Truffles in Umbria
I live for eating truffles (tartufi)….
I am one of those people who have both a love, and a response to truffles that verges on something sensual. My head swims and my salivary glands come to full attention in anticipation of savoring this one-of-a-kind flavor. The truffle usually divides people into camps of ardent lovers, and camps of those who have a gagging response to anything related to tartufi. If you are the former the truffles in Umbria will take you to paradise. Not many have ambiguous feelings this gift from nature. In fact, my partner finds the smell of truffles akin to “nasty, dirty, sweaty socks”. Go figure…you’d think an Italian would have a genetic predisposition to a love of truffles.
Last Saturday, we were in Città di Castello to meet friends for lunch. And, the city’s annual truffle festival was in full force. This year, the event, which is called Il tartufo bianco, was October 21 – November 2. In the main piazza, and throughout adjoining streets were tent after tent, and stand upon stand of foods dedicated to the truffle. I love seeing the displays of freshly harvested truffles (normally ferreted out by specially trained dogs, not by pigs as many people think). The price for white truffles (prized above black truffles) easily can exceed €1,500 per kilo, and €2,000 to €3,000 per kilo isn’t unusual. That translates to $900 to $1,800 per pound.
At this festival you can stuff yourself on food samples at the different stands, and you can buy fresh truffles, truffle infused olive oil, and various dips or “crema di tartufo”. I bought some of the oil, which I love drizzled (lightly) on nicely aged pecorino sardo (pecorino from Sardegna). I also sampled some relishes made from mushrooms. All was amazing, with the exception of my mistakenly tasting a “dollop” of fegato (liver) – yeeechhhh. I guess this is how my partner reacts to truffles. I am certainly not a fan of liver in any way, shape or form.
My education is very basic when it comes to truffles, but I am certainly in the right country to further that education. I have a dear friend (also American) who has lived here in the Tiber Valley for over twenty years and she is a great resource for arranging truffle hunting expeditions. She also knows some of the best truffle recipes and the local restaurants serving the most delicious truffle dishes.
Also, during a long, leisurely lunch this past Sunday with friends, we were given the name and address a local man with a truffle shop and “lab” in Città di Castello. We can arrange to tag along when he goes truffle hunting. However, in just a few days we’ll be packing up and heading to Rome for the winter, so subsequent chapters in my truffle experiences will have to wait until next fall. Stay tuned….