Thanksgiving may be a joyous affair, but it’s the beleaguered gateway to Christmas. The good news is, it’s also the height of white truffle season and the harbinger of black truffle season. And this year, we’re seeing some the best fungus we’ve seen in a while.
You don’t have to go to a overcrowded, overpriced, or overrated restaurants to get in on the fun. At-home gastronomes can buy these magic mushrooms for use in their own kitchens; New York is home to several shops who will sell or ship them to you. On the last page of this story, we name names.
So, rejoice! If you’re going to pack on the holiday pounds anyway, at least do it in the most gourmand possible way.
White truffles from Alba, (Tuber Magnatum Pico) started trickling into town in late September. They’re still going strong and getting more pungent by the day, and our industry sources tell us that just last week, black winter truffles (Tuber Melanosporum Vittadini) started popping up in France, which means we should be seeing them very, very soon. And there are still plenty of Burgundy truffles (Tuber Uncinatum Chatin) kicking around. Burgundy and black winter truffles are significantly cheaper than their white counterparts, and you can do a lot more with them, like cook with them, for instance.
So, myriad ways to celebrate the season.
Atrium, 15 Main Street, 718-858-1095
If you haven’t hit up Laurent Kalkotour’s newish DUMBO restaurant, head there now for truffle gnocchi with wild mushrooms and fontina served in a truffled brown butter sauce with sherry vinegar. After dinner, wander the waterfront footpath for one of the best skyline views in the city.
Colonie, 127 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-855-7500
Chef Andrew Whitcomb serves a fantastic ricotta gnudi year-round, but in black truffle season, the dish takes on extra allure: The plump, creamy dumplings sit in a pool of truffle creme and are topped with shaved black truffles. Call ahead to ensure availability; the fungi is not here yet, but its arrival is imminent.
Clement, 700 Fifth Avenue, 212-956-2888
Tucked inside the Peninsula Hotel, Clement chef Brandon Kida does a dyptic scallop dish, one part crudo with fennel and bay scallops, and one part saute with cooked cauliflower and fennel — and shaved white truffles throughout. Clement’s waitstaff will also gladly shave the tubers over anything else on the menu, which includes prime truffle vehicles like Long Island duck, black pepper ravioli, and New Jersey porcelet.
Toro, 85 Tenth Avenue, 212-691-2360
This week, Chelsea’s hottest beantown transplant is serving blanco trufas con camarones y huevos — creamy, shirred eggs lightly cooked with poached shrimp and topped with a heap of white truffles. It’s a splurge at $50 for an appetizer, but more affordable options include the bocadillo de tetilla, an upscale twist on the grilled ham-and-cheese with black truffle, and the entree-sized lobster, sunchoke, and black truffle paella.
The Little Owl, 90 Bedford Street, 212-741-4695
At his much-adored, tiny corner space in the West Village, Joey Campanaro serves the truffle in one of its most natural habitats — over risotto — and there are a couple options to choose from: truffle risotto bianco finished with butter, parmesan, white and black truffle, and a raw truffled egg yolk or lobster risotto with wild mushrooms and white truffle. Not enough? Campanaro is also stewing up a white truffle polenta with field mushrooms farm vegetables.
A Voce Madison, 41 Madison Avenue, 212-545-8555
Fine-diners seeking an extra exclusive experience can buy their own personal truffle at A Voce Madison ($12/gram); the kitchen will shave it over whatever you want then safeguard it for you until you come back for more, when it’ll shave, shave again. If you go this route keep in mind that even in the best circumstances, truffles only last a few days, so hurry back to collect before your truffle withers. Uptown at A Voce Columbus (10 Columbus Circle, 212-823-2523) chef Filippo Gozzoli is offering a special menu tailored to the funky fungus.
Perhaps you just want to have your cake and truffles too. That’s cool, you totally can; several restaurants around town will shave the good stuff over anything you like.
Last week, we had truffles over a brown-butter semifredo at City Winery, and it was divine. So go ahead, ask for it on dessert — we’ll bet you’ll like it over mild custards, puddings, ice creams, or dishes drizzled with salted caramel, flor de leche, or anything such.
Hit up Maison Premiere (298 Bedford Ave, 347-335-0446) ($55 for white, $30 for black) to dress up a seafood dish, or visit Piora (430 Hudson Street, 212-960-3801) for truffles over a simple parmesan tagliatelle, tortellini, or bucatini.
Try this at home: on the next page, where to buy truffles for DIY degustation.
In the coming weeks, black winter truffles will work their way across the pond, and they’ll stick around through March. Their popularity soars throughout the holidays, but tapers off after New Year’s, just as the season hits its peak over in the old country. So prices drop just as the best little blackies hit American soil.
That means you can eat your way through your post-holiday depression without ever setting foot in a restaurant. Buy them from one of the purveyors below (Tip: Gourmet Attitude will hand deliver them to you at home or work) and shave them over everything from macaroni and cheese to scrambled eggs. Slip them beneath a chicken’s skin before roasting or shave them over potatoes.
For a lighter option, make Michael White’s Chicory Salad with Anchovy Croutons and Black Truffle…A tasty cure for the midwinter doldrums.
Gourmet Attitude, 483 Tenth Avenue, Suite 430, 212-663-1683)
In addition to supplying fresh truffles to chefs at the French Laundry and Daniel (among others), this boutique importer sells to private clients (read: regular people) with super fast personal service (call them, and they’ll likely deliver to your home or office). Right now, the vendor has whites from Alba at $210/ounce and Burgundies at $35/ounce. When they arrive, black winters will run you $50-$90/ounce. Says company founder Celine Labaune, “Mix black truffles with creme fraiche, and it will keep for a couple days in a closed container. Mix that with mashed potato, and that’s very nice.”
SOS Chefs, 104 Avenue B, 212-505-5813
This tiny Alphabet City shop is worth a visit whether you need truffles or not; it also stocks all manner of gastronomic oddity: hard-to-find spices, oils, grains, nuts, etc. At the moment, it’s selling white truffles for $100/ounce and Burgundy truffles for $53/ounce, and it’ll be getting black winters in soon. SOS’s primary business is wholesale to high-end restaurants (Momofuku’s David Chang and Prune’s Gabrielle Hamilton are regular customers), so if you get truffles here, you know they’re best quality.
Eataly, 200 5th Avenue, 212-229-2560 Many of the truffle-slinging restaurants around town like to keep things super simple: They shave white truffles over ribbons of long pasta (often tagliatelle) tossed in olive oil or butter, salt and pepper, and a hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino. Swing by Eataly for a tangle of fresh, hand-rolled pasta, a block of cheese, and a bit of truffle, and make the dish at home in under 20 minutes for a fraction of what you’ll pay at a restaurant.
Give it a shot, and let us know how it works out in the comments. And be sure to read my story on truffles in this week’s Village Voice.
Also, find me on Twitter: @findthathannah