Never in my life have I eaten so many truffles- so often- as I have in the last year that I’ve lived here in Trieste. Throughout the world, truffles are considered a delicacy, a rarity and certainly, an expensive indulgence. Yet, just under 30 minutes from Trieste I can cross the border into Slovenia or Croatia and enjoy dishes postively HEAPED with truffles without breaking the bank!
The reason for the lower costs is that truffles are bountiful in Slovenia and Croatia and Fall is primetime for white truffles in Istria. Giancarlo Zigante, a star in the world of Istrian truffle purveyors & restauranteurs, credits the gray clay soil, the humid and shady woods and the even temperatures of the area for providing ideal growing conditions for truffles. It is estimated that in any one year, the territory yields anywhere between 10-20 TONS of white truffles.
Besides the Tuber Magnatum Pico (white truffle) which is the priciest, there are 3 types of black truffles (in order of cost high to low); the Tuber Melanosporum a high quality truffle that grows from January to Spring, the Tuber Aestivum & Tuber Uncinatum (burgundy truffle) which are very similar, rank second in terms of quality and grow throughout the year, and finally the Tuber brumale which grows in winter, rounds out the black truffle category — yields for these are also about 10 tons per year.
Istrian truffles are popular as they are less expensive and the flavors are nearly as good and sometimes considered more delicate than their Italian cousins. Often Italians come to buy their truffles in Istria and pass them off as the highly prized Italian specimens, although connoisseurs are hard to fool!
Truffle hunting requires a permit in Istria and Slovenia, but if you’re interested, there are several places where you can actually book a truffle-hunting excursion. Zigante offers an excursion (for up to 30 people) in the Motovun Forest just a mile from his restaurant. Advance booking required by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Another well know restauranteur and purveyor of truffles is the Karlić Family, in Buzet they also offer excursions with advance booking http://karlictartufi.hr/en/kako-do-nas/
To read more about Istrian Truffles you can go to this site.
From early November to January, truffles are in abundance in Slovenia and Croatia and many restaurants feature them prominently. My personal favorites are Ruj in Monrupino in the Slovenian Carst (Dol pri Vogljah 16 Tel: 00386 5 7341720) The owner, Peter Patajac is a fantastic and creative chef and speaks many languages. The other is Rino in Momiano in Croatia (Dolinja vas 23, 52462, Momjan, Croatia Tel: 00385 52 779 170) which features an entire truffle based meal. Both are excellent restaurants offering top quality food, wines and very affordable.
So enjoy, indulge!!