Chefs shell out a small fortune for a shapely “golf ball”, sub-par counterfeits abound and some have staked their lives (true story) for a fistful of truffe noire… But what’s all the fuss about?
For the answer, mosey on over to Richerenches, aka the Capitale de la Truffe, home to France’s largest truffle market.
Every Saturday between November and March, restaurateurs, dealers and villagers alike jostle for a prime spot to bag Richerenches’s precious “black diamond” – forking out an eye-watering €1,000 for a basketful of tuber melanosporum. Ready to join the fray? Our expert on the frontline, veteran chef and owner of L’Escapade , Nicolas Pailhes, has the lowdown on sniffing out the perfect (or perfectly imperfect) truffe noire.
First, don’t be seduced by “balles de golf”, the round and, as a result, cripplingly expensive specimens prized by Michelin-starred cuisiniers. The wonky, “ginger-like” variety may not be a looker but it packs just as much flavour. Second, if you plan on giving thanks to the toothsome tuber at the annual Messe de la Truffe on January 19, be prepared to part with some of your haul – the collection has a strict truffles-only policy… Last but not least, Nicolas advises steering well clear during the mad Christmas rush and saving your hard-earned euros for the January/February harvest, when truffles are at their most scrumptious and a fraction cheaper post holiday price hike.
For more information visit www.grignanvalreas-tourisme.com 
Head to our sister site tasteoffrancemag.com  for more nifty tips to bag the freshest truffles and handy cooking hacks from Nicolas.
From France Today magazine