Best White Truffle, January 2006
The white truffle from Alba, in Italy’s Piedmont region, is a misshapen knob of humble origins with an intoxicating scent, an oxymoronic aroma that might be described as dirt perfume. The fungi grow underground on tree roots (mostly oak, poplar, linden, and willow) and can’t be cultivated. Hunters, or trifolau, seek them out under cover of darkness—lest they be followed—with specially trained dogs (mongrels preferred). Restaurants fashion tasting menus around the delicacy, whose season runs from October through December, and gourmet markets fetch a steep price: close to $2,000 a pound at chef’s mecca Le Sanctuaire
. Mere shavings—an ounce is enough for four servings—over eggs or buttered pasta can be mind-blowing.