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Eat this Word: White Truffles



July 13, 2009


White Truffles WHAT? Treasured tuber. “Nobody dares admit that he has been present at a meal where there was not at least one dish with truffles,” wrote France’s favorite foodie, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, in his Physiology of Taste (1825). Truffles are mysterious, underground fungi that grow in some areas, on some trees (mostly oak), in some years. They have been known throughout history, though their popularity peaked during the nineteenth and late twentieth centuries, right up to our time. Truffles are hunted by dogs and pigs (although some people swear by flies) trained to recognize the unique, pungent truffle scent. Of the 100 varieties of truffles grown naturally around the world, white truffles (tuber magnatum pico), also known as Alba truffles or Italian truffles, are the most expensive variety on the market (a three-pound sucker went for $330,000 in late 2007, setting the record for a single truffle’s price tag). Although they are also found in Slovenia and Croatia, Italian white truffles (which grown in Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Lombardy, Umbria, Piedmont, Veneto, Abruzzo, and Marche) are considered to be the best. During white truffle season, which generally lasts from the end of September through December, a tartufaio (truffle hunter) will uncover treasures that range from the size of a small pea to a large potato. Though some truffles are used in cooking, this variety should only be eaten raw, thinly shaved over simple dishes without too many flavors or ingredients to detract from their unique, heady flavor, which for centuries has been deemed indescribable. WHERE? Ulrich Koberstein’s Beard House dinner WHEN? July 15. 2009 HOW? Butter-Poached New England Lobster Risotto with Corn, Basil, and White Truffles