What's white, black and delicious all over?
OK, let's get it out of the way - truffles are not mushrooms, and we're not talking about anything stuffed with ganache. We're talking tubular melanosporum (and Tuber Magnatum), baby!
Most famously found truffle pigs (now more dogs, as they don't eat as many) in the hills of Piedmont, white truffles are the rare treasure found beneath the soil, spawned on the roots of certain trees such as hazelnut, chestnut or oak. The black truffle similarly is usually found at the base of oak trees. Unlike its white namesake, has been able to be reproduce in regions outside of France, where it's most commonly found - even the US has had success in cultivating black truffles.
But what's the big deal, anyway? Well, honestly, they're so delicious that it's hard to hold off. If you've been in a moderately nice restaurant in autumn, ever, you know the smell.
But the unknown is scary, right? Let us help you out. White Truffles
Each year, Alba holds a white truffle festival that is among the most popular food events in the world. These rarities have become more commonly found in the finest American restaurants as well, thankfully, because we hate to miss out.
White truffles are usually a marbled tan-and-white color, found both tiny and enormous in size. They're softer than black truffles, and very sensitive to humidity and temperature - don't wait a week to use one up!
Because of their softness, a truffle shaver (not grater) is best, and the goal with a white truffle should be to shave pieces that float down through the air the way a sheet of paper would flit about. They should almost melt onto the pasta, risotto or whichever dish you're preparing. We would highly recommend only shaving onto hot dishes, as the white truffle's texture can feel strange if cold or if shaved too thick. However - leave the truffle in a container with eggs, or add the finely shaved remainders into an ice cream base if you really want to utilize every last bit of that gorgeous aroma.
With soft pastas, such as tagliatelle or gnocchi, a White Burgundy can be absolutely divine; something with ample richness, ideally, and if you can swing it, age; something like the 2009 Domaine Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, or on the younger side, Domaine Leflaive's 2020 Macon- Verze Les Chenes.
With risotto, the creamy texture creates perhaps the most dynamic use possible of a grand Nebbiolo; look to top Barolo producers, and again, ideally with age. The key here is that the tannins that are rampant in the grape will intertwine with the risotto's creaminess, and elevate the sweetness of the wine beyond what you thought possible. Check out the 1988 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva, a recent gem we found; we also have the old-vine Marengo Barolo Brunate Vecchie Vigne from the powerhouse 2007 vintage.
The black gold has a really unique composition - dense inside, and an outside that is dotted all over almost like a golf ball. They come in all shapes and sizes, and their flavor is more profound than that of white truffles, where the experience is truly all about the aromatics. Black truffles take on a cocoa-like sweetness, and in my humble opinion are to die for when grated and added to a butter sauce on top of pasta.
You don't want to shave these too thick, and like I said, grating is often your best option; add black truffles to just about anything to heighten the flavor - think about poultry, risotto, even as a topping to a rich velouté or stew - just be sure to add them to something warm to create the best experience.
Creating food pairings with black truffles really takes me to a variety of red-fruited varietals, namely Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. Both grapes have a similar sort of sweetness to their aromatics, and adding the black truffle flavor to the mix will only intensify the wine's complexity.
With pasta or risotto, a fine treat would be the 2014 Lorenzo Accomasso Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata Vigna Rocchette Riserva, but don't try saying that with a mouth full of rice. Our new import addition, Ca' di Press has drawn raves from everyone who's tasted their 2019 Barolo Monforte.
If you're adding black truffles to a poultry dish, whether as a sauce or shavved on top, reach for your favorite Premier Cru or Grand Cru Burgundy. There are some stunners on our site right now with a perfect touch of age, like the 1986 Domaine Marquis d'Angerville Volnay Clos des Ducs! If you prefer the younger, riper styles, check out the 2018 Pierre Girardin Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Lavaut Saint-Jacques.
These are just a few ideas - we've put together a list of our favorites for this year's season!