Monday, December 29, 2014

Les Pastras - Truffle Hunting in Provence

 Expert truffier Jean Marc with his adorable truffle hunters - Pupuce and Mirabelle

This summer guests of Cuisine de Provence asked me to find them a  truffle hunt - not easy during the summer months as truffles, also known as the black gold of Provence, are mostly to be found between November and February. Thankfully I found out about Les Pastras an organic olive and truffle farm in the Luberon owned and run by Johann and Lisa Pepin, a French-American couple. 
The feedback I got from my guests was so enthusiastic that I decided we had to experience this for ourselves and also that it made a wonderful gift for my husband - a gift with benefits so to speak as I got to go, too!
Truffle hunting is a highly secretive business as truffles are not only called the black gold of Provence, they are also, just like gold, sold by the gram (or ounce) and so sought after that unfortunately a lot of poaching is going on. Owners have to keep their truffle pastures secret and only those who book a tour are given the GPS coordinates to Les Pastras, the Pepins' beautiful old Provençal farmhouse set within acres and acres of vineyards, olive and truffle oak groves.
Yesterday was a typical Provence winter day: brilliant sunshine, blue skies but a very strong Mistral - the dreaded wind from the north. Johann's friend Jean Marc, the truffle expert, was almost doubtful if his dogs, mother and daughter team Pupuce and Mirabelle, would find any truffles at all because of the strong wind that takes the scent away. But it turned out the only ones suffering from the wind were we, the fascinated onlookers - no matter how much we had bundled up it was still very, very cold!
The first truffle of our hunt,

 small but oh so fragrant!

 The dogs at work

While the dogs were doing their work Johann explained all the ins and outs of truffles and truffle  harvesting - how the dogs are trained, how truffles come to grow, how to find them, the difference between summer and winter truffles, how to distinguish between original and synthetic truffle oil (if it only says oil and truffle aroma on the back of the bottle it has never seen a truffle).

  Johann explaining the ins and outs of truffle hunting

 Just beginning, but it looks promising...

 Found another truffle!

 We proudly present the truffle harvest of the day

 Work done - now I want my belly rub!
After our bracing two hour walk hunting truffles and visiting Les Pastras' olive groves and vineyards, finding wild herbs and braving the wind, then came the real exciting part: tasting the truffles! Lisa had prepared a wonderful spread - we even got to taste a truffle infused dessert - and we warmed up with plenty of Champagne! To put it in a nutshell - if in Provence go truffle hunting with Jean Marc and Joahnn and Lisa Pepin - a wonderful experience!

 Toast, salted butter and truffles - what more do you need?

Our wonderful hosts - Lisa and Johann Pepin

Truffles are sold by the gram - yesterdays price was € 70 for 100 grams 

 Bethmale cheese, truffles and a drop of Les Pastras' finest truffle oil

 Dessert with a truffle infused Crème Anglaise


  1. oh how i would love to go on a truffle hunt!

  2. How fun. I would love to go on such an adventure!

    1. Let me know when in Provence and I will gladly go again!

  3. Lucky you! I tried to arrange to go on a truffle hunt after my visit to the truffle market in Richerenches but was not able to do so. I will try to get with your hosts next time we are there in Provence during truffle season..

    1. Michel trust me, you will love it! And there are even summer truffles to be found at Les Pastras!

  4. Looks fun, the truffle-hunting dogs are so adorable!!

  5. Hi Barbara,
    I can see that you enjoyed the trip, despite the cold mistral, lucky you!
    Greetings from Berlin, stormy wheather, but warm,