Truffles are one of the most elusive and mysterious of foods. An excellent introduction to the subject is provided by Elisabeth Luard’s recent book Truffles.
When Elisabeth came to Abergavenny to talk about the book I gleaned two key pieces of information from her.
First, truffles are all about sex. Their musky scent is said to drive women wild. Women will do anything to get their hands on truffle. Though, according to Brillat-Savarin, ‘the truffle is not a true aphrodisiac but it can make women more affectionate and men more attentive.’
Certainly the black truffle secretes a hormone similar to that produced by boars before mating and this is why pigs are good at finding truffles. Though they do tend to eat them when they find them which is why Italians prefer to use dogs for truffle-hunting.
Second, not everything that claims to be truffle really is truffle. Many truffle-oils have never seen a truffle but, according to Elisabeth, they are none the worse for it.
With such insatiable demand and the difficulty of cultivating them, unsurprisingly truffles are in short supply and command tremendous prices. Equally imitation and fakery are rife.
So. How do you recognise a true truffle? Where would you buy it? What is it worth? There is nobody better placed to answer these questions than Bruno Giorgi, aka The Truffleman.
Bruno Giorgi is the leading restaurant-supplier of Alba truffles; the white truffle found mainly in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. It is the most prized and most expensive kind of truffle, retailing at around $10,000 a kilo.
He hit the headlines some years back when he sold what was then the world’s most expensive truffle at his annual charity auction in London. An anonymous Hong Kong bidder paid £64,000 for a 1.2kg Alba truffle. Since then prices have risen still further.
A dead ringer for Robert De Niro, Bruno can be found operating from his white van dressed in an elegant suit outside the kitchens of many of London’s most prestigious restaurants. As Gordon Ramsay recalls: ‘When Bruno our truffle supplier arrives in the kitchen, you can smell him before you see him! All the chefs are drawn to the scent of the truffles and watch open-mouthed as he unveils the prized possessions.’
At Abergavenny Bruno will be showing, perhaps even tasting some of these ‘prized possessions’ – the Alba white truffle. Certainly he will bring truffles, truffle-oil and honey to taste, and explain all there is to know about the mysterious world of the truffle.
He will be joined by his friend the legendary chef Franco Taruschio, founder of The Walnut Tree. Franco will demonstrate his truffle risotto.
Two Italian legends! An occasion not to be missed.
Bruno Giorgi is appearing in the Wedgewood Room on Sunday 18 September at 3.30pm. Buy tickets online now
He also has a stall: The Truffle Man, located in the Market Hall, number 47.