Monday, October 4, 2010

A Diamond in the Rough


See that dirty rock looking thing above?  That loyal readers is a white truffle and it is worth a sizable chunk of change.  A true diamond in the rough.  If diamonds were fungus that is.  But truffles are hot these days and have begun gracing every day restaurant items from fries made in truffle oil to truffle salt on the table.  

At this very moment we are in the midst of white truffle season.  Forget Fall, Halloween, apple picking, Columbus Day, etc because what is on our brain in truffles and how we are going to use them.  The big debate has been risotto or agnolotti on the Equinox Twitter feed.  By my count risotto is winning by a couple votes, but I think agnolotti could pull it out in the end.

But until decisions are made I thought it would be beneficial to all of us to know a couple fun food facts about this seasonal guest star:

1. White truffles grow symbiotically with oak, hazel, poplar and beech and fruiting in autumn
2. They grow in both Italy and Croatia but the city of Alba, Italy is the most famous for growing them and hosting a very popular white truffle market and festival.
3. This is not a fact, per se, but I just loved this line from www.lifeinitaly,com: "The white truffle might smell like earth, tree roots and old cheese, but this gastronomical object of desire, from Italy's Piedmont region, is very famous for its aroma, taste and aphrodisiac qualities."   I'm personally always looking for an old cheese smell in my aphrodisiacs. :)
4. Back in 2007 a white truffle, weighing in at 3.3. pounds, was purchased for $330,000. Wowzas!
5.  Dogs are actually specially trained to smell and hunt for these types of truffles.  (This fact actually makes me sad as I want to always imagine a truffle pig hunting for my truffles.  And upon further research I found out the dogs began to be trained to hunt for truffles, because the pigs were known for eating too many in the field! Well they are yummy, who could blame them.)
6. A local tradition of Alba is to give a prized white truffle to somebody famous each year of the festival.  Past recipients have been: Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan, and also Winston Churchill, Michel Gorbachev and celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock, Rita Hayworth, and Sophia Loren.

A pretty amazing little tuber that packs quite a punch.  Now I am really ready to get my truffle on!


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