Posted: February 3, 2010
It has been said that the “black diamond” is intense, earthy, seductive, hauntingly fragrant, and that there is nothing else in the world like a fresh truffle. I love winter because it is the season for the black truffles. I love the intoxication of smells; truffles are really all about texture--that crunch, that element of surprise. And the difference between good and sublime is not negligible … It is enormous!
There are more than 30 varieties of truffles, all members of Terfezia genera, cousins of the white and black (Tuber magnatum/melanosporum). The black truffle can be found in France’s Perigord region and in Spain, particularly in the Catalonian region, all the way down to Valencia. And it grows in Italy too, primarily in the Marches and Umbria. There it is often called the Norcia truffle, after the Umbrian town of that name.
And do you also know that truffles can be found in the Middle East and the Himalayas too? The areas along the North African coast from Morocco to Egypt and farther east across the great dessert, from Damascus in Syria to Basra in Iraq, in all these regions, people gather truffles for food. Desert truffle is widely believed to have been spawned by lightning and a clap of thunder. In Morocco they are called terfez, and in Egypt terfas. The Kuwaitis call them fagga, the Saudis faq, and in Syria they are known by their classical Arabic name, Kamaa. Several varieties of truffle are also found in the lowland areas along the entire length of the Himalayas, where they grow under pine trees. The flavor of these truffles, also called Chinese truffles, varies widely. Some have little taste at all, while others smell like petroleum. The United States, Australia and New Zealand have been very successful producing commercial truffles for decades.
However, although they are the same species, Black truffles from Perigord and Umbria are the best, most fragrance and intense in flavor. European Black truffles are in season from late November through March and are usually at their best from December to March.
In La Scala restaurant we prefer the Norcia truffle. I’ve just received 2 kg Norcia truffle today, and the best way to find out why is to just get your hands on one of these amazing wonders of the world and come try it for yourself. I’ll see you then…
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