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Friday, 30 July 2010

Truffle Oil, Truffle Oil, Truffle Oil

I am drowning in Truffle Oil !

As many of our clients will already know, we are working on developing our own brand of Truffle Oil.

During the past 6 months I believe we have sampled every single Truffle Oil that is available on the market. I have to say most of them are pretty awful, the worse of them tasting like some combination of noxious chemicals that I would be very scared to tip down my sink !

In fact with 1 bottle, the name of which I better not mention, I did just that, and the house was almost uninhabitable for about 6 weeks !

We now have our own White Truffle Oil and Black Truffle Oil at first batch tasting stage. And I have to say, I am very happy with the flavour of both the Truffle Oils. Both Truffle Oils have a beautiful soft, deep and complex flavour, A couple of tablespoons can be used to finish off any dish, and they can be used on their own, or in combination with fresh truffles.

Samples of both Truffle Oils have been sent out to a number of Chefs and private Truffle clients. Both the chefs and the private clients are slowly sending us feedback, results so far have been very very positive.

Our plan is to release a Restaurant 250 mls bottle in early October, and a Retail, 100 mls bottle early November. That’s the plan !

More updates to follow.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Sibillini Mountain National Park: A Mecca for Truffle Hunters in Search of the Black Summer Truffles

In central Italy, a land steeped in myth and legend lies revered for its stunning untamed natural heritage. Every year, thousands of tourists and locals alike flock to this incredible destination for its fantastic array of outdoor activities, including mountain biking, horseback riding, rock-climbing, hiking and bird-watching, as well as to enjoy a breath-taking respite from the madness and bustle of the city. This living and breathing testament to the beauty of nature is the Sibillini Mountain National Park. However, it is not only the tourists that have come to appreciate the offerings of this stunning landscape. The Sibillini Mountain National Park as well as the surrounding Le Marche and Umbria regions are known for their incredibly fertile soils and so, when the sun is at its most northern recline, the truffle hunters will be scouring the earth for the Black summer truffles.

The culinary prizes that are the black summer truffles are widely considered by food connoisseurs to be the most delicious and highly sought after of all the truffle varieties. And the rich soils of the Sibillini Mountain National Park and surrounding area provide the perfect growing grounds for what is regarded to be the very finest black summer truffles that Europe - and one might even dare say - the world has to offer. Generations of truffle hunters along with their highly trained pure-bred Lagotta Romagnala sniffing dogs flock seasonally to this veritable summer truffles Mecca in search of these elusive culinary prizes.

Unlike their white cousins, black summer truffles grow just beneath the soil surface, a mere matter of centimetres away from the thick leaf litter that blankets the floor of the Sibillini Mountain National Park’s forested areas. The close proximity of the black summer truffles to the surface combined with their characteristic pungent aroma makes these prizes easy for the truffle hunting dogs to locate once they have caught their scent. However, the black summer truffles remain elusive because of their scarcity. This doesn’t seem to faze the intrepid truffle hunter who strives to cater for a world-wide demand for the delicious earthy, garlic and almost sweet flavoured black summer truffles: A demand that far outweighs the supply.

And so, at this exact time of year, when the black summer truffles lie growing beneath the dank forest soils of the Sibillini Mountain National Park, the truffle hunters will lie tossing in their sleep, dreaming of the ultimate sized and quality prize while the natural fauna and flora of the area lie awaiting for the first coming of sunrise.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Matching Wine Cultivars with Truffles: the Pairing Arena

If there is one thing that wine and truffles have in common, it’s that they can turn any ordinary dish into a gastronomical experience. A beautiful wine coupled with a dish prepared with the gem of the culinary world, the truffle, is sure to make a meal that will take its place in anyone’s top ten. However, with the numerous wine cultivars and vintages available, choosing one to match the incredible number of truffle dishes can prove to be a daunting task even for those that consider themselves to be connoisseurs of fine dining. This brief guide serves to provide a little education in the matching of wine cultivars (types) with the truffle varieties and the delicious dishes they are served in.

The pairing arena is tricky, since every person will have their wine preferences and personal tastes, however a few general rules can be applied. Since black truffles are widely known and appreciated for their wild, earthy and musky flavours, their wine counterparts are most often found within the range of full-bodied and robust red wines, such as aged Burgundy, Shiraz, Tinta Barocca, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This pairing is pivotal upon the spiciness, deep flavourful tones and earthy characteristics these red cultivars tend to portray: flavour and aromatic characteristics that are indeed similar to both the black and white truffle varieties. The range of white wine cultivars that typically go well with simpler black and white truffle dishes include Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne (Blanc de Blanc), and of course Italian Varieties like Falanghina or Pecorino.

Having said this, there is another important factor to be taken in to consideration: some dishes are presented with truffles as the centrepiece while others allow the pungent aromas and earthy flavours of the truffle to take the back seat by providing the complex undertones. In the former case, matching a robust red with the dish would do well to compliment the musky wild flavours of the truffle. The latter situation however, would deserve a lighter and more subtle wine that would not overpower the flavour and aromatic contribution of the truffles to the dish as a whole.

