20,000 Truffles Below the Ground

The experience of hunting for truffles in the dense hazelnut and oak forests is still an activity reserved for the most astute and adventurous of food-ists. Is there any better way to taste a truffle than unearthed before your eyes by a truffle-hunting dog in the forest where it was grown? We sure can’t think of any. Follow us along the truffle trail to see what a real truffle hunting experience looks like. More expensive than your average half day trip, we think the savory and adrenaline filled truffle hunt is definitely worth the splurge. 

Written by Elisabeth Beagle

Black and white truffles- the hidden gems of the Istrian forest- define the Karlić family legacy. For fifty years the Karlićs and their dogs have roamed the secretive Motovun woodlands near Buzet, searching for the underground tuberous mushroom coveted by epicureans worldwide. This is a view of the Lake Butoniga from Paladini where the Karilić residence and private forest reside. It’s 10am and the adrenaline and rakija (local herbal liqueur) is already flowing.

While black truffles are collected year round, white truffle season lasts from September till January. The valley of the Mirna River provides the grey soil necessary for the tuber magnatum to grow. Measured in grams and sold for astounding prices, the exquisite taste of white truffles belies its less than striking appearance.

A luxurious truffle feast awaits visitors to the Karlić Tartufi dining patio. Tartufata spread, Istrian fuži (homemade rolled pasta) with truffles, truffle filled pastry, truffle oil, truffle honey, truffle Nutella (Trufella) – the possibility for truffle recipes is limited only by imagination – pocketbook!

Grated black truffles, fresh eggs, and Parmesan cheese are cooked softly by Mrs. Radmila Karlić, producing an aromatic and onctious omelette. Should diners care for more, each September Buzet marks the beginning of Truffle Days with a giant frittata prepared with over 2000 eggs and 10kg of truffles – enough to feed a truffle hunting army!

Lace up your boots! The forest is canopied and thickly wooded, and the truffles are most likely to be found on inclines. But truth be told, any covered-toe shoes will work and we suggest wearing layers.

Each of the Karlić’s 7 dogs clambered for the chance to go on the hunt, and Blackie and her granddaughter Sonny are the lucky picks today. Little encouragement is needed to set them on the truffle trail – they love the taste of truffles just as much as the humans clambering behind them. Blackie is like a sonar, zeroing in quickly on the buried treasure and pockets are filled quickly with stone-like nuggets. To the left, Ivan Karlić runs to the dogs that are already digging for the white gold in the distance.

Emerging from the forest, commanding views of Istria reveal the biodiversity of the region. Vineyards and olive orchards dot the horizon, their fruits a perfect complement to the revered Istrian truffle. 

We ended up finding about 8 truffles having had to sacrifice a few to the happy hounds. Since the hunt we’ve managed to douse white truffle on most thing imaginable: hummus, truffle oil chips, trout, even popcorn!  Here’s a link with some must-try recipes.