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Preview: Napa Truffle Festival & Restaurant Month

January in Napa Valley has officially been dubbed “Restaurant Month,” and brings with it Napa’s 2nd Annual Truffle Festival. A traditionally slow time of year, the Valley is tempting Bay Area locals with a full month of foodie specials and a celebration of the world's most expensive fungi at “America’s premier truffle event.”

If you mention “Restaurant Month” at any of these locations this January, you’ll get hooked up with benefits ranging from a complimentary glass of bubbly and discounted dining to clever and reasonable menus like Auberge Du Soleil’s pre-fixe lunch for $20. Most venues in Napa are participating so you can indulge without overspending, but for those of us who love fancy fungi, the Napa Truffle Festival is the main attraction.

At its most basic level, a truffle is just a flavorful mushroom. For chefs and food lovers they are a rare delicacy that provides an abundance of creative flavor options and tasty additions to staples like french fries (try the truffle fries at Bouchon).

The festival has serious and scientific seminars on everything from growing truffes to finding and cooking these scarce treats, but there is plenty to do for non-truffle-lovers too. VIP wine experiences and wine parings will be hosted by internationally-renowned Michelin Star chefs who are serving truffle-laden menus at prestigious Napa wineries like Raymond Vineyards and Mondavi. If you want to make a day of it but skip the seminars, Oxbow Public Market is hosting cooking demos all day Monday, has a free truffle marketplace, and is surrounded by winery collectives and artisan foods.

If you're into wining and dining with famous chefs but aren't so sure about truffles, click here for the whole story, or keep reading for a basic explanation from the experts at the American Truffle Company:

Truffles are a rare 'underground mushroom' that grow on the roots of specific species of trees, such as Oak, and have been a coveted delicacy since the time of the Greeks and Romans. The two main species of Truffle are the black winter truffle and the summer truffle. Both are highly prized by top chefs and connoisseurs around the world for their exquisite flavor and command high prices that can exceed $1,000.00 per lb.