Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Dark Side of the Truffle Trade
January 24, 2014 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Inside the high-stakes pursuit of the world's most-prized fungus.

The high-end industry has spawned a shadowy underworld, where tax evasion, nighttime heists, counterfeits, and sabotage are not uncommon. The schemes span continents and truffle types, but all of them boil down to scarcity and cash.
posted by elizardbits (35 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I knew you were truffle when you walked in.
posted by Riton at 12:18 PM on January 24 [12 favorites]


I am sad that none of the Ocean's 11 movies featured a truffle heist.
posted by elizardbits at 12:19 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


The rapper P. Diddy once demanded that New York-based French chef Daniel Boulud “shave that bitch” onto his plate.

Veblen goods are economic karma.
posted by benzenedream at 12:19 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


As a public service announcement, I'd like you to know that you can send your dog to truffle sniffing school in Oregon, and that there are several species of Tuber that grow on the West Coast.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:21 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Also I am sad that the flight training school doesn't involve highly trained chef dogs parachuting into the wilderness armed with risotto making kits.
posted by elizardbits at 12:22 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


I am sad that none of the Ocean's 11 movies featured a truffle heist.

The problem is that might make me take a passing interest in an Ocean's 11 movie.
posted by goethean at 12:23 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


According to Bruno Capanna, the president of the truffle foraging association in Acqualagna (one of Italy’s most productive truffle-growing areas), white truffles typically retail for between €2,000 and €5,000 per kilogram (or between $2,753 and $6,883).

So like 1 kilogram for $7k(USD).
which is 35 oz for $7,000.
This means 5 oz for $1k.
which means 1 oz for $200. (distributor prices)

So basically its as expensive as marijuana. But probably not as effective.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:34 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


So basically its as expensive as marijuana. But probably not as effective.

This is why I smoke saffron.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:36 PM on January 24 [17 favorites]


As a public service announcement, I'd like you to know that you can send your dog to truffle sniffing school in Oregon

I think this was linked on the blue (or maybe the green) in the past; and this is most certainly on the list of Things To Do in the next year or two. We found out that an acquaintance of ours does this with their lab, and usually finds a truffle or three on almost every hike they go on (but they do choose hikes that will yield such things). I'd love to make truffle-hunting a regular hobby.

That mutt* is going to start paying rent one way or another.

Also, it is possible to preserve your haul if you ever find or buy too much truffleage. Truffle salt is fucking fantastic over eggs….and just about everything else.

*I kid, I kid, he's the best dog ever. Of all time.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:36 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Available here.
posted by Ardiril at 12:44 PM on January 24


We took our honeymoon in Italy and made a side trip, since the timing worked out, to the truffle festival in San Miniato. It was a pain in the ass to get to by public transport--not least of all because we had no idea where we were going and only spoke enough Italian to get into trouble--but once we got there it was really amazing.

I've never seen or conceived of so many truffles in one place. Everything was truffled: porchetta al tartufo, roast corn with truffle butter (the Italians do not eat their corn quite as we do... it was interesting), simple tagliatelle al tartufo.

But the most amazing thing was walking through the tent where whole truffles were for sale (at something like €5+/g). You cannot imagine the funk of a hundred (?) kilos of truffles trapped inside a tent; it almost seemed to have weight.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:55 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Once my pig found taste
He dug a truffle for me
Oven baked them both
posted by Mblue at 12:57 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


In Amsterdam, growing psilocibin mushrooms is illegal.

But because truffles are just mushrooms that grow underground (rather that fruiting on the surface) given certain circumstances (and because the law stipulates that it's actual psychedelic "mushrooms" that are illegal), growing & selling psilocibin truffles are legal.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:21 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I had a simple truffle pasta in a family farmhouse restaurant halfway up a mountain near Picerno in Italy while working there in the late 90s. I still dream of it.
posted by arcticseal at 1:29 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


See also: caviar mafia.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:32 PM on January 24


There are three things I associate with being secure in one's financial state: cocaine, caviar, and white truffles. In no particular order. And the first one is probably the FASTEST way to become financially insecure, so I would recommend against its excess consumption. The other two will just make you fat, not in and of themselves, but just in the manner they're consumed. Eggs and truffles *swoon*.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:46 PM on January 24


I thought that Ophiocordyceps sinensis was the most valuable fungus?
posted by scruss at 1:52 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


There is a pretty good truffle episode of Leverage (Season 5 episode 4, The French Connection Job) for those of you wishing for truffle-releated heists.
posted by NoraReed at 1:53 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


I have a few acres of farmland I'm not doing much with, and every so often, I look into how much it would cost to plant them with truffle-innoculated trees. It's too much to make just a hobby, but if I still own the place when I get near retirement, it might be an interesting way to extend the social security check and retirement savings.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:54 PM on January 24


benzenedream: "Veblen goods are economic karma."

