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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Truffle Season

It's truffle season in Piemonte. You can scarcely walk into a restaurant without detecting the heavy perfume of Italy's famous white truffle, the Tuber magnatum. Read more about truffles here and here.

In Seattle I found two grocers who sold truffles from Oregon. They were small, somewhat fragrant and were packed in rice which is customary. (The rice is then later used for risotto. If you don't seal the truffles well the entire refrigerator will take on their fragrance.) When I brought the little jewels home Deme and I set out to prepare them in the simplest way possible, thinly shaved on top of pasta. I must admit I was disappointed as was Deme since these were clearly not up to par with Alba's truffles (in his opinion). He kept commenting on how they tasted like small, dry potatoes.

I had my first real Alba truffle in Las Vegas, the night Deme and I were married. Le Cirque had white truffle risotto on their menu and he insisted I try it. Even before my dish arrived at the table, I smelled it arriving. Was it all I thought it would be? Yes and no. Yes, the fragrance was amazing, earthy, heavy, intense, almost peircing, absolutely heavenly. No, the majority of the flavor of the truffle was in the fragrance, it did not taste like anything "super". I realize now it is used as an enhancement even a condiment if you will.

This is a truffle shaver; it slices paper thin slices of truffle. Although very expensive, you really don't get much per portion. Just enough to enhance your pasta, cheese, risotto or even eggs.

Here is a scrambled egg custard topped with white truffle. Notice that the truffle is not actually white at all but rather a beige almost brown color.

I'm rather miffed at my husband about the fact I missed the truffle auction today so I have no first hand photos to show you but I do have a few interesting facts:

1. Female pigs are used to find truffles because it is thought that the truffles emit a pheromone much like that of a male pig. She likes this... the bad thing is pigs like to eat almost everything in sight and often they eat the truffle too. Dogs are more preferred now since they will hunt for truffles in exchange for a pat on the head or a treat.

2. Truffles are like mushrooms, they just never break out of the ground and are entirely subterranean.

3. Truffles can be as small as walnut and as large as a fist. The largest white truffle ever found weighed around 4 pounds. The most ever paid for a truffle was $41,000 for a 2.4 pound truffle at an auction in NYC. (Where else folks?)

4. Truffles live in symbiosis with only a few kinds of trees such lindens, oaks, poplars and hazelnuts. If you want to cultivate truffles then plant a forest.

5. Truffles used to be thought of as mythical and their formation was believed to be a result of lighting strikes.

*On a side note: We have discovered the dog likes white truffles and not black ones.

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At 7:52 PM, Blogger Sara said...

I have always wanted to try scrambled eggs and truffles.

At 1:31 AM, Blogger Judith in Umbria said...

I'm sorry you got a dud! They are extremely volatile and they don't keep more than a few days. The perfume leaks away. You may have gotten one that was a few days too old.
My neighbors are truffle hunters, so I name the day I want one and get it the day before. My cats go wild! Even locked away in a jar of rice in the fridge it gets to them.
Yes, it's the perfume you get. I have served white truffle shaved over roasted turkey breast to good effect, but don't use garlic if you are using truffle.
Summer truffles are OK, too, but are nothing compared to the magnificent white winter gem of great price.
Drive out to one of the many truffle towns and get a good strong one.

At 2:31 AM, Blogger Lis said...

I had to make a quick trip to google, because the only kind of 'truffle' I'm familiar with is the chocolate kind. Chocolate growing wild in a forest? Sounded too good to be true!

And just a note to say, I only stumbled your site the other day, but I loved reading all about Italy so much that I ended up reading all the archives :)

At 2:32 AM, Blogger traveller one said...

CNN just had an item this morning on the latest 'world's largest truffle'. It looked about the size of a small dog!

At 9:56 AM, Blogger american girl in italy said...

I could never spend that kind of money on something like that!

Hey - Did you get your lasik surgery????

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous J.Doe said...

I have never tasted a real truffle, but I have tasted the chocolate tartufi that I guess are names because they look like truffles. I also tried the dessert truffle (semi freddo). Very tasty. and cheaper too!


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