What an experience it was, to go hunting with the man regarded as the King of Black Truffles of Spain. It was a beautiful but freezing day and we went out into the mountains outside a tiny hamlet called Mora de Rubielos where the best black truffles in the world are to be found.
Mora de Rubielos, by the way, is one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. Only 1000 people live in this village. However, it is the centre for black truffles in Spain and it has a lovely castle and town square. It also has a good four-star hotel called the Hotel Trufa Negra. Here you’ll find very comfortable rooms, a good chef and friendly staff. If you stay here, get room #402 which is a suite with a terrace overlooking the castle.
PRICE OF BLACK TRUFFLES IN SPAIN
As for the truffles, the price of good fresh black truffles is quite high. It typically hovers around 3000 euros a kilo in high season in the major capitals of the world. Truffles are especially popular in cities like Tokyo, London, New York or Hong Kong. That is, if fresh black truffles are available at all. Here in Mora de Rubielos, the going price for retail depends on the date. The price rises for truffles dug up later into winter. For the 4th week of November, it’s about 500 euros a kilo.
THE BEST TRUFFLES IN THE WORLD
From Mora de Rubielos, traders fly the truffles out to the best restaurants of the world. They also deliver to select truffle retailers. Even the French truffle traders come here to buy black truffles. They bring these to the famous Carpentras truffle market and to the top chefs of France.
Yesterday, we drove deep into the mountains in a special truffle vehicle made by a company called Polaris. The King of Truffles in Spain first took me around his property in Mora de Rubielos in this Polaris 4×4. And then we parked the 4×4 in a clearing and walked amongst trees on hard-scrabble land, following our dog.
THE TRUFFLE DOG
Our dog Nora found a lot of truffle sites that morning. Then, once the dog determined a site, I got down on my knees to dig with my hands and a small shovel. It’s a tedious process as you must take great care not to break the truffle while digging.
THE SMELL OF SUCCESS
Interestingly, the smell of the truffles is so strong. The aroma is in the air as soon as you break ground. So you literally need to follow your nose. And my entire hotel room at the Hotel Trufa Negra smelled of the truffles I’d picked. I was really surprised as the truffles were already safely packed away for flying.
I must’ve passed the truffle hunting test, too. After I’d successfully dug up a few pieces of truffles, the King of Truffles said to me in Spanish: “So. When are you coming back to work for us?” Actually, I’d love to return to Mora de Ribielos and hunt for truffles again. It was really fun.
COOKING WITH TRUFFLES AND BRANDY
Yesterday, too, I bought a bottle of good Spanish brandy. Then I dropped a few of the truffles I picked inside. I need six months to infuse the brandy properly with truffles. But when it’s done, I’ll host a six-course dinner using this brandy infused with truffles I have picked myself. Truffle lovers can also drink the brandy, of course.
MAKING TRUFFLE PASTA
Incidentally, truffle brandy can be used for any kind of cooking. It’s delicious with everything from scrambled eggs to roast lamb to ice cream. And, of course, I am saving a few precious fresh truffles for a pasta dinner with friends back home. “Six months is too long to wait for the brandy,” my friends said. So when I return home in a few days, I’m going to make my pasta with truffles. I’m sure these will be some of the freshest truffles in Asia.
Read more stories about traveling around Spain in Travelife Magazine.