Thursday, October 27, 2005

When tubers kill

Nothing says haute cuisine like tubers. Not just any tubers. I'm talking white truffles, a delicacy that has fetched more on the open market (per 100 grams) than gold! Last year a London restaurant bid 28,000 pounds (over $52,000) for a kg-sized hunk of the white gold.

I've never seen nor tasted white truffles -- probably because I haven't dined in enough Michelin star restaurant that serve them. I've had the black truffles. They taste like pungent, earthy mushrooms. The white truffles are said to be aphrodisiacs, and well worth the price of a $900 dish of pasta in white truffle sauce.

They are indeed rare, found only in remote mountain areas in Alba (northern Italy) and dotted around Umbria and Le Marche in Central Italy. This weekend I am off to Le Marche, truffle hunting in...well, I can't say where. It's a secret. Apparently, truffle secrets go to a man's grave. In years past, truffle hunters or trovatore have poisoned the truffle-sniffing dogs and pigs of rival trovatore. Murder is a small price to pay for the joy of eating a hideously formed creature that grows under trees and smells like old running shoes left in the rain.

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