Precious Italian white truffles have a very short season--October to December--and when they are sent to America they usually end up at restaurants in New York, Chicago or San Francisco. But, this time, a rare, round, giant white truffle--the largest to be found in Italy so far this season--has been purchased by Altura, the Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Co-owners Rebecca and Nathan Lockwood purchased the truffle for $5,000. Wild products like this one can never be cultivated. Rather, it was plucked by a forager and his dog in the hills of Alba in northern Italy early Sunday morning and arrived at Altura yesterday. It will appear on a special white truffle menu for the next week to 10 days. The six-course tasting is $237 per person; $360 with wines from Piemonte.
Altura has served white truffles every season since the restaurant opened in 2011. But, this truffle is special, says Rebecca Lockwood. It is dense, giant and intensely aromatic. “When given the opportunity to be part of something like this, the answer is yes. Especially for an Italian restaurant, it is one of those high-end items we had to have,” she says.
Neither Rebecca nor Nathan, the restaurant’s executive chef, who was previously chef de cuisine at Acquellero in San Francisco, have ever seen a white truffle of this size. Most weigh about an ounce and are roughly the size of a knobby walnut. This truffle is 1.25 pounds and resembles a grapefruit in its size and shape.
Mikuni Wild Harvest's Tyler Gray, who brokered the deal, says such rare white truffles are usually swiped up by Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, and other notable clients. But Altura was the first to respond to Gray, who got the text from Italy at 3 a.m. He describes its flavor profile as “somewhere between sweet garlic and earthy methane and cream soda.”
Altura’s six-course menu honors the traditional ways that white truffles are used in Piemonte: shaved raw to slowly melt onto chestnut espuma with hazelnut and proscuitto, truffle-infused egg with lamb crudo, and pheasant saltimbocca, to name a few. Chef Nathan will be shaving it tableside in at least one dish, so the entire dining room can experience the truffle’s unique aromatics.
For a detailed menu of the courses and to make reservations, contact Altura.