Additional articles BY COURTNEY COCHRAN

Truffle Love

Everyone Says I Love You; Why Not Say It With Truffles?

“They can, on certain occasions, make women more tender and men more lovable.”
- Alexandre Dumas

When you really get down to it, there are few foods more decadent than truffles. The rare mushroom-like fungi, which are found near the roots of oak trees mostly in parts of France and Italy, have since Egyptian times been treasured for their aphrodisiacal qualities and command, as a result, sky-high prices.

But the origin of truffles couldn’t be less glamorous. Because they grow in the ground beneath the surface, truffle foragers require the help of a dog or, more often, a pig to help sniff them out. Which is why I sometimes stop and wonder: how, exactly, does something dug up from the ground by pigs manage to convey such great romance caché?

Aromatherapy for Couples
Well, for starters, it’s got a lot to do with the fact that they’re fantastically aromatic. The singular smell of truffles is something prized by chefs and gourmands the world over, although it defies definition (but I promise once you’ve smelled one you’ll remember it forever). Many foods held to be aphrodisiacs are highly aromatic, and the smells they emit are believed to trigger thoughts of…well, you know.

Besides this remarkable ability, truffles are among the richest foodstuffs out there, and the addition of even a small amount of them to the most basic dishes has been known to elevate the concoctions to fabulous gourmet heights.

Truffle Time at La Toque
So imagine how excited I was to learn that star Rutherford eatery La Toque is offering a menu based entirely on the fabulous fungi through the end of February! That’s right: it’s high truffle season, and La Toque is taking it seriously.

But don’t look for any “basic dishes” from the award-winning resto: the prix fixe truffle menu, offered for a limited time in addition to the spot’s weekly-rotating prix fixe menu, encompasses such delicacies as Dayboat Scallop "in Black Tie" with Lobster Truffle Sauce and Wolfe Farms Quail on Truffled Potato Galette with Truffled Port Wine Sauce.

So Many Truffles, So Little Time
To help them go down smoothly, affable sommelier Scott Tracy imaginatively pairs each course with a stunning glass of wine. To wit, he partners chef-owner Ken Frank’s Black Tie Scallop with a 2001 Premier Cru Chassagne Montrachet (Chardonnay) from venerable Burgundy producer Vincent Girardin.

He then heads back to Burgundy to pair the quail with a 2002 Nuits-Saint-Georges (Pinot Noir) from Domaine Forey before matching up a Veal Tenderloin "Blanquette" dressed in Fresh Black Truffle with 2002 Chateau Citran (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon) – an adventurous pairing in that Citran is a lesser-known Cru Bourgeois from an off vintage in Bordeaux. But knowing Tracy’s rep for sniffing out dynamite under-the-radar wines, the Citran is most certainly a diamond in the rough.

Or, in the theme of this article, perhaps I should say a truffle in the rough.

And for dessert? What else - Black Truffle Ice Cream.

The current menu will cost you $150 per person, $212 each if you opt for Tracy’s suggested wine pairings. But given the potential fruits of your dining labor, don’t you think it’s worth it?

La Toque is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday. Menu subject to change.

1140 Rutherford Cross Road, Rutherford, CA (707) 963-9770