I don’t like truffle oil. Neither does LA Times‘ writer S Irene Virbila:
“I quite possibly would have enjoyed the steak ‘n’ eggs — steak tartare topped with a quail egg — if it hadn’t been so doused with truffle oil that it was like eating raw beef marinated in after-shave.”
I wouldn’t want to be the restaurant she was reviewing — apart from being incredibly expensive and producing uninspiring food, they were using the oil like ketchup:
“Poussin pot-au-feu is baby chicken in its juices with wild mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, fresh corn and other spring vegetables. But hold the truffle oil. In one meal, our group happened to get four dishes with truffle oil. That constitutes abuse.”
I’ve noted before that Ms Virbila knows her truffles, and it’s good to see that we agree about truffle oil too. As anyone who reads my book will discover, all commercially available truffle oils are 100% artificial, even if they have a little slice of something that looks like truffle at the bottom of the bottle. It’s much easier and a lot cheaper to dose some oil with an entirely artificial cocktail of the principal chemical components of truffle smell than it is to take fresh truffle and try and make it give up its goodness to the oil.
Truffle oils are like cartoon versions of the real thing. A fresh truffle produces lots of different flavour and aroma components — the artificial versions use only the commonest chemicals to create a much simplified smell and flavour. A bit like doing a painting by numbers version of a Picasso, and then trying to pass it off as the real thing.
I use truffle oil to train the incredibly charming Peg. If I see it on a menu, I avoid that dish. I have been known to make pointed comments to waiters in posh restaurants. I mean, would they dare serve tinned asparagus?