One of the most precious and unique - and therefore expensive - delicacies in the global marketplace is the truffle. Truffles may be mere fungi, but for centuries they have been a treasured ingredient in haute cuisine.
Simply put, a truffle is a type of mushroom that grows underground, usually close to trees. Pigs and dogs commonly are used by Italian and French truffle-hunters to help locate them in the wild and root them out. As rustic as that scenario sounds, remember that for centuries the truffle has been been called "the diamond of the kitchen" by master chefs the world over.
Now you can join the truffle cognoscenti at the second annual Napa Truffle Festival, Jan. 13-16, and do some foraging of your own.
Food- and drink-wise, look for numerous meals featuring truffles, food- and wine-tastings, cooking demonstrations, winery tours, a marketplace that will showcase specialty wines and foods (in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa), and a special truffle dinner and wine-pairing at La Toque restaurant in the Westin Verasa hotel in Napa. It will be masterminded by chefs whose restaurants hold Michelin stars.
Science-wise, on the schedule is a truffle orchard excursion featuring a truffle-hunting dog demonstration, capped by program on the cultivation of truffles.
For tickets and details, including special packages and lodging deals: (888) 753-9378, www.napatrufflefestival.com.