Other

French Perigod Truffles with Benton's Ham topping the house-made Burrata


Crumble 1/2 of the curd into a stainless bowl, pieces should be about a half inch to an inch in size. Sprinkle the curd with 4 heavy pinches of salt. Don't worry about over salting. Pour half the water over the curd and allow it to start relaxing. With a wooden spoon scoop the curd out of the water and allow it to slowly drip back into the hot water. As you repeat this again and again you will notice the cheese starting to become glossy and have long strands.

At this point form the cheese into long pieces and place in cold water. Once the cheese has chilled slightly remove it from the water and from the top pull long strands off as thin as possible. Think of string cheese when doing this, that is the size of strands you are looking for. Put the pulled strands in the heavy cream. Once all the cheese is pulled into the cream season the mix with salt and black truffle oil. Mix thoroughly to combine. This is Stracciatella and is delicious eaten on it's own. Crumble the remaining curd into another bowl and salt as before. Again cover with hot water and allow the curd to start relaxing.

This time after stretching the cheese until glossy return the cheese to the warm water. Remove one end of the cheese and using your thumb and index finger squeeze the cheese into a ball about the size of a Ping pong ball pinching the ball off the larger mass. If you were to put that ball into chilled water you would have fresh mozzarella which is also delicious and tastes completely different when made fresh.Return the ball to the water briefly (5seconds) to warm up. Remove the ball from the water and gently smash the ball into a circle about a half inch thick. Pinch the edges with your thumb, index, and middle fingers to slightly flatten then leaving a thicker center.

Form a circle with your index finger and thumb by touching them tip to tip. Place the larger center of the cheese in the circle. Stuff the stracciatella (about 1/4 cup worth) into the center stretching the cheese as you stuff it.

Fold the thinner outside parts together and pinch them closed. Dip the pinched part back into the hot water briefly to help seal it up.
Gently place the fresh burrata into cold water.


Prince Philip Has Coaxed Rare Black Truffles from British Earth

It took him 12 years, but now, at 97, he’s enjoying the fruit . er, fungus . of his horticultural labor.

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BRAEMAR, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attends the 2017 Braemar Highland Gathering at The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park on September 2, 2017 in Braemar, Scotland. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Photo by: Samir Hussein/Getty

Fancy truffles – like champagne and caviar – are the sort of comestibles one might classify as “fit for a king,” but Prince Philip (aka the Duke of Edinburgh aka Queen Elizabeth’s husband) has put a literal and surprisingly DIY spin on that classification.

In 2006, the 97-year-old royal consort, who retired from his official duties in 2017, embarked on what would become a 12-year-long endeavor to grow rare black truffles, directing the planting of 300 spore-impregnated saplings on the royal estate at Sandringham, in Norfolk. He apparently didn’t have much success cultivating the crop – until very recently.

Prince Philip’s horticultural pursuit has finally begun to bare fruit, if by “fruit” you mean fancy fungi, the Times reported last week. It is believed to be the first time anyone has successfully harvested a significant number of Perigord noir or black diamond truffles in Britain.

“They have been highly successful,” Adrian Cole of Truffle UK, which supplied the trees for the royal estate, told the Times. “The majority have been the French Perigord black truffle, as good as you get.”

Primarily grown in Italy, France and Spain, Perigord noir truffles, also known as tuber melanosporum, are among the world’s most expensive edible mushrooms. Currently fetching up to $900 a pound, they are also possibly in danger thanks to climate change.

So what will become of the royal crop of the highly coveted fungi? While Sandringham includes a working fruit farm that produces apples, gooseberries and blackcurrents that are sold commercially to support the estate and the original plan was apparently for the black truffles to also be sold, so far, that hasn’t happened, People reports.

“From what I gather, none has been sold,” Cole told the Times of the royal truffles, which Prince Philip was said to have inspected himself, just before Christmas. “They have gone to the house or family.”

And honestly, after 12 years and at age 97, the Duke can hardly be faulted for enjoying the fruit of his pursuit, don’t you think?


San Francisco truffle importers, French Laundry alums find success in online cooking classes

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I found a new way to experience food in a coronavirus-stricken world: a cooking class, conducted via Zoom, where I could smell and taste the dish along with the hosts every step of the way. Before the class began, I was sent a vacuum-packed rib eye, wild mushrooms, a jar of truffle carpaccio and other measured-out ingredients by Truffle Shuffle, whose founders would teach us how to make &ldquoperfect&rdquo steak with a Madeira-cream sauce loaded with fancy fungi.

As it turns out, the classes have been a lifeline, not only for the company, but for a vast network of food workers and local purveyors.

Eighteen months ago, Truffle Shuffle began as a direct-from-the-source importer of truffles, the rare, aromatic fungi whose shavings, purees and oils command high prices at many fine dining restaurants. Founded by a group of restaurant veterans who met while working at Yountville&rsquos the French Laundry, the company quickly found a niche in serving high-end restaurants in the Bay Area. But when the novel coronavirus seemingly collapsed the restaurant business overnight, the company found itself with a ton of premium truffles with nowhere to sell them. At the same time, it had connections to chefs and purveyors who needed help.

So Truffle Shuffle launched an online cooking class on March 29, which turned out to be a win-win situation. The company&rsquos first class on truffled risotto was a hit, with its cook-along kits of Carnaroli rice and black Perigord truffles selling out. Depending on the type of dish cooked in the class, kits can range from $26 to $115. According to a spokesperson, the company sells 100 to 250 kits per class, with attendance bolstered by the hundred-or-so folks who tune in via Instagram Live. For each kit sold, the company pledges to provide one meal for a frontline health care worker it has already established partnerships with Kaiser Permanente, Highland Hospital and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, among others.

While it&rsquos possible to tune in on Instagram or Youtube without buying anything, the sensory pleasure of cooking along with the class is hard to deny. As I unscrewed a squat jar of the company&rsquos Balinese sea salt mixed with dried summer truffles, its rich, loamy aroma practically billowed out &mdash a genie escaping from a magic lamp. Basting a steak with thyme- and garlic-infused butter as 70 other people do the exact same thing feels like the opposite of social distancing.

Truffle Shuffle has found success and comraderie in its online cooking classes. Brett Nagy Media

During the class, co-founders Jason McKinney and Tyler Vorce cracked corny jokes, interviewed onscreen culinary experts like author Harold McGee and talked possible wine pairings with Sarah McKinney, another co-founder and the company&rsquos design director. Students used the Zoom chatroom to ask questions &mdash cast iron or stainless steel? Medium or medium-low heat? Canola or olive oil? &mdash and Jason McKinney and Vorce answered in real time. As the class concluded, students proudly held their finished work up to the camera: plate after plate of beautifully browned steaks crowned with clusters of mushrooms.

&ldquoThe classes give us the same feeling we&rsquod get from a good night of (dine-in) service,&rdquo says Sarah McKinney, who has worked front-of-house at the French Laundry and Benu in San Francisco. &ldquoOne bit of feedback we keep getting is, &lsquoPlease keep this going after coronavirus is over.&rsquo&rdquo

The McKinneys say that, while keeping things fun for students is an important part of this work, their main focus is on supporting the restaurants and producers in their network. When Suzette Gresham, chef of Acquerello, taught a gnocchi class with them, it was an opportunity to raise more money for the restaurant&rsquos GoFundMe: Half of the ingredient kits&rsquo profits went to that. The classes themselves are free for all, but the ingredient kits are the key to Truffle Shuffle&rsquos support network. Local purveyors like Snake River Farms and Far West Fungi can sell extra meat and produce, and out-of-work chefs can get work making deliveries and conducting classes.


AMUSEMENTS

Photo By Jennifer Silverberg


Acre

Tucked away on South Perkins Road in east Memphis, Acre is a cozy, welcoming restaurant, built inside an once-upon-a-time-house that boasts all the refinement and comfort one could want from an old home. Inside the kitchen, Hong Kong-born, Mississippi-raised Chef Wally Joe serves Asian food with a Southern touch—or Southern food with an Asian touch, depending on what you’re eating. The lighting, linens, wood, and yellow accents lend the interior a quiet, rustic elegance. The patio, full of sunlight, invites you to linger over lunch, while dinner in this idyllic space promises to be enchanting—a fairytale written in food with Chinese themes and an American happily-ever-after.


Has the American-Grown Truffle Finally Broken Through?

These delicacies, harvested in an experiment in North Carolina, have food-lovers and farmers ravenous for more

On a frosty February morning in North Carolina’s Piedmont region, the enterprising trio who has finally broken America’s strange truffle curse walks beneath orderly rows of loblolly pine, trying very hard not to step on the precious nuggets beneath their feet. Nancy Rosborough—the self-described “ghetto kid” from Washington, D.C., whose wobbly start-up, Mycorrhiza Biotech, might just be saved by the golf-ball-size tubers erupting out of the red dirt—looks around, trying to contain her emotions. After 15 years of struggling to bring her truffle-farming vision to life, she is staring at two acres of validation.

“Nobody believed in us,” she says, exchanging glances with Omoanghe Isikhuemhen, the mycologist who invented Mycorrhiza Biotech’s system for truffle cultivation. “They mocked us. They thought we were just some podunk people.”

