First Truffle Report for 2011

trufflegirl

Oliveto co-owner Bob Klein and General Manager Shane Walker depart in less than a week for Italy to gather white truffles for our upcoming dinners. We’ve already heard some preliminary reports about the start of the season from a few of our contacts.

Bad news first: Our friend Aldo Vacca in the Piedmont says the weather has been very dry and very hot.

BUT he also says the truffles he has seen so far are small but high quality and just recently, the weather has turned and it has started raining. That is definitely GOOD news.

In Tuscany, our truffle hunter Giorgio is saying much of the same.

If you want to follow along, we encourage you to bookmark this page or add it to your RSS feed as we will be posting videos and dispatches live from the hunt.

2017-09-12T15:48:14-07:00October 25th, 2011|2011, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Truffle Report #4: Time To Get Serious

sky_500

I arrived in Chianti last night. They have just had some significant rain (harder for the dogs to find the truffle) and it is cold (that’s good). The rain is supposed to have passed by tomorrow, so we are hopeful the ground will dry enough to begin harvesting.

Can’t help but feel a bit nervous about the next few days. In recent years there have been relatively poor yields that have miraculously turned in our favor during the final few days of my trip. We’ve been really lucky.

But this is a banner year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many truffles around. Could it really be this easy? Or could our luck just as easily turn sour in the eleventh hour? Not to be melodramatic, but there is still some mystery to all this.

Stay tuned…

2017-09-12T15:48:32-07:00November 11th, 2010|2010, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Truffle Report #3: Truffle Pizza with Giorgio

In this year’s World Pizza Championships (watch a ridiculous montage of the 2006 dough tossing competition here) held annually in Salsomaggiore Italy, our tuscan truffle hunter Giorgio Secchini and daughter Denise wowed the judges with their truffle pizza: Pear Marzolo tartufi with pecorino de Pienza, and pecorino de Fossa.

giorgio_pizza

BTW: for dinner tonight we had a 4 kg wild hare, shot by Giorgio’s son, Samuele.

2017-09-12T15:48:32-07:00November 10th, 2010|2010, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Truffle Report #2: Pass the Ginkgo Biloba

Making a slight detour to Puglia for some sun, I drove into Cisternino for their Market Day. I’ve been to Cisternino a dozen time, but it is a maze of little streets. And when it was time to leave, I couldn’t find my car. Really. Seriously.
I tried backtracking, then systematic guesses, then wild guesses, then cafe-with-iPhone-map-study. An hour and a half later, I walked into the Polizia station. These fine officers drove me around until we found my Citroën. Believe it or not, I’ve had an easier time finding truffles this year than my own car.

italian police_500

2017-09-12T15:48:32-07:00November 8th, 2010|2010, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Giorgio Sacchini, our favorite Tuscan woodsman, comes to visit

After years of nagging, our wonderful Tuscan friends are coming for a brief visit.  The Sacchini family, Giorgio, Paola and Denise will be here in Oakland this coming weekend. Giorgio has been the Oliveto truffle hunter and agent for the past 14 years, and also the main reason we’ve been able to get our hands on the very best truffles for our annual truffle dinners.

The Sacchinis will be in the Oliveto Cafe this Sunday night, February 14th. We’re not exactly sure what they’ll be doing, but they’ll be making some food and hanging out.

We stay with Giorgio every time we visit Tuscany, as have many of our friends, at their wonderful agriturismo: http://www.agriturismoporcellina.it/

2017-09-12T15:48:49-07:00February 11th, 2010|This Just In|0 Comments

Truffle Report #5: What’s that smell?

Giorgio & Paola's house in Monti-in-Chianti

Giorgio & Paola’s house in Monti-in-Chianti

The truffle dinners are now in full swing and going very nicely, but I wanted to provide a brief wrap-up of this year’s trip to Italy.

Monti-in-Chianti, about 10 miles north of Siena, has been the center of my activities since I began traveling to Italy (over ten years ago) to get truffles, and Giorgio Sacchini and his family have been my friends and guides from the beginning.

This was an extraordinary truffle year, including the truffle cleaning party. It took six of us about four hours to clean the truffles. In addition to Giorgio, we were joined by his wife Paola and daughter Denise, and a terribly sweet couple from Vienna, Margit and Peter Demuth, also joined in. Afterwards, we had a typical Giorgio dinner: crostini with chicken livers and black truffles, crostini with hazelnuts and black truffles, Paola’s preserved hot peppers and potatoes, cured tuna, and as always cinghaile or wild boar. In fact, in standard Giorgio-fashion, just after the cheese course and before dessert, Giorgio stepped outside for a moment, and shot two wild boar right from his back porch. I’d never seen that before.

Of course not every moment on the truffle trail was a joyous, life-affirming affair. No, sometimes you hit a snag.

