Hunting is still very popular in mainland Europe and Eurodestination were recently invited to join a hunt with a difference in Burgundy.
As is often the case, the whole thing started with a few drinks and a hearty lunch. An aperitif of Burgundian ratafia was certainly different and led us into a meal where every dish had one thing in common, namely more than a hint of truffle. Even the dessert had the pungent aroma of this prized funghi. All in all it was certainly an interesting meal and the first time for many years that I had been fortunate enough to try this sought after ingredient in such quantities.
Full of bravado, suitably boosted by the excellent Burgundian wines, it was time to meet the ‘pack’ of dogs who would be chasing down our elusive quarry in the nearby woods. It was soon clear that our ‘sport’ was likely to be of modest proportions. The red deer, wild boar and other noble game would remain untroubled by our presence. The ‘pack’ was made up of two rather cute little dogs that looked more like muddy lambs than canine killing machines. One was called Yelf and the other, at just 5 months old, seemed to be called Arret! (French for stop just in case you didn’t know). Dutifully following our hunt leader we set off to a nearby stand of trees and let the enthusiastic hounds off the leash.
Within moments they had picked up a scent and were off, noses to the ground and tails up. Shortly after they stopped – and started digging. Our French host was on them in a matter of minutes, which was actually just a little too long as the first of our ‘kills’ disappeared down Arret’s throat before he reached him. One nil to the hounds.
Yelf was also now digging and this time we were close enough to stop him before he had time to unearth our prize fully. With a little more digging and some gentle French expletives it was revealed in all its majesty. A beautiful black truffle, worth a goodly handful of Euros at the local market (and substantially more by the time it reaches the restaurants of Paris, London etc…) There was a good reason why our host was less than thrilled at Arret’s desire to swallow his finds.
For the next 40 minutes or so we chased the dogs around the woodland in an attempt to stop the younger dog literally eating into the farmer’s profits. Yelf, a little older and wiser, knew that leaving the truffle resulted in a tasty treat and was therefore happy to stand aside. However, the only thing that really distracted Arret was hazelnuts. Both dogs just couldn’t get enough of them. It seems that the only thing a Lagotto Romagnolo (the breed of dog) likes more than truffles is hazelnuts, preferably shell and all. If we ever lost sight of the dogs in the undergrowth it was the loud crunching sounds that gave away their position. With a steady diet of truffles and shell on nuts I really wouldn’t like to be around when those dogs go to the toilet!
If you are visiting the wonderful French region of Burgundy and would like to join a truffle hunt then the details are as below. The ‘open season’ is in the autumn and it is an interesting addition to any harvest time visit to the renowned vineyards of this area. The truffle meal is very different and definitely worth having for this very reason. There is also an array of food stuffs involving truffles on sale at quite reasonable prices, as you’d expect given our host’s preoccupation with them at that time of year.
Burgundy Tourist Office