Behold, The Mighty Truffle!

October 11, 2010

If we were discussing jewelry, it would be the Hope Diamond. If it were clothing, it would be a little black dress designed by Coco Chanel herself. But what kind of food could possibly live up to these standards? It would have to be one of the most rare and expensive ingredients that can safely be incorporated into cuisine. It's complexity enables the layering and building of flavors, while the package it comes in is surprisingly simple. It is yearned for, by foodies and chefs alike, and it is of humble origin. What is this culinary treasure, this holy grail of the kitchen? Often imitated but never duplicated, it simply couldn't be anything other than the truffle.

If the very word "truffle" brings a small sigh of remembered contentment and wishfulness, you are not alone. The truffle is universally agreed upon to be the epitome of fine dining ingredients. So important is it that this small fungi has not only one but several different festivals in Italy dedicated to it throughout the year, most occurring in the fall when truffles are traditionally harvested.

Many Quintess members enjoy good food and good ingredients, and those who have visited properties in the Tuscany region love their proximity to the local wineries, stunning countryside and local cuisine. Now, there's something else to keep Tuscany as one of your favorite Quintess properties: the National White Truffle Festival of San Miniato. This year marks the 40th annual celebration of these pale delicacies. You can check out past festivals as well as the activities that are being planned for this November. At the festival, you can learn all about truffle collection (and even sign up for a hunt yourself!), as well as about the subtle differences that truffles can go through from year to year.

Besides the large main fair held yearly, many of the towns in the region also host smaller festivals around their favorite gastronomic fungus. These fairs and festivals have stalls where you can examine and pick your own delicacies. Since truffles lose their flavors and aromas within several days of being picked, just imagine the amazing meals you and your family can create back at the villa. While it is always recommended that you buy direct from truffle hunters, you can be assured that every truffle you purchase from the area will be up to par, since the Truffle Association maintains a high standard for all those truffle transactions. Want to make that flavor last longer? Think about making things like truffle honey and truffle butter to keep that amazing product as versatile and fresh as possible.

While the possibilities may be endless, truffle season lasts only several weeks and is something you should keep on your radar for future exploration. How would you use your truffles? What would you like to see/try/explore at the truffle festival?

~ Laura, Guest Contributor