjiimm also said that truffle tasters come down to three categories: 1/3 who don't taste it at all, 1/3 who taste it and love it, 1/3 who taste it and hate it. Athena also mentioned "subtle and overwhelming" with an explanation (which is different than just calling them "subtle," and I think I understand what she's getting at), but I've never really got the subtleness. It announces itself pretty much immediately in anything I've eaten with truffles in it (and I do love them.)

Last edited by pulykamell; 09-20-2017 at 02:42 PM.
#45
Old 09-20-2017, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Kamino Neko View Post
They taste like fun, guy.
A classic pun, cleverly deployed. My compliments.

I suppose truffles are pretty great, too. But a good pun is timeless.
#46
Old 09-20-2017, 05:52 PM
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As one poster mentioned above, umami. Whenever I hear that word I think of truffles.

My brother, younger sister and I had my birthday dinner four years ago at Providence in West Hollywood. Best meal of my life. Also, the fastest three hours of my life. They had their truffle in the little wooden box on rice, too.
#47
Old 09-20-2017, 08:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Actually, I wasn't responding to your description, but rather earlier ones in the thread, like Maastricht saying the first few times she couldn't taste it or how jjiimm also said that truffle tasters come down to three categories: 1/3 who don't taste it at all, 1/3 who taste it and love it, 1/3 who taste it and hate it. Athena also mentioned "subtle and overwhelming" with an explanation (which is different than just calling them "subtle," and I think I understand what she's getting at), but I've never really got the subtleness. It announces itself pretty much immediately in anything I've eaten with truffles in it (and I do love them.)
My apologies, then. Since I had also used the word, "subtle," I could only assume your response was directed in part to my description.

It's kind of fascinating how different people perceive tastes/smells for foods.

I once had a boar slaughtered whose genetics were poor and he had the worst case of boar taint I've ever encountered. It would be hard for me to describe how bad that boar taint was, but suffice it to say that one slice of bacon in the microwave for 30 seconds was enough to confirm to me I would never, ever eat one bite of that hog. I could even smell it on the stainless steel knife I used to cut the roasts into chunks for one of my dogs. Euggghhh.

My home kill butcher told me later that about 25% of people can't discern boar taint at all. To me, that's almost inconceivable, but I guess it's true. That's a guy who would know!

25% of dogs apparently can't discern boar taint, either. But then, he ate it raw, and the taint doesn't affect the taste (so they say), just the odor while cooking. Funny thing, though. The border collie loved every bite, and the dachshund wouldn't touch it.
#48
Old 09-20-2017, 09:16 PM
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I think the best way to have continuous enjoyment of truffles at a fair price is to buy something like the La Rustichella brand of black truffle pate. It's not 100% truffle bits but there's way more than enough of it in there to give you the full monty of aromatics and flavor.

I LOVE making truffle butter with this stuff, and then using that to make grilled cheese sammiches. As someone above mentioned, it's HEAVENLY in scrambled eggs.

I also use it to make truffle vinaigrette, also damn good. I do find that it doesn't do well in things that are already strongly flavored with something else, like a garlicky/oniony red sauce on a pasta. I have tried this and I needed to add way more than I usually use to taste it. My SIL gives me a jar of this stuff every Christmas.

Here's the goods, I get the 17.6oz jar, it lasts a year and is about $75: https://amazon.com/Rustichella-B...00XIKGUIA?th=1

ETA: if you get this stuff, or something like it, and you get a big jar, freeze half of it in freezer bags unless your usage is super heavy. It will start to mold in the jar in your fridge after about a couple months
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Last edited by FoieGrasIsEvil; 09-20-2017 at 09:19 PM.
#49
Old 09-20-2017, 09:54 PM
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Personally, they taste like turpentine to me. I'm surprised nobody's mentioned that, turpentine and tyres.

As you can probably guess, I don't like them very much.
#50
Old 09-20-2017, 10:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Tabby_Cat View Post
Personally, they taste like turpentine to me. I'm surprised nobody's mentioned that, turpentine and tyres.

As you can probably guess, I don't like them very much.
I think this is a similar issue with say, cilantro. A lot of people think it smells like soap and can't stand it.
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