Posted by: Kristie | October 28, 2009

Meat, Truffles and Nicholas, Pt. 2

It’s white truffle season here in Italy. An uncultivable mushroom, the white truffle flourishes from September through December, grows underground and is sniffed out by dogs. The best place to look for it is the damp woods, where it grows in symbiosis with the roots of oaks, poplars, willows, limes and hazelnut bushes. It is said that the harder the tree’s wood, the better and more intense the truffle’s perfume and flavor. They are coveted in the food world and pricey – the record price paid for a single white truffle (3.3 pounds) was $330,000. The limited experiences I have had with truffles have been delightful. At home we’ve done a little experimenting with truffle oil and in Paris we enjoyed fresh shaved black truffles on a few dishes.

So when Nick suggested we try to go truffle hunting, we were pumped. He specifically suggested finding some big, burly Italian man to take us out, but unfortunately there were no burly men to be found. Truffle hunting ended a couple of weeks ago here in Tuscany.  But during our research, I came across information about white truffle festivals located around the country. The major one is in Alba, in the Piedmont region, the most famous area for white truffles, but the town is more than four hours north of where we’re staying. But I did come across a festival that began on Sunday, October 25 in Acqualagna, a small town roughly 45 minutes from the eastern coast. Three hours away from us, we decided the drive was worth it, especially after reading about the promised sights, smells and tastes.

We arrived around 1 p.m. after a twisty but beautiful journey through central Tuscany and possibly a little of Umbria. Although the scent of truffles didn’t completely permeate the town like we hoped, the center definitely smelled fragrant. The festival was a good size, small enough to feel intimate, but large enough to have time browse for a couple of hours.

Acqualagna Truffle Festival

Heading into the festival

Festival Crowd and Food Stands

Shot of the the crowd and food stands

Hitting the food stands first, we each stood in slow lines to order various truffle sensations. Each tent was a different restaurant serving up a somewhat limited menu – crostini, pasta, polenta, gnocchi and crespelle (the Italian version of crepes), all with your choice of porcini, black truffle or white truffle – the white truffle dishes where roughly twice as much as the black. The pasta was incredible with a good truffle taste, but I really liked the crespelle, mostly because it was different from anything else I have tasted. It was not like a French crepe, it was crispier, drier and this version was filled with cooked eggs and truffles.

Black Truffle Crostini

Black Truffle Crostini

Pasta with White Truffle Sauce

Pasta with White Truffle Sauce

Black Truffle Crespelle

Crespelle with eggs and black truffles

Happy Eating

Eating Couple = Happy Couple

After filling up, we headed to a large tent where vendors were peddling meats, cheeses, liquors and pushing plenty of samples. I especially enjoyed tasting the various types of Pecorino, the Italian sheep cheese. In the U.S., the majority is Pecorino Romano, which is aged and salty. But there are other types including a fresh version with a taste profile resembling French goat cheese.

Slicing Pork

Man slicing thin sheets of proscuitto

Cannoli

Best. Cannoli. Ever

All in all, the festival was worth the three-hour drive. It was neat to attend a local event and one of the best parts of it was the lack of Americans. After a week in touristy Tuscany, it was a nice break. The day satisfied all of our truffle cravings and we walked away with a couple of little beauties to take home.

Large Truffles

A woman showing off her huge truffles.

Nick Buying Truffles

Nick buying some truffles

White Truffles

What 10 Euros will get you in the white truffle world

Nick, Brett and I

Attempt #1 at a time-delay shot of the three of us. That wall was higher than I expected.

Nick, Brett and I

Attempt #2 - A little more successful

 Since we had a little time to kill before Nick’s train departed, we checked out the Tuscan town of Arezzo. We didn’t do much but walk around the town center and eat some delicious gelato, but it made me realize how wonderful these hill towns are at night. They’re less crowded and the lighting makes them look magical, perfect for a romantic stroll.

Arezzo Piazza

Arezzo Piazza

Arezzo Alley

Arezzo Alley (Check out the little moon)

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Responses

  1. Just for the record, the request for a burly Italian wasn’t a gay thing. I just figured they knew the most about truffles.

    • Ha! Sorry Nicholas. Didn’t mean to imply.

  2. Ahh..I remember that piazza in Arezzo. It’s a nice one. The movie “Life Is Beautiful” was filmed there.

  3. Funny you mention that because we saw Roberto Benigni come out of his driveway in Rome. Our cab driver pointed it out at the same time I recognized him. Pretty cool!

  4. Really? So cool. Love him.


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