She nods toward Richard Franks, Burwell Farms’ chief scientific officer, standing beside her in a Duke Blue Devils sweatshirt, a ball cap pulled over his short white hair. “And then we found one person who believed in us.”

Franks was expecting a few hundred truffles from this two-acre plot instead, he is getting a few thousand, well beyond his rosiest projections. Truffles usually stay underground and have to be found by truffle-sniffing dogs. But these are so crowded that they are breaching the surface before fully ripe. Franks’ crew has been covering them up with nearby dirt and marking them with little flags, but they can’t keep up. The pine-needle-strewn ground is a minefield. Laddie, a yellow Labrador retriever and Burwell Farms’ truffle dog, is wandering the rows in a daze, nose overloaded.

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This article is a selection from the June 2021 issue of Smithsonian magazine

Laddie, a truffle-sniffing dog, and his handler, W.C. Paynter, hunt for buried treasures in an orchard of loblolly pine trees at Burwell Farms. (Andrew Kornylak)

“Watch your step,” Franks says to me, nervously eyeing my path. A lifelong Carolinian, he speaks in the clipped monotones of a Mission Control commander attempting to bring astronauts safely back to Earth. “Ever seen anything like this?”

No, I tell him, I haven’t. For the past two years, I’ve been hunting truffles around the world for a forthcoming book. I’ve followed some very muddy dogs through medieval Italian landscapes in the dead of night. I’ve dug black truffles in the arid oak plantations of the Spanish highlands. I’ve watched deals go down in Hungarian parking lots. I’ve seen stupendous truffle patches. But I’ve never seen a patch as productive as the one in these pines—especially not in America, where truffle farming has been a 20-year train wreck.

Despite millions of dollars of investment, many American truffle orchards have never produced any truffles at all, and only a handful produce more than a few pounds. But there are an estimated 200 pounds of truffles in this plot, making it one of the most productive truffle orchards the world has ever seen.

I mention this to Franks, and he nods slowly. At age 75, he keeps getting thwarted in his attempts to retire, and now this. “We did something right,” he finally concedes. “Now we have to figure out what it was.”

I turn to Isikhuemhen—everyone calls him Dr. Omon—who is sporting a wide smile beneath his blue kufi hat. Beatific as a Buddha, he has an unshakable faith in the sunny disposition of the universe. “The secret is this team,” he answers in English inflected with the honeyed tones of his native Nigeria. “The power is in this team that came together!”

Left, loblolly pine seedlings growing in Reid Greenhouse at North Carolina A&T State University. Right, Omoanghe Isikhuemhen, a microbiologist at the university who discovered a method for raising truffles amid loblolly pines. (Andrew Kornylak)

When I ask for the source of his confidence, Isikhuemhen says, “I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but when a blind man tells you he’s going to stone you, you know that his foot is on a stone.”

And that’s about all I’m getting out of him. When I ask probing questions about his new techniques, he just gives me a cagey smile. “That’s nothing to share in public.”

Like mushrooms, to which they are closely related, truffles are the fruiting bodies of a fungus that forms a partnership with trees, sheathing the tree roots in a net of cells known as mycorrhiza and feeding the trees water and micronutrients in exchange for sugars, which the trees make through photosynthesis. But unlike mushrooms, which rise above the surface, open their parasols, and let wind and water spread their spores, truffles stay underground—an adaptation to dry environments. Nestled in the earth, they have less of a risk of desiccating in a drought, but they do have a spore-dissemination challenge. They’ve solved it brilliantly by producing some of the most extraordinary scents in biology, complex cocktails of aroma that many animals, including humans, find irresistible. The animals dig up the truffles, eat them and spread the spores.

The relationship between plants and mycorrhizal fungi is both beautiful and essential—most trees can’t flourish without their fungal partners—but it’s also notoriously complicated. Even the best truffle scientists don’t understand all the nuances of the system, or the number of different organisms that might be involved.

All Isikhuemhen will say is that his innovation has something to do with “microbial dynamics,” and something to do with his growth media, which he uses to inoculate the pine seedlings with truffle spores before they get planted in the orchard. “It’s a secret mix that grows truffles five times faster than any other media. Its composition is very abnormal. Very. It came to me in a dream.”

He looks me right in the eye to show he’s serious. “It’s not the first time that’s happened to me. When you get such messages from the divine, you work with them.”

Before I can ask other questions, he deflects attention back to Franks. “But again, from the time the trees got to the field, it was this man. He took it to the next level.”

I look around the plot. Without a doubt, it is the cleanest, most orderly truffle farm I’ve ever seen. The trees are healthy and the ground is pristine. Along with Isikhuemhen’s secret sauce, that must be part of the reason for the eye-popping production.

Richard Franks inspects a “jewel of cuisine,” as the truffle was once called, with Jeffrey Coker, president of the farm’s parent company. (Andrew Kornylak)

But the other factor is the truffle itself. It’s the bianchetto, or “whitish” truffle, a different species from the famed white truffle of Italy and the black winter truffle of France (a.k.a. the Perigord, for the region that first made it famous). If the black winter is the Rolls-Royce of truffles, all silky luxury, and the white is the Lamborghini, a sexy rush, the bianchetto is more like the BMW—it doesn’t deliver the erotic crescendo of the white, but it still possesses most of the pheromonal zip at a much lower price. While the black winter sells for about $800 a pound, and the white goes for $3,000, the bianchetto comes in closer to $500.

But unlike the white, which has resisted every effort at cultivation, and the black winter, which is cultivated all over the world but struggles mightily in the States, the bianchetto seems to love the Southeast—at least judging by this plot.

With Franks’ permission, I search for a mature truffle. Most are still a pale beige, but here and there one has darkened to a sort of golden scrapple. I pluck one from the ground and hold it to my nose. My brain lights up with the scents of funk and garlic and things I have no name for. There is no pleasure more shivery than the aroma of a good truffle, and this is a good one.

Now we are about to find out if it is the one to conquer America. Rosborough and Isikhuemhen are hot properties, and a parade of agronomists is beating a path to Burwell Farms. If American trufficulture finally takes off, after several aborted launches, it will be because three outsiders from wildly diverse backgrounds were able to form a partnership as mutually beneficial as the one unfolding beneath our feet.

Truffles make mammals do strange things. They’ll make a boar stop short and snort the earth like a drug addict. They’ll make a flying squirrel ditch the safety of the treetops for a nutritionally marginal snack. And they’ll make a person forgo sleep for a nighttime hunt or, worse, plow a life’s savings into a truffle patch with only the vaguest hope of a return.

They accomplish this through a kind of sophisticated olfactory manipulation. Smell is the sense most intimately connected to memory and emotion in the brain, and truffles seem to play on this, making themselves both unforgettable and meaningful to people in ways that can be hard to articulate.

Richard Franks, Burwell Farms’ chief scientific officer, takes in the garlicky perfume. (Andrew Kornylak)

That power has made truffles one of the most prized gourmet foods in the world. Every autumn, thousands of people flock to Italy to experience fresh white truffles shaved tableside over their pasta and eggs, and to France to attend small-town truffle fairs, where the “black diamond” of Perigord is sold on the street like contraband. No other ingredient can so instantly lift a dish from ho-hum to extraordinary, and during truffle season hundreds of tons of the pricey nuggets are overnighted to eager chefs worldwide.

The art of truffling probably evolved from farmers observing their sows uprooting truffles whenever they could. Eventually, they trained their pigs for the hunt. But pigs love truffles too much and are difficult to reason with. Besides, truffle hunting is a secretive affair, and if you’re loading a 400-pound porker into the passenger seat of your Peugeot, everyone knows exactly what you’re up to. Long ago, most truffle hunters switched to dogs, which happily work for kibble.

Truffles were a wild food until the early 1800s, when a Provence farmer and truffle hunter named Joseph Talon noticed the black truffles he found were often growing near oak trees. He transplanted oak seedlings from beneath truffle-producing oaks onto his own land, and a few years later was delighted to find truffles beneath those trees. He continued planting acorns and transplanting seedlings until he had acres of truffle oaks, becoming the world’s first truffle farmer. The technique was rudimentary but effective. Talon got rich, and word got out.

In the mid-19th century, as the phylloxera epidemic destroyed vineyards in France, desperate growers turned to truffles for salvation. A wave of oak plantings led to a truffle boom that peaked around the end of the century, when France produced more than 1,000 tons of truffles per year, almost entirely black winter (Tuber melanosporum).

World War I brought that golden era to a crashing halt. Farmers went to war, farms were abandoned, and oak trees were cut down for more pressing needs. Some truffle farms staggered on, but World War II finished off most of the survivors.

Trufficulture revived in the 1970s, when French scientists finally solved the mysteries of black truffle propagation. Today’s techniques are refinements of their work. Oak and hazelnut seedlings are grown in sterile conditions in a greenhouse, where their roots are immersed in a thick solution containing millions of truffle spores. As the spores germinate, they form a complete mycorrhizal layer around the tree roots, like a glove over a hand, preventing any other fungi from getting a foothold. When the seedlings are planted, the fungi spread through the soil, feeding the trees, and, once mature, producing an annual crop of truffles.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Truffle cultivation is still as much art as science, and each farm guards its techniques and recipes. But the basics are well established, and black truffle farms have flourished in France, Italy and Spain since the 1980s, and more recently in Australia, New Zealand and Chile.

