Alana McGee and Kristin Rosenbach do not have what some would call a typical office. Rather, their office can be found under an impossibly dark canopy of pine trees. Instead of ringing phones and whirring printers, the only sounds that can be heard are the soft rain drops falling around them. Instead of stale coffee, the air smells of pine and rich earth. Instead of chatty biped co-workers, their peers wordlessly walk on four legs.
From early November until mid to late April the intrepid owners of Truffle Dog Company traipse through the woods led by their privately-owned scent dogs in search of buried treasure, truffles. Quite literally, a pound of these delectable morsels can fetch upwards of $2,500 per pound.
Truffle hunting may seem like a lucrative endeavor, however a lot of work goes in to harvesting a pound of truffles, it may take two or more day-long forays before a dog has found a pound of truffles, and even then, there is no guarantee they will be culinary quality.
“You don’t think about what goes in to getting these to market,” Rosenbach said. “You have to spend a lot of time out here hunting and getting a decent quantity.”
Once enough have been found, Truffle Dog Co. endeavors to deliver truffles to local restaurants and vendors within 24 to 48 hours of harvesting to ensure freshness according to McGee.
As a startup, the company runs on a razor thin budget, however the duo have added additional services like guided truffle hunting, online courses, and private instruction for clients and their dogs to act as a supplementary revenue source.
Additionally, the pair are dedicated to helping Eastside landowners in parts of Woodinville, Duvall, and Issaquah discover truffles on their own property. For a fee, the company can perform a land survey and if truffles are present they can even perform the harvesting for the land owner or help train the land owner’s dog to unearth the truffles.
“Everyone knows about the dogs and everyone knows about the (truffle) orchards, those are the things that are kind of out in the spotlight,” Rosenbach said. “But then there’s also aspects of private land ownership; people who don’t even know that they have an additional revenue stream on their land.”
Despite the hours in Pacific Northwest winter weather, global warming affecting their crop, and the meager returns, Rosenbach said she absolutely loves her job.
“No one is going to get rich doing this – we certainly aren’t – but it makes you happy,” she said. “My absolute favorite part is that it is never about the truffle, it is about that connection and that energy we share, the engagement with the dog, it’s organic. It makes it hard to sit down at your computer and get back to people in a timely fashion.”
Currently, the company is gearing up to host their first International Truffle Expo in Woodinville, Nov 18 through 20 to celebrate their community and everything truffle-related like seminars, cooking classes, dinners, and dog forays.
“It is the first of its kind in Washington State, we really are a mecca up here for truffles,” Rosenbach said.
Truffles are considered one of the most highly sought after, rare, and expensive foods in the world. Curious about what to do once you find some truffles? Truffle Dog Co. has some suggestions:
- Infuse your favorite cheese, butter, or oil
- Create truffle oil by submerging the truffles in olive oil
- Grate the truffle over a finished dish
- Make a truffle pesto with the recipe below
Washington Black Truffle Pesto
1 tbsp coconut oil (the flavor is amplified if you infuse the coconut oil first with truffle)
3 tbsp olive oil (again, flavor is amplified if this is pre-infused)
1 Oregon/Washington black truffle (1/2 ounce is also acceptable)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Put all ingredients in a blender and mix on high until mostly smooth, allowing all ingredients to incorporate. Chill & Serve with your favorite cracker, on bread, or on Pasta.