Truffles, those funky and flavorful funghi that are typically found underground near the roots of trees by specially trained dogs, are beloved by foodies the world over.
And luckily for us, we're currently in the midst of peak truffle season. But what should you know about truffles before ordering them at a restaurant or enjoying them at home? Read on....
First off, there are two types of truffles: white and black. My favorite is the white truffle, which is extremely hard to find. Alba, located in Piedmont among the hills of northern Italy's famed Langhe region, is famous for its white truffles.
Each year in early October, the town of Alba has a truffle fair during which truffle hunters and merchants show their products. Umbria also produces a fair number of white truffles annually.
Generally, truffles are available all year long, but the white truffle is only available from autumn until December. Peak season always takes place from November to December, which is perfect timing for Thanksgiving and the holidays.
However, production is controlled by weather conditions. If it’s too dry, the truffles cannot grow. Ideal conditions include a very rainy summer followed by a humid autumn, which means this year, there should be a strong supply of truffles.
Each season, the supply directly impacts the price when combined with the already limited availability of these truffles, which is why they’re so expensive. The smaller the production, the more each truffle costs.
Here's a few things to keep in mind when enjoying truffles:
When Ordering Truffles in Restaurants...
Ask about its origin
You should always ask where the truffle is from.
Buy truffles by weight or shave
You should also know that there are two ways to pay for truffles: by the gram or by the shave. When you order by the gram, a server should come tableside with a scale to show you’re paying for what you ordered.
When you order by the shave, you should check if the menu lists “one shave costs X.” Otherwise, if the price is not fixed, the waiter may shave more than you want to use or spend money on.
Understand the difference between white and black truffles
If the truffle is high-quality, 3-4 grams of the white truffle is enough for one meal and approximately 10 grams of black truffle will do the trick.
Black truffles don’t have a strong taste or smell, so they’re priced more reasonably. Because of this, I always recommend that truffle novices try black truffles first before graduating to the rarer white truffle.
Know which dishes pair with truffles
All truffles are best complimented with eggs—either fresh egg pasta, or egg yolk. Fonduta (Fontina cheese mixed with eggs yolks and milk to create a creamy cheese sauce) with truffle on top is the best.
When Buying Whole Truffles...
When you purchase a truffle, we recommend eating it that same day, or within three days maximum—the sooner the better. If you’re not eating it the same day you buy it, avoid subscribing to these common myths:
Don't put truffles in rice
Storing it in rice will dry your truffle out, and it will be less flavorful.
Don't freeze truffles
This will also ruin the flavor .
Don't cook raw truffles
Truffles are meant to be eaten raw. If your truffle feels spongy, then it's already old and only then is acceptable to cook it into butter or pasta.
Dino Borri is Eataly's vice president of purchasing. Head to Eataly.com to order them online before truffle season ends.