In the United States, however, no one has made it work for long. The reasons aren’t clear. Different soil? Climate? Predators? Pathogens? Or perhaps personalities? Most truffle orchards have been started by hobbyists—winemakers and other landed gentry who love the idea but perhaps don’t keep up with the maintenance for the eight to ten years it takes to see your first black winter truffles.

The only person who tasted commercial success was Tom Michaels, a mushroom expert who planted one of the nation’s first truffle orchards in Tennessee in the early 2000s. Michaels had a few good years, peaking at 200 pounds of truffles from his ten-acre orchard in 2009. But after that the Eastern Filbert Blight, a fungus that has destroyed most truffle orchards on the East Coast, wiped him out.

Today, the most productive Perigord orchard in the United States is on the Kendall-Jackson wine estate in Sonoma County, California, which produces about 35 pounds a year on ten acres. Only a handful of farms produce more than a few pounds, despite millions of dollars of investment. Most produce nothing.

Which is why all eyes in the truffle world are now on Burwell Farms and Mycorrhiza Biotech.

Growing up poor in Washington, D.C., Nancy Rosborough didn’t know a truffle from a tricycle. But she knew a bit about farming. Her mother had been raised on a small farm in Gibsonville, North Carolina, in the heart of tobacco country. The house was still in the family, and the rural landscape had always been a spiritual touchstone to the city kid, who went on to build a successful career as an information technology consultant. But over the years, as tobacco tanked, Rosborough had watched as Gibsonville was engulfed by the New South. “Dirt roads and farms turning into subdivisions,” she says. “Then you get Walmart and Ruby Tuesdays and you can’t afford the taxes.”

Left, Nancy Rosborough, CEO of Mycorrhizal Biotech, founded the company to spur truffle farming, particularly in North Carolina, where she has roots. Right, Rosborough holds a bianchetto at Burwell Farms. (Andrew Kornylak)

Rosborough was always looking for new crops that could revitalize the region’s farms, including her family’s. In 2005, her mother sent her a Washington Post article about North Carolina tobacco farmers experimenting with truffles. “Like everyone else, I thought, well, they grow on trees, how hard could it be?” She moved to the Gibsonville farm that same year and contacted a truffle tree supplier who explained that after planting the seedlings she’d have to wait a decade to get a real crop. That’s ridiculous, she thought. What kind of farmer could do that?

The more she looked into the truffle business, the dicier it seemed. Truffle-tree seedlings seemed to vary greatly in the amount of truffle mycorrhization on their roots, but the average farmer had no way of telling. Her IT career had taught her a lot about risk assessment, so she decided to start a lab that could analyze and certify the seedlings.

She approached Isikhuemhen, a mushroom expert at North Carolina A&T State University in nearby Greensboro. Isikhuemhen had grown up on a subsistence farm in rural Nigeria, hunting mushrooms with his family and hawking them in the market. The first in his family to attend college, he’d gone on to get his PhD in mycology. His family thought that was hilarious (“You went to college to study mushrooms?”), but he’d become a respected specialist in shiitake cultivation and had helped some of North Carolina’s tobacco farmers pivot to mushrooms.

Isikhuemhen had watched the nascent truffle industry with skepticism, and even a little bitterness. When the state of North Carolina put together a team of researchers to develop a black winter truffle industry, the Nigerian had been left out of the mix.

But maybe that was just as well. The closer Isikhuemhen and Rosborough looked at Tuber melanosporum, the more they thought its American prospects were limited. “That is a beast of a problem,” Isikhuemhen told me. Slow growing, finicky, outcompeted by too many native organisms, it was hard to make it work commercially. Besides, everybody was doing melanosporum. “Let’s do something different,” Isikhuemhen suggested.

They were intrigued by Tuber borchii, the bianchetto. Sure, it didn’t command the prestige or the prices of Tuber melanosporum, but it was supposed to produce a bigger crop in half the time, and it came ripe in spring instead of winter, meaning it would have no competition in the marketplace. Most important, it liked to grow on loblolly pines, the standard timber tree throughout the Southeast.

With grants from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, they set up a lab and tackled bianchetto cultivation. Isikhuemhen visited bianchetto farms in Italy, observing what worked and what didn’t. At some point, he had his dream epiphany about microbial dynamics.

Invisible to the naked eye, spores of a bianchetto truffle, Tuber borchii, are stained blue and magnified by a microscope. Farmers inoculate loblolly pine roots with such spores before planting the trees. (Antonio Izzo)

By 2010, they were achieving mind-blowing levels of mycorrhization on pine seedlings in their lab. They advertised. Not having enough capital to launch their own farm, they began looking for clients to buy their inoculated tree seedlings. They spoke at forestry conferences. They presented at the North American Truffle Growers Association. No dice. Everyone wanted to see an example of a successful orchard. They wanted hard numbers on pounds per acre.

“It was extremely frustrating,” Rosborough says. “We knew it worked. And nobody believed in us.”

After two years, Mycorrhiza Biotech had burned through its seed money and had nothing to show. “We had no customers,” Rosborough told me with a sigh. “We were tired. We decided to quit.” She stuck a for-sale sign on the lawn in front of the lab and called a liquidator to come get the equipment.

And that was when Rosborough received a mysterious phone message. “My employer has an interest in truffles,” said the stiff voice.

She didn’t bother calling back. “First of all, who talks like that?” Second, she was all too used to pretenders whose interest disappeared as soon as they learned it took $25,000 an acre to set up a truffle farm.

But the caller left a second message. His employer was still interested in truffles.

By the third call, she decided to call back. “We did our song and dance and told him it would be close to $50,000 to set up a two-acre orchard. And he didn’t flinch. I thought, ‘Who are these people?’”

The man on the other end of the line was Richard Franks, and his employer was Thomas Edward Powell III—a very familiar name in North Carolina. In 1927, Thomas Edward Powell II, a science professor at Elon College, founded a company called Carolina Biological Supply to provide plant and animal specimens to science teachers. The company went on to become a leading provider of teaching materials worldwide. Powell’s three sons then founded a diagnostics company called Biomedical Laboratories in a hospital basement in Burlington in 1969. After various mergers and acquisitions, Biomedical Laboratories became LabCorp, which is now the largest clinical diagnostics company in the world. LabCorp processes hundreds of millions of lab tests every year. It has 65,000 employees. And it’s worth an estimated $15 billion.

Rosborough called the liquidator and told him not to come just yet.

Richard Franks had worked for the Powell family his entire life. Both he and his father spent their careers at Carolina Biological Supply. After retiring in 2007, Franks had been managing some of Powell’s properties, including timber holdings.

One Sunday afternoon in 2010, he was settled into his den, watching an NFL game, when he received a phone call from the 78-year-old Powell. He had just had lunch with his interior decorator, who’d read about a truffle in Italy that grew beneath pine trees.

Powell owned hundreds of acres of pines in Warren County. Could he inoculate them with truffles? And could Franks manage the thing? See him at 8 o’clock in the morning.

Franks spent the rest of the afternoon giving himself an online crash course in truffles. He didn’t like what he saw. A lot of people had lost a lot of money. He didn’t want Powell to be the next. This is crazy, he thought. Then again, most of them weren’t working with the pine truffle, and they weren’t tree professionals. If there was one thing Franks knew how to do, it was grow good pines.

Freshly harvested and cleaned bianchetto truffles at Burwell Farms. (Andrew Kornylak)

The first seedling supplier he called laughed at him when he said he wanted to grow Tuber borchii. “I consider those weeds,” the man told him.

Back to the internet. Up popped a single hit for a source of bianchetto-inoculated seedlings: Mycorrhiza Biotech. Unbelievably, the company was right in Burlington, less than two miles away. It seemed like a sign.

When Franks finally got Rosborough on the phone, they talked for three hours. His employer was interested in truffles. A lot of truffles. Was she interested?

Franks met with Rosborough and Isikhuemhen and peppered them with questions about timing and yield. “We really don’t know,” Isikhuemhen kept answering. “No one has tried these techniques on a commercial scale before.”

The honesty impressed Franks: “If anybody involved with truffles doesn’t use the term ‘I don’t know’ a half-dozen times in your first conversation, they probably have no idea what they’re talking about.”

He called Powell. “They think they can do it. I think they can do it. Do you want to do it?”

In 2012, while Mycorrhiza Biotech was growing 1,100 inoculated loblolly seedlings in its greenhouse, Burwell Farms prepared two acres of ground to Isikhuemhen’s specifications. Any existing roots in the ground would already be impregnated with their own native mycorrhizal fungi, so they all had to be stripped away, down to eight feet. It took a bulldozer equipped with a massive root rake a year to comb the earth clean. Then the pH of the soil had to be raised from 5.7 to 7.3, a level that truffles love and few other organisms can tolerate. A procession of trucks plastered the ground with 15 tons of lime per acre.

In June 2014, they planted the seedlings, along with Isikhuemhen’s mysterious media, watered them hard and waited. They hoped to see their first truffles in the winter of 2018-19.

In December 2016, Isikhuemhen, Rosborough and Franks made the 90-mile drive to the farm for one of their regular site visits. On the way, Rosborough and Franks confessed to having doubts. Unproven techniques, unproven truffle. They were already the laughingstock of the truffle world.

