The Truffle Shuffle

Do Some Serious Gourmet Mushroom Hunting in Eugene

How to search for—and eat—the best of Pacific Northwest mushrooms and truffles.

By Allison Williams December 20, 2017 Published in the January 2018 issue of Seattle Met

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A truffle-hunting dog

Every January, the Oregon Truffle Festival spreads mushroom mania through two long weekends—January 25–28 in Eugene, then February 16–18 in the wine country of Yamhill Valley. The festival offers the three basic elements to becoming a fungus connoisseur.

1. A good eye.

There are four Northwest truffles with culinary value—of the more than 300 found in our dirt. Beginners should have an expert confirm they’ve picked up an Oregon spring white, Oregon winter white, Oregon brown, or Oregon black, says festival cofounder Charles LeFevre; self-identification comes with experience, starting with a long wander through each weekend’s Truffle Marketplace. 

2. A good partner.

Heard of truffle pigs? They haven’t been popular for centuries. Think a doofy yellow Labrador or big-eared beagle. The festival’s first weekend is dominated by the Joriad, a competition for truffle-hunting dogs, then a two-day weekend workshop where mushroom lovers learn to train their own pets. Dogs’ superior snouts sniff out ripe truffles, which is key; humans blindly digging in the dirt is like “picking strawberries with a blindfold on,” says LeFevre. “Raking for truffles is indiscriminate, and it produces a majority of immature truffles.” 

3. A good palate.

Every single meal at the Oregon Truffle Festival, including the morning coffee spread, includes the delectable mushroom. “You really need it all, to experience truffles—the culinary side as well as the [hunting],” says LeFevre. The second festival weekend, held at wineries and dinner venues around the Yamhill Valley, focuses on the legacy of Oregon-born ultrafamous gourmand James Beard with a documentary screening and chef-led dinners.

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Sunny Jin, from the Jory Restaurant at the Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg, preparing a mushroom-based entree.

Image: John Valls

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