It’s that time of year again — truffle season. Whether you prefer the black Périgord truffle or the white Alba truffle, these Chicagoland restaurants will happily shave the good stuff over your favorite dishes. Truffle season typically lasts until January, so carpe diem! Here’s where to get your fix of these pungent tubers before they are gone.
18 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-578-0763
Both white and black truffles get the star treatment at this Italian restaurant in the Loop. Executive Chef Chris Gawronski loves cooking black truffles rather than just serving them raw to enhance their unexpected sweet flavor. Try the black truffle torta ($40) filled with an airy black truffle mousse, then topped with a drizzle of 100-year-old balsamic vinegar from Modena. Sometimes he’ll switch it up, serving what’s basically a giant truffle cream puff — pâte à choux dough piped full of the same savory black truffle mousse with inky craquelin, a little hazelnut praline, and fresh shaved truffles. White truffles are highlighted in a classic Acquerello risotto ($75) with seven-year-old parmigiano cheese and the finest Tuscan olive oil.
660 N. State St., Chicago, 312-202-6050
Executive Chef Nate Henssler is know for his inventive fish dishes at Portsmith, so it’s only natural that he pairs black truffles from Rare Tea Cellars with seafood. In spring, he served haddock with truffles in a chervil broth, but for winter he goes a little heavier, serving cod ($38) with a black truffle inlay, wrapping the fish in shoestring potatoes then pan-frying it in clarified butter. “The idea is to process the cod such that it has a nice fat vein of black truffle running along the inside as we roll it,” Henssler explains. “I love serving rich meat-based sauces with fish. That’s why we pick this up with a hearty Bordelaise with pieces of bone marrow.” His recommended wine pairing? En Route’s Pinot Noir.
1639 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-360-9500
The eight-course tasting menu ($165) at Acadia includes both black and white truffles from Umbria, beginning with a savory one-bite potato truffle tart. Chef Ryan McCaskey hand-picks his truffles from Marinello Truffle. “We are very particular in choosing,” he says. “I prefer the ones that are dense, have a smoother outside and are rounder with a fragrant aroma.” A few courses later, cauliflower gets the truffle treatment; a foundation of cauliflower-Hornbacher cheese Mornay sauce is topped with fermented mushroom and riced cauliflower with a blanket of fresh white truffle and osetra caviar. “The cheese has a buttered potato quality that pairs perfectly with white truffle,” McCaskey says.
1840 W. North Ave., Chicago, 312-757-4444
Bucktown’s new hearth-inspired restaurant is shaving truffles at cost on literally any dish you want. The most prized white truffles from Alba will be available for the next two to three months starting at $50. Chef Danny Grant especially loves shaving black or white truffles over fluffy buttermilk pancakes with a light drizzle of raw honey from Chicago Honey Co-op, lots of butter, and a little Maldon sea salt. Grant first discovered this unexpected pairing of earthy mushroom and sweet syrup the night after Thanksgiving. “I woke up to make pancakes for my family and saw my leftover truffles,” he says. “A lightbulb illuminated and the rest is history.” Skip the coffee and pair this indulgent breakfast with white Burgundy wine.
120 W. Monroe, Chicago, 312-801-8899
Wendy’s classic frosty and fries combo inspired Executive Pastry Chef Chris Teixeira to make his sweet and savory truffle dessert at Steadfast in the Loop. Instead of French fries, he makes a pomme soufflé that he fills with truffle fondue and serves alongside a black truffle soft serve ice cream ($18). “For the black truffle soft serve, we make it using truffle pieces that we infused into the ice cream,” Teixeira says. “Those tend to break down after cooking so we fold in small dices of them as well after spinning the ice cream.”
108 E. Superior St., Chicago, 312-573-6888
The Peninsula Chicago’s new rooftop lounge just launched brunch, with luxurious dishes like a lobster omelet ($45) with butter-poached Maine lobster, prestige white sturgeon caviar, Burgundy truffles, tarragon, and chervil. “We use specific truffle suppliers who are still using the traditional method of harvesting by dogs,” Z Bar’s Chef Tournant Jason Xu says. “They can smell the truffles buried deep beneath the forest floor and are trained not to disturb the root structures that surround the trees, keeping the process more sustainable.”
1227 W. 18th St., Chicago, 312-526-3851
Nothing could be more indulgent on a cold winter day than black truffle and foie gras fondue ($16) at this beer-centric restaurant in Pilsen. Executive Chef Michael Galen wanted to make these luxury ingredients more accessible to diners. “Someone may not order foie gras or truffles when they see them as a dedicated dish or an add-on,” he explains. “Our hope is that the fondue twist makes it easier for people to try.” Gruyère cheese is melted into Mornay sauce with a splash of Madeira wine and the gut-busting addition of foie gras. Shaved black truffles permeate the rich dish and toasted breadcrumbs top it all off with a crunch.
6755 N. Cicero Ave., Lincolnwood, 847-696-6755
Phil Stefani is a huge truffle fan and he’s importing only the best white truffles from Alba, Italy, that will be available at Stefani Prime shaved fresh on your choice of risotto parmigiano or taglierini (both $55.95) through the end of December. “Both of these dishes have very simple ingredients that are lightly coated in butter and light parmigiana,” Stefani explains. “The coating of the creamy butter gives the risotto and taglierini the ability to absorb the strong aroma flavor of the white truffle without overpowering it or taking away from its unique flavor. The white truffles are the star of the show while everything else is the supporting cast.”
As you dine at these local restaurants, take a moment to remember that not everyone is so easily able to enjoy such fabulous food. Feed your stomach, then your soul by joining the fight to end world hunger.
Amber Gibson spends 340 nights a year in hotels searching for the latest and greatest in the travel industry. Her writing and photographs have appeared in print, online, and on the radio for outlets including Four Seasons Magazine, NPR, Saveur, Departures, Rhapsody, Hemispheres, American Way, Private Air, Wine Folly, Plate, Chicago Magazine, Tasting Table, and Serious Eats. She graduated as valedictorian from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and received a fellowship to attend the 2017 Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley. Champagne, dark chocolate, and gelato are her biggest weaknesses. She also admires and supports CAASE in Chicago. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.