Keep the faith, Isikhuemhen told them. “If you are born to do something, every road you take leads to what you are supposed to do. And you are naturally equipped with intuition and awe to find your way there.” He flashed his wide smile. “I’ll bet you a hundred dollars we find a truffle next year.”

A section of a bianchetto, or “whitish,” truffle, a delicacy long known in Italy but now farmed in North Carolina. It appears in late winter and early spring. (Andrew Kornylak)

They pulled up to the neat block of pine trees and stepped out into the cold. Isikhuemhen looked at the pines and grinned. They were now larger and more vigorous than any of the same age he’d seen in Italy. The truffles and the trees had taken to each other like long-lost siblings. He leaned over to Franks. “I take it back,” he whispered. “There are truffles here now.”

“How do you know?” Franks asked.

They noticed an animal trail leading from the forest into the orchard. They followed it to where the ground had been scraped in an attempt to dig. Isikhuemhen slashed at the mat of weeds with his machete and pulled it back. Breaching the surface was the small white rump of a bianchetto truffle.

“It worked,” Rosborough whispered under her breath.

Isikhuemhen did some sort of a jig. Franks called Powell with the good news. From the sounds on the other end of the line, Powell may have been doing his own jig.

They found another dozen truffles that winter. Then four pounds the following year. Then 30 pounds in 2019, well before they were ready. They had no sales-and-marketing team. They had no distribution. Laddie had been trained to be rewarded with a tennis ball instead of food, which seemed like a good idea when they were dealing with a handful of truffles, but now every time he found one he wanted to play ball for ten minutes.

What on earth will 2020 bring? Franks wondered to himself. And that was before he knew about any of the things 2020 had in store for them.

Franks first realized something was up in October 2019, when he visited the orchard and saw the soil lumping up in hundreds of spots. Isikhuemhen did his jig again when he heard the news. “I knew it!” he sang. “Destiny!” Soon the truffles started breaching the surface, far too early in the season. Their aroma wouldn’t fully develop for several months, and they could be ruined by frost. Everywhere the farmhands dug up soil to cover the truffles, they uncovered other truffles on their way up. When they did pull out a truffle, they found others nested beneath.

A large bianchetto truffle still in the ground during harvest at the Burwell Farms orchard. (Andrew Kornylak)

By January they had flagged 3,000 truffles. Most weighed an ounce or two, but one cluster they nicknamed “The Brain” was nearly a pound. At first the aroma of the truffles was underwhelming, and chefs who received samples were not impressed, but by late February a Proustian pungency began to permeate the low orchard air. An old farmhand named David Crow supplanted Laddie, crawling through the pines on his hands and knees and shouting, “This one’s perfumin’ right here!” when he found a keeper.

This time, the pros were won over. “I think it’s a lovely truffle,” Olivia Taylor, the former president of the North American Truffle Growers Association, told me. “Some chefs are skeptical of it because they don’t know it, but others are really keen on it. And given the price point, it’s something that could do really well.”

It did. “Chefs ordered, and then they ordered some more,” Franks says. Gary Menes, of the Michelin-starred Le Comptoir in Los Angeles, tweeted that they were “Beautifully fragrant, sweet and delicious.”

And then, just when the stars had aligned, says Franks, “it all came to a screeching stop.” With Covid-19 lockdowns, the restaurant industry collapsed. “It’s a bad feeling when you’re looking at 30 pounds of truffles in your fridge, going nowhere, and you know there’s another 30 pounds coming right behind it.”

Burwell Farms froze its truffles. Though frozen truffles turn to mush if thawed, they can be shaved frozen over dishes and still impart aroma. The company also started selling direct to consumers, a lifesaver.

Thomas Edward Powell III doubled down on the future, Covid be damned. Burwell Farms has now planted five two-acre orchards, 5,500 trees in all. In a few years, it expects to be harvesting more than a thousand pounds of truffles a year. The original plot continued to produce in 2021, but record rainfall caused many truffles to rot before they were ripe. Barring other weather weirdness, 2022 looks promising.

Unlike its fungus cousin the mushroom, a truffle grows underground and usually benefits from washing before it’s consumed. (Andrew Kornylak) Kate Dinges sorts and trims the precious bianchetto crop. Chefs typically use mere shavings in recipes, so pronounced is the flavor and dear the price: $50 an ounce. (Andrew Kornylak)

Isikhuemhen and Rosborough are now bona fide stars in the world of truffles. “They took a chance on us, but it wasn’t as big a risk as they thought,” Rosborough says. “There’s nobody smarter than Dr. Omon, and can’t nobody outwork me. Come hell or high water, we were going to have truffles in this field.” She gives Franks credit for openness. “It’s been a good partnership for us. We’ve grown together. We’ve learned from each other.”

Isikhuemhen has new grants to expand his bianchetto program, and he’s testing sites in five North Carolina counties to learn which microclimates and soil dynamics are most conducive.

Mycorrhiza Biotech has nearly as many customers as it can handle. Rosborough bought the lot beside her lab to add a greenhouse and try to keep up with seedling orders.

For her, the ultimate sign of success came when she harvested 25 pounds of bianchetto truffles from the one-acre demonstration plot on her own family farm. Rosborough had planted the plot a year after Burwell Farms started theirs, but she hadn’t managed to keep up with the maintenance. Still, in 2021 it kicked in, and a steady stream of intrigued farmers and experts came calling.

But don’t congratulate her yet. “We were never doing this just to make money,” Rosborough says. “The goal has always been to get this technology into the hands of small farmers. If, in a few years, there are 50 farmers in each of the Southeastern states growing truffles on small plots and using that money to hold onto their land, then we can say it worked.”

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization.


Meet the white truffle king

In the early 20th century, the white truffles of Alba lacked the international reputation of French black truffles. This began to change with efforts of Giacomo Morra, the owner of the Hotel Savona and founder of Tartufi Morra, the first company to commercially market white truffles. In 1949, Morra launched a promotional campaign based on sending the "best truffle of the year" to celebrity athletes, actors and politicians: Rita Hayworth in 1949, President Harry Truman in 1951, Winston Churchill in 1953, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio in 1954, Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, and Pope Paul VI in 1965. Monroe for one was pleased, writing in a letter, "My darling Mr. Morra. I have never tasted anything so tasty and exciting."

The campaign was a clear success, and by the late 1950s hundreds of thousands of boxes of Alba truffles were being exported worldwide to high-end restaurants and legations of the Italian government. In 1945 at the Fiera Nazionale Tartufo Bianco d'Alba, or Alba Truffle Fair, white truffles cost around $3 for two pounds. In 2016, a 4.16 pound white truffle was sold at Sotheby's auction house for $61,250, though they usually run between $1,500 and $2,500 a pound.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 quart homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 packets (3/4 ounces) unflavored gelatin, such as Knox (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons duck fat (optional)
  • 8 ounces salt pork, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 6 to 8 pieces of chicken thighs and drumsticks, or 4 whole chicken leg quarters
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound garlic sausage (2 to 4 links depending on size)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 carrot, unpeeled, cut into 3-inch sections
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 3-inch sections
  • 1 whole head garlic
  • 4 sprigs parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves

French Perigod Truffles with Benton's Ham topping the house-made Burrata - Recipes

The Tasmanian First Grade truffles are the slightly smaller truffles and the truffles we have trimmed because of some slight imperfections.

The truffle perfume and flavour is the same as the Extra Grade truffles.

Our Tasmanian black truffles are produced from the cold soils of Tasmania and are widely acknowledged as ‘Australia’s Best’ the truffles exhibit the sweet, earthy fragrance and savoury characteristics of the finest truffles from the Perigord and Provence departments of Southern France.

The price of the First Grade Tasmanian truffles is $2.5 a gram.

Your selected purchase weight will be supplied as a minimum.

''We have been dealing with Duncan for close to 10 years now and have seen a lot of other Truffle producers products come through the restaurant, but the truffles we receive from Duncan at Perigord Truffles are always the best.''

Corey Costelloe - Executive Chef - Rockpool Bar & Grill - Sydney

"The quality of truffles has been wonderful and the service and communication exceptional. I would highly recommend Duncan to anyone interested in such a fantastic culinary delight!"

Ian & Carolyn – Home Cooks - Cessnock NSW

Tasmanian Black Truffles Extra Grade

Our Tasmanian black truffles are produced from the cold soils of Tasmania and are widely acknowledged as ‘Australia’s Finest’ the truffles exhibit the sweet, earthy fragrance and savoury characteristics of the finest truffles from the Perigord and Provence departments of Southern France.

The Extra Grade Tasmanian truffles is $3 a gram.

Your selected purchase weight will be supplied as a minimum.

''We have been dealing with Duncan for close to 10 years now and have seen a lot of other Truffle producers products come through the restaurant, but the truffles we receive from Duncan at Perigord Truffles are always the best.''

Corey Costelloe - Executive Chef - Rockpool Bar & Grill - Sydney

''I’ve been ordering fresh truffles from Perigord Truffles of Tasmania for a number of years.
The online ordering process is quick & simple, the delivery is astoundingly quick and always well packaged.
And the quality of truffle is unmatched by any other Aussie supplier. The aroma and flavour of these little gems - is always astounding!
I can not speak highly enough of Duncan and the team. Thanks !''


