Eating Truffles at the Alba White Truffle
2019 promises to be a good year, with abundant (and cheap) truffles. To buy them, eat them and learn about them, head to the Alba White Truffle Fair. You’ll spend less than anywhere else for the delicacies and won’t get ripped off.
The International Alba White Truffle Fair attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year to the province of Cuneo, with cars and buses spilling out up and down the Langhe hills. Aficionados book hotels and restaurants months in advance, and buy a precious truffle from their trusted truffle hunter, or trifolau, to take home. Everyone else (like us) arrives a bit naive, risking a major let down from the experience. But whether you’re on an organized tour or traveling alone, advice for getting around Alba and the surrounding area is the same – the fundamental point being how to eat and buy the truffles you came for.
The Fair: the affordable solution
Alba is a small town with a beautiful historic center. On autumn weekends it gets busy with pedestrians, like rush hour in Milan. Over the years, the Truffle Fair has become a collection of events, concerts, educational workshops for children and historical reenactments that go far beyond the truffle market alone, with a calendar of initiatives that take place in and around the city. While activities are widespread, the real action is at the Alba White Truffle World Market, a tensile structure in the Cortile della Maddalena, right in the center.
Whether in groups or on their own, many people arrive in Alba and wander around lost, expecting to find stalls and truffles everywhere. But to enjoy the charm of the fair you have to enter the market.
The International Alba White Truffle Market
Inside the market are many stalls selling typical products, the trifolau truffle-hunters sell their goods directly, and there’s a tasting counter of local wines as well as a Piedmontese fast-food restaurant. Next to it in a room is the show cooking space with master chefs, where sensory truffle analysis lessons and guided wine tastings are organized. Entrance to the market costs €4.00, or €13.50 with a wine tasting included. A ticket for the International Alba White Truffle Market is included when buying a Wine Tasting Experience (€26), Truffle Sensory Analysis (€22), Foodie Moments (€36), events dedicated to gourmets to discover the best combinations of Michelin-starred chefs with Alba White Truffle…
Only on the weekend
The market is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (All Saints’ Day and Annunciation weekends included). On Saturdays, chaos hits the streets with the classic weekly market (the one with pajamas and pans). During the week the city is much more livable, though it might have little interest for those who have come to enjoy the fair’s charm.
Where to buy
At the market, trifolau who have found truffles in the woods with their dogs arrive the morning before the opening and have their findings evaluated by a very strict commission of judges, who discard unsuitable truffles and “label” those for sale, preventing any scams. In addition to highly prized white truffles, there are also black truffles and so-called summer black truffles or scorzone: something for every budget. During the week, when the market is closed, you can turn to serious local shops, such as Tartuflanghe. Stalls scattered around the streets without guarantees or diverse pricing should be avoided.
Eating and drinking at the market
Inside the market is a space dedicated to cooking and tasting great wines from Langhe, Roero and Monferrato, where you can sample typical dishes and enjoy grated Alba White Truffles at a competitive price. Some tables are set up outside, along with high-standing tables inside. Prices very accessible: cooked and cured cold cuts for €8.00; salami, Tuma cheese and cured meat for €9.00; tajarin with ragù or cheese sauce for €9.50; plin ravioli for €10. A 10-gram grating of Alba White Truffle, to be added to dishes, costs €28. An excellent combo, the truffle aperitivo includes, per person: an egg, grated truffle, wine and bread.
The price of Alba White Truffle
Given the abundance of truffles this year, the prices are quite affordable. However, cost is still by weight, both at the fair and at the restaurant. By buying a white truffle for about €40, you can prepare a plate of tajarin or fried eggs for 4 people. At the restaurant, you pay around €250 per 100 grams, or around €28 for a generous 10-gram grating of white truffle, to be added to the price of a chosen dish. In many restaurants, an all inclusive surcharge for white or black truffles is indicated alongside classic dishes, so that there are no surprises at the time of the bill. Inside the truffle fair, a 10-gram grating costs €27.
Beware of imitations
White truffles are grated raw at your table, with a special truffle shaver. If paid for by weight, they’re weighed at the table with a scale and the amount is shown to the customer. However, if paid for on the plate, you’ll already know the final price. Black truffles or black summer scorzone tend to arrive already on the plate, unless paid for by weight. They come at decidedly lower prices than Alba White Truffles and feature a less intense, decidedly different aroma and taste.
Although it’s a great year for truffles, they are still a luxury product, so if you find them at low prices (like €14 for a plate of tagliolini with a glass of wine included), they’re surely not white and doubts about their origin and quality are legitimate. If you go to Alba, make the journey, invest time and money, and don’t deprive yourself of the experience of eating the real Alba White Truffle. At just €28 it’s a luxury you can afford to treat yourself to.