Each autumn in gourmet kitchens across the globe, the fragrant white truffle, or tartufo bianco as they are called in Italy, is one of the most anticipated ingredients to celebrate the new season.
But you don’t need to travel to Italy. Mushroom vendor LA Funghi is selling them right here at the .
“When the leaves start to turn colors in Italy is when the white truffles start to be hunted,” said Dirk Hermann, the chef and owner of LA Funghi.
A truffle is a spore that grows under the roots of oak and beech trees. Folklore has it they are found or hunted by pigs that can smell them growing underground.
The most prized truffles come from Italy and France where white truffles are traditionally shaved on top of scrambled eggs, risotto or pasta tossed with butter and olive oil.
This week, Hermann sold white truffles from Alba, a town in the Piedmont region of Italy. Next week, he plans on carying truffles from Oregon and Northern California, "once the rain season kicks in up there," he said. And later in the season, Hermann anticipates black truffles from Périgord, an old region of France that dates back to medieval times
Truffles are obscenely expensive, but such delicacies in life are sometimes worth the splurge. Check out the LA Funghi website for a free leek and white truffle risotto recipe.
LA Funghi also has a selection of canned truffle items from Italy—a much more affordable way to still enjoy the special characteristics of this exotic ingredient. Cans of black truffles pesto—a purée of basil, garlic and pine nuts, red tomato pesto with truffles, and white truffles (or black) blended in with other wild mushrooms are available for pasta, or flavoring seafood or meats.
In addition to the truffles, this season LA Funghi also has fresh-harvested Matsutake mushrooms, a Japanese variety that is considered to be the Asian equivalent to the truffles, because of its rarity and short growing season. Matsutake grow under evergreen trees and usually appear right before the first snowfall in the mountains.
Perusers can also find lobster mushrooms, another seasonal find and the unusual, at the LA Funghi stall, as well as "Chicken of the Wood" mushrooms, a thick earthy variety that has the feel and texture of a chicken breast.