Contents

Middle Ages Edit

In French medieval cuisine, banquets were common among the aristocracy. Multiple courses would be prepared, but served in a style called service en confusion, or all at once. Food was generally eaten by hand, meats being sliced off in large pieces held between the thumb and two fingers. The sauces were highly seasoned and thick, and heavily flavored mustards were used.

Pies were a common banquet item, with the crust serving primarily as a container, rather than as food itself, and it was not until the very end of the Late Middle Ages that the shortcrust pie was developed.

Meals often ended with an issue de table, which later changed into the modern dessert, and typically consisted of dragées (in the Middle Ages, meaning spiced lumps of hardened sugar or honey), aged cheese and spiced wine, such as hypocras. [4] : 1–7

The ingredients of the time varied greatly according to the seasons and the church calendar, and many items were preserved with salt, spices, honey, and other preservatives. Late spring, summer, and autumn afforded abundance, while winter meals were more sparse. Livestock were slaughtered at the beginning of winter. Beef was often salted, while pork was salted and smoked. Bacon and sausages would be smoked in the chimney, while the tongue and hams were brined and dried. Cucumbers were brined as well, while greens would be packed in jars with salt. Fruits, nuts and root vegetables would be boiled in honey for preservation. Whale, dolphin and porpoise were considered fish, so during Lent, the salted meats of these sea mammals were eaten. [4] : 9–12

Artificial freshwater ponds (often called stews) held carp, pike, tench, bream, eel, and other fish. Poultry was kept in special yards, with pigeon and squab being reserved for the elite. Game was highly prized, but very rare, and included venison, wild boar, hare, rabbit, and birds.

Kitchen gardens provided herbs, including some, such as tansy, rue, pennyroyal, and hyssop, which are rarely used today. Spices were treasured and very expensive at that time—they included pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and mace. Some spices used then, but no longer today in French cuisine are cubebs, long pepper (both from vines similar to black pepper), grains of paradise, and galengale.

Sweet-sour flavors were commonly added to dishes with vinegars and verjus combined with sugar (for the affluent) or honey. A common form of food preparation was to finely cook, pound and strain mixtures into fine pastes and mushes, something believed to be beneficial to make use of nutrients. [4] : 13–15

Visual display was prized. Brilliant colors were obtained by the addition of, for example, juices from spinach and the green part of leeks. Yellow came from saffron or egg yolk, while red came from sunflower, and purple came from Crozophora tinctoria or Heliotropium europaeum.

Gold and silver leaf were placed on food surfaces and brushed with egg whites. Elaborate and showy dishes were the result, such as tourte parmerienne which was a pastry dish made to look like a castle with chicken-drumstick turrets coated with gold leaf. One of the grandest showpieces of the time was roast swan or peacock sewn back into its skin with feathers intact, the feet and beak being gilded. Since both birds are stringy, and taste unpleasant, the skin and feathers could be kept and filled with the cooked, minced and seasoned flesh of tastier birds, like goose or chicken. [4] : 15–16

The most well known French chef of the Middle Ages was Guillaume Tirel, also known as Taillevent. Taillevent worked in numerous royal kitchens during the 14th century. His first position was as a kitchen boy in 1326. He was chef to Philip VI, then the Dauphin who was son of John II. The Dauphin became King Charles V of France in 1364, with Taillevent as his chief cook. His career spanned sixty-six years, and upon his death he was buried in grand style between his two wives. His tombstone represents him in armor, holding a shield with three cooking pots, marmites, on it. [4] : 18–21

Ancien Régime Edit

Paris was the central hub of culture and economic activity, and as such, the most highly skilled culinary craftsmen were to be found there. Markets in Paris such as Les Halles, la Mégisserie, those found along Rue Mouffetard, and similar smaller versions in other cities were very important to the distribution of food. Those that gave French produce its characteristic identity were regulated by the guild system, which developed in the Middle Ages. In Paris, the guilds were regulated by city government as well as by the French crown. A guild restricted those in a given branch of the culinary industry to operate only within that field. [4] : 71–72

There were two groups of guilds—first, those that supplied the raw materials: butchers, fishmongers, grain merchants, and gardeners. The second group were those that supplied prepared foods: bakers, pastry cooks, sauce makers, poulterers, and caterers. There were also guilds that offered both raw materials and prepared food, such as the charcutiers and rôtisseurs (purveyors of roasted meat dishes). They would supply cooked meat pies and dishes as well as raw meat and poultry. This caused issues with butchers and poulterers, who sold the same raw materials. [4] : 72–73

The guilds served as a training ground for those within the industry. The degrees of assistant cook, full-fledged cook and master chef were conferred. Those who reached the level of master chef were of considerable rank in their individual industry, and enjoyed a high level of income as well as economic and job security. At times, those in the royal kitchens did fall under the guild hierarchy, but it was necessary to find them a parallel appointment based on their skills after leaving the service of the royal kitchens. This was not uncommon as the Paris cooks' guild regulations allowed for this movement. [4] : 73

During the 16th and 17th centuries, French cuisine assimilated many new food items from the New World. Although they were slow to be adopted, records of banquets show Catherine de' Medici (1519–1589?) serving sixty-six turkeys at one dinner. [4] : 81 The dish called cassoulet has its roots in the New World discovery of haricot beans, which are central to the dish's creation, but had not existed outside of the Americas until the arrival of Europeans. [4] : 85

Haute cuisine (pronounced [ot kɥizin] , "high cuisine") has foundations during the 17th century with a chef named La Varenne. As author of works such as Le Cuisinier françois, he is credited with publishing the first true French cookbook. His book includes the earliest known reference to roux using pork fat. The book contained two sections, one for meat days, and one for fasting. His recipes marked a change from the style of cookery known in the Middle Ages, to new techniques aimed at creating somewhat lighter dishes, and more modest presentations of pies as individual pastries and turnovers. La Varenne also published a book on pastry in 1667 entitled Le Parfait confitvrier (republished as Le Confiturier françois) which similarly updated and codified the emerging haute cuisine standards for desserts and pastries. [4] : 114–120

Chef François Massialot wrote Le Cuisinier roïal et bourgeois in 1691, during the reign of Louis XIV. The book contains menus served to the royal courts in 1690. Massialot worked mostly as a freelance cook, and was not employed by any particular household. Massialot and many other royal cooks received special privileges by association with the French royalty. They were not subject to the regulation of the guilds therefore, they could cater weddings and banquets without restriction. His book is the first to list recipes alphabetically, perhaps a forerunner of the first culinary dictionary. It is in this book that a marinade is first seen in print, with one type for poultry and feathered game, while a second is for fish and shellfish. No quantities are listed in the recipes, which suggests that Massialot was writing for trained cooks. [4] : 149–154

The successive updates of Le Cuisinier roïal et bourgeois include important refinements such as adding a glass of wine to fish stock. Definitions were also added to the 1703 edition. The 1712 edition, retitled Le Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois, was increased to two volumes, and was written in a more elaborate style with extensive explanations of technique. Additional smaller preparations are included in this edition as well, leading to lighter preparations, and adding a third course to the meal. Ragout, a stew still central to French cookery, makes its first appearance as a single dish in this edition as well prior to that, it was listed as a garnish. [4] : 155

Late 18th century – early 19th century Edit

Shortly before the French Revolution, dishes like bouchées à la Reine gained prominence. Essentially royal cuisine produced by the royal household, this is a chicken-based recipe served on vol-au-vent created under the influence of Queen Marie Leszczyńska, the Polish-born wife of Louis XV. This recipe is still popular today, as are other recipes from Queen Marie Leszczyńska like consommé à la Reine and filet d'aloyau braisé à la royale. Queen Marie is also credited with introducing lentils to the French diet and Polonaise garnishing.

The French Revolution was integral to the expansion of French cuisine, because it abolished the guild system. This meant anyone could now produce and sell any culinary item they wished.

Bread was a significant food source among peasants and the working class in the late 18th century, with many of the nation's people being dependent on it. In French provinces, bread was often consumed three times a day by the people of France. [5] According to Brace, bread was referred to as the basic dietary item for the masses, and it was also used as a foundation for soup. In fact, bread was so important that harvest, interruption of commerce by wars, heavy flour exploration, and prices and supply were all watched and controlled by the French Government. Among the underprivileged, constant fear of famine was always prevalent. From 1725 to 1789, there were fourteen years of bad yields to blame for low grain supply. In Bordeaux, during 1708–1789, thirty-three bad harvests occurred. [5]

Marie-Antoine Carême was born in 1784, five years before the Revolution. He spent his younger years working at a pâtisserie until he was discovered by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, who would later cook for Napoleon Bonaparte. Prior to his employment with Talleyrand, Carême had become known for his pièces montées, which were extravagant constructions of pastry and sugar architecture. [6] : 144–145

More important to Carême's career was his contribution to the refinement of French cuisine. The basis for his style of cooking was his sauces, which he named mother sauces. Often referred to as fonds, meaning "foundations", these base sauces, espagnole, velouté, and béchamel, are still known today. Each of these sauces was made in large quantities in his kitchen, then formed the basis of multiple derivatives. Carême had over one hundred sauces in his repertoire.

