The World's Most Expensive Food
When I moved to France after high school to learn about the culinary world from the masters, I had never seen truffles in real life. I had heard amazing stories of the delightful flavor and smell of French truffles. I was working with chefs around Paris hosting pop up dinner parties. A secretive and unpredictable supplier would lurk around the back door of the kitchen, dealing only in cash. There was something about him that struck me as nefarious. I assumed some sort of alternate business was taking place out of the kitchen. I was soon to experience the glorious flavor and covert business of the black truffle. The man I had suspected as being up to no good was in fact a truffle dealer. Truffles are so prized and hard to come by that their growing sites are kept top secret and the whole market operates in cash.
As I learned more about truffles of all kinds and began incorporating them in to my recipes, I discovered some of the factors that give them their luxury status.
Truffles are known as the diamonds of the culinary world. This nickname provides some insight into their worth and value. A truffle is a type of edible mushroom that is extremely rare. It is the rarity of truffles that makes them so unique and highly sought after. Truffles are known to be a delicacy and have a specific aroma and taste that sets them apart from other types of mushrooms. They are known for having a firm texture, but they are most often used in dishes where they are used as shaved toppings for added flavor. Adding truffle to any dish has the ability to make it gourmet.
SOME ELEMENTS THAT MAKE TRUFFLES SO PRIZED INCLUDE:
People for generations, if not centuries, have tried to cultivate truffles. Farmers in the United States and Australia have attempted to recreate the conditions under which truffles thrive in Europe, but truffle cultivation rarely produces full truffles or large crops. Since truffle production cannot be scaled up and they remain rare, chefs and connoisseurs are willing to pay high prices.
Adding to the mystery of truffles, they grow underground at the roots of trees. Nestled under the roots of trees, harvesting truffles requires first finding them beneath the soil and digging them up. Trained dogs are often used to help with harvesting truffles. Dogs, (historically truffle hunters used pigs, but the pigs didn't want to share their finds) have to be raised and trained to help in the search for truffles. Truffles favor the roots of certain trees, including oak, poplar, and hazel, and are sensitive to changes in the climate.
Truffle Hunting Dogs
There is more than one type of truffle. Most truffles are categorized based on their color, season and appearance, including black, white burgundy, summer and winter. Different types of truffles can range in color and taste and are found in different parts of the world. They are also at different price levels, with white truffles form Italy often topping the price index for world truffles. France is often known for having the best black truffles, rivaling white truffles in Italy. Most are known based on the location where they are harvested.
Truffle Types. From http://therivermagazine.co.uk/
Truffles have a distinct aroma and a very noticeable taste, which is why they can be used in a variety of dishes. Truffles flavor starts to lessen after they are harvested, which also adds to the expense of this mushroom. Cooking actually dissipates the flavor of truffles. Truffles are often used to add a gourmet garnish to plain, hearty dishes like pasta and rice to ensure that the full taste is intact.