Black truffle 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

11.5.10 Fungus Among Us

I’ve heard it said that truffles taste like dirt and I can’t really disagree, though to me they also have a distinctive musky perfume that is vaguely erotic. These hotly coveted fungi develop underground, generally in close association with certain types of trees. There are hundreds of kinds, though the most prized are those of the genus Tuber, the ones referred to by my hero the 18th-century French gastronaut Brillat-Savarin as “the diamonds of the kitchen.” The white truffle, Alba Madonna, comes from the Piedmont region in northern Italy. It grows symbiotically with oak, hazel, poplar and beech trees, and fruits in autumn—as in right now. Their flesh is pale and creamy or brown with white marbling. Prices vary from year to year according to the harvest, which is rooted out by the famed truffle-hunting pigs (and dogs, and men). This year, I've seen them at Eataly in Manhattan listed at upwards of $3,000 a pound. A counter woman was passing a white truffle the size of a small potato to a man who held it up to his nose, inhaled deeply and nodded. "Somebody's going to have a good dinner," I said. "My-a wife-a," he answered in a thick Italian accent. Better than diamonds.
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