Black Truffles are considered the â€œDiamond of the Dining Table.â€ At Euro 280 ($360) per kilo at this shop in Rome, they seem like a â€œbargainâ€ when compared to the finest Iranian saffron, which I might call the â€œBleeding Rubiesâ€ at upwards of $1,500-2,000 per kilo (you only need a few strandsâ€¦) or Beluga caviar, or â€œBlack Pearlsâ€ at upwards of $3,000 a kilo for the finest quality purchased in Europe (no longer legal in the U.S.). I have only tasted dishes with black truffles a half dozen times in my entire life and while they were generally memorable, it must have been partially aided by the great hubbub that surrounds this vaunted ingredient. Whatâ€™s the big deal, anyway?â€¦ I mean, folks grow fungus on their feet that hogs could find but wouldnâ€™t dare eatâ€¦
Black Truffles are a fungus that grow completely underground, typically on the roots of certain oak trees with whom they have a â€œcloseâ€ relationship. The fungus â€œripensâ€ after several months of growth and it is at that point that hogs are traditionally used to sniff them outâ€¦but try and discourage a hog that has found a truffle from EATING it! So today, dogs are more likely the partner of choice for a truffle hunter. Truffles have a very strong and distinctive fragrance and taste and I struggled for a while to figure out how to describe themâ€¦but the only way I could think off was that they tasted like TRUFFLE-Yâ€¦ I know, that doesnâ€™t help if you haven’t tasted it yet, so youâ€™ll just have to try some when you have a chance. Black summer truffles from Italy are more common, less sought after, possess a milder flavor and cost a lot less than the black winter truffles from the Perigord area of France which might cost 4-6x more. Truffles are best shaved onto pastas, risottos or eggs to best enjoy their pungent aroma and unique taste. I have read in several places that just placing bits of truffles near eggs imparts a wonderful flavor to the eggs that are then cooked (usually scrambled) afterwardsâ€¦ You only use a few grams of truffle per serving so the cost is actually less extravagant on a per serving basis than some good caviar. And for the curious, no, I did not buy any truffles and was just content with taking a photo instead… But in retrospect, I should have as a small real truffle may have cost about the same as the two tartufo desserts in the previous post! Finally, if you want to get a taste but can’t fathom buying the real thing…try some good truffle oil that has the essence without the damage to the wallet.