A Great Source for Fresh Black Truffles

This is the real thing: the firm that supplies truffles to top restaurants across the country, including Lee Hefter of Spago in Beverly Hills; Daniel Boulud of Daniel and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, both in New York; and Alain Ducasse. Plantin America Inc. is a father-son affair, with Hervé Poron based in Southwest France and his son Christopher on the East Coast. Though Périgord in Southwest France is the most famous area in France for truffles, most are now found in the Southeast, near Richerenches in Provence; that's the primary source of Plantin's truffles. The season is relatively long, roughly from November to February or March. Plantin generally doesn't start selling until December, when the truffles are a bit more mature. This year, with luck, the season is expected to go until mid-March, giving truffle fanciers three more weeks in which to indulge.

Though Plantin, which is based in New Jersey, has a website, it's best to order fresh truffles by calling Christopher Poron directly. You'll want to know when the next shipment is arriving and how early he can get the truffles to you in order to plan your truffle fest. And if you're ordering more than just a few ounces, he'll give you a better price. Right now, for example, two ounces are $140 (all prices include shipping), but order more and the price can drop from $70 an ounce to as low as $50. At the beginning of the season, truffles were more abundant and selling for $380 a pound: now they're close to $700 to $800 a pound.

With truffles, the key is the fresher the better. With every day, they lose not only flavor, but also weight, so you want to buy (and use) them as fresh as possible. Plantin's shipments usually arrive on Monday, and if there's no problem with customs, he can ship out by next day Fed Ex — Tuesday or Wednesday.

If you don't get around to ordering truffles this season, not to worry — you'll have the information at hand to jump on it come next December.

Plantin, (201) 867-4590 or (212) 564-4313; fax (212) 658-9120; e-mail: info@plantin.com; website: www.plantin.com.

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