In his writings, soufflés appear for the first time. Although many of his preparations today seem extravagant, he simplified and codified an even more complex cuisine that existed beforehand. Central to his codification of the cuisine were Le Maître d'hôtel français (1822), Le Cuisinier parisien (1828) and L'Art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle (1833–5). [6] : 144–148

Late 19th century – early 20th century Edit

Georges Auguste Escoffier is commonly acknowledged as the central figure to the modernization of haute cuisine and organizing what would become the national cuisine of France. His influence began with the rise of some of the great hotels in Europe and America during the 1880s-1890s. The Savoy Hotel managed by César Ritz was an early hotel in which Escoffier worked, but much of his influence came during his management of the kitchens in the Carlton from 1898 until 1921. He created a system of "parties" called the brigade system, which separated the professional kitchen into five separate stations.

These five stations included the garde manger that prepared cold dishes the entremettier prepared starches and vegetables, the rôtisseur prepared roasts, grilled and fried dishes the saucier prepared sauces and soups and the pâtissier prepared all pastry and desserts items.

This system meant that instead of one person preparing a dish on one's own, now multiple cooks would prepare the different components for the dish. An example used is oeufs au plat Meyerbeer, the prior system would take up to fifteen minutes to prepare the dish, while in the new system, the eggs would be prepared by the entremettier, kidney grilled by the rôtisseur, truffle sauce made by the saucier and thus the dish could be prepared in a shorter time and served quickly in the popular restaurants. [6] : 157–159

Escoffier also simplified and organized the modern menu and structure of the meal. He published a series of articles in professional journals which outlined the sequence, and he finally published his Livre des menus in 1912. This type of service embraced the service à la russe (serving meals in separate courses on individual plates), which Félix Urbain Dubois had made popular in the 1860s. Escoffier's largest contribution was the publication of Le Guide Culinaire in 1903, which established the fundamentals of French cookery. The book was a collaboration with Philéas Gilbert, E. Fetu, A. Suzanne, B. Reboul, Ch. Dietrich, A. Caillat and others. The significance of this is to illustrate the universal acceptance by multiple high-profile chefs to this new style of cooking. [6] : 159–160

Le Guide Culinaire deemphasized the use of heavy sauces and leaned toward lighter fumets, which are the essence of flavor taken from fish, meat and vegetables. This style of cooking looked to create garnishes and sauces whose function is to add to the flavor of the dish, rather than mask flavors like the heavy sauces and ornate garnishes of the past. Escoffier took inspiration for his work from personal recipes in addition to recipes from Carême, Dubois and ideas from Taillevent's Le Viandier, which had a modern version published in 1897. A second source for recipes came from existing peasant dishes that were translated into the refined techniques of haute cuisine.

Expensive ingredients would replace the common ingredients, making the dishes much less humble. The third source of recipes was Escoffier himself, who invented many new dishes, such as pêche Melba. [6] : 160–162 Escoffier updated Le Guide Culinaire four times during his lifetime, noting in the foreword to the book's first edition that even with its 5,000 recipes, the book should not be considered an "exhaustive" text, and that even if it were at the point when he wrote the book, "it would no longer be so tomorrow, because progress marches on each day." [7]

This period is also marked by the appearance of the nouvelle cuisine. The term "nouvelle cuisine" has been used many times in the history of French cuisine which emphasized the freshness, lightness and clarity of flavor and inspired by new movements in world cuisine. In the 1740s, Menon first used the term, but the cooking of Vincent La Chapelle and François Marin was also considered modern. In the 1960s, Henri Gault and Christian Millau revived it to describe the cooking of Paul Bocuse, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé and Raymond Oliver. [8] These chefs were working toward rebelling against the "orthodoxy" of Escoffier's cuisine. Some of the chefs were students of Fernand Point at the Pyramide in Vienne, and had left to open their own restaurants. Gault and Millau "discovered the formula" contained in ten characteristics of this new style of cooking. [6] : 163–164

The first characteristic was a rejection of excessive complication in cooking. Second, the cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés was greatly reduced in an attempt to preserve the natural flavors. Steaming was an important trend from this characteristic. The third characteristic was that the cuisine was made with the freshest possible ingredients. Fourth, large menus were abandoned in favor of shorter menus. Fifth, strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used. [6] : 163–164

Sixth, they stopped using heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel thickened with flour based "roux" in favor of seasoning their dishes with fresh herbs, quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar. Seventh, they used regional dishes for inspiration instead of haute cuisine dishes. Eighth, new techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used Bocuse even used microwave ovens. Ninth, the chefs paid close attention to the dietary needs of their guests through their dishes. Tenth, and finally, the chefs were extremely inventive and created new combinations and pairings. [6] : 163–164

Some have speculated that a contributor to nouvelle cuisine was World War II when animal protein was in short supply during the German occupation. [9] By the mid-1980s food writers stated that the style of cuisine had reached exhaustion and many chefs began returning to the haute cuisine style of cooking, although much of the lighter presentations and new techniques remained. [6] : 163–164

There are many dishes that are considered part of French national cuisine today.

A meal often consists of three courses, hors d'œuvre or entrée (introductory course, sometimes soup), plat principal (main course), fromage (cheese course) or dessert, sometimes with a salad offered before the cheese or dessert.

Bisque is a smooth and creamy French potage.

Foie gras with mustard seeds and green onions in duck jus

Steak frites is a simple and popular dish.

French regional cuisine is characterized by its extreme diversity and style. Traditionally, each region of France has its own distinctive cuisine. [10]

Paris and Île-de-France Edit

Paris and Île-de-France are central regions where almost anything from the country is available, as all train lines meet in the city. Over 9,000 restaurants exist in Paris and almost any cuisine can be obtained here. High-quality Michelin Guide-rated restaurants proliferate here. [11]

Champagne, Lorraine, and Alsace Edit

Game and ham are popular in Champagne, as well as the special sparkling wine simply known as Champagne. Fine fruit preserves are known from Lorraine as well as the quiche Lorraine. [12] Alsace is influenced by the German cuisine, especially the one from the Palatinate and Baden region. As such, beers made in the area are similar to the style of bordering Germany. Dishes like choucroute (French for sauerkraut) are also popular. [11] : 55 Many "Eaux de vie" (distilled alcohol from fruit) also called schnaps are from this region, due to a wide variety of local fruits (cherry, raspberry, pear, grapes) and especially prunes (mirabelle, plum).[9]:259,295 [ clarification needed ]

Nord Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, Normandy, and Brittany Edit

The coastline supplies many crustaceans, sea bass, monkfish and herring. Normandy has top-quality seafood, such as scallops and sole, while Brittany has a supply of lobster, crayfish and mussels.

Normandy is home to a large population of apple trees apples are often used in dishes, as well as cider and Calvados. The northern areas of this region, especially Nord, grow ample amounts of wheat, sugar beets and chicory. Thick stews are found often in these northern areas as well.

The produce of these northern regions is also considered some of the best in the country, including cauliflower and artichokes. Buckwheat grows widely in Brittany as well and is used in the region's galettes, called jalet, which is where this dish originated. [11] : 93

Camembert, cheese specialty from Normandy

Crêpe and Cider, specialty from Brittany

Loire Valley and central France Edit

High-quality fruits come from the Loire Valley and central France, including cherries grown for the liqueur Guignolet and Belle Angevine pears. The strawberries and melons are also of high quality.

Fish are seen in the cuisine, often served with a beurre blanc sauce, as well as wild game, lamb, calves, Charolais cattle, Géline fowl, and goat cheeses.

Young vegetables are used often, as are the specialty mushrooms of the region, champignons de Paris. Vinegars from Orléans are a specialty ingredient used as well. [11] : 129, 132

Burgundy and Franche-Comté Edit

Burgundy and Franche-Comté are known for their wines. Pike, perch, river crabs, snails, game, redcurrants, blackcurrants are from both Burgundy and Franche-Comté.

Amongst savorous specialties accounted in the Cuisine franc-comtoise from the Franche-Comté region are Croûte aux morilles [fr] , Poulet à la Comtoise [fr] , trout, smoked meats and cheeses such as Mont d'Or, Comté and Morbier which are best eaten hot or cold, the exquisite Coq au vin jaune [fr] and the special dessert gâteau de ménage [fr] .

Charolais beef, poultry from Bresse, sea snail, honey cake, Chaource and Epoisses cheese are specialties of the local cuisine of Burgundy. Dijon mustard is also a specialty of Burgundy cuisine. Crème de cassis is a popular liquor made from the blackcurrants. Oils are used in the cooking here, types include nut oils and rapeseed oil. [11] : 153,156,166,185

Escargots, with special tongs and fork

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Edit

The area covers the old province of Dauphiné, once known as the "larder" of France, [ dubious – discuss ] that gave its name to gratin dauphinois, [13] traditionally made in a large baking dish rubbed with garlic. Successive layers of potatoes, salt, pepper and milk are piled up to the top of the dish. It is then baked in the oven at low temperature for 2 hours. [14]

Fruit and young vegetables are popular in the cuisine from the Rhône valley, as are great wines like Hermitage AOC, Crozes-Hermitage AOC and Condrieu AOC. Walnuts and walnut products and oil from Noix de Grenoble AOC, lowland cheeses, like St. Marcellin, St. Félicien and Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage.