Goods whose desirability is in proportion to their price, unlike most goods that get more attractive on sale.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:57 PM on January 24


Sabatino Tartufi, balks at the notion that there are truffle bosses ordering assassinations in the name of fungi.

"Jimmy the Snitch? Sleeping with the truffle hogs."
posted by zarq at 1:57 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


"Ima ask you one time: Who do you sniff for?"
posted by IAmBroom at 2:01 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


I once bought a wedge of cheese that had bits of truffle in it at a farmer's market. It instantly made the entire fridge smell like armpits. Really expensive armpits, obviously, but still.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:36 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


That mutt* is going to start paying rent one way or another.

"Who, me? What's rent? Where's dinner? Com'on guy, dinner's late!"
posted by BlueHorse at 2:39 PM on January 24


My second favourite restaurant in Ibiza does a gloriously rich white truffle risotto every winter season and towards the end of the seasons as supplies dwindle friendships and marriages are tested sorely when people realize that they don't actually want to share after all.
posted by elizardbits at 2:43 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


It's ok to get some shaved truffles on your risotto. Good, hmm? Hope that was on the company card, chump.
posted by planetesimal at 2:46 PM on January 24


Further to arcticseal's comment above: I had my first meal in Florence at a little hole in the wall joint; sent a postcard home the next day saying "Yesterday I ate a bowl of truffle pasta around which I intend to found a world religion."

Also I can't link to a legit copy but I highly recommend that you all seek out "No Tax on Truffles" from Stuart McLean's wonderful Vinyl Cafe stories.
posted by hearthpig at 3:28 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


"I have a few acres of farmland I'm not doing much with, and every so often, I look into how much it would cost to plant them with truffle-innoculated trees. It's too much to make just a hobby, but if I still own the place when I get near retirement, it might be an interesting way to extend the social security check and retirement savings."

If you're serious about the truffles you should do it soon, Blackanvil. According to the article it takes at least 15 years for a truffle grove to reach maturity. (Maybe even longer, depending upon climatic conditions.) So if you time it right, the trees and truffles will be ready for you when you retire.


I tried truffle for the first time in December, and it was incredible! It was some kind of veal dish that was suffused with truffle oil. The taste is so... Powerful. Can't imagine what eating whole truffles must be like!

Incidentally, the article mentions that Chinese truffles are relatively abundant, but often lose their flavor during the long trip to Europe. Does anyone know if there's a trans-Pacific trade in Chinese truffles? Seems like a golden opportunity for west-coast restaurants.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:33 PM on January 24


And tonight's dinner: mashed white potatoes with white truffle oil. Because this topic came up, and I have some truffle oil in my pantry.
posted by Blackanvil at 5:00 PM on January 24


Pfft, I have truffles growing under my oil wells.
posted by planetesimal at 5:03 PM on January 24


As my birthday coincides with Aussie truffle season, I decided that when I turned 40 I was going to buy a truffle and make a heck of a dinner with it. $200 bought a fresh black truffle the size of an egg (it actually came packed in eggs, which had become truffle flavoured through the shell - and even my car smelled faintly of truffle after driving a half-hour home with the plastic tub on the back seat) and I made baked brie (studded with truffle), pan-fried scallops with truffle, and roast beef fillet with a sherry and truffle reduction. The eggs and the remaining piece of truffle got turned into pasta a day or so later.

As it turns out, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. But that was just about enough, actually. My goodness, it was delicious. Truffle oil, however good (any many are fake - containing synthesized scent), is a faint imitation of the real thing.

It was weird - the people I served it to split into two camps. Truffle haters (all male) and truffle lovers (all female). This particular truffle was amazingly perfumed - all cheesy armpit with a hint of musky scrotum and mushroom. I'm not sure if it just happened to be that mix of people, but I wonder if us girls liked it so much because it smelled sort of naughty?
posted by ninazer0 at 11:15 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


So basically its as expensive as marijuana. But probably not as effective.

I dunno. Just the scent of a truffle (black or white, don't really care, but for preference I'd choose white) is enough to make me feel almost high.

I tried truffle for the first time in December, and it was incredible! It was some kind of veal dish that was suffused with truffle oil.

I hate to do this to you, but your dish probably never knew the rapturous embrace of the mighty fungus. 'Truffle' oil is usually artificially flavoured. I'm sorry.

but I wonder if us girls liked it so much because it smelled sort of naughty?

The smell of black truffles has been compared to sex for a long time.

FWIW I'm a dude and I would eat truffles every day if I could.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:51 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I'm one of those people who simply doesn't have the genes to taste truffles in anything like their full glory. It's incredibly frustrating.
posted by edd at 6:25 AM on January 25


Metafilter: all cheesy armpit with a hint of musky scrotum and mushroom

Sometimes you just have to do that.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:08 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


Miss Officer and Mr. Truffles
posted by homunculus at 7:35 PM on January 25


« Older These editors decided to rewrite book titles to so...  |  The only known recording of th... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments