Monday, October 14, 2013

A Special Foodie University for White Truffles

NYCFG with Lidia Bastianich & a White Truffle
NYC Foodie Girl recently attended a very special event hosted at the Metropolitan Museum for a Alba White Truffle Luncheon. When I received the invite, it seemed like I had won the lotto! What I learned about the "white gold" mushroom was extensive. What I wanted to share was the story behind the story.... How do they harvest truffles? Where do they come from?

It's not an easy answer -but for the most part, white truffles cannot be farmed -at least not without a great deal of human intervention. They grow where they want to grow and are found most abundantly in the area of Piedmont, Italy. (There is an entire debate on farmed versus natural truffles that I'll avoid here -and just get to the fun part instead!) The creatures that seek out the truffles can be specifically trained to do so.

Truffle Dog University - Barot - founded in Roddi in 1880”.  This is the curious sign that greets visitors to what may be the most unusual school in the world; it's an academy that only accepts canines. It also might be the quickest way to a degree: it takes two or three weeks of hard work to graduate.

“When someone hands a dog over to me", says Giovanni Monchiero, a specialized trainer and family member of the unique university, "the training begins with getting the dog used to identifying the smell of a truffle. Then we hide the truffle, a bit deeper in the ground each time, and when the dog manages to sniff it out it is rewarded with a tasty snack." (But of course not a truffle!)

Although there are truffles of some sort to be found - white or black - almost all year round, the training gets more intense in summer and autumn, and is always done with one dog at a time. The fees are more or less the same as you would pay for a semester at an actual university. A well-trained truffle dog can cost 10,000 Euro (about $13,600 US Dollars) or even more, but you could say it is well worth it…considering the current market rate of the special 'shrooms - CNN reported about $6000/per pound.

Be sure to get your paws on some white truffle dishes served at some of NYC's finest restaurants, but be ready to pay for the experience. It's a delicacy for a reason and it's to be experienced rather than devoured, pretty much now through December.

Oh! And another fun foodie fact about white truffles: Science has shown that the white gold mushrooms contain pheromones, subtle communicators of sexual attraction. Eau d'Tartufo Bianco anyone?



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