Truffles have long been a treasure find in dishes from Michelin rated restaurants around the world. Of course, many of the best hail from France where, along with fine wines and chocolate, they are one of the country’s most highly prized epicurean delicacies and aphrodisiacs. And no, these aren’t the chocolate kinds sold in Godiva.
Earthy and robust and from the mushroom family, truffles are sometimes referred to as “the diamonds of the kitchen.” Indeed, they are often sprinkled over dishes to elevate a good meal into something much more extraordinary and have been highly sought after since Greek and Roman times. They are grown underground and are among the most expensive foods, selling with certain varieties selling upwards of several hundreds of dollars per pound (or between one hundred and two hundred an ounce)!
Explore With a Canine Companion
Join AmaWaterways on a visit to one of France’s most distinguished truffle growing regions and visit a beautiful truffle farm to observe specially-trained dogs in action as they hunt for these treasures. Truffles are so elusive that neither man nor machine can locate them on their own, relying on canines’ keen sense of smell to find the fungus, which grows underground. A variety of dogs can sniff around and be truffle hunters, including Labrador Retrievers and Lagotto Romagnolos. However, they must first go through a special training process, teaching the dog to be alert for the particular aroma since the fungus is not something a dog would usually look for on its own. Farmers teach their dogs these new tricks in several different ways, often coating an item in truffle oil and having the dog fetch it in return for either a doggie treat, play toy or fun playtime.
A Unique Provencal Experience
Truffles are predominately grown near oak trees (and sometimes fragrant fields of lavender) so a walk through a truffle farm is always a lovely, scenic route - made more so by man’s best friend. In previous times, pigs were usually used to search for the tricky truffles but nowadays, the truffle hunter scours the farm with his truffle-hunting dogs in tow. When the dog smells the truffle’s aroma, he either marks it with his paw or begins digging it up himself. Either way, the hunter must hurry to scoop it up and then reward his (or her) buddy with a special doggie treat.
It’s a charming ritual that has been taking place for years and yet still continues in this day where technology seems to have overtaken nearly everything else—and so is quite a delight to see! While harvest season runs in the winter, roughly from November to March, one can enjoy truffles all year round in the form of popular kitchen staples, such as truffle-flavored olive oil and truffle salt. Be inspired by your visit to add fresh truffles or truffle-flavored products into your own cooking at home for a special, decadent twist!
Go Further in Grignan
After your included truffle hunting excursion, your small group will head to the charming town of Grignan to visit a Renaissance Château perched on a hill surrounded by lavender fields. Along with the truffles unearthed in this region, this Provencal town is known for its picturesque red-tiled roofs, tree-lined, winding streets, open-air cafes and colorful markets. You will be able to enjoy some free time to wander through the town's art galleries or shop for souvenirs.
Go in search of Avignon's highly prized "Black Diamond" truffles during our Colors of Provence river cruise aboard our award-winning AmaKristina.