Your Next Truffle May be Coming from Greece

Larissa Zimberoff wrote . . . . . . .

So you’re dining at a fancy restaurant and choose to splurge on some truffles to top off your repast. The server steps up and presents the vaguely ugly tuber. As the pungent slices rain down on your main course, the waiter announces that these truffles didn’t come from Italy, the traditional provenance of this decadent garnish. They hail from Greece.

Don’t be shocked—be glad. Italians have successfully positioned their product as the most luxurious under the forest floor. But white Alba truffles—tuber magnatum pico—also grow magnificently well in Greece. Even Aristotle mentions them in his writings, but they never made it into the local cuisine. Unlike Italy’s truffles, which have been dug up and eaten for centuries, Greece’s truffles have remained largely undisturbed. At least they did until the Athens-based culinary exporter Eklekto saw their potential for the U.S. market.

But there’s an additional reason to embrace Greek truffles. Usually, countless middlemen touch an Italian truffle before it makes it to market, increasing the consumer’s chances of getting a counterfeit version. Eklekto partners Peter Weltman and George Athanas say they work only with a small group of Greek foragers and know exactly where the product is from. Apart from the forager working with his trusty dog, Weltman and Athanas are the only people that touch the truffles before export, the company says.

Initially, it was mutual interest in Greek wine that brought Weltman and Athanas together, but a mutual friend and respected mycologist (a studier of fungi) pointed them to truffles. Bitten by the Greek truffle bug, Weltman—a trained chef and sommelier—brought a cache of tubers back with him to San Francisco-area restaurants in 2016, jamming a pile of Greek Burgundy’s (also called black truffles) into a stinky backpack. “You bring in caper leaves and it’s one thing,” he says of these sales calls. “But truffles are a whole other ballgame.” Everywhere Weltman went, the kitchen staff gathered around to peer into his Tupperware. They loved the scent: more buttery and saltier than the smokier French version and different from the Perigords—melanosporum—that he had later, which were more fruity, earthy and pungent. Still, they were sent off without a sale.

In 2017, Eklekto’s foragers began unearthing the prized white truffle that, in addition to Italy and Greece, also comes from Slovenia and Macedonia. More than a few Italian truffles have a good chance of actually hailing from these countries, given the premium prices they command and the ease of exporting them. At Urbani, which controls 70 percent of the world’s truffle market, Vittorio Giordano, vice president of the U.S. and Canada division, says he’s paying close attention to his Alba sources.

“As a truffle company, we have to keep an eye on the product,” he says. “If there are other areas producing the same truffle, we definitely have to pay attention.”

Nevertheless, with Alba prices climbing due to drought, the timing for Greek truffles was perfect. Last year, Italian truffles jumped to $3,500 a pound wholesale. Greek truffles were slightly cheaper, going for $3,150 a pound. Equally delicious, but not as rare, Perigords fetched $840 a pound.

In peak season, Tusk will spend around $100,000 on truffles.

The same species as the Alba, Eklekto’s Greek white truffle smells and tastes just as delicious. One convert is chef Michael Tusk at San Francisco’s Quince restaurant. Tusk is a prodigious user of the luxury ingredient. “People are paying a lot of money,” Tusk says of his dinners. Because of this, sometimes he would take over in the dining room for any cautious captains. “I was never really fond of conservative shaving. It was either go big or go home.” During his annual, eight-night, white truffle festival, he uses about two kilograms a day. In peak season, Tusk will spend around $100,000 on truffles.

When Weltman first pitched his burgundy truffles to Tusk in 2016, the chef didn’t believe another country’s product could rival Italy’s. But after a year of soaring overhead, he reconsidered. “It was a brutal year of expense and I thought I’ll at least take a look,” says Tusk. He began adding them to his risotto with tartufo bianco, a dish that includes both cultured white truffle butter and a generous shaving of truffles at the table, and agnolottini di fonduta, molten cheese-stuffed pasta with white truffles. “The flavor was really good,” he says.

Last October, when Quince was awarded three Michelin stars, he requisitioned truffles to celebrate. He called up Far West Fungi—a wholesale and retail shop that carries the largest variety of truffle species in the Bay Area and which just received a large shipment of white tubers from Eklekto. General Manager Naomi Wolf delivered the goods personally. “I think it was three pounds, a ludicrous amount,” Wolf says.

