06 July, 2013

The Trouble with Truffles - my visit to Restaurante Zigante, Livade , Croatia (Istria).

 There is only one trouble with truffles as far as I can tell:  you can never get enough.  This was almost true at our truffle lunch at the lovely Restaurante Zigante.  Perfectly prepared and generously doused with perfectly shaved truffles at each course, I think I finally had enough--almost.  The restaurant is owned by Giancarlo Zigante who found the world's largest truffle, an amazing 1.310 kg in 1999.  At the front of the restaurant, there is a replica of that truffle.  It is, literally, as big as your head.

The restaurant is lovely inside with stellar service and delicious cuisine that highlights the delicacy of the truffle, as well as matched and served perfect pairs in the wine.

                                  Restaurante Zigante
                                  Livade 7, Livade 52427, Croatia

Here are some of my favorites:
Beef fillet in truffle gravy
Beef Carpaccio with ricotta salata and truffle oil
Pasta with Freshly Shaved Truffle

It made me curious to know more about truffles.  I hit the jackpot in the treasure trove of information posted by the Istrian Tourist Board.  You can find out more here:

First, truffles are  fungi that grow completely underground.  Truffle is the everyday name and an easier marketing handle than the clinical terms for the actual tasty treat.  Since they are concealed by the ground they grow in, truffle hunters use dogs to locate truffles.  Only 20% of the puppies who set out to become truffle dogs actually make the cut.  Istrians prefer dogs because they are better companions and less competitive for the truffles than pigs.  Pigs know a good snack when they see it.

Truffles vary in color from white to black.   The best way to serve them is to shave them thinly.  Their unique earthy aroma and flavor is best matched with simple fare.  The complexity of the truffle flavor will shine.  My favorite pair is sparkling wine.  I love to start dinner parties with an easy treat.  Pop some corn.  Douse with mixtute made from  half a stick melted butter, 1/4 cup white truffle oil, then sprinkle on black truffle salt.  It's easy and quick, but paired with sparkling wine will start your dinner party right.  Be prepared for people to beg for the "recipe".

Every year Zigante hosts a truffle festival.  This year it will start September 22. Events on weekends will continue through November.  You can plan your visit with information from the Istrian Tourist board.  You can find info here:

It is near the picturesque hill town on Motovun.  Worth visiting on its own and conveniently located near the forests that are home to truffle hunters galore.

I was a guest of the Istrian Tourist Board
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