Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobody knows the truffles I've seen....

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(with thanks to Melvin Orange for the title of this post)
See those very few knobby lumps of strangeness above? Well, friends, what you're looking at above is roughly $1,500 of Italian white truffles, by my estimation. That's wholesale, by the way. This week's to-the-trade price: nearly $2,500 per pound. And, I'm sorry to say, they'll cost more next week.

Today I was lucky enough to lunch with the local Los Angeles rep from Sabatino Tartufi, one of the U.S.'s biggest importers and producers of truffles and truffle products. The truffles above spent the morning in a cooler in the trunk of his car, which is where I caught up with them. They spent the afternoon being handed over to chefs at great restaurants all around Los Angeles, or at least that was the plan when we parted.

The Sabatino guy is to me what the dealer is to the heroin addict: He feeds my habit, and it really gives him a thrill to be able to do so. Specifically, my ever-intensifying truffle habit. Remember the pound of black summer truffles I got over the summer? Sabatino's. The truffle oil in my pantry? Sabatino's, too. And today Sabatino was nice enough to shower me with gifts: a jar of truffle honey, and samples of truffle slices, truffle crema, truffle salt, and truffle popcorn.

I should take the Sabatino guy to lunch more often.

Actually, I learned a lot today about the different kinds of truffles, particularly how to tell whether a truffle product uses the real thing (Italian or French), or is cut with impostor Chinese truffle shavings. The giveaway: price. If you think "Hey, what a bargain!" it's Chinese. The real thing comes with a real price tag. But I smelled those babies in the white bag above. They're worth it.

We also talked about truffles' affinity for white food: rice, pasta, cream, cheese, eggs. And how Oregon white truffles, while nice in their own way, aren't a substitute for the Italians.

And how Italian and Jewish mothers are cut from the same cloth: Both of our mothers a) hate that we've moved so far from home, b) seem satisfied with (a) as long as we're happy, and c) called while we were at lunch.

I've decided that one of my primary goals as a food blogger is to introduce home cooks around the world to the simple elegance of the truffle. As my husband put it: "Anyone who's willing to spend $500 on wine for a dinner party should spend $300 on truffles instead." Which is why I can't seem to stop writing truffle recipes. I'll leave you with a list of the ones already in my repertoire - more to come, I'm sure.


Laura said...

A) I have never spent 500 bucks on wine
B) I might don't tell my husband spend 300 bucks on truffles

Wow lunching with the big boys! So cool. Me? Yeah I'm hanging in there getting ready for snow and killing turkeys so wow our lives are total parallels. NOT

Rita Anne Smith said...

Last year I put Truffle Oil on my Amazon Xmas list. My Mum and Dad got me a bottle and I have treasured it since. I use it when making mashed potatoes for Maya, or for us, but most of all, I like to spritz it at the end of a salad or steamed vegetables. I might just have to cough up the bucks and buy me some truffles, and thanks to your recipes, I have a path to follow.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Laura - maybe not parallel in the day-to-day, but parallel in spirit. I've never spent $500 on wine either, but we do know some people here in L.A. who have. Everyone's got their priorities.

@MayazMum - I love truffle oil on mashed potatoes too! I think the best place to buy truffle products is either Surfas in Culver City, or Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica.

Laura said...

haha Erika :) I hear you can't wait to see you in November at foodbuzz eat a thon!

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