“The smell and the taste were absolutely every bit as good as anything I got from Alba.”

George Chen, chef and owner of China Live and Eight Tables in San Francisco, first started using truffles in 2007 at Roosevelt Prime, a steakhouse in China. He continued to use Chinese truffles until 2010, when the market began to be flooded with inferior product. He started searching for alternatives.

“I heard that Greece had truffles, but I had never seen one,” says Chen. Weltman showed up one day with large, bright, white truffles. They had few indentations, allowing for beautiful oval pieces when shaved. But that wasn’t the real test. “The smell and the taste were absolutely every bit as good as anything I got from Alba,” Chen says. He began using them on his velvet chicken with roasted truffle veal jus and, in a riff on broccoli beef, seared wagyu finished with shaved white truffles.

Taking a chance on a supplier with a new ingredient, especially an expensive one, is a risk many don’t want to take. However, for this southern European country whose economy has problems, it’s a potential jackpot. Lefteris Lahouvaris, a Greek mycologist who works with Eklekto, estimates that Greece could export as many as three tons of truffles annually, translating into millions of dollars at wholesale prices in the U.S.

Many have yet to be convinced. Chefs that include Yotam Ottolenghi and Alice Waters, both of whom showed interest, eventually passed on Greek truffles. At Far West, where some white Albas went for $5000 a pound last year, co-owner Ian Garrone says he will continue to carry the Greek truffles as long as they’re consistent. “It’s going to be determined by a few good seasons,” he says. “I’m thinking it’s going to be an early white truffle season. If it can get in the market before Italian [truffles] get established, it has a really wonderful chance of being a mainstay.”

That said, Greece isn’t the only unlikely source for truffles these days. America’s Pacific Northwest is garnering a reputation for its underground crop, too. At the annual truffle festival in Eugene, Oregon, where white truffle season begins in October and ends in March, chefs cook with massive amounts of the tuber. At one especially notable dinner, they created eight courses that paired European truffles alongside the local offerings. Guests unanimously preferred the native truffles, recounts Charles Ruff, the festival’s culinary director. “The best experience with any truffle,” he says, “is to enjoy it in its terroir.”

Source: Bloomberg

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Traditional French-style Burgundy Beef Stew

Ingredients

3-1/2 lb lean stewing beef (chuck or shin)
6 oz lean salt pork or thick cut rindless streaky bacon
3 tbsp butter
12 oz baby onions
12 oz small button mushrooms
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 or 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp plain flour
3 cups red wine, preferably Burgundy
1-1/2 tbsp tomato puree
bouquet garni
2-1/2 to 3 cups beef stock
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Cut the beef into 2-inch pieces and dice the salt pork or cut the bacon crossways into thin strips.
  2. In a large heavy flameproof casserole, cook the pork or bacon over a medium heat until golden brown, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the fat.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add enough meat to the pan to fit easily in one layer (do not crowd the pan or the meat will not brown) and cook, turning to colour all sides, until well browned.
  4. Transfer the beef to a plate and continue browning the meat in batches.
  5. In a heavy frying pan, melt one-third of the butter over a medium heat, add the baby onions and cook, stirring frequently, until evenly golden. Set aside on a plate.
  6. In the same pan, melt half of the remaining butter over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, until golden, then set aside with the baby onions.
  7. When all the beef has been browned, pour off any fat from the casserole and add the remaining butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until just softened, stirring frequently.
  8. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine, tomato puree and bouquet garni. Bring to the boil, scraping the base of the pan.
  9. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and pour on the stock, adding more if needed to cover the meat and vegetables when pressed down. Cover the casserole and simmer very gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 3 hours or until the meat is very tender.
  10. Add the sauteed mushrooms and baby onions and cook, covered, for a further 30 minutes.
  11. Discard the bouquet garni and stir in the parsley before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: French – Delicious Classic Cuisine Made Easy

In Pictures: Foods of Restaurants in Canada

Research Finds Little Difference of Long-term Effectiveness of Different Diet Plans

Whether you pick low-carb, low fat or another diet plan, scientific research indicates each can help some people achieve modest long-term weight loss with potential improvement in health risks, according to the Scientific Statement the Endocrine Society issued today on managing obesity.

The authors found the Mediterranean Diet and DASH diet provide demonstrated benefits for improving cardiovascular disease, and in lower calorie versions may be beneficial for weight loss.

