December 6, 2023 – A full 246 years have passed since the Austro-Hungarian imperial governor Otto von Tauben mentioned that truffles paid for in gold can be found in the Slavonian region. However, since 1777, truffles in Slavonia or in any of the restaurants in the area have hardly shown face.
It seems that truffles are nowhere to be found on the menus of restaurants or hotels anywhere in Slavonia, but that does not mean that you cannot find them there. Julija Ivanišić, director of the Terra Negra country club and Crna Svinja restaurant explains how for SiB.
The Love for Truffle (paste)
“We had an exclusive birthday celebration and the guest requested truffles. We don’t have them on the menu, nor do other restaurants. That doesn’t mean we won’t introduce them, as our menus are changing,” reveals Ivanišić, stressing that the reason for the absence of truffles on the menu is, understandably, the price, which can range from 1,500 to 2,000 euros per kilogram. The price could be lower, she says, but if it is on the menu even in an amount of just a few grams, the price of the meal will certainly be higher than what the guests are used to. However, there is a substitute for truffles, an exceptional paste with a very small amount of truffles, and at a much more affordable price. It is therefore not a surprise when guests in their restaurant choose dishes containing it.
Tomica Đukić, the chef of the restaurant at the Josić winery, confirmed that there are occasional requests for truffles there, but not very often. At the same time, Đukić says that they occasionally receive offers from truffle hunters, and then, he explains, they decide whether they’re buying them or not.
“The philosophy revolves around the fact that a dish with grated truffle can become more expensive by around five to six euros due to the weight of the truffle itself. We know that truffles are expensive, they have their price, and it is much easier to sell them at the coast than here in Slavonia”, explains the celebrated Slavonian chef. He adds that he hopes that, regardless of all the above, truffles will soon be available in Slavonian restaurants and hotels. He emphasizes that the truffle is a very sensitive plant, that is, a specific product that, if there are not enough consumers, is also expensive for restaurants. At the Croatian coast, this is not the case, he says, so with a higher consumption of truffles, it is easier for truffle growers to sell them there. He also says that the availability of truffles in Slavonia is not distributed, that is, they are not a permanent part of the offer.
It is interesting that the Crna Svinja restaurant has its own supplier from Slavonia, albeit not a permanent one. SiB contacted him, and he had no problem talking about this original hobby, now a business. Understandably, though, it was under the condition of hidden identity, but also the location where he finds truffles. Let’s call him a young Slavonian who, together with his team, hunts for truffles and loves what he does.
“None of us likes to reveal locations too much because we require many kilometers under our feet to find them. Personally, I would love the truffle to become much more of a thing in Slavonia in the long term, especially since, according to DNA analyses conducted in Sweden, Slavonian and Istrian truffles are completely identical. I don’t know why the market in Slavonia did not recognize the truffle when there are people who love it. It’s one of those tastes that you either love or hate. However, I am of the opinion that the menus should include, for example, white Slavonian pizza with white sauce, hard cheese, Slavonian ham, and truffles,” concludes the interlocutor, drawing a parallel with Zagreb where, as he vividly describes, people are crazy about truffles. Nevertheless, the truffle should definitely be a brand of Slavonia and a huge story, this connoisseur will say. It is now up to the restaurants to recognize this.
“Restaurants and hotels should offer truffles so that they eventually become recognized and have their own market, and at the same time to brand themselves. My opinion is that the greatest potential in Slavonia is the planting of mycorrhized seedlings, that is, the fertilization of hazelnuts or oak trees with truffles”, concludes this Slavonian, otherwise a passionate lover of the search for truffles, which he markets abroad, and only a small part in Croatia.
The truffle is a treasure, he believes, that we have under our feet. The restaurants, he believes, should start the story, whether using white or black truffle, because each has its special aroma. After all, he says, Slavonia has another trump card up its sleeve, which is river fish that go well with truffles. When it comes to meat, they are good in combination with game, beef and pork as well.
And those who will surely know how to pair truffles are students of the Hospitality and Tourism School Osijek. Director Andrej Kristek points out that they recently had a lesson on mushrooms that can be found under oak trees in Papuk and Krndija. However, Kristek did not see or hear that anyone had truffles on offer.
“Some like experimenting and using truffle paste in their dishes, but that’s not the real thing. By the way, when it comes to truffles, they can rarely be found on menus. Our students only get to see them at workshops, and that’s if some famous chefs come and introduce them,” says Kristek. He believes that the mushroom should definitely be on the menus of local restaurants and hotels. Also, the truffle needs to be presented better in order for people to know what it is all about, but also so that this expensive food item is finally recognized as coming from Slavonia.