While fine dining, it is very likely you have encountered truffles on the menu. Truffles are an incredibly prized ingredient, particularly the white variety because it is intensely rare. You are more likely to find black truffles mixed in with your risotto or brick-oven pizza drizzled with truffle oil because of that fact. Truffles of any kind allow restaurants to create epicurean dishes.
While both black and white truffles are subterranean fungi types that grow in the shadows of oak trees, that is about as similar as they get. Every type of truffle lends that umami to dishes, an earthy vibe that doesn’t need much else to create the perfect flavor. The Périgord truffle (black truffle) is harvested from November 15th to March 15th, and though it’s ugly as a goblin, it is wonderfully aromatic and lends a delicate flavor. It grows in the Central Apennines, in Piedmont, and in the Veneto regions of Italy.
Meanwhile, the black summer truffle, as the name suggests, is available during the summer from the beginning of May through the end of August and tastes much like porcini mushrooms. The smooth black truffle, available from the beginning of September through the end of December is most closely likened to the aroma of the white truffle and is a delight in upscale cuisine.
But the true star of the truffle show is none other than the white truffle. Sometimes called Piedmont or Alba for where they hail from in Italy, these are harvested only from October to December. A short season indeed, making them even more coveted. They grow under the earth, just a few inches down and require the keen noses of pigs or dogs to sniff them out.
In recent years, dogs have become the favored scout of white truffles simply because the pigs just can’t help being, well, pigs. Who could blame them either, for if you’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting white truffles, you know the glory it brings to any dish. These truffles can’t be cultivated, though it has been tried, adding more to the desire of gourmands across the globe, desperate to pay any amount (even well over $50,000) just to get them. Black truffles are not cheap either though, going for around $1,200 a pound, a bargain compared to the ultra-rare white truffles.
You are much more likely to catch black truffles on a menu near you, and by all means, do indulge. But if you have the pleasure to experience white truffles, which are seldom if ever cooked and shaved atop your dish, you simply must partake. Perhaps a trip to the Piedmont region during truffle season will be your best way of indulging, not like you need another excuse to visit such a beautiful place.