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mdbasile

November White truffle hunt

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A couple of us are heading to Piedmonte in November and we are looking to do some truffle hunting. Anyone know of a guide we can hire?

Any assistance is appreciated.

Best Regards,

Mark

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where in piemonte will you be?

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Not sure yet - Probably Alba or Asti, but I am open to suggestions!! I have been to Monteforte and Alba before.

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in asti( i think actually just outside) there is villa sampaguita, an inn out in the country, i'm sure they could line up truffle hunts for you. pm me if you want more info, i stayed there last october.

i'd reccommend the monferato also, there is a beautifal inn called la villa in nizza monferato, they definetly do truffle hunts.

i think most hotels,inns, agroturismos, etc, will set up trufffle hunts for you. maybe inquire where you decide to stay.

as an aside you couldn't pick a more beautifal time of year to visit the region.

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I can really recommend: http://www.buongustotours.com/

Paolo Ferrero is a one-man-show and he will bend over backwards to make sure you have a good time. He knows EVERYONE in the Monferrato and the region around Moncalvo and Montechiaro is prime white truffle hunting grounds.

If you need B&B suggestions, let me know I have loads!

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We (a group of 4) will be in the Piemont in October for the Truffle Festival (staying at a B&B in Monforte d'Alba), and I was also considering a white truffle hunt.

But, cynical as I am, I would help thinking that why would any "real" white truffle hunter be willing to reveal his/her secret places for the sake of some outsider's interest. Could such a "hunt" be just a setup deal, and consist of hunting for previously placed truffles? I would enjoy a visit with a truffle hunter, and to hear more about truffle hunting, and be happy doing without an actual hunt. Or am I just TOO cynical?

Also, I checked out the Buon Gusto website - does anyone know which local restaurant the group would eat at?

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We (a group of 4) will be in the Piemont in October for the Truffle Festival (staying at a B&B in Monforte d'Alba), and I was also considering a white truffle hunt.

But, cynical as I am, I would help thinking that why would any "real" white truffle hunter be willing to reveal his/her secret places for the sake of some outsider's interest.  Could such a "hunt" be just a setup deal, and consist of hunting for previously placed truffles?  I would enjoy a visit with a truffle hunter, and to hear more about truffle hunting, and be happy doing without an actual hunt.  Or am I just TOO cynical?

Also, I checked out the Buon Gusto website - does anyone know which local restaurant the group would eat at?

Secret places are more of a myth that a reality. The reality is you just have to go out every morning and see if your dog gets a scent... this takes hours and hours and usually they don't come up with a thing... it is a pain in the ass and boring but this is how it works. Usually you don't get to keep the truffles you find but you can buy them at a favorable rate. If there was actually an easy way to hunt truffles they would be plentiful and cheap.

There are several restaurants that Paolo uses, all of them are good but probably not in many guide books.


Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)

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We (a group of 4) will be in the Piemont in October for the Truffle Festival (staying at a B&B in Monforte d'Alba), and I was also considering a white truffle hunt.

But, cynical as I am, I would help thinking that why would any "real" white truffle hunter be willing to reveal his/her secret places for the sake of some outsider's interest.  Could such a "hunt" be just a setup deal, and consist of hunting for previously placed truffles?  I would enjoy a visit with a truffle hunter, and to hear more about truffle hunting, and be happy doing without an actual hunt.  Or am I just TOO cynical?

Also, I checked out the Buon Gusto website - does anyone know which local restaurant the group would eat at?

Secret places are more of a myth that a reality. The reality is you just have to go out every morning and see if your dog gets a scent... this takes hours and hours and usually they don't come up with a thing... it is a pain in the ass and boring but this is how it works. Usually you don't get to keep the truffles you find but you can buy them at a favorable rate. If there was actually an easy way to hunt truffles they would be plentiful and cheap.

There are several restaurants that Paolo uses, all of them are good but probably not in many guide books.

Swiss-Chef is exactly right...these organized truffle hunts are difficult for the dogs, they get distracted by the additional people, and it frequently winds up as a very nice walk in the woods. Truffle hunting is a serious source of income for these guys, and once you are out in the muddy woods, it's not so romantic. I'm not trying to discourage anyone, just trying to explain a bit.

