‘Tis Truffle Season …The White Stuff Has Arrived

ellen bowen

So usually when one speaks of “the white stuff”…they mean snow…, which New Englanders know, will at some point be headed our way… But true food experts think “white truffle” when they hear “the white stuff”…and yes…white truffle season is also upon us.

A subterranean fungi, “truffles” are round, warty, and irregular in shape and vary from the size of a walnut to that of a man's fist. The French black truffle from the Perigord region of southwest France is popular shaved over pizza and pasta and as an additive to butter and in making foie gras. 

The jewel of Italian gastronomy, the "white truffle" or "trifola d'Alba" comes from the Piedmont region in northern Italy and, most famously, in the countryside around the cities of Alba and Asti. It can also be found in Molise, Abruzzo, and in the hills around San Miniato, in Tuscany.

They are harvested by expert “truffle foragers” with trained dogs or pigs who are able to detect the strong smell of mature truffles underneath the surface of the ground usually during the months of September and October before being sold at “truffle fairs” and released to those craving the delicacy.  Pricing has climbed over the years reaching a high in 2012 of $3000 a pound for the coveted Alba white truffle. 

But happily, this year’s crop of prized white truffles is more plentiful and of higher quality than it was in the last couple of seasons. And the wholesale prices are about a third less than last year’s, hovering around $7-10 a gram, (4 grams = .14 oz.  A decent portion, for shaving over a plate of pasta, risotto or Carpaccio, will measure four to five grams.) The lifting of a 100 percent tariff late last year helped to lower prices.

The first sightings this year was in NYC mid- September at renowned East Village restaurant, Recette, served simply over fresh pasta, butter and Parmesan. 

On November 22, Mario Batali and Antonio Galloni will host Festa di Tartufi at Del Posto, white truffle and wine dinner in NYC for a cool $1000- a head. They promise shaved white truffles with every course. 

In calling around CTbites territory, I found that some restaurants are offering black truffles a la carte, and are awaiting their white truffle shipments for closer to the holidays.  BUT, be prepared to pay a premium for adding truffles, especially the coveted white truffles, to a dish! 

A number of places, including Tarry Lodge in Westport and Port Chester, already have black truffle pizzas as a regular menu item.  Paci in Southport is offering , as either an appetizer or entrée,  a homemade herbed Pappardelle pasta with extra virgin olive oil, butter and shaved white truffles and South End in New Canaan has white truffle special dishes in the works. 

In addition to their wildly popular Luigi Bianco pizza with black truffle puree, Fortina in Armonk, is offering white truffles a la carte and a special Pastina, a simple pasta dish with butter and Parmesan and shaved white truffles.  Chef Petroni says the dish is inspired by a typical dish Italian mothers gave to their children as “comfort food. ”

At le Farm, the white truffles are readily available in a number of amazing and creative dishes created by Chef Arik Bensimon.  A local Burrata with red bee honey and white truffles is served with a griddled sourdough,  Egg-Noodles with veal tongue are enhanced with the delicacy, and succulent braised Beef Cheeks are available with white truffle as a supplement. 

A few restaurants have already hosted or have planned White Truffle Dinners and other Truffle inspired events so thought I would share where to get your fix of truffles…if you are so inclined.

BARCELONA: At Barcelona in Stamford, Chef Scott Quis is preparing some "off the menu" items.  Regulars know that he has off the menu items all of the time but these particular items are shared with guests to round out their Barcelona experience or introduce them to it.  One special dish is Ravioli Uovo, a fresh ravioli with a soft egg yolk entrapped in the pasta and served with shaved truffles, another is a freshly made potato gnocchi with a shaved truffle sauce.  But truffles can be added to other dishes as appropriate. Please make sure you ask for them as they probably won’t appear on the menu, and will be priced accordingly.

Barcelona’s truffles are sourced from Urbani, the largest and best truffle purveryor in Italy, and Culinary Director, Adam Halberg, also advised us that special truffle oils and truffle peels are also available for purchase for at home use or as a holiday gift idea.

For those of you seeking the hands on experience with the fungi, Chef Scott is offering a "Truffle Cooking Class"  on Saturday, November 30th at 2:00pm at Barcelona in Stamford, where he will show you how to use truffles while preparing seasonal dishes.  $45/person Call BARCELONA STAMFORD  222 Summer St. Stamford, CT 06901 at 293-348-4800 to reserve your seat. 

At Barcelona in South Norwalk, Chef Adam Greenberg & Chef Freddy Chimborazo have created a very special Farm Egg Scramble (from Farah's Farm in Wilton) with fresh shaved truffle sauce.

They're also shaving truffles table side on request (extra cost of course) but if you want truffles on something you've ordered, they can do that. 

MATCH-  Chef Matt Storch currently offers black truffles as an add on to a number of dishes and will be offering white truffles a la carte closer to the holidays.  He can offer a private White Truffle Dinner that can be arranged for a minimum of 10 people.  Contact Chef Storch at  MATCH   98 Washington St  Norwalk, CT 06854 (203) 852-1088

BAR SUGO-  Chef Pascarella has both black and white truffles “in da house” and can be added a la carte to many dishes for supplemental pricing and will be hosting a 5 course white truffle dinner on Wednesday November 19th for $300 pp.  Wine pairings included.  Please call BAR SUGO to book for this special dinner.  BAR SUGO  102 Wall St, Norwalk, CT 06850  (203) 956-7134

DA PIETRO’S-  Chef Pietro Scotti has already hosted a special private white truffle dinner to benefit Al’s Angels, and has planned another one open to the pubic for Monday December 2nd for $285.00 pp.   4 courses plus wine, dessert and coffee. Tax and Tip included. Please call DA PIETRO’S  for reservations.  Payment required at booking.  DA PIETRO’S  36 Riverside Ave, Westport, CT 06880 (203) 454-1213 

As the season progresses, watch for white truffles to be available a la carte in many more restaurants and don’t hesitate to phone ahead and post in comments section below additional “truffle” sightings!   

“Tis the season…..