Given the number of diets, medications and surgical procedures available to treat obesity, the best approach for each individual depends on genetics, health and how well they can adhere to a particular regimen, the statement’s authors concluded. Still, maintaining long-term weight loss remains challenging, and individuals with obesity should expect to regain weight when they stop treatment.

“The stigma around this disease makes it difficult to address obesity as a public health problem,” said George A. Bray, M.D., of Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., who chaired the task force that developed the Scientific Statement. “There often is a mismatch between the patient’s cosmetic goals and what can realistically be achieved with diet and exercise. While a modest 5 percent to 10 percent weight loss can yield significant health benefits, that may not provide the cosmetic changes patients seek.”

Obesity remains a worldwide public health issue. More than 1.9 billion adults worldwide meet the criteria for obesity or overweight, according to the World Health Organization.

Obesity is associated with and contributes to a shortened life span, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, kidney disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and other conditions. Weight loss can lower the risk of developing these conditions and improve health outcomes.

The statement’s authors examined the latest scientific evidence on a variety of diets, commercial diet plans such as Weight Watchers, exercise, obesity medications and types of bariatric surgery. Based on a review of more than 400 studies and peer-reviewed articles on obesity, the experts found all of the weight loss interventions had a high degree of variability when it came to effectiveness.

“Individual weight loss approaches worked well for some people and not for others,” Bray said. “Currently, we have limited genetic and other information to predict which intervention will work for a given individual. This demonstrates just how complex the problem of severe obesity is.”

Surgical approaches tended to lead to greater and longer lasting weight loss than other treatment options, the authors found.

Many consumers turn to dietary supplements, which are not evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is little scientific evidence to show these supplements can effectively support weight loss or even that they are safe. Having the FDA oversee dietary supplements and holding these products to higher safety and efficacy standards would benefit public health, according to the statement authors.

Recent studies have examined whether some individuals with a body-mass index (BMI) that meets the criteria for obesity can maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar and levels of fats in the blood called triglycerides. The statement authors concluded metabolically healthy obesity is likely a short-term state, and individuals who fit the criteria are likely to develop metabolic and cardiovascular problems over time.

“Effectively treating obesity is crucial if we are going to be able to address the devastating impact diabetes and cardiovascular disease have on public health,” Bray said. “We are seeing promising research into diabetes medications linked to weight loss, the use of peptides to enhance weight loss, and improved techniques for modulating the way food moves through the digestive system and is absorbed into the body. As our scientific understanding of obesity continues to improve, we hope this will lead to the discovery of new treatment approaches.”

The statement, “The Science of Obesity Management: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement,” was published online in the Society’s journal Endocrine Reviews

Source: Endocrine Society

Someday You May Check Your Blood Pressure with Your Smart Phone

Someday soon, a simple touch of a finger to a smartphone case might be enough to provide instant, accurate blood pressure readings.

That’s the promise of new technology detailed by developers in the journal of Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers say they’ve invented a special phone case, using high-tech 3-D printing, that contains an embedded optical sensor on top of a “force” sensor.

When the user presses a finger onto the sensor embedded in the case, “it provides measurable pressure on an artery in the finger in the same way that a blood pressure cuff squeezes an artery in the arm,” according to a journal news release.

That information is then fed to a smartphone app that converts the data to a real-time blood pressure reading, displayed on the phone, says a team led by Ramakrishna Mukkamala of Michigan State University.

The researchers tested the usability of the device on 30 people, and found that about 90 percent could position their finger correctly and get consistent readings after only one or two attempts.

Two heart specialists said the device might one day be a game-changer.

“An accurate blood pressure measurement technique is critical for making helpful decisions in the management of hypertension,” said Dr. Joseph Diamond. He directs nuclear cardiology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

He stressed, however, that more rigorous testing must be done before any new blood pressure measuring technology becomes standard.

Dr. Rachel Bond helps direct women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She noted that recent changes to the American Heart Association’s blood pressure guidelines — lowering the threshold for high blood pressure to 130/80 mmHg — means “more people will likely need access to blood pressure monitoring devices that are simple to use outside of the doctor’s office.”

Still, “with the use of any [portable] device, I strongly encourage the patient bring them in to the office to test for accuracy and allow for validation,” Bond said.

Source: HealthDay


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