Nineteenth-century French epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin hailed truffles as “the very diamond of gastronomy,” and today the rare tubers are still among the most prized (and pricey) delicacies in the world. Truffles are not only difficult to come by—they grow underground in limited regions and must be sniffed out by female pigs or specially trained dogs—but are also highly perishable, best enjoyed within a few days of harvesting. And while some varieties are now cultivated, the most coveted white truffle only grows wild in certain areas of Italy and pockets of Eastern Europe.
Scarcity is not the only reason white truffles fetch the highest price; they are revered for their intense flavor and distinctive musky fragrance. White truffles are best eaten raw, planed over simple dishes such as risotto or buttered pasta. Vittorio Giordano, vice president of Italian importer Urbani Truffles USA, suggests shaving slivers over a fried egg. “The heat from the yolk enhances the aroma, and you really do get the best out of the truffle,” he says. Black truffles, on the other hand, should be sautéed or used in a sauce to bring out their subtler flavor and aroma, Giordano says.
Fungal truffles have surged in popularity in the United States in recent years, paving the way for the wide array of truffled products—including cheese—hitting the market. “People are flocking to [truffled cheese],” says Lou Di Palo, owner of Di Palo’s Fine Foods in Manhattan’s Little Italy. “The best have a well-proportioned balance of flavors, so you taste the cheese but also taste and smell the truffle.” He adds that these wedges and wheels are often an affordable, convenient way for people to experience the tubers: “A truffle is like a sponge; unless you buy it in the right place, and store it in the right way, it will absorb flavors from other things. The cheese won’t deteriorate as rapidly.”
For those who prefer a do-it-yourself approach to mixing and matching, there are options in all price ranges for coupling truffles and truffle-infused products with cheese.
The crown jewel of truffles, the tuber magnatum has a heady flavor and aroma of musk and damp earth. For a melodious union, select young, blank-canvas cheeses that won’t overpower the white truffle. Urbani’s Giordano likes to grate them on ricotta- or robiola-topped crostini for a decadent antipasto. Tia Keenan, author of The Art of the Cheese Plate (Rizzoli, 2016), prefers to shower them on a burrata or mozzarella di bufala—the clean, straight-up milk flavor in the cheese is an ideal cushion for the truffles’ fungal umami, she says.
Fattorie Osella Robiola Osella + white truffles
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO + white truffles
Truffle Potato Chips
If you like your truffle fix crunchy, salty, and affordable, truffle potato chips are the way to go. For an elevated chips-and-dip experience, Keenan suggests dunking Tartuflanghe’s white truffle crisps into BelGioioso Crescenza-Stracchino: “[The cheese is] super-rich, creamy but runny, so texturally, it works really well,” Keenan says. Or try the Torres black truffle treats with a baked wheel of camembert-style Tunworth from Hampshire Cheeses for a double whammy of mushroomy flavor and snappy-gooey contrast in each bite.
Truffle honey’s earthy-sweet personality is compatible with a variety of cheeses, from soft and fresh to hard and aged, even spicy and blue. Sharp and slightly flaky, Pecorino Toscano Stagionato is a super solid match—the sheepy, chestnutty flavor draws out the honey’s muskiness. When drizzled on Boucher Blue, the honey pumps up the creamy, mellow flavor of this raw-milk Vermonter.
Pecorino Toscano PDO Stagionato + Urbani Truffles Miele al Tartufo Nero
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