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Thanks for the additional information. Unless I'm outvoted by my group, I think we'll just enjoy the truffle experience of the Truffle Festival, and eating them at restaurants, of course! I'm fine with leaving the hunting part to my imagination (or to reading about it), which is just as you describe - a long, sometimes-unrewarding search, that IMHO isn't something an outsider can truly take part in without changing the experience to make it not quite real. Ok, that's a bit overly analytical, but I hope you know what I mean.

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I think we'll just enjoy the truffle experience of the Truffle Festival, and eating them at restaurants, of course! 

Just a word of caution; A large portion of truffles for sale at the Alba truffle market are from other regions of Italy and even Europe. Just have a quick look at the Eastern European number plates in the parking lots and you will get the idea. You are safer going to some of the smaller local festivals like Moncalvo and Montechiaro. There you will be fairly sure you are getting the local stuff.

Also, If you don't know truffles don't buy them. You need to have some experience smelling truffles in order to judge them. Once bought try to use the truffle ASAP. In a week a small truffle can loose half it's body weight. If you are planning on carrying it in your luggage while you finish your two week vacation in Italy you are in for a big surprise!

Best advice is to enjoy the truffles at a well respected local restaurant that either hunts their own truffles or buys them from local hunters.


Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)

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I concur with SwissChef, the Alba truffle fair although worth visiting for the experience is not the place to buy tartufo bianco. Every weekend in October-December there is a local tartufo festival in one of the small towns around the Monferrato and Langhe, although even here if you don't know the diffrence between a Piedmontese and an Umbrian truffle you could end up with something not quite as good. Stick with the restaurants, they all have their own personal trifalau and their local reputation to maintain. And as SC says, once the truffle is out of the ground it starts to deteriate. Must be eaten fresh.

We always book our guests who want to hunt truffles to La Casa Del Trifalau in Costigliole. Natale and his brother Giorgio owns his their piece of woods, their family were trifalau, and they specialize in taking groups out for a truffle excursion, nearly always finding at least one truffle in season. He is becoming quite famous as they are the only people I know of who do this real service, OK not the same as getting up at 4 am for a truffle hunt through the wet woods, but very educative as they have turned teir family house into a small truffle museum and shrine.


Too many restaurants in Piedmont, too little time in life

Villa Sampaguita

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Thanks, again, for the truffle pointers. I had heard to be careful about buying truffles, though we weren't sure that we'd actually do so anyway. We definitely plan to be eating a lot of white truffles at restaurants!

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I can really recommend: http://www.buongustotours.com/

Paolo Ferrero is a one-man-show and he will bend over backwards to make sure you have a good time. He knows EVERYONE in the Monferrato and the region around Moncalvo and Montechiaro is prime white truffle hunting grounds.

If you need B&B suggestions, let me know I have loads!

Thanks for the tip. I emailed Paulo and got a very quick response from him. The tour is perfect - not too long or too expensive and Paulo seems like a really charming person. I can't wait, it looks like my husband and I will be on their "Autumn tour" in the middle of October.

Do you know anything about the two castles they use for accomodations (Razzano and La Violina)?

Also I wanted to say Gruetsi - Ich habe in der Schweiz gewohnt (Vitznau & Luzern) fur ein Jahre und habe Patisserie studiert. Ich glaube das der Dchweiz ist amschonsten Land in der Welt! Sorry, my German is getting worse and worse every day.

thanks! Emily

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Here in Los Angeles we have an Italian tourist board. When I met the women running it she said she had a friend that could arrange (her words not mine) a "real" truffle hunt. I will look for her contact info and post it this week.

FWIW I have bought truffles direct from truffle hunters in Italy and they were always kind of old, gruff and very country. Rustic Italian with heavy dialect and not very entertaining. I for one would not want to get up at 4 AM and meet them in ice cold, wet weather and follow them around the woods for a few hours at a minimum. There may be more romantic and enjoyable "public" hunts and certainly S.C. knows these people and this area extremely well.

Buying white truffles is a risky business and should be entered into with caution. There are sellers found outside Alba on the main roads that sell from cars and they have been a good source but not always. Asking a lot of people if they know of any hunters that want to sell will / may lead you to a better deal.

