One of my fondest childhood memories are Italian town festas. On an early family trip to Italy I traveled to many of them with my uncle who was then the regional fireworks manufacturer. Each morning, we traveled to a different town in his truck loaded with fireworks and returned home in the evening with the smell of spent gun powder wafting around the truck.
The best part of those adventures, undoubtedly, was the fun I had with my cousins visiting the festival stalls eating and sampling the local food which seemed to always focus on the roasted peanuts that were very popular at the time. With the smell of freshly baked bread, brewed coffee and cut grass, roasted peanuts have to be up there as one of the most evocative of all smells.
So what has this to do with truffles, I hear you ask?
As well as being a celebration of the town's patron saint, these events were, and still are about the town’s life, its food and its glorious produce, including truffles. These feasts provide the chance not only to sample local truffles but include a range of activities like truffle dog competitions, truffle dinners and most certainly a truffle market or auction. Attending one of these events is the best way to immerse yourself in, not only thousands of years of European truffle culture, but provide an opportunity to meet the local hunters, merchants and families as they celebrate their lives, their culture and their love of truffles.
Good tour-guides will often include these events on their itineraries but if you are planning your own trip, a quick google search will quickly turn up many sites which are now mostly in English.
To whet your appetite, we have put together a selection of the more interesting events showcasing the love of truffles and truffle culture.
Set in the area of Vaucluse, which is responsible for 80% of France’s black truffle production, Richerenches hosts a mass and procession on the third Sunday in January, presided over by the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Diamond. Members of the order don distinctive black robes, hats and yellow ribbons bless the black truffle and mark the occasion of St. Anthony’s feast. Following the procession, a truffle auction for the benefit of the church takes place as well as festivities that include truffle sampling and cooking demonstrations.
During the last weekend of January, Sorges holds an annual truffle festival. It is a very popular festival which also celebrates the regions other famous dish Foie Gras. The event includes cooking demonstrations, omelette competitions, music and a giant banquet. This year celebrations will take place on 29 January, so there is still time to make it if you are quick.
The Sarlat Truffle Festival is one of the most famous truffle festivals in Europe. The 2023 edition of the Sarlat Truffle Festival (Culinary Academy of Foie Gras and Truffle) will take place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 January 2023 in the center of Sarlat.
This festival provides the opportunity to participate in workshops and cooking classes. Other activities include a truffle hunting competition the truffle market and the famous cooking competition sponsored by the Foie Gras and Truffle Culinary Academy. Chefs compete for the Jean Rougié trophy which is awarded by a panel of Michelin-starred chefs and culinary critics. The event includes demonstrations and tastings put together by the these highly acclaimed and competitive chefs.
San Miniato white truffle fair (Italy)
The Mostra Mercato Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco di San Miniato (San Miniato National White Truffle Market) is held every year in November. During the fair there are many gastronomic and cultural events including a the markets where you can eat, drink and find all types of Tuscan products. For thirty years, the The San Miniato National White Truffle Market transforms the city into a huge open-air tasting workshop. What is there not to love about that?
In this truffle area there are also a number of other smaller and hidden festivals that take place in the piazzas of Balconevisi (3rd weekend October), Corazzano (1st weekend October), Cigoli (3rd weekend March), La Serra (last weekend of September).
The truffle festival at San Giovanni d’Asso takes place during the second and third weekends of November. San Giovanni d'Asso is located about 80 km southeast of Florence and about 30 km southeast of Siena in the area known as the Crete Senesi. The village of San Giovanni d’Asso is small village dominated by a large castle which now houses a truffle museum, where the markets take place.
Volterra is located between the rivers Bra and Cecina in Tuscany. The Volterra truffle festival takes place late in October and is packed full of food stalls, cookery demonstrations and lots of other family entertainment.
The big one! The Alba National White Truffle Fair celebrates the delicacy and showcases the white Alba truffle. At the heart of the fair is the Alba White Truffle Market which offers a variety of wines, cheeses, cured meats and more in addition to the truffles. The fair takes place annually over the months of October to December. Planning is already under way for the 2023 edition of the fair: its huge!
A lovely clip of a truffle hunter patiently following his dog along a forest path then carefully digging out a precious 30-40g white Alba truffle. Beautiful!
The 2022 - 23 European truffle harvest continues.
Harvests of the while Alba continue, believe it or not.
Harvests of the black Perigord continue with prices settling before a predicted increase as we move into Chinese New Year celebrations.
The white Alba truffle
Hunts in Italy still seem to be turning up truffles but they are not really getting through to Australia at the moment with importers responding to the drop in local demand. If you can still find them they will be very reasonably price compared to previous years at between $8-10 per gram. Check the quality always.
The black Perigord truffle
Imports of the truffle have turned to the black winter truffle. These more reasonably priced truffles are being snapped up by chefs at the moment.
Expect to pay up to between $2.10 to $3 per gram depending on size and class. Events like Chinese New Year and St Valentine's day will push these prices up as we approach those dates.
Where to buy truffles including the white Alba and black Perigord in Australia?
Suppliers continue to return to work this week with the addition of GJ Food and Services to our list. Good to catch up Rene. As always we appreciate their time in helping us to compile this our posts.
*Orders are currently being taken for Chinese New Year and St Valentine's Day