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.
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: