This autumn travel to Alba, arguably Italy’s greatest gastronomic capital, to savour the finest white truffles in the world.
When it comes to truffles, an image of pigs foraging in the woods comes to mind. Today, however, the expectant (and soon-to-be handsomely rewarded) truffle gatherers around Alba use well-trained dogs to do the searching and sniffing out – and thankfully they are better than their porcine peers at resisting eating the prized catch. One thing remains true, and it is price, and even with fluctuations dependent on that year’s harvest you can always expect to pay a hefty sum for what many say are the best truffles in the world.
Italy’s Piedmond region is known for its hearty fare, heavy pastas and the sheer delight that is vitello tonnato, plus exquisite Barolos, Barberas and Barbarescos. Even with some very fine vintages, the white truffle reigns supreme, and from October 7th to November 26th it will be celebrated in Alba for the 87th International Alba White Truffle Fair centred around the courtyard of the Maddalena in the heart of the old town.
And a celebration it truly is, with cooking shows from a host of world-renowned chefs including 22 boasting a number of Michelin stars, debates and discussions a-plenty, and of course lots of tastings. Learn how to choose a truffle, how to understand its qualities, the best ways to enjoy the special white variety and how to store them if you have enough restraint to manage that.
The totally distinct flavour of truffle, the earthy, powerful pungency, is more subtle and sweet in the white truffle, yet it is still one that proudly announces itself as something for the adults, much like certain blue cheeses. However, at the fair there is a focus on children too with an area dedicated to fun activities, games and tastings at the wooden restaurant so they can be introduced to this delight at a tender age.
After both truffle, and a large array of wine, tastings you will of course want to make some purchases to take home. As well as these choose from spirits and liqueurs, cheeses, meats, fresh and dried pastas, baked goods, chocolates and products made with the famous Piedmond hazelnut.
The hilly woods that surround Alba – Langhe, Roero and Monferrato – are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and offer breathtaking drives, and idyllic stop-offs for wine tasting, while Alba itself has Roman ruins including remains from the fortified walls and mosaics to spy, plus a collection of pretty churches and cobbled streets with the Cathedral’s bell-tower letting you survey the city.
As you would expect there are some stunning restaurants with all the amazing local produce, and if you can drag yourself away from tastings, and secure a table, a must is Enrico Crippa’s Piazza Duomo where highlights include Salad 21, 31, 41, 51, which refers to the different number of seasonal ingredients, and the panna cotta Matisse.
As a foodie’s paradise make sure to include Alba in your getaway list this October or November. Sampling the fare on offer will provide gastronomic inspiration and with so much to browse and buy you’ll be sure to come home fully loaded, with plenty of hold space in your chosen jet so you’ll not have to worry if you get carried away.
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