Fun with Fungi in the Pacific Northwest

Truffles (the non-chocolate kind) are a big reason to visit the Pacific Northwest in the dead of winter.

The wet Douglas fir forests of the Pacific Northwest are a perfect habitat for the world's most sought-after fungi. Both black and white truffles grow in this climate and from December to March you can hunt them yourself! There are several tours and classes available to help you locate and harvest truffles in the PNW. As an added bonus, there's always a loveable dog as your guide.

Black Tie Tours

Ready to tromp into the forest to harvest your own umami delicacies? Check out Black Tie Tours! Stefan, a trusted truffle guide (and his truffle dog Ella) is happy to lead you through the coniferous forests in search of the priciest of fungi. For $250 per person learn the best practices for hunting truffles, how to save and care for them, and, most importantly, how to use them in your kitchen. The tour includes pick up and drop off in the Yamhill Valley area, a one to two-hour truffle hunt, and a picnic lunch featuring, you guessed it, truffles. Want to make your tour even more decadent? For an additional $125 per person, a guest winemaker will join your tour and pair delicious vintages with your lunch. The intimate tours are limited to six guests.

Hit the forests with Stefan and Ella | WhereTraveler
Stefan and Ella hunt for truffles amongst the fir trees (Courtesy of Black Tie Tours)

Terra Fleurs

Individuals or groups of four can join James Nowak and his truffle hound Augie on what the truffle industry whimsically calls forays. Nowak has a deep appreciation for the symbiotic relationship between truffles and Douglas firs and only uses dogs to seek out the delicacies instead of rakes which can damage the fragile truffle ecosystem. For up to $300 (not $300 per person), your quarantine quartet can hunt for truffles with Nowak. There's a $25 deposit per person which is refundable up to 14 days before a scheduled tour. For those traveling from outside of the Seattle area, check out the Gaslight Inn, an elegant bed and breakfast where most Terra Fleur tour commence. Guests can receive a 25% discount for booking a room in conjunction with a tour reservation.

Truffles are treasure hidden amongst the root systems of Douglas firs | WhereTraveler
Truffles are hidden treasure nestled into the root system of Douglas firs (Photo credit: John Valls)

Truffle Dog Company

If the most exciting part of truffle hunting is the chance to hang out with a friendly dog, book a guided truffle experience with Truffle Dog Company. Their Washington state forays focus on the tandem teamwork between handler and dog. Kindly, please don't bring your own furry friends as it can be distracting to the working dogs. Tours are $475 per person and usually take about half a day to complete including travel time (Seattle and Portland are the nearest major cities) to the truffle patch.  Not in the Pacific Northwest but still interested? Truffle Dog also offers online classes for truffle enthusiasts near and far.

Dogs are an integral part of a truffle hunt | WhereTraveler
Dogs are an integral part of a truffle foray (©Andrea Johnson)

Prestige Wine Tours

Head to the Willamette Valley and join a friendly Lagotto Romagnolo (courtesy of The Truffle Underground) pup to search for nature's tastiest treasures. Bring an umbrella because the dogs will hunt come rain or shine! Tours are available a la carte ($450 for two people) for up to five people or add a food and wine pairing ($600 per couple). Tours last approximately an hour or two and, if you've opted for the wine pairing, continue on to a boutique winery tasting room. The Prestige Wine chef and sommelier will pair your truffles with delicious bites and the world-famous Willamette Valley pinot noir. 

Dogs can find truffles without harming a tree's root system | WhereTraveler
Prestige Wine Tours partners with The Truffle Underground dog school (©Kathryn Elsesser)

North American Truffling Society

For those with a keen interest in hypogeous (belowground) fungi, a membership to the North American Truffling Society is a worthy (and surprisingly wallet-friendly) investment. Annual dues are $15 ($20 for international membership) and go towards the mission of the non-profit, expanding the scientific knowledge surrounding truffles and truffle-like fungi. Due to the pandemic, classes have moved to Zoom and feature distinguished guests like Dr. Hugues Massicotte, an expert on the relationship between fungi and tree root systems from the University of Northern British Columbia. Events are and activities are free and open to the public.

Take a deep dive into the science of truffles | WhereTraveler
The North American Truffling Society takes a deep dive into the science of truffles (©Marielle Dezurick)

Oregon Truffle Festival

This year the Oregon Truffle Festival has gone 100% virtual which is good news for east coasters craving more truffle content. The festival hosts exceptional events about food and wine pairings with truffles, the science surrounding the coveted fungi, and truffle dog training. Previous events have included "Bringing it Home: Cook and Dine with Truffles and Wine" featuring James Beard award-winning chef Vitaly Paley. Paley hosted a cooking class with Stephan Hagen, farmer and winemaker at Antiquum Farms, with ample time for questions and discussion between truffle-laden courses. To get more info on events and news subscribe to their newsletter. 

Cheers to the truffle | WhereTraveler
Truffles pair well with exceptional food and wine (©Kathryn Elsesser)