Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 09:59 0 Google +1 0 0
A truffle weighing over a kilogramme has been found in the southern Italian region of Molise and looks to set this year's Italian record at auction.
The white truffle, weighing in at 1.05 kg, was bought from a young local truffle hunter for 15,000 euros.
The dealer who bought it, Ernesto De Iorio, told reporters he had three interested parties willing to pay some 35,000 euros for it.
De Iorio was coy as to their identity, saying only: ''I hope it goes to the president of the United States''.
Experts say 35,000 euros will be hard to beat in a lean truffle season.
The famed fungi, whether black or white, have been starved by lack of rain across the country.
Despite this, fans of Italian truffles are set to hit their annual feeding frenzy with upcoming satellite auctions.
Three years ago a batch of the queen of truffles, the famed white from Alba in Piedmont, was auctioned off for a new world record price of 92,000 euros ($108,000).
The record-breaking batch of truffles including two huge tubers weighing 800 and 400 grammes was secured by a Hong Kong businessman after a close contest with bidders in London and Italy.
In 2004 the previous batch record was set at a Medici residence in Tuscany, at 44,000 euros ($52,000).
A record price for a single truffle was set in 2004 at $41,000 for a 1.1 kg monster, snapped up after a fierce battle with Russian bidders by Italo-American restaurateur Francesco Giambelli, owner of Giambelli 50th on New York's East Side.
It was the largest truffle ever sold - until a 1.5 kg giant was unearthed near Pisa last year.
But the Tuscan event, soon afterwards, set a new record of $52,000 for an 850-gramme tuber landed by a restaurant consortium in London including Madonna and her husband Guy Richie.
The Zafferano restaurant left its prize outside in the cold and it began to suffer from truffle rot. It was shipped back to Italy for a gala funeral in December 2004.
The auctions in Tuscany and Alba have added to truffle mania since the late 1990s. Proceeds go to a charitable foundation run by the late Gianni Agnelli's sister Susanna and an Italian cancer research institute.
As well as providing uplinks for the charity auctions, the web is also feeding the worldwide truffle market.
A so-called Truffle Bourse can be accessed at www.albatartufi.com, where you can look at quotes for the main varieties of the white tuber, receive advice from trifoleaux (truffle experts) and get wind of all the promotional events for the underground gems.
Then, at www.acqualegna.info, black truffle fans can take part in discussions on their favourite fungus and receive updates on the latest truffle prices.
The website, set up by the Marche town of Acqualegna, one of central Italy's prime truffle sites along with others in Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo, will also give potential investors hints on buying truffle-rich land.
White truffles are not only found in their northern heartland but also in places like Tuscany.
Italy's first Truffle Museum was opened in 2005 outside Siena, with multimedia stations where visitors can trace Italy's truffle map and watch films of truffle hunting, truffle cooking and truffle eating.
The Museum, at the town of San Giovanni d'Asso, will stage a white truffle sale from November 12 to 20 with asking prices starting off at around 1,000 euros.
White truffles are rarer, more pungent and more expensive than black ones. They have a shorter growing season, in the three months around Christmas. Blacks are more common in the centre and south, whites in the north.
Nestling in the roots of about 50 trees - mostly oaks but also hazels, poplars, mulberries and willows - truffles are rooted out by specially trained dogs. With demand shooting up over recent years, hunters have become increasingly competitive and there have even been reports of skulduggery such as hamstringing or even poisoning the champion dogs of rivals.
Some of the northern and central fields have been exhausted, partly because of poachers who sell their catches on the black market.
But new areas are emerging, such as the upper reaches of the Tiber, Abruzzo and the Pollino National Park in Calabria.
Once you've found your truffle, here's what to do with it, according to Italian superchef Annie Feolde:
''Clean it thoroughly with a pointy knife and a little brush, cut it into wafer-thin slivers and heat them up in marinated butter and a little water from boiled vegetables.
''Then spread the mixture over your piping hot tagliolini and you'll see the steam complete the symphony.''
Top Tuscan chef Aldo Fiorelli says ''you can grate your truffle directly onto your pasta. True aficionados use truffles weighing around 100 grammes. Getting your hands dirty isn't frowned on - quite the opposite, in fact. It makes the experience more convivial and orgiastic.''