Growing up in a tropical country where bananas, pineapples and mangos are part of our daily diet, I never came across anything like Truffles…. “The Diamond of the Kitchen,” as the French Gastronome Brillat Savarin called it. I remember the first time I smelled and tasted one. It was in my introduction to French Culinary Education with Chef Laundry at Le Cordon Bleu. It was a black truffle. He show the truffle to everybody and was making a huge fuss about it! It was this weird black looking fungi that almost looked like a black potato! I fell in Love with the smell and the taste. Instantly, I became a Truffle Lover!
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked for amazing French restaurants, where truffles were common place on the menus. I remember Chef Ludovic Lefevre and his amazing white truffle sauce, poured over a leg of chicken and potatoes, yum! I can still taste it every time I think of it…. I loved that sauce! Of course it was a top secret recipe… as no one ever saw him making the darn sauce! We used the “truffle slicer” (it slices it so paper thin), and served them thinly sliced, over many dishes! Its so difficult to explain the incredible aroma. It took every bit of energy I had not to dive it eating them.
There is a huge difference in the smell and the taste of a white and a black truffle. I actually prefer white truffle. To give you a little history, white truffles come from the Langhe area of the Piedmont region in Northern Italy. The most famous area for white truffles is in Alba but is also found in Croatia. Truffles grow close to the roots of tree species like beech, poplar, oak, birch and hazel. The white truffle is so fresh, and it’s cream color shows off it’s beautiful marbling when you slice it.
The best experience I ever had with a truffle was back in November of 2002, while I was working at Bastide Restaurant in Melrose, owned by TV commercial director Joe Pytka. During that time, the largest white truffle was found in Italy and was being auctioned live! It was an amazing three way truffle auction with Santa Monica CA, New York NY, and Alba, Italy all in the mix. Victory! The 2.2 pounds white truffle giant was bought for $35,000 by my former boss.
I was fortunate enough to hold this truffle in my hands!!! It was beautiful and delivered in a wooden box with guards! I was there that morning and ohhh the smell. Every time someone opened that walk-in refrigerator the whole place was taken by the smell of truffle…what a beautiful memory! It lasted for quite a while, and a whole Truffle Tasting Menu, including a truffle tea, was designed for this beauty! I even remember my a colleague making breakfast truffle omelets for Pytka!
One of my favorite pairings is one I created for “The Backroom”. It is an Italian Verde Capra goat cheese, made by Guffanti, accompanied by honey truffled, pink, green and black peppercorn sauce, and paired with a nice glass of Chianti. What an explosion of flavors in your mouth! It was also used as the finishing touch in the Mushroom Flatbread, served with sliced prosciutto, and fresh figs, as well as my favorite truffled parmegiano reggiano Mac & Cheese… I am also creating a bite size versions to be served as hors d’ouvres, for our soon to be available private chef service!
Truffles can be very expensive, but I use infused truffle olive oils to get a great value and taste. There are some really good ones on the market, which enable you get to experience of the wonderful smell and taste of truffles, without braking your bank. Tip, use a couple of drops on top of pastas, salads and even your eggs in the morning! It’s my morning favorite! Enjoy!