10/12/2012 12:01:00 PM

White Truffle Alert: Where to Taste the Season’s First Crop

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October is generally the beginning of when we start seeing white truffles on the menu but this year Italy’s coveted tartufi bianchi, which composer Gioacchino Rossini once proclaimed as “the Mozart of mushrooms,” is starting off more with a whimper than a bang as unfavorable growing conditions have delayed the supply chain. As a result, many fungi fanatical chefs including Craig Stoll (Delfina), Ken Frank (La Toque) and Jonah Rhodehamel (Oliveto) are holding off until mid-November to launch their annual white truffle celebrations.

Nonetheless, we spied and subsequently inhaled the heady aroma of white truffles being luxuriously shaved over a smoked egg yolk raviolo a few nights ago at the Fifth Floor. According to chef David Bazirgan, the initial batch of ‘shooms coming from both Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna have “great aroma and flavor.” Bazirgan has added two special white truffle specials on the menu that are finished with truffles shaved tableside: risotto with roasted matsutake mushrooms and fresh tagliatelle with chicken stock, truffle butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The specials are $50 each and meant to be shared by two. Diners can also opt to have white truffles shaved on top of his nightly raviolo (currently a smoked egg raviolo with tomato coulis) for an additional $35. As the season progresses, Bazirgan plans to add more truffle-conducive dishes to the menu.

Over at Acquerello, Giancarlo Paterlini and chef Suzette Gresham have been offering white truffles sourced from Emilia-Romagna for the past two weeks. He tells us that the quality, “while not great is very good (careful selection is needed), but every week the quality and the price is improving." Currently Aquerello has two dishes offered on its tasting menus that can be gilded with freshly shaved white truffles for a $65 supplement: poached egg nested over creamy leeks with whole-wheat butter crumbs and handmade tajarin (a traditional Piemontese egg-yolk rich tagliatelle) tossed with burro fuso (melted butter with truffles shaved on top).

We'll have more about additional white truffle dishes as they start appearing on more menus. In the meantime, save the date for Delfina's anniversary white truffle dinners (November 19-21) that will showcase a la carte dishes influenced by Piemonte that go well with truffles (in addition to some of its regular menu favorites), and Oliveto's  annual white truffle dinners (November 13-18) during which every dish on the a la carte menu will feature truffles in some form. Both are accepting reservations now. In addition, Perbacco has just announced it will launch its truffle menu starting on November 6. Acquerello, La Toque and Palio d' Asti also plan on running a special  white truffle menus later next month; check back for specific dates.

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