If you are interested in the rumblings of this blog, chances are that you are a reasonably avid restaurant patron. If so, in the course of eating the good stuff I am sure that you’ve come across those heavenly now-in-season menu “enhancers”: white truffles.
White truffles are fungi (by the way, “funguses” is now an accepted plural) that are harvested in Italy between October and December. They cannot be cultivated. Instead, they are hunted for with the help of pigs or dogs that sniff them out near the roots of certain trees. However, pigs are not the favored truffle hunters as the scent of this tuber resembles porcine pheromones to the extent that the swine go into some kind of truffle eating frenzy. So, in lieu of horny pigs, the folks that dedicate themselves to this seasonal endeavor bring their specially trained dogs to truffle grounds that are often kept as tight family secrets.
The seasonality of truffles and the lore that surrounds them certainly add to their mystique, desirability, and prices. The ancient Romans thought that they had aphrodisiac properties and that they were the product of lighting striking damp earth. I think that one of those assertions may be true…
The scent of white truffles is unique. Some call it “disconcerting”. It’s been described as a garlicky earthiness. They are usually never cooked in order to keep them as pungent as possible. Their shelf life is fleeting and for that reason they ought to be used very soon after buying them. But should you need to store them, do so in the fridge for no more than 2 days while kept covered and dry. There are several cheaper versions from, say China, but these are not considered to be of Italian quality. The town of Alba (in the Piemonte, North Italy) is the center of the tartufo universe.
There’s no denying that white truffles are expensive. Luckily, not much is needed. A gram will set you back about $200. But with your truffle shaver set just right, that will provide enough truffle “coverage” for a couple eating 4 courses each. A reasonable facsimile is truffle oil (there are also fake ones out there). I like it on pizza, omelets, and even in ice cream (yes, white truffle gelato is phenomenal). They can be delivered overnight by reputable purveyors such as Eataly. When wine pairing these dishes, the old aphorism “what grows together, goes together” is fail proof. Try a Barbaresco or some of the Piemonte whites with these dishes and you’ll know what I am talking about.
So, if over the next 2 months you feel the urge to embark on a hedonistic voyage, make sure to order some white truffles. Expensive? Yes, they are. Are they worth it?
Oink, oink (with Bow Chicka Bow Wow music in the background).
Lorenzo, the wine guy
Friends, food, and wine...I'm happy there.