At last, it’s the truffle season. Sure, they’re pricey, but they’re also the true taste of autumn. If you’ve seen “truffle” on a menu, you probably also saw a hefty price tag too, and that is because truffles don’t come cheap. The finest white specimens sell for between $6,000 and $10,000 a pound.
They may not look like much, but to chefs and gourmets around the world, truffles are the diamonds of gastronomy. So now the real question arises, are they worth it? Truffles are exotic, prized and coveted, synonymous with luxury and fine dining, but very few people know the exact answer to the question:
“What is a truffle?”
A truffle is a fungus or mushroom of the genus Tuber. Although all truffles grow the same way, there are over 40 truffle species in the world. The most well-known species are the winter white, winter black, Muscat black, musky black, Chinese black, summer black, autumn black, and white truffles. Although there seems to be a huge variety and sub-variety in the truffle family, many of them aren’t edible. The Italian and French countryside are the most popular truffle growing spots in the world, while some species grow in the Pacific Northwest and Australia, too.
Truffles are expensive for various reasons. Firstly, they aren’t something people can easily farm or harvest- they’re wild and picky about how and where they grow. Truffles usually grow underground, near or right beneath the root of oak trees, beech, pine trees and poplars. They have a short season, often appearing only a few months of the year and grow extremely slow. A good truffle (rare Italian whites) can take as long as six years to get harvested, with absolute no guarantee if the root fungi will grow at all. This is why harvesting truffles is very tricky and requires a lot of time and effort. Trees need to be planted in the right soil conditions, inoculated with truffle fungus, constantly checked and often irrigated numerously to get the best product.
Truffles can be challenging to grow, but they’re even more challenging to find. Hunters rely on animals with great sense of smell to help find them. As truffles mature, they naturally release smelly compounds, attracting animals like pigs. But this can be a problem as pigs might also eat-up the valuable truffles. That’s why dogs are now preferred over pigs as hunters because they don’t rip up the countryside the way pigs do. Once the tubers have been discovered, hunters literally have just days to sell them to a distributor as it takes less than four days for the natural truffle gas to dissipate. The aroma of a freshly picked truffle is what makes the truffle what it is, a unique aroma that mimics mammalian reproductive pheromones.
Finally, it is distributed and sold around restaurants. It takes thousands and thousands of truffle hunters to supply those little bits of truffle shavings that finally make up to dishes, and that’s a lot of work for a little reward. They’re usually served in paper-thin shavings, sitting atop gently-flavored canvas of egg, pasta, risotto and pizzas. They’re also famously paired up with white and red wine as they carry strong flavors and aromas that complement truffles taste and texture.
All of this intense hype might have you thinking, what does a typical truffle taste like? Different truffles give out different flavors. Black truffles give off a pungent aroma and usually taste better when cooked. The flavor is often described as being nutty or earthy, almost mushroomy.
Whereas White truffles are somewhat more subtle by comparison, though still completely discernible when added to any dish. They give off a musky aroma and deliver a taste that’s typically described as being slightly garlicky.
Now that we know so much about truffles, let’s set you off with few of the best truffle restaurants offering the best luxury truffle infused deliciousness, in the world:
1.France: Chez Bruno
Often recognized as one of the best truffle restaurants in the world, food in Chez Bruno is Truffle Heaven. What started out as a main product slowly developed into a whole menu. Chez Bruno uses over 7000 kg of different truffle species per year and prides itself in having a menu offering truffles in every dish, dessert included. Pommes de Terre Aux Truffes is one of their best dishes.
2.Italy: Castello di Sino
Apart from being nestled in the beautiful Le Langhe in Piedmont, this luxury hotel finds itself among much celebrated cuisine. They dish up some of the most delectable white truffles specials – all served with 5 grams of shaved white Alba truffles. Dishes include Piemontese Sirloin Steak with Truffle Sauce, White Truffle Soufflé and Open Ravioli with Truffle Ragu, to name a few.
As with everything London’s favorite Italian restaurant Gloria does, its truffle offering is decadent and fun. The Pasta al Tartufo is the house special, offering a lot more truffle infused dishes on the menu. Bon Appetite!
4.New York: B&B
Offering a juicy patty topped with creamy Robiola cheese, a generous slathering of truffle aioli and a good shaving of white truffles, B&B’s burgers are not just any truffle burgers, they’re the true definition of truffle heaven. Now if this isn’t quite enough to make you drool, the restaurant offers Steak Tartare with shaved white truffles, too!
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