Among the most precious delicacies in the global marketplace is the truffle. How good are truffles? French novelist Alexandre Dumas famously said, "The truffles themselves have been interrogated and have answered simply: Eat us and praise the lord."
Truffles may not look like much, but for centuries they've been a treasured ingredient in haute cuisine. Master chefs call them "the diamonds of the kitchen," and with good reason: Black truffles retail for about $1,700 a pound; white truffles cost around $4,500 a pound.
A truffle is a type of mushroom that grows underground, usually close to oak and hazelnut trees. Dogs and pigs are commonly used by Italian and French truffle-hunters to help locate truffles in the wild and dig them up.
Now there's a window of opportunity to do some foraging of your own - and eat some truffled treasures - by joining the truffle cognoscenti at the third annual Napa Truffle Festival, known as North America's premier truffle event, Jan. 18-21.
Highlights will include multi-course truffle-accented lunches at Silver Oak and Beringer wineries, food-and-wine pairings and tastings, and a special Truffles & Wine multi-course dinner prepared by Michelin star-holding chefs. The keynote speaker will be food writer-editor Colman Andrews
Also: cooking demonstrations, truffle cultivation seminars, truffle orchard tour, winery tours, and a marketplace that will showcase specialty wines and foods in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa.
New this year will be a wild mushroom-foraging expedition led by David Campbell of the San Francisco Mycological Society. It will be followed by a cooking demonstration and lunch at Beringer winery, prepared by Michelin star-holding executive chef Marco Gubbiotti of La Bastiglia restaurant in Spello, Italy.
Tickets are limited and sell quickly. All events are sold a la carte ($25 to $250), though there's the all-inclusive Grand Truffle Weekend package for $1,250.
For more information and to reserve a spot, and to see lodging specials, call (888) 753-9378 or visit www.napatrufflefestival.com.