Friday, April 07, 2006
Although I endeavor to recreate dishes from around the world, there are things I avoid, merely due to their cost. I have never been confronted by a bowl of caviar and have never used caviar in any way, shape or form, although I have had it in petite amounts on hors d’oeuvres. Foie gras is another item that I have not attempted to make, nor cooked with, but have eaten on several occasions. Truffles are another high-end item you will not find in my pantry.
I am realistic, I have a family of five to cook for, and when I have parties, they are large and the amount of these items that I would need would wipe out my whole budget. But I am always game to try new flavors and new ways of using time-honored ingredients. So when I was planning a recent trip to Seattle, I looked for unusual places to visit and found a small gem of a place in Pike’s Market.
La Buona Tavola Truffle Café is a combo café and retail shop, specializing in truffle-related items. I initially chose to visit the store for my luncheon destination, so that I could sample some truffled goodies, but once inside, on a cold and blustery Seattle day, I found it hard to leave. Given that traffic was slow, we spent over two hours discussing (and tasting) the wine selection (solely from small family-owned vineyards in Italy), sampling the variety of vinegars, oils, sauces, crackers, as well as eating lunch and getting a lesson in truffles.
The staff was warm and helpful, explaining the relationship the owner has to a truffle family in Italy, what types of products they carry and how they are used, and made us some wonderful treats, including a soup with truffle oil and two kinds of bruschetta. What I realized is that you do not need to use a lot of an expensive product to taste it. Floating a few drops of truffle oil in the soup added dimension and enhanced the flavor of the soup. A few grains of the truffle salt make scrambled eggs taste like heaven. You can use a few shaved truffle slices on pasta, add a bit of truffle sauce to mashed potatoes...and the list goes on. So while that small jar of truffle salt may be $21, it could last a year. And I willingly spent it.
So, once in a while, we need to live a little, splurge on something new, and enhance our larder.