Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Motovun Truffle Festival

    
       Soon we will be joining carloads of foodie worshipers headed down the autostrada to visit the Truffle Festival in the small village of Motovun, Croatia.  This area’s forests are famous for the malodorous fungus known as the white truffle of which these are said to be of the highest quality.   October and November are said to be the months where the most truffles of quality are found.   These truffles were known throughout history, especially used by both the Greeks and Romans.  The Istrian truffles from the Montovun area were featured in a television show on Croatia by Anthony Bourdain.

     Local producers will be showing their largest mushrooms, liqueurs, wine, crafts and cheese.  I have read that if you pay a fee of 20 kn you can have a non-stop guzzling of wine, and there will be demonstrations of cooking with truffels.  Free tasting is ncluded after the demonstrations.  Somewhere in the middle all this we have a reservation to Konoba mondo Motovun Restaurant which has an exceptional reputation.

     I have to confess that I know very little about truffles.  My culinary credentials as an expert foodie are inadequate.  Seven years of living and eating in Italy has increased my culinary knowledge, but buying truffles is something a retired teacher cannot afford in his everyday shopping.   Fortunately, I had an awakening experience a while back as we stumbled onto a restaurant in a tiny village called Camignone in the middle of nowhere, near Lago Iseo.  (There are so many of these villages!)  We had been to a great extent lost and hungry, and my wife with her unexplainable talent for finding exceptional places of dining hit a real home run. 

     The special menu board featured truffles on different pastas, risottos and meat courses, and it was difficult to make our selection.  Later as I looked over the top of my wine glass the owner/chef came bursting out of the kitchen to talk to an old  friend.   He was carefully carrying  a white bucket.  With raised voices they chatted excitedly, then gesturing hands together in a prayer like manner then pointed to their cheeks with a rolling of the finger.  The aquaintance reached for his reading glasses and then dropped his head into the bucket.  He lingered for some time then rose out of his chair and exclaimed,  ”Oh Dio!”  
After more gesturing and loud proclamations the bucket was carefully passed around the table for all to enjoy, and all the customers realized it was a huge bucket of truffles.  The chef had hit the jackpot, no wonder he had a smile as big as  Gary Bussey.  Noses came out of that bucket with faces of delirious pleasure.  Right then and there I was determined that this bucket was not going to disappear into the kitchen until I had a shot at finding out what a entire bucket of truffles smelled and looked like.  

I waited patiently…., then I stopped the chef with my hand out like a traffic cop, and he proudly let me look into that bucket.  I dove… I inhaled… I came up hooked forever.  Truffles are contagious!  

The chef personally brought our risotto to our table and we tasted and lingered and drank our wine while discussing the sumptuos pleasure of truffles.  Even that word cannot describe them well.  This was a day to remember, a time capsule of pleasure.   So you can see that I am hoping that there will be a repeat performance in Montovun.
  

The restaurant I have written about is Osteria Casa Marcelina, via Chies, 76,  in Camignone, near Lago Iseo.

2 comments: