And so it seems as Maselli sends out course after course: asparagus, fava bean and truffle salad; truffle-topped nettle ravioli; roasted halibut with truffle butter; even truffled butterscotch pudding. Lefevre dines with truffle festival cofounders Steven Remington and Leslie Scott, who is Lefevre’s wife. As the wine flows, the trio share their plans for the festival. Ultimately there will be seminars on cooking with and cultivating truffles and training truffle dogs. Their aim is nothing less than marketing Eugene as the center of the North American truffle industry.
The next day, Remington, a longtime professional festival organizer, leads a foraging trip to ShireWood Farm, which is rather too grand a name for a 12-acre property on a gravel road outside of Cottage Grove. (There’s a handsome wooden barn on the property but also views of mobile homes.) Owner Mike Hoppe and his wife, Deanne, bought the “runaway Christmas tree farm” in 2004. After attending the first Oregon Truffle Festival, they realized their backyard was a prime truffle habitat. “We’ve found them on every corner of the property,” Hoppe says.
Last year he welcomed some 80 festival participants, and throughout the December-to-May harvest season he charges visitors for a tour and a rake. His dream is to build on the pick-your-own concept by collaborating with Marché to stage on-site dinners, where gourmands can quaff Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and feast on local produce garnished with the truffles they’ve gathered.
“There’s a huge allure to being able to eat what you get,” interjects Remington, capturing the hippie-meets-foodie ethos inspiring a new agricultural industry. But although Eugene’s truffle culture may have originated among free-spirited foragers, its future clearly lies with the kind of upscale tourists who flock to Napa Valley.
Hoppe is already planning for that future. Beyond the rows of Douglas firs, he’s planted an orchard of Lefevre’s inoculated hazelnut trees. “That would be pretty unique if we had European truffles next to Doug firs,” Hoppe says. “And if it doesn’t work, what the heck. We’ll still have hazelnuts.”