I had just taken my seat for the first leg of my return-flight home from Florence to Munich on Air Dolomiti (a partner of Lufthansa), and started to write my final truffle report– Coming Home: We’re on the plane, me and the truffles! Before even finishing the first sentence, a flight-attendant asked me to the rear door of the plane (a medium, twin turbo-prop). Sitting on the tarmac below I saw my truffle case, my fragrant treasure all by its lonesome on a barren expanse of concrete.

truffle cooler

While the plane had an assigned luggage compartment it was not sealed from the passengers, and the pilot determined that the fragrance from my truffle case, though not significant, was undesirable, and ordered it off the plane. So I was booted off the flight! I was already exhausted beyond my limits, and this created a very difficult circumstance. I was set to arrive home on Monday night at 7:00 PM, cutting it close for our first truffle dinner on Tuesday night, but, you know, the truffles have to be fresh for the dinners.

I drove a couple of hours north to Bologna, and checked into the Sheraton Bologna Airport Inn. Thankfully, the chef allowed me to stow the truffle case in his walk-in. I got up at 4 AM, for a 5:45 flight to Frankfurt, and arrived at SFO at 12:30 Tuesday afternoon. The truffles were at Oliveto by 2:30 PM just in time for dinner that night, and I was just so tired. Lufthansa and I are in discussions.

Finally, here are Giorgio’s new truffle puppies, now seven weeks old:

Until next year…

2017-09-12T15:48:52-07:00November 20th, 2009|2009, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Truffle Report #4 with part of the menu revealed

Catania Fish Market, Sicily

Catania Fish Market, Sicily

It’s Thursday night here, and all the truffles for Oliveto’s truffle dinners are still in the ground; collection begins tomorrow morning. It’s cold, there’s been a good amount of rain, and the local truffle fairs have ended. Now, the truffles are for us. Truffle Dinners at Oliveto are booking up, so we’ve decided to extend them through Saturday, November 21st. I’ll bring home more truffles than originally anticipated to last us into the weekend.

[see menu]

The second item on the agenda for this trip was to gather video of some of our Italian wine producers, and food producers, for our soon-to-launch Oliveto Wine Journal. A complementary offering to the Oliveto Community Journal and a fresh approach to wine information.

Some highlights from this trip:
My 26 hours in Catania, Sicily were exceptional. A guest of Mount Etna winemaker Ciro Biondi and his wife Stef Pollock, I was picked up as soon as the ferry docked and taken to the Catania Fish Market to follow Chef Carmelo Chiramonte as he shopped for our vineyard lunch. Carmelo is the real deal.

Standing in their vineyards you are at an altitude of 800 meters, with the sea below you, on black volcanic sand sloped at 45 degrees, and an active volcano at your back. Beautiful, exciting, and unique. While the vineyards are centuries-old, the area has only been considered a fine wine region in the last 20 years. Wild soil, wilder weather, truly exciting company, wine, and a lunch of perfectly grilled fish and vegetables — all in all, a gorgeous day.

I was able to score a ticket to the LaScala-like opera house, Teatro Bellini, built in 1890.

opera outside opera inside

The opera was Donizetti’s “The Elixer of Love.” Magnificent singing, huge chorus, lots of fun. At 9:00, I met Ciro and Stef for dinner back at the Fish Market at Osteria Antica Marina. We had wine from his first two vintages, 1999 and 2000. I asked him if he thought his wines would age well. He said he didn’t know, we’d have to wait 20 years. The 2000 was delicious.

In the morning, I flew to Torino. Alitalia lost my luggage at the stop in Rome, but recovered it 2 days later. Perhaps payback for having too good of a time in Catania.

Sent from my iPhone

2017-09-12T15:48:53-07:00November 13th, 2009|2009, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Truffle Report #3 with Aldo Vacca’s Vintage Picks

w & b truffles

Truffles are just now coming on, I encountered my first exceptional truffles last night, at the back door of Ristorante Antine in Barbaresco–I didn’t have to put my nose to it, it overwhelmed me from across the kitchen. Prices remain very low. We won’t be able to set the price for Oliveto Truffle dinners until we actually acquire them, but they should be a bargain.

Truffle Dinners at Oliveto are always a great excuse to pull out some older bottles of wine from our cellar. I talked with Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco and asked him to recommend some Produttori vintages that are drinking great right now and would pair well with truffles.

2017-09-12T15:48:53-07:00November 9th, 2009|2009, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Truffle Report #2: Italy 2009

truffles on stump

It’s still ten days or so before I move from the “just looking” phase into truffle acquisition, but here’s what we know so far: the truffles this year are very good, but not plentiful. Despite fewer truffles, prices are dramatically lower than they have been in recent years due to less demand and also many truffles coming from outside Italy. This is not a new phenomenon, over 12 years ago the joke going around ended with, “those are Alba…anian truffles.”

We had a good soaking recently and more rain coming. All good news.

Today is a travel day for me. I’m currently on a train to Naples, and will take a ferry to Catania later tonight where I’ll be visiting Biondi, a winery on Mount Etna. They have a wonderful day planned for me & I’ll be taking some video as well.

Bob
Sent from my iPhone

2017-09-12T15:48:53-07:00November 4th, 2009|2009, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments