Tales from the Truffle Trade – Chapter 4

Tales from the Truffle Trade – Chapter 4

Dinners NEXT WEEK November 13 to 17, 2018

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Back in 2010 we had an exceptional year—big beautiful truffles in abundance, and at a good price. On the Sunday before our dinners, I was still near Sienna, happy with the haul I’d be taking home tomorrow. Then I got a call from Denise Sacchini, Giorgio’s daughter, saying that there was one more truffle I needed to buy. It was a huge 604 gram truffle. I’d seen giant truffles on display at truffle fairs, but never anything this size. It’s the size that a Hong Kong restaurant owner would buy for tens of thousands of dollars to get his picture in the paper. I declined, respectfully. Denise persisted. I thought I had all I needed, and it didn’t have that kind of value to Oliveto, though it was offered at a very reasonable price. I called Maggie, and she thought I was nuts to pass on it, so I agreed. When it came in from the field, it was beautiful, though not particularly fragrant.

Here it is, our 604 gram truffle. Found in the south of Tuscany, near Chiusi, with Denise Sacchini.

Our truffle had been missed by two hunters earlier that day, but was found deep underground by a young dog named Jeny. To my great honor, Jeny was the daughter of a truffle dog named Bob, and Bob was named after me 12 years earlier. He is the 6 week old puppy in my pocket in this video of Giorgio. And while Bob was lazy and proved disappointing as a truffle dog he had good genes. His mother, Jeny Sr., also in the video, was a prize winner. It took over an hour for the truffle hunter to dig this truffle out. Giorgio and his family had become very good friends of ours, and they thought I should have this truffle.

I could have driven to Alba, sold the truffle and made enough to buy a car, but Sunday night I drove to my regular pre-flight hotel in Milan. I became well known there for all the smells. In a marble bathroom, I’d clean the truffles all night, 12 pounds, so they’d pass Agricultural inspection at SFO when I arrived on Monday. By Tuesday night, our 604 gram truffle had bloomed with an extraordinary fragrance. It took an exceptional dog to find this adolescent so deep in the ground.

We want Truffle Dinners at Oliveto to be fun. Truffle Dinners aren’t exactly fun at $25 per gram in a stuffy dining room. We find that at $7-$8 per gram you can still have some fun. Once we have our truffles in hand on Monday we’ll put out the final menu and report on their condition and price.

In case you missed them: Truffle Tales #1Truffle Tales #2Truffle Tales #3, & the preliminary Truffle Menu

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2018-11-09T17:11:46+00:00November 9th, 2018|Coming up..., Events, This Just In, Uncategorized|0 Comments

This Just In: Truffle Menu 2018

Announcing: The Truffle Dinners Menu

November 13 to 17, 2018

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Tentatively – possibly – maybe – our truffles will be inexpensive, in the $7-8 per gram range. White truffles are shaved fresh by request and would be delicious on most of the dishes below. Also available is the ultimate experience of white truffles mortared in new olive oil and slathered on meat. Black truffles and wild mushrooms are integrated into the menu, as they are best served cooked.

Chef Jonah with white truffles from an earlier year

Dinners For Truffles & Wild Mushrooms 2018

Antipasti:  smaller items, soup, salads
Cold
Parfait of Hudson Valley duck liver, pistachios, black truffles, and huckleberries
Crudo of Magruder beef with capers
Salad of shaved Brussels sprouts with bagna cauda, lemon, and Grana
Padano cheese
Garden lettuces vinaigretteWarm
Sformatino of Chanterelle mushrooms with ricotta salata fonduta
Braised leek and Pecorino cheese tart with persimmon-truffle vinaigrette
Croque monsieur” of house-cured culatello and Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese with frisée
and egg yolk
Soup:  vellutata of sunchoke, chestnut, and apple with Calvados-black truffle crema

Primi
Tajarin al burro
Raviolo of house-made ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and farm egg yolk with brown
butter, sage, and old aceto balsamico
Tortelloni of Caseificio Tosi Gorgonzola cheese with Pink Lady apples and spiced
hazelnuts
Agnolotti dal plin
Potato gnocchi with wild mushroom ragù
Maltagliata with chicken liver and Madeira ragù

