While non-culinary non-wine pursuits have distracted me from this blog over the last few weeks I have at least continued to seek out white truffles on the mean streets of London. With some success.
Booth's, the specialty mushroom grocer at Borough Market, is selling the cheapest white truffles I've come across in London this year - £3,200 per kg. Hardly giving the stuff away, but much cheaper than anywhere else - my Holland Park dealer's asking price is still an extortionate £4,400 per kg. Booth's tell me their truffles are from Alba.
A 20 gm white truffle, which will cost £64 at Booths, will almost be enough to shave very sparingly over one dish for 6 people. At about £10 per person, this is not bad value given most London restaurants will charge between £30 - £50 for a small dish with shavings of white truffle - e.g. Cafe Anglais and its £30 steak tartare with white truffle.
Some tips if you're buying a white truffle. Head to Booth's. Smell, feel and look closely at each of the truffles on offer. Go for one that: (i) smells pungent and truffly rather than earthy or damp; (ii) is firm rather than soft or shriveled - truffles loose a very high proportion of their weight each day following their unearthing and the older ones go soft and shrivel; and (iii) does not have too many blemishes.
Eat your truffle as soon as you can. If you must store it, wrap it in tissue paper and put in a sealed jar in the fridge. I've tried storing truffles with eggs and on other occasions with rice. Whilst the post-truffle eggs and rice sally forth with wonderful aroma and flavour I find that they leech too much of the aroma and flavour from the truffle. The other benefit of storing truffles in tissue paper inside a sealed jar is that the jar and tissue will continue to hold the aroma molecules of the truffle for a few weeks after the truffle has gone. And whenever you need a skipping heel click from a stroll through your culinary memories, remove the lid and snort like a pig, or a dog as the case may be.