Can You Tell Real Truffle Oil from Fake?
Courtesy of Phaedra Cook
If a server approached your table and asked if you’d like some extra dithiapentane on your French fries, it would be a good reason to cancel the rest of your order and hoof it to a different restaurant. However, many seemingly high-end “truffle” dishes are dished out with exactly that. There aren’t necessarily any real truffles involved, but you’ll pay as if there were.
Specifically, “2,4-Dithiapentane” is a sulfur-containing compound that represents only a single component of fresh truffle flavor. It’s added to olive oil that is then packaged, marketed and sold as “truffle oil.”
Look on an ingredient label, though, and you won’t see the compound listed. The addition is often hidden by terms companies hope consumers won’t look into too deeply, such as “truffle aroma” or “truffle flavor.” The dead-giveaway term might also be on the label: “artificially flavored.” Some companies split the difference and throw in truffle shavings—and the dithiapentane for extra pungency.
That characteristic—pungency—is what diners in the United States have been acclimated to when it comes to truffle oil. A freshly-cut truffle is not stinky. It is earthy, complex and delicate. Real truffle oil is nothing more than olive oil infused with raw truffles.
2,4-Dithiapentane represents only one particularly aromatic compound of the many that naturally occur in truffles. The resulting oil smells and tastes very one note. Imagine extracting only the citric acid from a tomato, adding it to water and then declaring it “tomato juice.” It would be nothing more than tart water—a poor representation of what tomatoes really taste like. Arguing that the chemically augmented version of truffle oil is superior would be akin to saying that rose-scented air freshener is better than sniffing the fresh flower for which it means to evoke.
Unfortunately, diners’ acclimatization to fake truffle oil, and its ubiquity, means they might not recognize real truffle oil when it’s presented to them. DR Delicacy’s real white truffle oil is very subtle and nuanced. On its own, the aroma has hints of mushroom, fried potato (perhaps that’s why it ends up on French fries so often), and muted earthy notes. High-quality olive oil is used, and those flavors come through as well. Because of the delicate scent and flavor, it’s an ideal finishing oil for mild vegetables (such as white asparagus and squash), non-bitter greens (like chard), egg dishes (soufflés, for example) and over pasta. It’s outstanding drizzled onto chilled soups, like green pea and vichyssoise.
DR Delicacy’s black truffle oil is much more aromatic than the white, thanks to being infused with the bold black winter truffles from France & Italy. (For those who have had the fake stuff and like it, this is your ideal bridge for transitioning to the real deal.) It’s so flavorful that it holds up well to all kinds of roasted meats—including steak, lamb and duck—and is an ideal companion to wild mushrooms. Try a drizzle over beef carpaccio dressed with fried capers for a knockout dish.
Here’s a final argument for choosing authentic truffle oil: in many cases, the fake stuff is just as expensive. The 250-milliliter bottle of DR delicacy white truffle oil is $21.50. The black truffle version is even less expensive: $18.90. A quick search at Amazon will prove that the savings on augmented “truffle oil” hardly justifies buying it.
If you are not sure if you have ever had real truffle oil, we encourage you to give ours a try. It’s a small investment, and a little goes a long way in adding luxury to dishes—real luxury.