Secondi:  grills, sautés, roasts, and rotisserie
Spit-roasted porchetta stuffed with figs and wild mushrooms, with Floriani red flint
corn polenta and braised radicchio
Charcoal-grilled Magruder beef with braised Savoy cabbage, wheat berries,
and Gorgonzola crema
Liberty Farms duck breast with black Futsu squash, chestnuts, pomegranate, and
Brussels sprouts; old aceto balsamico
Pan-roasted black cod with Black Trumpet mushrooms, Lacinato kale, and celeriac
 crema; truffle salsa
Roast Black Futsu squash with wild mushroom and root vegetable medley, fonduta 
    Val d’Aostana, and cured egg yolk

Menu is à la carte – pricing is comparable to our daily menu

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2018-11-06T16:22:21+00:00November 5th, 2018|Coming up..., Events, This Just In, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tales from the Truffle Trade – Chapter 3

Breaking News: Truffle Report

Tales from the Truffle Trade – Chapter 3

Truffle Dinners November 13 to 17, 2018

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Aldo Vacca, Dir. Produttori del Barbaresco, and Oliveto truffle advisor

I called Aldo Vacca our old friend in Barbaresco this morning to get a read on the season. It’s been warm and dry up until a couple of weeks ago, and the truffles had been few, expensive and not first quality. It has since become cold and wet, and the truffles have improved with prices coming down. A late season, not good for the October Truffle Fairs, but on November 13-17th, we’ll be in great shape.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve had a fair number of challenges—
A year of floods: slightly water-logged truffles.
Very wet years: limited truffle harvest because it’s difficult for dogs to smell.
Warm, dry years: fewer, less fragrant truffles.

And then there was 2007. An absolutely impossible year: very few truffles, very high prices. I was at the end of my trip, deciding to pay the price for a few decent truffles from a dealer, so we’d have something to serve at our dinners. Then, Giorgio got a call from a friend. We drove to Castelnuovo Barendenga, to wait for a call from a hunter.

The call came, we were to drive half an hour south to a supermarket parking lot below Bettolle. As we started out, a black blanket of clouds rapidly replaced the blue sky, and an extraordinary downpour followed.

Next to the shopping carts, protected from the deluge by the market’s overhang, was our hunter. He had big beautiful truffles, 60 to 80 grams—lots of them. He could have sold them for twice the price, thousands more, in Alba. But that was a 6-hour drive away. He had just gotten married and didn’t want to spend the next two days delaying the honeymoon. It was perhaps our greatest truffle triumph, except for that described in Chapter #4 of Tales of the Truffle Trade, next week.

Menu will also be posted next week.

Incase you missed them: Truffle Tales #1  &  Truffle Tales #2

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2018-11-09T15:23:48+00:00November 2nd, 2018|Coming up..., Events, This Just In, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tales from the Truffle Trade – Chapter 2

Getting Down to Earth

Tales from the Truffle Trade – Chapter 2

Oliveto Truffle Dinners November 13 to 17, 2018

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When travelers want to experience white truffles first hand, they travel to the Piedmont region of Italy, specifically to the Truffle Festival in Alba. The Piemonte is a remarkable place to visit in late fall. Its vineyards are changing colors, with patches of reds, purples and yellows draping the already splendid landscape like a quilt. Alba is alive with smells and people and music.

Our truffle trips always began in Alba, rarely to buy, but mainly to understand that year’s quality and market. It’s a magical place to go in late fall, a sort of gateway to the truffle fairs in the rest of the country. I tried a selfie standup (never before shown) outside Alba’s newly developed truffle pavilion in 2010. Note the Hitchcock cameo.

Inside the fair, you don’t find much magic.

Common wisdom has it that the best white truffles come from Alba, largely because its PR machine has been going longer than those in other regions. But a bonafide fresh white truffle, just out of the forests of Tuscany or Umbria, can be every bit the match of a similarly fresh white truffle from Piedmont. Here’s a travel piece we wrote for the SF Chronicle Sunday Magazine in October, 2000.
It is magical experiencing the “truffle trail”, as everywhere that one eats along the trail, truffles are the focus of the menu. We try to uphold the integrity and magic of these forests in our dining room. With these dinners we’re able to buy in quantity, at a better price, and pass the savings on to customers.
November 13 to 17, superior truffles at modest cost, served humbly.

