They say good things come in small packages. There are few things better… or sexier… than the small package that a winter truffle comes in. The moment your beloved opens the box, that earthy, mushroomy, mouthwatering scent will waft through the air. No matter how tightly you wrap it, the subtle aroma will perfume the air every time you open the fridge, reminding you of sophisticated dinners.
Set the table with fine china, pour a glass of pinot noir (like this one from Cakebread Cellars, then grab a truffle shaver (I’d recommend a really pretty one for maximum impact) and slowly drop slivers over buttery homemade pasta or gently seared scallops…. That’s love.
If you’re near an Eataly location, you can walk right into the store and pick up a black winter truffle in time for Valentine’s dinner. Eataly chefs there recommend serving it as they do in Umbria —in salsa alla spoletina: minced and added to warm olive oil with a touch of garlic, salt, and pepper, this earthy, aromatic sauce is great with bread or over pasta; you can also shave your fresh truffle over pasta, risotto, egg, or meat.
Black winter truffles – less expensive and less fragile than the white ones – will be in season through March. Since they cannot be planted, each variety is only available (and at its best) a few months out of the year.
If you’re not ready for the commitment of a fresh truffle, you’ve somehow missed the season, or you want to explore white truffles, there are loads of other ways to enjoy the tuber, from truffle dust to truffle hot sauce. Just remember, you get what you pay for. Many so-called truffle salts and oils actually have no truffle in them at all, but rather a chemical that mimics the aroma in a pretty overpowering way. “Truffles are fairly expensive, so when you find inexpensive truffle products you should question why,” advises Federico Balestra, CEO, Sabatino Tartufi.
Here are some ideas for enveloping your bestie or true love in truffles.
Fresh truffles: Make sure you get your truffles from a reputable source, like Eataly or Sabatino Tartufi, a family-owned truffle company that has been supplying them to the top chefs and home cooks for more than 100 years. Do not store your truffle in rice – sure it will infuse the rice with flavor, but it will also dry out the truffle, rendering it unusable. Do plan to use it as soon as possible – that lovely smell in your fridge is the tuber losing its potency. After a week, it will be a shadow of its powerful self.
Truffle hot sauce: Truff created a sensation last year with its Signature Black Truffle Hot Sauce— a blend of red chili peppers, real black truffle, organic agave nectar, and savory spices. If you’re gifting, consider the Truffle Lovers Pack ($67.98), which includes that plus a jar of their truffle and chili-infused tomato sauce and Black Truffle Oil, in a lovely giftable box.
Truffled cheese: Pecorino with truffles is pretty well-known, and utterly delicious. For a change of pace, try Trufflehive from Beehive Cheese in Utah. They take their creamy Promontory base cheddar, then rub the rind with Regalis Black Truffle Carpaccio, honey and truffle salt. It’s a cheese to savor – perhaps with an extra drizzle of truffle honey for good measure.
Popcorn: Truffle Italia Popcorn is packaged in adorable cans just the right size for two. Infused with white truffle, it is an addictive treat.
Oil: The Texas Truffle Oil from DR Delicacy has lovely slices of the tuber suspended in the oil, visible through the clear glass bottle, making a nice statement piece. The all-natural White Truffle Oil from Sabatino is mellower and particularly lovely drizzled on a baked potato.
Honey: Until recently, I couldn’t figure out what to do with truffle honey – both very sweet and very savory, I couldn’t quite place it in my pantry needs. However, I’ve come to realize it’s ideal on a cheese and charcuterie plate, where a drizzle can elevate dairy and meat, and even fruit. This infused Texas wildflower honey from Dr Delicacy comes with an adorable honey server.
Seasonings: When purchasing truffle salt, read the label and make sure truffle is an ingredient. The Truffle Zest® from Sabatino is a powder made with black summer truffles—it’s outstanding on pizza or scrambled eggs. Their Truffle Sea Salt turns French fries or popcorn into an indulgent treat.
Truffle candle: If you really can’t get enough of the aroma of truffles, snag one of these candles from Dr Delicacy. They are potent, made from soy wax and black truffle aroma, mixed with actual truffle pieces.
Truffle pasta: Make a basic cream sauce and pour it over this truffled pasta for a simple but elegant dinner. Gild the lily with a shaving of truffle over the top.