I’m in deep trouble – over the truffles! White or black? From which country? And why are they so expensive?
Well, I was able to find out all about truffles by doing some research on Google. But I think it’s much, much better to find out firsthand in a walking truffle encyclopedia – Giulio Benuzzi. The charming Mr. Benuzzi is the official Truffle Concierge of the chic Savoy Hotel in Florence, Italy, and he graciously gave me an interview from Italy to talk about these precious tubers. (You are now entering a world rich in truffles and musky, to paraphrase ee cummings.)
What makes you a professional truffle hunter?
I started in 1999 – I was preparing food and wine experiences for an American visitor in my bed and breakfast …… offering a wine and food package… I invented this special experience. I grew up in Turin and my grandfather always hunted truffles for a hobby – it was his passion…. My clients have told me that they don’t know much about truffles. So I closed the guest room and created a truffle experience. I am the world pioneer in truffle hunting. Yes, I used to hunt truffles with my grandfather every weekend. I have a passion for truffle hunting. I have been hunting truffles for 20 years. I write songs and poems about the truffle. The Savoy, the Florentine Rocco Forte Hotel, is my most important partnership in Florence.
The Savoy started this experience with you last summer. What was the response?
My work as a truffle concierge started this year. The Savoy has created an experience “A day in the life of Guilio, the truffle hunter”. Before that, there was simply a truffle hunter experience. Now I’m the featured Truffle Concierge. When they find me, I have the privilege of talking for hours about truffles. On August 21, I did a truffle experience for (Hollywood actress) Zoe Saldana and her family. I took them to the forest, cooked, danced. Zoe said to me, “Giulio, I have never seen my family so happy.”
What is the cost?
200Epp. In my version, it is worth 2 million euros. People remember me with love. I teach them… to understand all the different truffles… and the differences in terroir… and the prices, and fresh versus frozen. People don’t know about truffles. Look at my Instagram, you can see the daily visitors coming. People smile a lot. Our Americans who come here are wine and food lovers, nature lovers and animal lovers.
Maga and Scott are they truffle hunting dogs?
They are Portuguese water dogs. Females are better than boys at finding truffles. Customers take a limousine or taxi from the hotel and in 15-20 minutes they arrive at my place in the hills of Florence …… in the south-east of Florence. We are surrounded by a million olive trees – and there is an oak forest where you can find three different truffles in three different seasons. We go hunting in the forest – it’s a one minute drive from my house.
How long does the experience in the forest last?
After a brief briefing, about an hour. There are usually two, three or four in general. In one o’clock in the morning I can hunt half a kilo, I go to my secret zone where I do not bring clients.
What are the yum prepared with truffles that the guests will taste afterwards?
Truffle cheese everyone loves it – very natural. Middle-aged Pecorino that rests in a natural cave for four months. I use it in place of Parmesan cheese on pasta. Each season the menu changes depending on the truffles. In the spring I make a frittata of wild asparagus and in the spring the truffles have a sweet scent of garlic.
In winter, when it’s colder, I make my special bean soup. It is boiled for eight hours with a little olive oil and water, garnished with a slice of truffle and a good bottle of wine.
Why are truffles so popular? How much are they per pound?
They are very rare and very expensive. They don’t grow in many countries. The best quality white truffles are found in Italy, in the four regions: Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria and Marche.
Are there any truffles that hotel guests can take home as a souvenir?
Yes of course they can take it home if they leave a few days after the purchase.
Is there a brand they can buy in store?
I sell my own truffle products (fresh truffle and truffle cheese) which customers can buy from me after the experience.
It’s expensive ??
From 400 to 3000 Euros each depending on the type of truffles, size and quality.
So don’t forget, before leaving Florence, pack your gym bag with a truffle!
And if you can’t make it to Italy soon, here’s the next best thing, which I also just found out.
Besides being a precious gastronomic delight, truffles are also known for their medicinal properties, with powerful antioxidants and immune-boosting functions. According to Google, truffles are rich in essential fatty acids which hydrate the skin, leaving it soft and smooth. All of this added hydration also helps decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Fatty acids also help reduce inflammation and repair the skin barrier, for overall healthier and more resilient skin. This discovery led to the creation of Truffoire, a new luxury skincare brand that uses black and white truffles in all of its facial products. Truffles, they claim, bring radiance to your skin with valuable vitamins and minerals as well as moisturizing effects. (Truffles are also known to have a high content of vitamin C.) Their best seller is the Black truffle syringe. It reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, bags under the eyes, puffiness and dark circles without any invasive or painful procedures. A “syringe” costs $ 1,250. I also tried a small sample of Deep Renewal Black Truffle Vitamin C, and I have to say it’s wonderful: it’s a very viscous gel, and it smells great. You will probably be delighted too!
For more on my Wanderlust trips, please follow me on Instagram at @Debbikickham. And please subscribe to TBEN.com for more interesting articles.