Poultry from Bresse, guinea fowl from Drôme and fish from the Dombes, a light yeast-based cake, called Pogne de Romans and the regional speciality, Raviole du Dauphiné, and there is the short-crust "Suisse", a Valence biscuit speciality.

Lakes and mountain streams in Rhône-Alpes are key to the cuisine as well. Lyon and Savoy supply sausages while the Alpine regions supply their specialty cheeses like Beaufort, Abondance, Reblochon, Tomme and Vacherin. [ citation needed ]

Mères lyonnaises are female restaurateurs particular to this region who provide local gourmet establishments. [15] Celebrated chefs from this region include Fernand Point, Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers and Alain Chapel. [16]

The Chartreuse Mountains are the source of the green and yellow Digestif liquor, Chartreuse produced by the monks of the Grande Chartreuse. [11] : 197,230

Since the 2014 administrative reform, the ancient area of Auvergne is now part of the region. One of its leading chefs is Regis Marcon.

Noix de Grenoble, unusual trilaterally symmetric walnut

Poitou-Charentes and Limousin Edit

High-quality produce comes from the region's hinterland, especially goat cheese. This region and in the Vendée is grazing ground for Parthenaise cattle, while poultry is raised in Challans.

The region of Poitou-Charentes purportedly produces the best butter and cream in France. Cognac is also made in the region along the Charente River.

Limousin is home to the Limousin cattle, as well as sheep. The woodlands offer game and mushrooms. The southern area around Brive draws its cooking influence from Périgord and Auvergne to produce a robust cuisine. [11] : 237

Bordeaux, Périgord, Gascony, and Basque country Edit

Bordeaux is known for its wine, with certain areas offering specialty grapes for wine-making. Fishing is popular in the region for the cuisine, sea fishing in the Bay of Biscay, trapping in the Garonne and stream fishing in the Pyrenees.

The Pyrenees also has lamb, such as the Agneau de Pauillac, as well as sheep cheeses. Beef cattle in the region include the Blonde d'Aquitaine, Boeuf de Chalosse, Boeuf Gras de Bazas, and Garonnaise.

Free-range chicken, turkey, pigeon, capon, goose and duck prevail in the region as well. Gascony and Périgord cuisines includes pâtés, terrines, confits and magrets. This is one of the regions notable for its production of foie gras, or fattened goose or duck liver.

The cuisine of the region is often heavy and farm based. Armagnac is also from this region, as are prunes from Agen. [11] : 259,295

A terrine of foie gras with a bottle of Sauternes

Toulouse, Quercy, and Aveyron Edit

Gers, a department of France, is within this region and has poultry, while La Montagne Noire and Lacaune area offer hams and dry sausages.

White corn is planted heavily in the area both for use in fattening ducks and geese for foie gras and for the production of millas, a cornmeal porridge. Haricot beans are also grown in this area, which are central to the dish cassoulet.

The finest sausage in France is saucisse de Toulouse, which also part of cassoulet of Toulouse. The Cahors area produces a specialty "black wine" as well as truffles and mushrooms.

This region also produces milk-fed lamb. Unpasteurized ewe's milk is used to produce Roquefort in Aveyron, while in Laguiole is producing unpasteurized cow's milk cheese. Salers cattle produce milk for cheese, as well as beef and veal products.

The volcanic soils create flinty cheeses and superb lentils. Mineral waters are produced in high volume in this region as well. [11] : 313 Cabécou cheese is from Rocamadour, a medieval settlement erected directly on a cliff, in the rich countryside of Causses du Quercy.

This area is one of the region's oldest milk producers it has chalky soil, marked by history and human activity, and is favourable for the raising of goats.

Roussillon, Languedoc, and Cévennes Edit

Restaurants are popular in the area known as Le Midi. Oysters come from the Étang de Thau, to be served in the restaurants of Bouzigues, Mèze, and Sète. Mussels are commonly seen here in addition to fish specialties of Sète, bourride, tielles and rouille de seiche.

In the Languedoc jambon cru, sometimes known as jambon de montagne is produced. High quality Roquefort comes from the brebis (sheep) on the Larzac plateau.

The Les Cévennes area offers mushrooms, chestnuts, berries, honey, lamb, game, sausages, pâtés and goat cheeses. Catalan influence can be seen in the cuisine here with dishes like brandade made from a purée of dried cod wrapped in mangold leaves. Snails are plentiful and are prepared in a specific Catalan style known as a cargolade. Wild boar can be found in the more mountainous regions of the Midi. [11] : 349,360

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Edit

The Provence and Côte d'Azur region is rich in quality citrus, vegetables, fruits and herbs the region is one of the largest suppliers of all these ingredients in France. The region also produces the largest amount of olives, and creates superb olive oil. Lavender is used in many dishes found in Haute Provence. Other important herbs in the cuisine include thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, savory, fennel, marjoram, tarragon, oregano, and bay leaf. [17] Honey is a prized ingredient in the region.

Seafood is widely available throughout the coastal area and is heavily represented in the cuisine. Goat cheeses, air-dried sausages, lamb, beef, and chicken are popular here. Garlic and anchovies are used in many of the region's sauces, as in Poulet Provençal, which uses white wine, tomatoes, herbs, and sometimes anchovies, and Pastis is found everywhere that alcohol is served.

The cuisine uses a large amount of vegetables for lighter preparations. Truffles are commonly seen in Provence during the winter. Thirteen desserts in Provence are the traditional Christmas dessert, [18] e.g. quince cheese, biscuits, almonds, nougat, apple, and fougasse.

Rice is grown in the Camargue, which is the northernmost rice growing area in Europe, with Camargue red rice being a specialty. [11] : 387,403,404,410,416 Anibal Camous, a Marseillais who lived to be 104, maintained that it was by eating garlic daily that he kept his "youth" and brilliance. When his eighty-year-old son died, the father mourned: "I always told him he wouldn't live long, poor boy. He ate too little garlic!" (cited by chef Philippe Gion)

Corsica Edit

Goats and sheep proliferate on the island of Corsica, and lamb are used to prepare dishes such as stufato, ragouts and roasts. Cheeses are also produced, with brocciu being the most popular.

Chestnuts, growing in the Castagniccia forest, are used to produce flour, which is used in turn to make bread, cakes and polenta. The forest provides acorns used to feed the pigs and boars that provide much of the protein for the island's cuisine. Fresh fish and seafood are common.

The island's pork is used to make fine hams, sausage and other unique items including coppa (dried rib cut), lonzu (dried pork fillet), figatellu (smoked and dried liverwurst), salumu (a dried sausage), salcietta, Panzetta, bacon, and prisuttu (farmer's ham).

Clementines (which hold an AOC designation), lemons, nectarines and figs are grown there. Candied citron is used in nougats, while and the aforementioned brocciu and chestnuts are also used in desserts.

Corsica offers a variety of wines and fruit liqueurs, including Cap Corse, Patrimonio, Cédratine, Bonapartine, liqueur de myrte, vins de fruit, Rappu, and eau-de-vie de châtaigne. [11] : 435,441,442

French Guiana Edit

French Guianan cuisine or Guianan cuisine is a blend of the different cultures that have settled in French Guiana. Creole and Chinese restaurants are common in major cities such as Cayenne, Kourou and Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni. Many indigenous animal species such as caiman and tapir are used in spiced stews.

French cuisine varies according to the season. In summer, salads and fruit dishes are popular because they are refreshing and produce is inexpensive and abundant. Greengrocers prefer to sell their fruits and vegetables at lower prices if needed, rather than see them rot in the heat. At the end of summer, mushrooms become plentiful and appear in stews throughout France. The hunting season begins in September and runs through February. Game of all kinds is eaten, often in elaborate dishes that celebrate the success of the hunt. Shellfish are at their peak when winter turns to spring, and oysters appear in restaurants in large quantities.

With the advent of deep-freeze and the air-conditioned hypermarché, these seasonal variations are less marked than hitherto, but they are still observed, in some cases due to legal restrictions. Crayfish, for example, have a short season and it is illegal to catch them out of season. [19] Moreover, they do not freeze well.

French regional cuisines use locally grown vegetables, such as pomme de terre (potato), blé (wheat), haricots verts (a type of French green bean), carotte (carrot), poireau (leek), navet (turnip), aubergine (eggplant), courgette (zucchini), and échalotte (shallot).

French regional cuisines use locally grown fungi, such as truffe (truffle), champignon de Paris (button mushroom), chanterelle ou girolle (chanterelle), pleurote (en huître) (oyster mushrooms), and cèpes (porcini).

Varieties of meat consumed include poulet (chicken), pigeon (squab), canard (duck), oie (goose, the source of foie gras), bœuf (beef), veau (veal), porc (pork), agneau (lamb), mouton (mutton), caille (quail), cheval (horse), grenouille (frog), and escargot (snails). Commonly consumed fish and seafood include cod, canned sardines, fresh sardines, canned tuna, fresh tuna, salmon, trout, mussels, herring, oysters, shrimp and calamari.

Eggs are fine quality and often eaten as: omelettes, hard-boiled with mayonnaise, scrambled plain, scrambled haute cuisine preparation, œuf à la coque.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish and meat, can be purchased either from supermarkets or specialty shops. Street markets are held on certain days in most localities some towns have a more permanent covered market enclosing food shops, especially meat and fish retailers. These have better shelter than the periodic street markets.

