White truffles are a rare delicacy: The short season for the mushrooms, the stratospheric prices ($2,000 a pound is not uncommon) and the intense aromas and flavors make this mostly something for the world’s super rich. Shaving a few grams of a white truffle on a dish such as risotto can send the price at a restaurant soaring into the triple digits. The artist formerly known P. Diddy had the money quote on the fungus. Apparently, when dining at Restaurant Daniel, he would say “shave this bitch” to indicate that he thought the dish would be enhanced by some white truffle. No doubt the servers were only too happy to oblige.
Abundant rains this year in Italy produced something of a bumper crop of white truffles. Ryan Sutton explores truffle-nomics, pointing out that wholesale prices are down by 50% over two years ago. Restaurateurs have mostly lowered their prices on the rarities too with, for example, Marea charging $100 for 7-8 grams of truffles shaved over risotto, down from $149 last year.
The bumper crop produced what has been called “the world’s largest truffle.” Discovered last week in central Italy, the Balestra family of Sabatino Truffles put it on the block at Sotheby’s New York over the weekend. The 1.89-kilo (4.16-lb) white truffle sold for $61,250 to a phone bidder in China. That’s $32.40 per gram. Makes Marea’s pricing seem like a bargain! I’m sure the bidder has a private plane–the kind that shaves truffles, that is.
The consignors say they will be donating the proceeds to charity.
President Obama just wrapped up a four-country swing through Asia. There was lots of diplomatic talk, to be sure, but inquiring food minds want to know what of the local cuisines Obama got to sample. Thanks to the official food feed (?) of the White House on Twitter, Obamafoodorama (aka Eddie Gehman Kohan), we have some of the foodie details of his trip. The real culinary highlight must have been dining at Sukiybashi Jiro where owner and sushi master Jiro Ono served Obama and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. Must have been tough to score that rez!
We always enjoy taking a look at the wines poured at state dinners at the White House. But at the state dinner in Manilla, we have the official menu but no wines listed. You know what that means: “impossible food-wine pairings” meets “leaders and liters”! Readers new and old are no doubt salivating as if it were grower champagne and kumamoto oysters! In the absence of word on the actual wines served, here is a combination of two of our favorite themes and the chance for you to play sommelier! Un, deux, trois: voila! The menu from the Philippines: Read more…
The Times has a story about a handful of “all-natural” gelato shops in Rome that are bucking convention and trying to boost year-round sales. Their strategy? Make savory flavors (such as anchovy, smoked salmon, pepperoni or gorgonzola) and even do wine or beer pairings, particularly to drive sales and interest in the frozen treat during winter months.
The story mentions Claudio Torcè of Il Gelato who estimates only 30 shops in Rome–out of 2,500–use “all-natural” ingredients. The author speaks with Andrea Puddinù, one of Torcè’s students who runs Il Gelato Bistrò. He pairs savory flavors of gelato with Champagne or prosecco as an “alternative to the classic aperitivo.” Marco Radicioni of Otaleg pairs craft beers with them, such as Moinette Belgian blonde with artichoke gelato.
So just in case you thought savory gelato was…impossible…to pair with wine, there are a few brave souls braving the cold to do it. Have you ever attempted the pairing? Would you, could you in a boat, with a goat?
We just finished up another session of my wine class at NYU this week. As part of an assignment, one student decided to present an “impossible” food to pair with wine to a wine shop. She made some homemade peanut brittle, went to Chambers Street Wines, presented the challenge to the staff there who–lo and behold–had never been hit with this precise challenge before. But they rose to it! A few ideas came up but the student had budgetary and practical considerations (had to be cold right then and there if it needed to be). So the suggestion was…a Felsina Vin Santo with 14 years of age on it! Although it wouldn’t occur to me to even pair peanut brittle with wine, the nuttiness of the mature wine and it’s richness worked well. And the brittle was darned good.
So, if some peanut brittle is in your near future, how would you pair it with wine if you had to? Or is it…impossible??
One of the popular features on this site is the challenge of the “impossible food-wine pairing.” But while we often focus on the virtues of sparkling wine with zany foods, there’s one that a classic 80s commercial told us about: Riunite!
Today, a blast from wine advertising’s past. While the refrain of “Riunite, on ice” is well-known, don’t forget the other compelling text: “Riunite and burgers so nice. Riunite and tacos so nice….goes great with all your favorite foods.” Problem. Solved.
Anchovies are polarizing: a recent poll found them to be among the three foods the are most disliked by Brits (along with oysters and liver). But then there are people like Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac who recently tweeted a photo with this caption: “Christmas came early: just received over 2kg of my very favorite Sicilian anchovies. Umami for dayyyssss.” He later elaborated that he likes them on caesar salad, salsa verde, pasta, and everything, including eating “anchovies and avocados for breakfast.”
It’s not as if Jeremy needs any wine advice, but maybe there are other anchovy lovers out there who do. Which wine would you pair with them? Or are they…impossible?!? (Maybe you just eat them for breakfast, sans wine.)
In a talk, the renowned innovator and leading protagonist of molecular gastronomy laid out what’s happening at the new El Bulli Foundation, the successor to the famed restaurant. The sprawling project includes a museum at the site of the El Bulli restaurant outside of Barcelona, a center in the city (“El Bulli DNA”) which will host 20 chefs as interns, and an online knowledge base known as “El Bullipedia.” It’s set to open March 15, 2015.
For one fleeting month of the year, the center in Barcelona will provide dining experiences (they will not take reservations). Half the seats will be to students and others as a form of social work. The other half will be allocated to members, with membership capped at about 200. “The first who have the chance to become members will be those who have helped us through the auctions in New York and Hong Kong,” Adria told the group in the large hall on the seventh floor at Sotheby’s. Members will also be able to spend a day with the creative team.
Along with Adria were two sommeliers from the restaurant who continue to work with the foundation. I asked them about the challenge of pairing wine with such unusual dishes. David Seijas said it was a “nightmare” pairing wines with the food since, among other factors, diners were presented with 50 (!) courses in a meal during the last year of the restaurant. Aside from the sheer number of dishes, he said a challenge was to follow the unconventional ordering which could zigzag from vegetables to seafood to game and back again with diners never knowing when a sweet course was coming or even if it would be the end. “There is no order,” he said, “there is only Ferran’s order! He loves surprises.” Read more…