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The White Truffle – Queen of the Piedmont

If any product is sought after in the culinary world it is the truffle. Some humble fried eggs can be transformed into a veritable delicacy by simply adding thin sections of this aromatic fungus. One of the most coveted varieties is the white truffle found around the Piedmontese town of Alba. Also known under its scientific name, tuber magnatum pico, it is regarded as the “Mozart of fungi” or “white diamond” ofhaute cuisine.In addition to its exquisite taste, truffles are also noted for being one of the most expensive products on the market. When it comes to prices, they can even unseat another gastronomic gem – saffron. In many instances, the price of truffles can be in the €3,000 to €6,000 price range. The record was set by a Hong Kong buyer who in 2010 paid a whopping €90,000 for a truffle!

The main reason for white truffle fetching such high prices is that it is in short supply and difficult to extract. It is found some ten to fifteen centimetres under the ground, where the humidity and freshness conditions are ideal for its growth. Care has to be taken to avoid damaging or breaking the truffle when extracting it, a task requiring some skill and delicateness. Formerly, pigs were used for this purpose, a function now performed by dogs, which also happen to be less likely to consume their find. The truffle-hunting season is limited to autumn and the procedure usually takes place at night, when the sniffer dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell.

Apart from the leading chefs, the host of white truffle enthusiasts includes such celebrities as Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Gérard Depardieu, Alain Delon, Penélope Cruz and Oprah Winfrey. One of its outstanding properties is that it does not require cooking, while its scent is highly volatile.

The Great White Truffle Fair

The International Alba White Truffle Fair is held each year in October and November, a grand event which unfolds around this prized natural delicacy but also features tributes to other culinary marvels in the area. The Alba White Truffle Auction is the crowning moment of the fair. Held in the Hall of Masks at Grinzane Castle, is attracts a worldwide following. Incidentally, the auction also involves a good cause, as part of the proceedings are donated to charity.

The fair programme also includes the so-called White Truffle Market where visitors can enjoy themselves by examining, touching and smelling these gastronomic delicacies, all endowed with the relevant quality certifications and displayed amid strict security. Of the many activities hosted is the Alba Truffle Show, which includes debates between prestigious chefs and live cooking sessions at which secrets are revealed regarding ways of getting the most out of the truffle.

However, the limelight is not exclusive to the tuber magnatum pico at this fair, as areas are also dedicated to the region’s gastronomy. The Truffle Market stalls display local produce, notably cheese, sausage, meat, homemade pastries and egg-based pasta. Wines, too, are very much in evidence, including Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Favorita, Arneis and Moscato.

Fancy discovering this world of taste and aroma? Check out your flight here.

 

Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Photos by Blue moon in her eyes

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