Montechiaro has a great festival and lots of top shelf truffles however they are usually priced at the top of the market. The sellers in Alba, including a couple of shops like Ponzi on the main drag have gone way down hill as Alba moved way upscale. In the early 90's it was a very different scene. Beware of pre priced truffles they were most likely weighed and priced many hours or even days before you bought them and they weigh much less by the time you buy it. They lose about 10% of moisture a day. Let your nose guide you. Take it out of any type of paper or linen towel and smell it alone. The closer to your nose you need to get the weaker the truffle. In good years you can smell a truffle from many feet away. You walk into Antine and the whole dining room smells of truffles from a basket in the corner. Ask about the color of the interior. It should be chocolate milk colored with pale white veins. Should be extremely firm. Like a rock hard apple or harder.

Antine is a great source for a reasonable truffle meal as is Tournevento. Both in the Alba area. Reasonable meaning around $200 for two with reasonable wine selection. Or you can just have the truffles on some eggs served at a great bar in La Morra. I forget the name of the bar but the proprietor is Dario and someone on here will know the place. He just scrambles up a couple of eggs and shaves a bunch of truffle on it for about $20 and it is divine.

I will be there in late November and as I am sad to hear of the rain hurting the Grapes it is good for the truffle. It is always one or the other. "96 was a bad truffle year but the Borolos are going to be great. Nature gives one bounty and takes away another.


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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Buying white truffles is a risky business and should be entered into with caution. There are sellers found outside Alba on the main roads that sell from cars and they have been a good source but not always.  Asking a lot of people if they know of any hunters that want to sell will / may  lead you to a better deal.

Montechiaro has a great festival and lots of top shelf truffles however they are usually priced at the top of the market. The sellers in Alba, including a couple of shops like Ponzi on the main drag have gone way down hill as Alba moved way upscale. In the early 90's it was a very different scene.

Antine is a great source for a reasonable truffle meal as is Tournevento. Both in the Alba area. Reasonable meaning around $200 for two with reasonable wine selection. .

I will be there in late November and as I am sad to hear of the rain hurting the Grapes it is good for the truffle. It is always one or the other. "96 was a bad truffle year but the Borolos are going to be great. Nature gives one bounty and takes away another.

I concur that one needs to be careful at the Alba truffle fair, as sellers come from all the other less famous (and maybe lower quality) areas of Italy & Europe to take advantage of the fame of the Alba Fair. Also with the many regional fairs, it helps to either know your truffles or have a local friend. But don't be put off, the experience of a local fair is wonderful and also of course more then just truffles as local wine and specialties are on offer.

Antine and Ciau Del Tornavento are both in Barbaresco or in the latter case, near to, OK close to Alba, but not actually in Alba zone if you want to split hairs. Slightly less expensive then these two is Rabaja Ristorante in Barbaresco which is one of our favourites.

The August rain, quite unusual, has not been as damaging to the grapes as the drought condition we had all year, but thats so far, as long as the sun keeps shining and we don't get anymore prolonged rainy days. I don't think it will be agreat year, but fingers crossed for a fair vendemmia.


Too many restaurants in Piedmont, too little time in life

Villa Sampaguita

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Sorry Sampa if I mislead with my restaurant locations. I just meant they were "in the area". By that I meant within 20 minutes or less.

I have not tried the place you mention but will this year.

The bar in La Morra is San Georgio or San Gregario I cannot remember for sure. Still one of the purest and simplest truffle experiences I have had. Simple farm fresh eggs covered (and I mean covered) in local (and I mean local) fresh W.T.

We still like Tournevento but will say that it was better 10 years ago before the "split".

We stay in Treiso so it was close as is Antine.

Thank you for your input.


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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We still like Tournevento but will say that it was better 10 years ago before the "split".

We stay in Treiso so it was close as is Antine.

Thank you for your input.

I was just in a hair-splitting mood last night, Treiso as you know is halfway between Barbaresco and Alba.

I didn't know about Tornavento split, what was that? Loacl chef gossip around here is that the Chef at Tornavento left for Osterie Vignaiolo close to La Morra (its another fabulous and not overly pricey place) and Tornavento now has the ex-chef from Da Cesare


Too many restaurants in Piedmont, too little time in life

Villa Sampaguita

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They were a husband and wife team. They split several years ago. Still a fabulous place to eat. Great wine list, service, food. Beautiful room. What else could someone want?

