Rage against the oil

The truffle oil tide is turning. Where once chefs admitted they like the taste of artificial truffle flavour, there is a process of education beginning that hopefully brings them a feeling of culinary unease. After you’ve sung the fresh truffle sonata, the oil is a single note, really unpleasant when over done (as it usually is). 

Chris L’Hommedieu, chef de cuisine at Michael Mina in San Francisco, tells a story about the late chef Jean-Louis Palladin, with whom he worked at Palladin, a Manhattan restaurant that is now closed. Returning from a trip out of town, Mr. Palladin was enraged to walk into the kitchen and find that in his absence bottles of truffle oil had cropped up everywhere. Grabbing two of them, he called the staff out to the alley behind the restaurant where the garbage was held. He hurled the oil at the side of the building, smashing the glass bottles against the wall. “It’s full of chemicals,” he screamed at his confused and frightened staff members, who scrambled back to the kitchen through the gathering scent of truffle oil mingled with the fetid air of the alley. “No more!”

Thanks to Daniel Patterson New York Times

Kyle Phillips in his About.com column asks Should you buy it?, and says probably not…

So, Bottom Line: If you come across truffle oil, even in the 10-20 dollars for a small bottle range, be extremely wary of it. And don’t go looking for bargain truffles, because you won’t be the one making the bargain.

There’s an old column by Jay Rayner in the Guardian with a quote I like, here he is talking about his wife.

Whenever I order something with truffles she starts to hum the jaunty tune to The King Is In The Altogether, the musical version of Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes. She thinks she’s very funny. It drives me nuts. I find her contention that truffles – white or black – taste of bugger all and that nobody will admit this because it would make them look unsophisticated, proof merely of her blunt palette.

One of the postscommenting on his piece says…

Dear Mrs Rayner, Your husband has deliberately written this piece one week too late for the Alba truffle festival (6 weeks October/November) which would have cured your affliction. Next year, when he takes you for the weekend, have lunch in the Osteria Nuova – pasta, eggs, rabbit, all with shavings of white truffle at $5 per gram – and enjoy a weekend of heady aroma and delicate tastes. You can’t escape the smell, the whole town is perfumed by it. By the time you’ve joined everyone else for the Sunday afternoon stroll through the town, if only to work off the Barolo, you’ll be cured.

I liked the quote from local (to me) grower Peter Marshall who said

There’s fifty different flavour compounds in truffles, there’s only one in truffle oil. But we’ve found that truffle oil has a legitmate use. It’s a very good bait for rat traps.

Have you had a bad truffle oil experience? Or (shudder) a good one? Tell us about it.

The truffle oil tide is turning. Chefs can no longer pretend that it is anything other than a chemical, (and they wouldn’t use artificial vanilla essence anymore would they?).