Is there something more delicate and intensely aromatic than a truffle ? The retail price of the real thing, the "Périgord truffle" (Tuber melanosporum) is about 1000 Euro a kilogram in France, but the good restaurants can't escape it, because the cheaper Chinese varieties of truffles are so tasteless that they can't compete in terms of flavor and intensity. But you can do so much with less than a Périgord truffle that it's worth the costs. The tiny black tubercle known under the Appellation name of Black Truffle of Périgord can be found not only in the Périgord region (in South-Western France), but also in Provence, in the Lubéron, as well as in Italy and Spain.
I spent a couple of hours in the kitchens of Montparnasse 25, the one-star restaurant of the Méridien Hotel in Paris, to see how chef Christian Moine prepares 3 dishes with less than a single black truffle.
The first surprise was to see for real a one-kilogram stack of these precious black truffles [picture above]. I try to visualize these dogs and pigs sniffing for the truffle's aromatic signature in the wild... There's another strange thing about the truffle, it is the aspect and patterns of its inside, that you can see on these thin slices on the left, and which evoke the human brain. Chef Moine then chooses one of them to prepare the dishes : here is a typical 5-centimeter tubercle which weighs exactly 26 grams on the kitchen's precision scale. You don't need a calculator to understand that at about 25 Euro apiece, if still an unusual treat, you can occasionally afford to cook yourself real-truffles dishes at home...
__The Tartines. With this rural sort of dish, he wanted to stay on the terroir side and chose a Beaujolais, also because he considers that this region has many unknown gems, like this Moulin à Vent 2002 Chateau des Jacques, Clos de la Roche, by Louis Jadot. This is a very Burgundy style of wine, with toasted notes and a very elegant and silky mouthfeel, very different from these Beaujolais Nouveau wines which are fruity and short. The underwood and spicy notes of the wine are a good mirror for these ham- and truffle tartines and contribute to the hunting meal feel.
__The Noix de Saint Jacques. To go with the soft touch of the Noix, the sommelier chose a wine that could sort of awake the mouth and also has lots of structure. This Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2004 from Domaine Ramonet, an elegant Chardonnay, does the job. The wine is at the same time fruity and precise, all in nuance and power. This pale-yellow wine with greeninsh reflections is a long-keep wine which is already tasting very well. Toasred nose with a well-integrated wood.
__The turbot. Emmanuel Petit considers the wine choice easy here : The tasty side of the fish with the mushroom notes of the truffles and the concentration in the brown sauce will ask for a very fresh wine, like this Condrieu 2005 Georges Vernay, cuvée "les Chaillées de l'Enfer". this is one of the best cuvées of Georges Vernay, a 100% Viognier a very aromatic white variety grown on the steep slopes of this Northern-Rhône appellation. This wine is perfect when young, with notes of honey, acacia, some pepper and richness with this freshness forward which underlines the dish.