This same principle applies when considering the complexity of the dish. Some truffle dishes combine many different textures and robust flavours, while others are simpler and more subtle, for example, omelettes and white truffle soups, which pair beautifully with Champagne (Blanc de Blanc). The fact of the matter is that there is no perfect wine for a singular dish. Each individual bottle of wine presents a complex array of both subtle and hearty flavours and aromas. What you will want to avoid is indulging in a wine that will win the power struggle between the aromas and flavours of the truffle dish you are most privileged to be enjoying.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Ode to the White and Black Truffle Hunting Pig and their Canine Successors

One of the first things I ever learnt about truffles was not that they come in a number of different colors and seasonal varieties and certainly not that they are one of the most highly prized of all ingredients in gourmet cooking. No, the first thing I ever learnt about truffles is that the intrepid explorers who went crashing through the undergrowth to sniff these culinary diamonds out and reveal their whereabouts to truffle hunters, was in fact the humble pig. Before then I never really considered pigs to be good at anything or to fulfill any function other than putting bacon on my plate. But I was young and naïve. Pigs are incredibly intelligent and have a sense of smell that can detect the pungent aroma of the highly sought after black truffles that lie deep beneath the dark moist soils.

Pigs are in fact so intelligent that they realized that relinquishing a prize as mouthwateringly precious and as difficult to find as a black truffle would be ridiculous beyond its supreme intellect. And so they would promptly eat them. Can you for a second imagine the constant frustration of the truffle hunter in trying to deal with a stubborn pig who, as fantastic his/her black truffle finding abilities were, just wouldn’t stop taking a slobbery bite out of them? And so it was with a mite of disappointment that I came to learn that the majority of truffle hunters have locked their pigs up in their sties (or worse) in favor of the truffle hunting dog.

Dogs do not like white or black truffles. Dogs do not take a ‘finder’s fee’ from the flesh of the truffle like pigs tended to. Dogs only want to make their owners happy and perhaps a treat after unearthing a truffle would be nice too, thanks. You see, dogs also have an incredible sense of smell and if trained to recognize the tell-tale musky and pungent aroma of the black truffle, make for wonderful truffle hunters (and walking companions!) A dog’s enthusiasm for contribution and exercise is contagious and I’m sure it has kept many a truffle hunter from throwing in the towel a few hours into an expedition.

And so, I would like to end off by taking my hat off to the former truffle hunting pigs – may you find yourself to be useful in other, less self-sacrificing ways – and to the current truffle finding dogs: you make your owners happier and wealthier than you could ever know!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Hunt for Black Truffles Beneath the Summer Soils of the Sibillini Mountain National Park

Food experts and culinary enthusiasts the world over will know exactly what the fertile soils of Europe have to offer at this time of year. Between the months of May and September, deep in the dark soils beneath the oak, chestnut, beech, willow and pine trees, the summer black truffles are swelling, maturing and ready to be unearthed! To the unappreciating eye, black truffles look very much like small potatoes that got caught in a bar brawl… and lost. With their highly pitted and rough exteriors and smouldering dark coloured skins, these members of the fungus family are one of the most highly sought after ingredients in gourmet cooking.

Because of their scarcity, delicious nutty-bordering on sweet flavours and heady aromas, black truffles (and other seasonal and colour varieties) fetch a high price on the market. Having said this, summer truffles – more subtly flavoured than the winter variety – are far more affordable! The black truffles that are growing this very season are considered by many to be the superior kind of truffle harvested in summer. Although they are lighter and less pungent in flavour, they display a heady, earthier aroma than the winter truffles and are sought after for their subtle sweetness and hint of garlic flavour. These characteristics unique to summer black truffles are the main reasons for their popularity and with summer having arrived in Europe, gourmet restaurants and food enthusiasts all over the world are desperately trying to get their hands on the first delectable findings.

The Sibillini Mountain National Park provides the best environment and soils for the natural growth of black truffles. Hunting parties complete with sniffing dogs are plunging into the thick of the forests; scouring the earth for the pungent aromas of veritable culinary diamonds that lie beneath the fertile soils. Locating black truffles is a process requiring extreme patience. Even when one is discovered by the excited snuffling and digging of a dog, a truffle hunter will hold their breath, hoping for a mature and decently sized prize. With renewed appreciation for the process of finding these culinary treasures, the summer black truffles are now available for order online!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Dawn of the Summer Season brings on the Hunt for Fresh Summer Truffles

The elusive truffle is perhaps the world’s best example of a diamond in the rough. The black truffle’s textured and dark mottled exterior and amorphous shape may look like nothing more than a clod of dark earth, but forsaking its appearance, the black truffle is regarded as one of the greatest culinary treasures in the world. Truffles are a type of fungus, except they grow beneath the soil’s surface, in the tangle of roots of oak, pine, willow, beech and chestnut trees where they get their nutrients from. They are classified according to their colour (black or white truffles) and the season in which they grow (winter, summer, autumn and spring truffles).

While winter truffles are highly coveted for their more pungent flavour and aroma, as well as the alleged aphrodisiac properties that are common to the entire truffle family, summer truffles are becoming increasingly popular, both for their more subtle flavours and affordability. The Sibillini Mountain National Park in Italy is widely regarded to be one of the richest sources for the many different coloured and seasonal truffle varieties, not least of all the black summer truffles. Summer has pretty much dawned across Europe now, which means that the delightful summer truffles are swelling and matured beneath the dark and fertile soils of the forest. The truffle hunting parties are out in full force with their canine companions sniffing out the mature summer truffles. So, for all those food enthusiasts and restaurants looking to incorporate these delectable treats into their cooking, a wide range of summer truffles and associated products, such as truffle oil, are now available!

The elusive truffle can quite confidently be said to be the diamond of the culinary world: difficult to find, tricky to unearth and an incredibly beautiful addition to gourmet cooking. The demand for truffles outweighs the supply by far, which is another reason for their superior prices compared to the range of other food fungi. However, with summer truffles coming in at a substantially lower price than their winter cousins, they are becoming more accessible to a larger market. So now you don’t need to visit the local gourmet restaurant to enjoy the delights of summer truffles. They are right here, ready for order and ready to be savoured!