THE JOY OF TRUFFLES (Official Truffle Music Video)

Behold, the world’s first truffle music video. White truffles – the exotic, expensive delicacy from Alba, Italy – are finally getting the MTV treatment they deserve. Join along as I offer an unforgettable homage to this knobby wonder of the mushroom world.


The truffles music video was shot on location in various corners of Italy’s Piedmont region, which is tucked in the northwestern corner of Italy. Piedmont is a gastronomic goldmine, known for such dishes as the olive oil-based anchovy and garlic fondue called bagna cauda, the raw meat of carne cruda, and the thin, ribbon-like pasta called tajarin and its cousin tagliatelle. The last are the traditional vehicles for the tartufo bianco d’Alba – or white truffle of Alba – shaved vigorously on top these simple, buttered egg noodles.

Included in the video is scenes from a recent truffle hunt in a forest near the village of Barolo, as well as inside the 87th International Truffle Fair Alba and the annual International Truffle Auction.

At the auction recently, I witnessed a trio of white truffles, a total of 480 grams of the knobby mushroom perched on a velvet red pillow, be purchased by Hong Kong mogul Eugene Fung for the eye-popping sum of $87,000. Proceeds benefit a local hospital in Italy.


Suffering from an unseasonably dry and hot summer and early fall, Italy’s Piedmont region has endured one of the worst seasons for white truffles on record. Prices for the coveted delicacy have accordingly doubled to at least 6000 euro per kilogram, placing it out the reach of many restauranteurs and diners.  Undaunted, Mr. Fung bid from Hong Kong via satellite link, dogfighting with other bidders for about eight minutes and ultimately emerging the winner of the enormous cluster of white gold.

If he chooses to enjoy his white truffle as it is traditionally done, he will be shaving the funky, earth fungus raw over buttered noodles or scrambled eggs, the customary vehicles for what many consider the world’s greatest culinary delicacy. So great, that is, that is not has its own truffle music video.

This model actress plays a memorable role in the truffle music video.
A shot from the truffle music video: stunning model actress holds an $85,000 truffle.


Truffle hunting in Piedmont, Italy, for the world’s most expensive culinary treasure – the white truffle

Ever wonder where that elusive, $300 truffle being shaved onto pasta comes from? I took a trip to Piedmont, in north-west Italy to forage for one of these buried treasures. Giani, a veteran trifulau – who found his first truffle at age 5 – took me to one of his secret spots with his trusty dog, Lady, and a puppy in training, Lila. (watch the video where you will see how crucial these dogs really are to the whole endeavor.)

Our guide distracts the dogs with a few pieces of bread to keep them from eating the truffles
Our guide distracts the dogs with a few pieces of bread to keep them from eating the truffles

Hailed as the “diamond of the kitchen”, the white truffle from Alba is among the most expensive in the world, commanding up to $700 per 3.5 ounces depending on the quality of the supply. While the black truffle, the more common variety, is used in cooking, the rare white one should be served raw–never cooked. At most restaurants, I had it shaved over a simple bowl of pasta in butter.

The Italians enjoy white truffle raw--never cooked.
The Italians enjoy white truffle raw–never cooked.

As for what to pair with white truffles, Barolo and Barbaresco are the most prestigious wines of Piedmont (and mighty delicious). For a less expensive alternative, Barbera is a fine choice and it doesn’t require aging. These wines are medium-to-full bodied with aromas of strawberries, violets and sometimes minerals or tar.

Like a lot of Italian reds, they can have prominent acidity and/or tannins, so be sure to have your bowl of tagliatelle pasta with butter and shaved truffles at the ready.

For more on Italian wine and food pairings, grab a copy of my book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire, and check out the video to see what I dug up!

Gaia Gaja Gets Double Paws

Last night I was fortunate to have dinner with Gaia Gaja (pronounced ‘Guy-ah Guy-ah’), whose fresh-faced charisma and alliteratively alluring name is rivaled only by the recently wedded Lauren Bush Lauren.  Gaia is the elder daughter of Angelo Gaja, the Piedmont-based godfather of legendary Barolo and Barbaresco.  The wines we enjoyed, including the 2009 Gaja Barbarbeco and 2008 Gaja DaGromis Barolo, were as floral, licorice-infused, and persistent as one would expect from Italy’s most renowned producer.

Gaia Gaja

Having a real-life Piedmontese gastronaut in my midst, however, I was equally curious about her knowledge of truffle hunting in her native area.  (With my annual BYOT(ruffle) tradition, one can never been overeducated in the mysterious ways of the blessed tartufo bianco). Gaia Gaja did not disappoint, providing these fascinating nuggets:

  • There is no specific type of dog bred for truffle hunting, although smaller dogs with short hair are favored for their ability to move easily through forest underbrush.
  • To determine which puppy of a litter has a special penchant for truffles, each is given its chow with a few flecks of real truffle.  The puppy that responds most positively to the truffle is singled out for training.
  • The dog will eventually be trained by letting it home in on a truffle wrapped in a napkin and then be rewarded with a dog biscuit.  The napkin gets the dog used to the fact that he shouldn’t chomp into the truffle but instead wait for the biscuit.
  • A truffle hunter and his canine companion often have an unusually close relationship, whereby the dog is allowed to sleep in the hunter’s bed, is fed eggs in the morning, and is cajoled and praised like a human.  Said Gaia with feigned exasperation: “The dog is often treated better than the wife”.
  • Although scrambled eggs or simple pasta dishes are the classic vehicles for shaved truffles, Gaia encountered her favorite all-time truffle dish at a restaurant in her local town of Barbaresco.  It consisted of the swoon-worthy concoction of truffles shaved over a raw egg yolk surrounded by polenta that had been infused with pureed chestnuts and grated parmigiano reggiano.
  • Some truffle dogs are trained to differentiate between black truffles and the more valuable white truffles.  Upon sensing his tartufo target, the pooch will signal his master by stomping one paw for black, two for white.