You may not have heard about Oregon truffles. Oregon truffles were a fun surprise when we moved here and we had some other fun surprises at the Joriad – a competition for truffle dogs at Willamette Valley Vineyards. This event was in conjunction with the Oregon Truffle Festival held each year towards the end of January. We’ll keep you posted on that for 2017.
An event all about Oregon truffle dogs and wine is a great fit for us. We have a childlike delight when it comes to dogs plus an adult-like delight when it comes to wines, but normally we shy away from dog and wine events. Cherries, black pepper, and dog are not the scents we want wafting from our glass. The large space/small number of truffle dogs combination worked well at this event. All of the events at Willamette Valley Vineyards are expertly executed.
We expected to find very calm task oriented truffle dogs, like service dogs. We also thought there would be one or two breeds with special truffle hunting skills. What we found were 5-6 different breeds among the 5-6 different dogs, all of which were pets, not truffle hunting machines. Fuzzy and wiggly the truffle dogs walked through the doggie parade and seemed to be thinking, “Look at all of these people. They are all looking at me. Wonder if they have treats.”
Curious about the different breeds, we talked to Stefan Czarnecki. He is part of the family and team behind Joel Palmer House and Oregon Truffle Oil and is in the process of training his own truffle huntin’ dog – Ella. Ella is a Lagotto Romagnolo- an Italian truffle dog. Stefan is quick to point out that you don’t need a special breed or even a puppy. Apparently you can teach an old dog new truffle tricks. He encourages people to who want a truffle dog to visit a shelter and pick a breed or mix that likes a job or is a sporting dog. Ella just happened to need a home. Sounds like a good reason to get that poodle dog I have been wanting.
Stefan used the Truffle Dog Company as a resource to learn to train Ella. A system of rewarding behavior and some patience is what it takes to get a dog to sniff out truffles. Truffle dogs pick their own “alerts” to say “Hey, human I found one of those things you like over here.” They might sit and stare or bark. For years Stefan and his family have hunted with no truffle dog. He says Ella will be much faster. She does come with the typical pros and cons of a pet. Stefan’s kids enjoy taking care of Ella and she is fun to train. But she also does gross doggie things. Stefan recalls a day when the sun had made an appearance, the pastures were green, the truffles were plentiful, and all was right with the world. “We were returning to the car when I saw Ella with all of the pure joy and exuberance she could muster rolling purposefully in a big ole cow patty.” Oh, Ella.
Dogs and pigs are used for truffle hunting. Pigs traditionally in France and dogs in Italy. Pigs don’t have to be trained. The truffle scent is a pheromone thing that makes a sow think a boy pig is around ready to give her a little sumthin sumthin. Pigs will eat the truffles if you aren’t careful. We kind of feel sorry for the pigs. No action and no truffles, a complete bust.
The truffle dogs get rewarded though and there were also people treats at the Joriad. Several stations were set up with Willamette Valley Vineyards wine paired with truffle inspired dishes prepared by the winery chef DJ MacIntyre’s. We had bit of a facepalm moment when we discovered how well Oregon Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris pair with truffle dishes. Of course Oregon wine would be delicious with Oregon truffle dishes! It is the whole grows together/goes together thing.
Oregon Truffle Wine Pairings from Willamette Valley Vineyards
Truffle Chips and Dip – paired with 2014 Pinot Gris
Duroc Pork Crepinette with Hazelnuts, White Truffle and Sweet Potato Puff – paired with 2012 Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir
Diver Scallop with Chablis Truffle Cream – paired with 2014 Estate Chardonnay
Rabbit in Porchetta with White Truffle, Dehydrated Lentils and Quail Egg – paired with 2014 Estate Pinot Noir
This has peaked our interest in creating our own truffle inspired dishes. In an upcoming post we will talk about the different types of truffles, how not all truffle oils are created equal, resources for buying truffles, some cooking tips and recipes, and an interview with Jack Czarnecki of Oregon Truffle Oil and Joel Palmer House.