Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Luxury item of the day

I've been immensely curious about truffles. Not the chocolate kind, the mushroom kind. I knew three things about them: 1) they are very expensive, 2) they are very tasty, and 3) they are hunted down by specially trained female pigs.

I know a couple more things now. Truffles grow on the roots of truffle oaks, just below the surface, and cannot be cultivated (hence the pigs). Black truffles generally come from France and white truffles from Italy's Alba, Piedmont and Umbria regions (lesser-regarded grey truffles are from North America). Expensive is an understatement: one kilogram can go as high as $1,250 to $1,500. I saw one tiny truffle that was $30. King of the fungi, diamond of cookery, gem of poor lands, black pearl ... indeed!

Which is how I came to buy a jar of white truffle honey at Chandler & Rudd instead. Restuarant Lulu's clover honey, infused with white truffle oil, won awards for "Outstanding Condiment" at food expos when it first came out, if you care about that kind of thing. Best of all, at $8, it was a much safer experiment, financially speaking. Plus, I'm not sure I'd know what to do with one dried up mushroom.

We first tried it on fresh Italian bread from the Stone Oven. And were overwhelmed and didn't know what to think. The next day we tried it again on the same bread, but toasted. And we liked it much better.

It's not a bit like anything I expected. Earthy. Penetrating. Intense. Flavorful. Rich. Did I mention earthy?

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