I had not been to Alba in several years and went back last year. I was so surprised to see the changes. The Truffle fair is now a truffle museum / fair and charge to enter. There were so many upscale clothing shops, bad pizza places and new wine shops. I was happy to see the old guard still in place as I saw my favorite couple of little wine shops, bakeries and my fav little purveyor of meats and cheeses sort of at the far end (the bus station end) of the main drag. I also was shocked to see so many well healed tourists there in late Oct. It used to be so quiet with so few tourists. Now it is a second high season. I am glad for the local economy but sad for it not being how it was. I will stick to Treiso and La Morra and the surrounding little towns. There is a larger town thats name eludes me for the moment that has a great butcher shop (next to a large supermarket) that makes fantastic chingale salumi. Dry, hard, well cured.

When I have a few extra days in the area I will ask you for a couple of local recs on little. family run places.


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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Thanks for the tip. I emailed Paulo and got a very quick response from him. The tour is perfect - not too long or too expensive and Paulo seems like a really charming person. I can't wait, it looks like my husband and I will be on their "Autumn tour" in the middle of October.

Do you know anything about the two castles they use for accomodations (Razzano and La Violina)?

Also I wanted to say Gruetsi - Ich habe in der Schweiz gewohnt (Vitznau & Luzern) fur ein Jahre und habe Patisserie studiert. Ich glaube das der Dchweiz ist amschonsten Land in der Welt! Sorry, my German is getting worse and worse every day.

thanks! Emily

Hi Emily,

Sorry for the late reply, I just noticed your post.

I am glad you got in touch with Paolo, of the two places I would definitely pick Razzano. They cost about the same but Razzano is really lovely. Tell Augusto and Rita that "Eduardo á Zanco" sent you and when you are in the area contact us, our house is 5 minutes fron Razzano.

I would have to agree with you about Switzerland!

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...It used to be so quiet with so few tourists. Now it is a second high season. I am glad for the local economy but sad for it not being how it was.  I will stick to Treiso and La Morra and the surrounding little towns....

Hi David,

Next time why don't you come to the Monferrato? It is very lovely, less crowded and less expensive than the Langhe, and because there has been less growth and fewer modern buildings, our villages are better preserved. The country side is a series of rolling hills planted with a mixture of crops, for example, from our 16th century church here in Zanco, we can see vineyards, lavender fields, hazelnut groves, corn and wheat fields and various orchards. As a back drop you have a fantastic view of the Alps on a clear day. Most villages are perched on the hilltops and are virtually untouched by the last century. The food is (of course) fantastic here too and truffles are famous from this region. Moncalvo has a lovely truffle fair and it is far less touristic than Alba.

The Castello di Razzano and the Canonica di Corteranzo are both world-class accommodations.

Ed


Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)

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Ed - we are going to be at La Villa in MOMBARUZZO - arriving on Sunday and leaving Tues morning mid november - what would you recomend - I know alot of places are closed sun/mon. Obviously Tartufo is paramount...

Also not so sure about a hunt - the owners @ La Villa were very kind and said they would help us source some good product - which is fine with me.

Thanks,

Mark


Edited by mdbasile (log)

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Ed - we are going to be at La Villa in  MOMBARUZZO - arriving on Sunday and leaving Tues morning mid november - what would you recomend - I know alot of places are closed sun/mon. Obviously Tartufo is paramount...

Also not so sure about a hunt - the owners @ La Villa were very kind and said they would help us source some good product - which is fine with me.

Thanks,

Mark

Hi Mark,

Da Maria in my village Zanco will be open both nights. If anyone will have fresh truffles... they will. The dog kennels are kept right in front of the restaurant and you will be hard pressed to find better food for the money! Last year Georgio showed me a local truffle the size of a baseball. Do you know how rare that is???? A restaurant owner drove all the way from Rome to buy it. Seems funny to me that people go to Alba for truffles!

My place is just down the street, stop by for a grappa.

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Mark - we stayed at La Villa for a week at the end of August (sadly pre-truffles, although apparently someone in the village had found the first truffles of the season the day we left). Chris and Nicola are excellent hosts and I have no doubt that they will be able to source good product if you want to eat at La Villa and will also be able to direct you to the pick of the truffle menus at local restaurants.

I would recommend eating at La Villa at least once - the food is simple but relyies on the quality of the local ingredients so the results are good and the communal dining approach works surprising well. Nicola also has a good and well priced selection of local wines - it is very easy to end up drinking much more than you planned, particularly as driving is not an issue. Given that dining in was so enjoyable we didn't eat out as much as I had expected but icaffi in Acqui was the pick of the restaurants within easy driving distance (15/20 mins).

Enjoy.

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