The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2012

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Page 83 of 152

PHOTO: MORRA, COURTESY ENTE FIERA DEL TARTUFO The opening of the AlbaTru���e Fair���s Palio degli Asini (donkey race). PHOTO: DUTTO, COURTESY ENTE TURISMO ALBA BRA LANGHE E ROERO t o many people in America, trufles are those exquisitely delicious chocolate-dusted munchies. Serious foodies know better. To them, trufles are the last word in haute cuisine. And to the people in Alba, in Northern Italy, the white trufle���scientiically known as Tuber magnatum but called tartufo in Piedmont���is the center of their universe, especially for the three months beginning mid-October every year when the fungus ripens and takes center stage in their region. People come from around the world to taste even a morsel of the tartufo, shaved over oft-times plebian dishes like scrambled eggs or a bowl of pappardelle, and are rewarded with savory lavors that transform ordinary dishes into Olympian experiences. The Albese rightfully consider this Northern Italian specialty to be theirs alone, although there are other types of trufles grown elsewhere in Italy���some skillfully substituted for the majestic Tuber magnatum. Tartu��� are such a part of the Albese culture that they celebrate its annual arrival with a festival that takes over the town, featuring endless variations on trufles, a medieval tournament and a donkey race in which each of the Albese neighborhoods is represented. Sampling the divine tuber is easy in restaurants; getting a bit of white trufle for yourself is more of a challenge. About half the tartu��� are sold on the black market, from little guys with bulging coat pockets in squares and street corners. That���s where the average person ���hunts for trufles.��� Tru���es are usually shaved, and seldom cooked, since the delicate aroma fades when exposed to heat. The shaving can be accomplished with a minimandolin, but there is a particular tool designed speci���cally for this purpose: the tagliatartufo. december 2012 / the tasting panel / 83

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