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Friday, December 18, 2015

STANFORD AND TRUFFLES

Now how would Stanford University be connected to truffles, which, for this discussion, is not the candy, but the fungus?  The latest issue of STANFORD makes this link.  First, though, a few tidbits from this publication:

  • Stanford is 125 years old, not a big deal, for the University of Hawaii is 108 and Harvard...379!
  • The Stanford Energy System Innovations program has reduced campus greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.  The goal is for  65% of the electricity to be renewable.  However, no date was provided.
  • 39,900 active companies can trace their roots to Stanford.

There were two articles that drew my particular attention.  One was entitled Fungus Among Us, about how a Stanford electrical engineering graduate, Robert Chan, son of a Taiwanese pilot and high school teacher, started what must be the first really progressive truffle company in the USA, the American Truffle Company.

Never having before tasted this mushroom (part of fungus family, and truffles are a specie of mushrooms) before, Chan had a dish of buttery tagliatelle with shaves of black Perigord truffle, said to cost upwards of $1200/pound.  He was blown away by the addictive aroma.  What made him unique is that he had also earned an MBA from Stanford.   So 13 years ago, he did some due diligence and totally changed his career to company president for a start-up, not unusual for Stanford, but never before for truffles.  

Chan:
  • found 
    • in the UK the world authority on truffle mycorrhiza (the symbiotic relationship between fungi and plant roots),  Paul Thomas, who became Chief Scientist and
    • a nursery in Oregon, which now sells oak and filbert trees inoculated with truffle spores.  (Indigenous Oregon truffles sell for 10% the European variety--because it lacks that special bouquet--but this latest innovation will make that necessary difference.)
  • convinced vineyard owners to convert their poorest lands into truffle orchards, for the revenue stream could well be five times higher/acre.
  • is looking forward to the first harvest from Robert Sinsky (right) Vineyards in Sonoma, as it takes five years for the system to mature, and T-Day will occur this Winter.
  • organized an annual Napa Truffle Festival.
  • is close to developing the uber expensive white truffle for inoculation, previously only grown in Italy.
Chan stores his eggs in truffles, which impart that distinctive perfume to satisfy his addiction.  I wonder if he imbibes Stanford wines?

If you've been reading this blog, I reported that I got almost an overdose of truffles on my Grand Around the World Adventure.  Just a lunch in Venice at Quadri on St. Mark's Square featured five courses, each with white truffles.  Even the dessert was generously topped with them.  This was probably the best meal I've ever had in my life.


Stanley Ho of Macau, of course, is noted for his truffles fetish:  he paid $330,000 for almost 3 pounds of white truffles.  That's $110,000/pound.  Here, his wife, Angela Leong, holds a 3.3 pound white truffle. 

That second article is entitled Danger Ahead, the genetic engineering of embryos, which has inspired headlines like "We Can Now Engineer the Human Race."  I'll focus on this subject in a posting next week.

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