Bonne Année! 2013 has come and gone filled with lots of fun adventures eating yummy food and traveling to exciting destinations. I’ll be writing about my experiences over many more posts but I’d like to begin the new year with my most memorable meal in of 2013.
If you want to experience Florence like a Florentine, I would strongly suggest visiting between November and March. Otherwise, I would recommend having a short stay and visiting other parts of Tuscany. We stayed for 5 days but were able to flee the tourist crowds by hopping onto one of many Italian commuter trains to different towns around Florence for a few laid back day trips. Our most noteworthy escape was to the Tuscan town of San Miniato.
As soon as we reached the San Miniato train station, our driver picked us up and drove us to meet Salvatore, the truffle hunter, and Billy, his truffle hunting dog. Timing couldn’t be better as we arrived at the tail end of the summer black truffle season and at the beginning of the fall white truffle season in mid September. Truffle hunting and tasting was another first for us.
On a fertile private wooded property in San Miniato, Billy quickly found a few black truffles. We were invited to touch and smell them. If you’ve never smelled a fresh truffle think damp earthy, and musty. Doesn’t sound too appetizing but some things taste better than they smell, such as some stinky cheeses or kimchi. Then we found a few of our first prized white truffles! Not as big or as pungent as they can get in the height of the growing season in October but they still had very strong and distinct aroma.
After about an hour and a half of hunting, we were driven to Salvatore’s charming home where we were greeted by his daughter Leticia and son Massimo. Massimo and I corresponded frequently via email to arrange this memorable afternoon and Leticia prepared our mouth watering truffle feast.
We dined on their terrace overlooking their urban garden where we were served our first course, a very simple uncrusted sliced bread with cream cheese with shaved black and white truffles. The black truffles were great but the white ones were mind blowing. Black truffles can be cooked to enhance their flavour but whites are much more delicate and instead are usually shaved on a dish prior to serving.
Next was a fresh egg noodle spaghetti sautéed in butter and parmigiano with shaved white truffles. Exquisite.
The last truffle course was an extra virgin olive oil poached free range egg in a porcelain pot. Leticia invited us into the kitchen to see her prepare the dish. After a few minutes of poaching, she turned off the stove, shaved the white truffles, covered the pot and brought it back to our table. As we sat, Leticia opened the cover so we could smell the aroma before we slowly savoured THE best truffle course of the meal.
We ended our meal with a very simple dolce: cantucci (a smaller sized traditional Tuscan almond biscotti) dipped in a traditional Tuscan digestif Vin Santo.
Fresh white truffles are one of the most luxurious edible commodities I have ever eaten. Truffles are rare, white truffles even more rare. White truffles are only available a few months a year, in very few parts of Italy and Europe and must be foraged by specially trained dogs or pigs. White truffles are best served with a mild or minimally prepared dish to fully appreciate its distinct flavour. Words can’t fully describe white truffles until you taste them for yourself.
Truffle in Tuscany website for more information