Thursday, November 6, 2014


Prized the world over for their flavor, and aroma, truffles are an experience.  Musky, earthy, and full of flavor to add to pasta, risotto and meats, truffles can cost up to $5000 per pound.  
With my cousins visiting from DC, we decided to go on an adventure and signed up with Wild Foods for a Truffle Hunt.  Umbria is know for its truffles (tartufi) and since this has been a banner year for Porcini and truffles, we thought it would be a lot of fun.  

We began the day at the top of the hill in Spello, where we were picked up in a Land Cruiser by Mack Ryde the leader of a band of residents in the village of Pettino, and joined 2 New Zealanders in Umbria on holiday.   
Heading South towards Spoleto, we turned off the highway and headed up the mountain to the small village of Pettino, deep in the country.  Along the way, we met the rest of our crew, (Australians) who would join us for the day once they changed their flat tire.   
Mack peppered the drive with lots of interesting facts and stories about Pettino, and how a “Kiwi” ended up in this tiny village.  The original 7 families (and their progeny) in Pettino own the land where the truffles are located. 

After introductions to Mack’s beautiful wife, Francesca, children Dante and Polly, and his mother-in-law Giuseppina, we were offered coffee while we were waiting for Luca (a cousin of Francesca) our truffle hunter. 

My cousins and I rode in Luca’s truck, perfumed with the aromas of truffles and Marlboros.  We set out over a leaf-strewn, muddy rutted road, jouncing and stuttering, until we were at the beech tree forest with the dogs.   

We found (with the help of the dogs) a good amount of truffles, weighed them, and then set off across the valley.  

 After leaving the main road we climbed up a stone and rubble studded twisty road, giving us a teeth chattering, bone jarring ride to the top of the mountain where we arrived at the pastures where the sheep were grazing. 

Mack served Prosecco and salame, Luca proceeded to make us truffled eggs.  A wild wind was blowing and the small propane stove took its time, but the end result was well worth the wait as you can see.  

Heading back to Pittino we watched Giuseppina, Francesca's mother make fresh egg pasta.

Then we to their beautiful new state of the art kitchen and dining room.  

We enjoyed Sunday lunch at its finest, truffle pasta, guinea hen with tortino of potato and spinach.  Umbrian apple cake, copious amount of local red wine, and espresso rounded out the meal. 

After such a great day, we piled back in the Land Cruiser filled to the brim with new memories, friends and once more an appreciation of rural traditions, and farm life that live on in the small villages that dot the hillsides of Central Italy.  Grazie Mille, Mack, Francesca, Dante, Polly, Giuseppina, and Dante Sr. for a memorable day. 

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