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2018-11-02T12:51:40+00:00November 2nd, 2018|Coming up..., Events, This Just In, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tales from the Truffle Trade – Chapter 1

The Return of Autumn’s Greatest Gift

Tales from the Truffle Trade – Chapter 1

Oliveto Truffle Dinners November 13 to 17, 2018

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Some things don’t change:

  • Italian white truffles remain one of the world’s most wonderful intoxicants.
  • White Truffles are mysterious—they’ve never been farmed successfully.
  • The Oliveto Truffle Dinners are always the week before Thanksgiving. There’s a reason:

The Italian truffle fairs in Alba and many villages in Tuscany and Umbria begin in October and are pretty much gone by the second week in November, along with the tourists. Prices come down and quality usually improves with colder weather. And we’ve never wanted to compete with Christmas shopping. Hence this year the dinners are November 13 to 17.

Somewhat consumed by our new business, Community Grains, I no longer have the two weeks it takes to seek out truffles myself. Instead, we’ve found a trusted source to take over. We will, as always, offer the very best fresh truffles at the very best price, accompanied by Chef Jonah and Sous Chef Brian’s exceptional menu.

I’ve had such wonderful times sourcing truffles . . . experiencing great adventures and collecting exciting stories every year. Early on, before connecting with our beloved friends, truffle hunter Giorgio Sacchini and family, things were rather dicey. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote seventeen years ago for the LA Times—a trip down memory lane.

 

The Return of Fall’s Luxuries
Tales from the Truffle Trade
November 07, 2001 | BOB KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
I’ve never been a drug dealer, but a truffle trader has to be the closest of relatives. You drive down the lonely country roads of a foreign land, money bulging from every pocket, suspicious of any cars behind you, ready to take evasive action if required. You arrive at a nondescript storefront and pass into a featureless back room with a small precise scale. The merchandise is removed from a ragged kitchen towel. You scan the faces of the two or three men in the room, sniff and examine the goods and make the deal. Fistfuls of cash change hands. Upon your return to the States, the government’s drug-sniffing dog jumps all over you, and the metaphor is complete.

 

Truffle Dinners remain a favorite here. Menu to follow, as well as more… Tales from the Truffle Trade.

Giorgio’s haul for the day – truffles from 40 to 10 grams

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2018-10-25T12:51:43+00:00October 25th, 2018|Coming up..., Events, This Just In, Uncategorized|0 Comments

We’re looking forward…

We’re looking forward…

It was chilly this morning, yes? We’re starting to look at sweaters in the closet—it has begun. We’re looking forward to our favorite season for rich, full-bodied, soul warming food—Ribollita with new olive oil, great braises, food that calls for Barolos and Barbarescos, and of course truffles, all in the weeks to come.

This weekendTortellini of Black Futsu squash and sage in poultry brodo.

Lot’s more coming and Truffle Dinners are scheduled for November 13 through 17, now taking reservations.

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2018-10-19T12:42:55+00:00October 19th, 2018|Coming up..., Events, This Just In, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Four Ways to Truffle at our Dinner

Tuber magnatum pico and Tuber aestivum

Truffle Dinners Start Next Tuesday

November 14th – 18th, 2017


Four Ways to Truffle at our Dinner

  1. Shaving Whites: We all know about shaving – classic and exquisite, shaving is a fine way to go. There’s nothing like white truffles shaved on our tajarin (hand cut noodles, 32 egg yolks per kilo of flour). White truffles (Tuber magnatum pico) will be shaved at the table.
  2. Mortar & Slather: A truffle hunter’s favorite. White truffles mortared in fresh pressed oil and then slathered on a meat – excellent with beef or pork. We’ll have a Olio Nuovo pressed the day before that will be super peppery.
  3. Black Truffles: Burgundian Truffles (Tuber aestivum) are common during white truffle season in Tuscany and have a simple but really delicious flavor. Usually Burgundian truffles are prepared in the dish so the heat of cooking releases the flavor. Black Périgord truffles (Tuber melanosporum) come later in the season
  4. Truffles for the Table: During the dinners, people will be given a chance to buy a white truffle for the table, to be used for the dinner. You may also buy more than you need to take home.

