Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pietro, Roberta, and white truffles...

Forgive the time between postings...we haven't forgotten about the site! It's just that Emily and I have been quite busy with everything involved in re-integrating ourselves back in the U.S.

No excuses though! We still have a ton of pictures, and things to write about, from Italy.

Like this, for instance. We lived in an apartment building in Bologna, at the end of a hallway on the fifth floor. Since there was no elevator, we spent a considerable amount of time every day going up and down the stairs - and often during that time, we'd see our next-door neighbors Pietro and Roberta.

Didn't take us long, of course, to talk about Italian food with them. And as soon as we did so, it became apparent that Pietro and Roberta are, like most Italians, very "into" their local food and justifiably proud of it.

I fooled you, though, because grapes and tangerines aren't what I want to write about.  I just wanted to break up the text with a picture.

Fruit is nice and all, but it's not very, well, special.  And Pietro is a man with an appreciation for the finer things.

Can you see what's in his hand? Pietro and Roberta came over for dinner one night in November, and November in Italy means one thing to foodies: tartufi bianchi. White truffles.

In the pic he's holding just one of them, because he stopped by before the dinner to show us (and let us smell) what we were in for. When showed up for dinner, though, Pietro brought 5 white truffles. Let me restate that. HE BROUGHT 5 WHITE TRUFFLES. We were dumbstruck - Italian white truffles sell for several thousand dollars per pound, even in Bologna. But, as is the Italian way, it's all about who you know. And Pietro's friend is a a truffle-hunter.

Pietro and Roberta, it should also be said, are wonderfully generous. So in addition to the tartufi, they brought all the accompaniments needed for a classic Bolognese feast: fresh tagliatelle pasta (made by Pietro's cousin), 4 different types of bread, eggs, wine, and mortadella. Oh, and the hardware needed to enjoy it!

You see, this wasn't just any old mortadella. It was mortadella di asino, which is typical of the region. So of course we needed the typical knife to cut it, which Pietro brandished when I opened the door. It made me jump and had me wondering for a second if I'd wronged him, because really it's less like a knife and more like a machete:

Oh yes, and if you don't speak Italian, "asino" means "donkey." As you can see, it's not called that because it's donkey-shaped or anything...yep, that's what it's made with. Being a fan of exotic meats, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

But the next course was even more enjoyable (especially for Emily). Fresh tagliatelle pasta with an obscene amount of white truffle on top. It didn't start out obscene, because I got the honor of the first turn with the truffle shaver, and I was a little timid. I mean, I didn't want to be rude - it felt like I was shaving money onto my plate.

Pietro would have none of that, though. He took the shaver over my plate and showed me how it was done:

The truffle was heavenly in smell alone....eating it on the pasta was amazing. I don't know what happens in the brain when you eat truffle, but it's more than just flavor, it releases endorphins and gives a head rush, a natural high. You can see it on our faces:

After the pasta, we fried up the eggs and ate them with, you guessed it, more truffle. Emily liked the eggs even more than the pasta.

All in all it was just an incredible meal. The funny thing is, though, it was really very simple, very few ingredients. But when your ingredients are this amazing on their own, we've learned that the simple dishes really are the best because it lets them shine.

I doubt we'll ever have white truffles like this again, because unless you know a truffle hunter it really is just crazy expensive to eat them in such quantity. But boy oh boy am I glad we got to fully experience them, if even just once.

I understand, now, why white truffles are so highly prized. If there's one on the counter in a paper sack, you can smell it through the whole kitchen. When you shave them over warm pasta, the perfume is overwhelming. And eating them gets you absolutely giddy from the overload of savory, earthy, intense umami taste. Heck, if we ever move back to Italy maybe I'll get a dog or two (used instead of pigs these days) and teach them to root out the white gold myself!

Ah, that would certainly be the life....

Grazie mille Pietro e Roberta! Recordiamo molto affettuosamente la nostra splendida cena con voi, e vi mandiamo un caro saluto!!!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again Pietro and Roberta. That dinner was incredible! Ci mancate!!!