Ah, fall. The leaves are changing, the days are getting shorter, pie and soup are back on the menu, and coats and boots are back in the stores.
And across the pond in France and Italy, it's also the height of truffle season.
Truffle oil has gotten a pretty bad rap in recent years -- deservedly so, since the sickly stuff was used way too liberally on every menu in existence for a while -- but real truffles are magical, magical mushrooms, even though they won't make you hallucinate.
In previous years, it's been hard to find real truffles outside of restaurants because most public-facing purveyors simply don't bring them in. But Cured, the new premium meat-and-cheese shop on the east end of Boulder's Pearl Street, is offering customers the chance to order truffles for home-cooking this year -- and co-owner Coral Ferguson says she's surprised at how many people are taking advantage of the offer.
The shop is bringing in black truffles from France and white truffles from Alba, and though both are foraged with the help of truffle pigs, the differences between the two types dictate different uses -- and different prices.
"Black truffles are more pungent and powerful," Ferguson explains. "Some people say they're more masculine. White truffles are hard to find and more delicate in flavor. They're also more expensive."
Significantly so. Black truffles will set you back $1.10 per gram, while white truffles ring in at $7 a gram for specimens in the fifteen to twenty gram range, and $8.25 per gram for anything larger than that, since the big guys are harder to find. For reference, a forty gram truffle is about the size of a golf ball.
That said, you don't need much to impart truffle flavor into a dish. "The flavor carries so well," says Ferguson. "You want to shave them superfine."
She and her staff have been recommending using the truffle to highlight simple dishes. "It's an item that seems hard to do yourself because it's so gourmet," she says. "But it tastes best in super-simple items." Like scrambled eggs. Or pasta topped with olive oil and pecorino.
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Whatever you cook, you'll want to use the truffle within ten days. After that, says Ferguson, "it loses freshness and pungency."
And if you want to try truffles, you'll need to do it soon. "We place the orders on Sunday and they come in on Tuesday," Ferguson explains. "And we'll do that from the end of the season, which is in about four or five weeks."
By the way, as long as you're indulging, Cured also happens to sell foie gras by the pound (or half pound... or quarter pound).And come holiday time, Ferguson says the shop will be taking pre-orders for an array of caviars.