Friday, November 5, 2010

Pay Dirt in Alba

Trofie Wife suspects that when most of you hear the word “truffle,” you think of delectable chocolates filled with yummy ganache. While I’m a fan of those too, when fall comes around in Italy, a different kind of tartufo is on everyone’s mind. Those would be the little, oddly shaped (and to some, oddly smelling) mushrooms uncovered by enterprising dog snouts in Italy and discerning pig snouts in France (either country, Trofie Wife’s in animal heaven!), which are fiercely guarded by the humans who get paid for the animals’ work.  These fungi don’t come cheap, with restaurants all over the world paying huge sums for seemingly small portions. We got to see the lumps on display at Alba’s famed market, behind glass as if they were jewels. We exercised frugality, however, and thankfully managed to spend less than 20 euros on one white truffle (Alba’s famous for these) and a handful of small black ones. 

Martello and I had actually selected to go that first weekend of November (the fair’s about a month long), because it was dedicated to the truffle-sniffing dogs and their owners (it might have been the other way around, but the dogs should always get top billing in my opinion). However, hard as we looked, said dogs didn’t seem to be on display anywhere. Yet fate shined down upon me anyway, and I met these guys in the piazza

Sadly, they did not follow me home...maybe I should consider dousing myself in truffle oil in the future...
We had a delicious truffle-infused lunch (the local pasta is a thin egg variety called tajarin) and brought back a number of delicacies—the above-mentioned truffles, truffle oil, truffle butter, pasta, cheese, wine, and even some chocolate truffles (why not?). Truffles keep best hidden in rice, so we slipped the white and black ones in there for safe keeping. Later that week we made a risotto with the white and then just barely had enough time for another round of tajarin with the black truffles before they turned. 

Martello still thinks truffles smell a bit like stinky feet. But having soaked in enough Italian foodiness these past two years, he now appreciates them (but still thinks they’re ridiculously overpriced). 

Baci e gelato,
Martello e Trofie Wife

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