 

We’ve always tried to make it a fun evening, and make it as inexpensive as possible. This year the truffles are expensive, and we’ll do everything we can to bring people the best truffles at the best price.

View Chef Jonah’s menu here.

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Dinners for Truffles 2017

The niece of our favorite truffle hunter Georgio from earlier days

Dinners for the Italian White Truffle:
Tuber Magnatum Pico über alles

November 14th – 18th, 2017

The week before Thanksgiving, we will celebrate, as we have done for the past twenty-two years, perhaps the most evocative event in our series of dinners: that for truffles and wild mushrooms. The darkness of the dining room as we approach winter solstice, the aromas from the kitchen and wood-fired grill and rotisserie, not to mention that indescribable scent of the most expensive food of them all (a simple tree-root parasite which looks like a small, troubled potato) characterize fall at Oliveto.

Chef Jonah Rhodehamel has devised this year’s à la carte menu:

Antipasti
 Cold: Antipasto of roast autumn fruits and vegetables with malted barley
and black truffle vinaigrette

Salad of shaved Brussels sprouts with bagna cauda, lemon, and white truffle

Crudo of local halibut and artichokes with fried Black Trumpet mushrooms with
celery leaf pesto, and truffled egg yolk

Dungeness crab salad with Hachiya persimmon, fennel, and orange

Warm: Poached farm egg with crispy potato-duck confit hash and truffled hollandaise

Roast octopus with Tuscan sausage, Butter beans, and black truffle

Soup:  tba

Primi
Acquerello Carnaroli risotto of Black Trumpet mushrooms and Castelmagno cheese

Stinging nettle gnocchi with Chanterelle mushrooms and ricotta salata

Tortelloni of Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese with brown butter, sage, and candied walnuts

Tajarin al burro

Farm egg raviolo with house-made ricotta and duck sugo

Cappelletti of bone marrow with black truffle and fried shallots

Whole grain pasta with wild mushrooms Vallesana

Secondi
Pan-roasted Liberty duck breast with Kabocha squash, Lacinato kale, and spiced sugo

Sformatino of Lobster mushrooms with chestnuts, ricotta salata cheese, and Delicata squash

Fontina-stuffed chicken breast with wilted radicchio, parsnip crema, and Morel mushroomsugo

Black sea bass with cardoons, salsify, roast sunchoke crema, and Barolo spumante

Beef tournedo alla Rossini with Hudson Valley foie gras, Swiss chard, Yellow Finn potatoes, and black truffle sugo

Truffled boudin blanc with celeriac crema, escarole, and hazelnut salsa

Dolci (tba)

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We’re in the Hunt for Truffles!

It’s Almost Time for Truffles!

2017 Truffle Dinners
Tuesday November 14th – Saturday the 18th

À la carte menu showcasing wild mushrooms and
white and black truffles

We are on the hunt for good truffles and as always will bring you the best available at the best price. Updates to come on the menu and whether we’ll have any extra truffles to sell.

Be sure to reserve a table in advance. We’ve seen some really nice black truffles so far, as well as wild mushrooms, and the menu will be exciting!

There are just a few spots left for the Brunello Dinner next Saturday November 4th. It is a prix fixe dinner in the private dining room so please call to reserve. See the wine list and take a peek at the menu here.

Reserve Online or Call 510.547.5356

Preparing for Truffle Dinners

 

Truffle Dinners
November 15-19

Right now, duck egg yolks are slowly drying under very low heat in our kitchen, so that when our white truffles come from Italy, they can be stored with them, to  capture and absorb their intoxicating smell. Chef Jonah plans to grate these golden, truffle-imbued yolks on top of dishes during our Annual Truffle Dinners for extra truffle flavor.

The menu for our dinner comes out next week, and due to positive reports from Italy, we expect truffle prices will be moderate.

Now is the time to reserve your spot, while popular times are still available!

2017-09-12T15:46:32+00:00November 3rd, 2016|Coming up...|0 Comments