Truffles are a delicacy that only a few have ever experienced. Described as having an intoxicating smell, the mere scent of truffles can increase the appetite. While we know that salt and pepper have a compelling feature that gives dining a more memorable experience, it is said that truffles go one step further and unleash emotions upon taking that first bite.
Truffles are a type of underground fruit resembling a mushroom that develops from the roots of trees. Black truffles (Tuber magnatum) are found next to oak trees and yes, the old stories of dogs and hogs rooting up the ground to find the precious black diamonds is true. Hunters have to be very cautious of an animal team lest they find the day’s prize consumed. Commercially grown truffles are now being pursued in France, Chile, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, USA and South Africa by using offshoots of oak trees containing truffle spores.
So why aren’t we all stuffing ourselves on Thanksgiving with a big platter of truffles? Truffles are a delicacy. But they are rare. The best black truffles are only found in France’s Perigord region. Many chefs consider their texture and aroma exquisite to any other truffles.
White truffles are even harder to find. Located in the Alba region of Italy, they have a sharper, peppery flavor. Truffles are only found during the months of October through February and are best when prepared fresh.
Auctions can be found where thousands of dollars exchange hands for one meager truffle that is of the right consistency and size. Fresh truffles typically retail for $300-500 per ounce. Powders and oils are also offered for those that just want a taste of the succulent treat.
The preparation of truffles is a delicate matter. As truffles are a delicacy, only the finest chefs are trusted with blending the flavors of these underground mushrooms with cuisine that intensifies the aroma and taste.
Few restaurants in the United States are creative enough to master this craft. One establishment, Le Bernardin on 51st street in New York, uses the magnificent cuisine of Chef Eric Ripert to bring truffles the glory deserved. Excitement surrounds the kitchen during black truffle season that immediately follows the white truffle season. February is a great time to try out this restaurant’s newest displays of sensual truffle dishes.
Truffles are considered one of the most esoterically ingredients found on earth. Select a restaurant with four stars that have an artistic reputation for serving the succulent morsels or shaved pieces of truffles in a truly magnificent dish for a memory you will never forget.