Breakfast Edit

Le petit déjeuner (breakfast) is traditionally a quick meal consisting of tartines (slices) of French bread with butter and honey or jam (sometimes brioche), along with café au lait (also called café crème), or black coffee, or tea [20] and rarely hot chicory. Children often drink hot chocolate in bowls or cups along with their breakfasts. Croissants, pain aux raisins or pain au chocolat (also named chocolatine in the south-west of France) are mostly included as a weekend treat. Breakfast of some kind is always served in cafés opening early in the day.

There are also savoury dishes for breakfast. An example is le petit déjeuner gaulois or petit déjeuner fermier with the famous long narrow bread slices topped with soft white cheese or boiled ham, called mouillettes, [21] which is dipped in a soft-boiled egg and some fruit juice and hot drink.

Another variation called le petit déjeuner chasseur, meant to be very hearty, is served with pâté and other charcuterie products. A more classy version is called le petit déjeuner du voyageur, where delicatessens serve gizzard, bacon, salmon, omelet, or croque-monsieur, with or without soft-boiled egg and always with the traditional coffee/tea/chocolate along fruits or fruit juice. When the egg is cooked sunny-side over the croque-monsieur, it is called a croque-madame.

In Germinal and other novels, Émile Zola also reported the briquet: two long bread slices stuffed with butter, cheese and or ham. It can be eaten as a standing/walking breakfast, or meant as a "second" one before lunch.

In the movie Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, Philippe Abrams (Kad Merad) and Antoine Bailleul (Dany Boon) share together countless breakfasts consisting of tartines de Maroilles (a rather strong cheese) along with their hot chicory.

Lunch Edit

Le déjeuner (lunch) is a two-hour mid-day meal or a one-hour lunch break. In some smaller towns and in the south of France, the two-hour lunch may still be customary. Sunday lunches are often longer and are taken with the family. [22] Restaurants normally open for lunch at noon and close at 2:30 pm. Some restaurants are closed on Monday during lunch hours. [23]

In large cities, a majority of working people and students eat their lunch at a corporate or school cafeteria, which normally serves complete meals as described above it is not usual for students to bring their own lunch to eat. For companies that do not operate a cafeteria, it is mandatory for white-collar workers to be given lunch vouchers as part of their employee benefits. These can be used in most restaurants, supermarkets and traiteurs however, workers having lunch in this way typically do not eat all three courses of a traditional lunch due to price and time constraints. In smaller cities and towns, some working people leave their workplaces to return home for lunch. Also, an alternative, especially among blue-collar workers, is eating sandwiches followed by a dessert both dishes can be found ready-made at bakeries and supermarkets at budget prices.

Dinner Edit

Le dîner (dinner) often consists of three courses, hors d'œuvre or entrée (appetizers or introductory course, sometimes soup), plat principal (main course), and a cheese course or dessert, sometimes with a salad offered before the cheese or dessert. Yogurt may replace the cheese course, while a simple dessert would be fresh fruit. The meal is often accompanied by bread, wine and mineral water. Most of the time the bread would be a baguette which is very common in France and is made almost every day. Main meat courses are often served with vegetables, along with potatoes, rice or pasta. [22] : 82 Restaurants often open at 7:30 pm for dinner, and stop taking orders between the hours of 10:00 pm and 11:00 pm. Some restaurants close for dinner on Sundays. [23] : 342

In French cuisine, beverages that precede a meal are called apéritifs (literally: "that opens the appetite"), and can be served with amuse-bouches (literally: "mouth amuser"). Those that end it are called digestifs.

The apéritif varies from region to region: Pastis is popular in the south of France, Crémant d'Alsace in the eastern region. Champagne can also be served. Kir, also called Blanc-cassis, is a common and popular apéritif-cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine. The phrase Kir Royal is used when white wine is replaced with a Champagne wine. A simple glass of red wine, such as Beaujolais nouveau, can also be presented as an apéritif, accompanied by amuse-bouches. Some apéritifs can be fortified wines with added herbs, such as cinchona, gentian and vermouth. Trade names that sell well include Suze (the classic gentiane), Byrrh, Dubonnet, and Noilly Prat.

Digestifs are traditionally stronger, and include Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Eau de vie and fruit alcohols.

A typical French Christmas dish is turkey with chestnuts. Other common dishes are smoked salmon, oysters, caviar and foie gras. The Yule log is a very French tradition during Christmas. Chocolate and cakes also occupy a prominent place for Christmas in France. This cuisine is normally accompanied by Champagne. Tradition says that thirteen desserts complete the Christmas meal in reference to the twelve apostles and Christ. [24] [25] [26] [27]

History Edit

The modern restaurant has its origins in French culture. Prior to the late 18th century, diners who wished to "dine out" would visit their local guild member's kitchen and have their meal prepared for them. However, guild members were limited to producing whatever their guild registry delegated to them. [28] : 8–10 These guild members offered food in their own homes to steady clientele that appeared day-to-day but at set times. The guest would be offered the meal table d'hôte, which is a meal offered at a set price with very little choice of dishes, sometimes none at all. [28] : 30–31

The first steps toward the modern restaurant were locations that offered restorative bouillons, or restaurants—these words being the origin of the name "restaurant". This step took place during the 1760s–1770s. These locations were open at all times of the day, featuring ornate tableware and reasonable prices. These locations were meant more as meal replacements for those who had "lost their appetites and suffered from jaded palates and weak chests." [28] : 34–35

In 1782 Antoine Beauvilliers, pastry chef to the future Louis XVIII, opened one of the most popular restaurants of the time—the Grande Taverne de Londres—in the arcades of the Palais-Royal. Other restaurants were opened by chefs of the time who were leaving the failing monarchy of France, in the period leading up to the French Revolution. It was these restaurants that expanded upon the limited menus of decades prior, and led to the full restaurants that were completely legalized with the advent of the French Revolution and abolition of the guilds. This and the substantial discretionary income of the French Directory's nouveau riche helped keep these new restaurants in business. [28] : 140–144

Categories
English French Description
Restaurant More than 5,000 in Paris alone, with varying levels of prices and menus. Open at certain times of the day, and normally closed one day of the week. Patrons select items from a printed menu. Some offer regional menus, while others offer a modern styled menu. Waiters and waitresses are trained and knowledgeable professionals. By law, a prix-fixe menu must be offered, although high-class restaurants may try to conceal the fact. Few French restaurants cater to vegetarians. The Guide Michelin rates many of the better restaurants in this category. [11] : 30
Bistro(t) Often smaller than a restaurant and many times using chalk board or verbal menus. Wait staff may well be untrained. Many feature a regional cuisine. Notable dishes include coq au vin, pot-au-feu, confit de canard, calves' liver and entrecôte. [11] : 30
Bistrot à Vin Similar to cabarets or tavernes of the past in France. Some offer inexpensive alcoholic drinks, while others take pride in offering a full range of vintage AOC wines. The foods in some are simple, including sausages, ham and cheese, while others offer dishes similar to what can be found in a bistro. [11] : 30
Bouchon Found in Lyon, they produce traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, such as sausages, duck pâté or roast pork. The dishes can be quite fatty, and heavily oriented around meat. There are about twenty officially certified traditional bouchons, but a larger number of establishments describing themselves using the term. [29]
Brewery Brasserie These establishments were created in the 1870s by refugees from Alsace-Lorraine. These establishments serve beer, but most serve wines from Alsace such as Riesling, Sylvaner, and Gewürztraminer. The most popular dishes are choucroute and seafood dishes. [11] : 30 In general, a brasserie is open all day every day, offering the same menu. [30]
Café Primarily locations for coffee and alcoholic drinks. Additional tables and chairs are usually set outside, and prices are usually higher for service at these tables. The limited foods sometimes offered include croque-monsieur, salads, moules-frites (mussels and pommes frites) when in season. Cafés often open early in the morning and shut down around nine at night. [11] : 30
Salon de Thé These locations are more similar to cafés in the rest of the world. These tearooms often offer a selection of cakes and do not offer alcoholic drinks. Many offer simple snacks, salads, and sandwiches. Teas, hot chocolate, and chocolat à l'ancienne (a popular chocolate drink) are offered as well. These locations often open just prior to noon for lunch and then close late afternoon. [11] : 30
Bar Based on the American style, many were built at the beginning of the 20th century (particularly around World War I, when young American expatriates were quite common in France, particularly Paris). These locations serve cocktails, whiskey, pastis and other alcoholic drinks. [11] : 30
Estaminet Typical of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, these small bars/restaurants used to be a central place for farmers, mine or textile workers to meet and socialize, sometimes the bars would be in a grocery store. [31] Customers could order basic regional dishes, play boules, or use the bar as a meeting place for clubs. [32] These estaminets almost disappeared, but are now considered a part of Nord-Pas-de-Calais history, and therefore preserved and promoted.

Restaurant staff Edit

Larger restaurants and hotels in France employ extensive staff and are commonly referred to as either the kitchen brigade for the kitchen staff or dining room brigade system for the dining room staff. This system was created by Georges Auguste Escoffier. This structured team system delegates responsibilities to different individuals who specialize in certain tasks. The following is a list of positions held both in the kitchen and dining rooms brigades in France: [11] : 32


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