From the archives
The tough task of pairing white truffles
Frankly if you can afford white truffles (currently selling at about 2500 euros per kilo) you probably already have a substantial cellar to pick from but just so you don’t in any way detract from the pleasure of eating your investment let me tell you what the Piedmontese do.
Piedmont in Northern Italy is of course the heart of truffle country and they have devised any number of indulgent ways of eating this most heady and sensuous of luxury foods. They eat them shaved over boiled and fried eggs and with outrageously eggy tagliolini. They shower them over risotto and they scatter them with abandon over roast veal. And they normally accompany them with the local red wines, most notably Barolo and Barbaresco.
Last night at a white truffle dinner in the appropriately romantic, candlelit 12th century Crypt of St Ethelreda’s in Holborn I tasted a range of wines from Pio Cesare, a fourth generation family wine producer from Alba. Star of the show was a 2001 Barbaresco which was partnered with roast veal and white truffle tagliatelle but we also drank a younger, more robust 2004 Barbera d’Alba successfully with the same dish. The surprise though was how well their 2004 Piodilei Chardonnay went with two earlier dishes in the menu - an amuse bouche of scrambled eggs and white truffles and a curious dish called ‘Semoule of White Truffled Chicken and its Velout’, a mound of flaked chicken topped with truffles (of course) and served with a shot of chicken broth - all very umami.
Mature chardonnay of course goes well with ingredients such as roast chicken, mushrooms and truffles. The other match I’d recommend - money being no object - is vintage champagne. Something like Dom Perignon or Krug for preference. Ah, how the other half live . . .
ps The Crypt has been used for lavish feasts ever since Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon celebrated their wedding there in 1531. They apparently feasted on swans, stuffed with larks and sparrows, a challenging wine match if there ever was one. Nowadays catering is organised by the nearby Bleeding Heart Restaurant and Tavern the kind of venues you forget about in these days of minimalist, ultra-cool restaurants but which are great places to go to soak up the atmosphere of historic London. For more information take a look at www.bleedingheart.co.uk
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