Monday, 28 March 2011

A Fine Dining Experience: Maison de la Truffe, Paris

If you have the urge to have a fine dining experience, may I suggest that you go to La Maison de la Truffe (The House of Truffle). For truffle lovers or adventurous palates, there is a choice to dine in or go home with their specialty items to make your own gourmet meals.
In 1932, the brokers for the truffle gatherers of Carpentra decided to bring their products directly to the Parisian market. They came up with the bright idea of opening Maison de la Truffe in Place de la Madeleine. That was an instant success. Their know-how and expertise got the attention of the gourmets in introducing this "black diamond."

Forty-six years after, in 1978, Guy Mornier - a chef by profession, took over as the new owner of Maison de la Truffe and redesigned it with his own concept. He put up a tasting area and transformed it into a luxury, gourmet, specialty shop, with truffles as the center of attraction: white truffle from Alba, Italy,  also known as "Piedmont truffle" available from October to December; black truffle from the Perigord area, "black diamond" - from December to March; winter truffle - "Musky truffle" - from December to March;  summer truffle - "St. John's truffle" - from May to August; and Burgundy truffles - "Grey truffle" from September to January. The truffles come from France, Spain, Italy, Croatia; and now it is being farmed in Australia.
It continues to be a family-owned business, up to the present time. A second location on 14 rue Marbeuf 75008 Paris opened a couple of years ago.  Other locations have been added to this restaurant chain in Taipei and Hamburg, and very soon in Geneva and Zurich.

Truffles are considered as the "diamond of the kitchen," as described by French gastronome, Birillat-Savarin, in the 18th century. As you will find out, they cost more than real diamonds! Once you eat them, they are gone, but the memory of a gastronomique experience lingers on.

It is more of the aroma, rather than the flavor, that makes it a much-sought-after ingredient in haute cuisine. From the sense of smell to the sense of taste, you are in for a treat.

What's for lunch? Here's what I have had at different times of the year.

L'Huile de Olive Extra Virgine ala Truffe Noire et d'arome
(Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Black Truffles, with the truffle aroma)
This is the first taste of something with truffle that you get, the moment you are seated. The truffle aroma sets the mood. But soon, I, found out that the aromatic ingredient is a synthetic reproduction of the taste and smell of white truffles.
A cold soup - tomato based plus other raw ingredients (green pepper, onion, garlic) that have been food-processed. The cucumber ingredient, typical in this recipe, was served as a scoop of sorbet. How refreshing!
Salade de Roquette et Coupeaux de Parmesan 
(Arugula Salad with shavings of parmesan and black truffle)
Omelette a la Truffe de Saison et Salade Verte
(Omelette with seasonal truffles and a green salad)
The truffle flavor is enhanced when the truffle-flavored EVOO is drizzled on the omelette.
Trio de Sorbets
(Flavors: strawberry, pear, peach)
This was palate cleansing.

Creme de Parmesan Truffé
(Creamy parmesan with truffle flavor, served with little slices of toast, or with French baguette slices) 
What a fine way to tease the palate.
 Oeuf  Poché Truffé en Gellee
( Soft-Boiled Egg with truffle presented in aspic, and a side portion of arugula salad)
It's another unique way of serving a soft-bolied egg.
 Pizza a la Truffe Noire Melanosporum, Mozarella et Roquette
(Pizza with Black Truffle Melanosporum, Mozarella & Arugula) 
Carpaccio de Boeuf Roquette et Parmesan
(Beef Carpaccio, topped with arugula, parmesan cheese, and shavings of black truffle)
The truffle mushroom is a nice addition to the carpaccio.
 Crème Brûlée Parfumée à la  Vanille
(Vanilla flavored Creme Brulee)
This was good, as expected. Although when the server realized this was not what I had ordered, it was replaced with...
 Crème Brûlée Parfumée à la  Truffe
(Creme Brulee with Truffle Flavor)
The truffle flavor was very distinct. I had to adjust my taste buds from savory to sweet. This was, rather, a surprise! 

Here is a whole line of their specialty products. Every item here is truffle flavored.
Pasta, olive oil, breadsticks, foie gras, mayonnaise, risotto...and more. 
 Above are some items conveniently gift-packaged. On the lower shelf are cheeses with truffles.
Or, you can always buy the fresh truffles and make your own truffled-flavored ingredients/food items in your own kitchen. 
The price for black truffles is on an upward trend in the wholesale market.  The prices vary, depending on the truffle variety. You can check the retail prices on the display window.

As you can see, this place is all about truffles. What are truffles?  Simply put, they are an underground version of a mushroom found in the root systems of beech, poplar, oak, birch, hornbeam, hazel, and pine trees, planted in properly drained, clay-type, rich in calcium and magnesium, alkaline soil. They are "mychorizzal" - meaning that there is a mutual symbiotic relationship between the fungi and the plant root, for it is through the fungi that the nutrients from the soil are abosorbed by the root system of the plant. The animals that dig up and eat truffles are responsible for the spread of the spores. Truffle farms, for a more steady truffle supply, have now been organized as far down as Canberra, Australia, in partnership with La Maison de la Truffe. You might get a better idea by watching this video.

If you have not tried truffles, be adventurous and look for something that is truffle-flavored. You, too, may be pleasantly surprised!

14 rue Marbeuf 75005 Paris
Tel. 01 53 57 41 00
19 Place de la Madeleine
Tel. 01 42 65 53 22

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