October 05

Saturday was a challenge. My daughter's 17th birthday, and 17 bright young women descended on the farm to make merry. I had to make pizzas. 20 in all. The wood-fired oven got its first use since our mid-winter truffle extravaganza. It takes about four hours to get really hot - pizza hot - when starting from cold. This time, I used the dough recipe from Nikko Amandonico's La Pizza: The True Story from Naples (excellent book, by the way), with a mix of organic stoneground flours provided (with fresh yeast) by Martin at Canterbury Cheesemongers (excellent shop - can't leave without spending a small fortune on great cheese). Worked a treat. The dough was pliable and elastic, baking quickly to a lovely crispy crust. The girls seemed to like them, but my sternest critic was the most impressed. "Best yet" was Camille's comment. I shall bask in the warmth of that praise for - ooh, hours.

Here's the big news: I have copies of The Truffle Book. Four pallets each laden with 40 brown boxes stuffed with lovely little books, the fruits of a very long labour. Copies will go out to everyone who helped me in the next day or so, and review copies shortly thereafter. The NZ distributor (Nationwide) starts the sell-in next week. Copies should be in NZ bookstores soon after. The big promotion push won't happen until late summer (Feb/March) because we're getting too close to Christmas (and it pains me to say that - it's still months away), and I'm still waiting to hear from Australia, but I'll have copies for sale on the Limestone Hills site very soon. In the meantime, don't forget you can download a pdf sample here. Time for a drink... Muddy Water 2001 Syrah when I get home.

Renowden's first law of truffle journalism states that, however good the story, a journalist writing about truffles will inevitably end up spouting bollocks. Today it's the turn of the Daily Telegraph's Hilary Clarke [Link].

I mean, it's a good story. Soaring truffle prices driving tartufaio to piracy in an attempt to cash in on soaring prices. "...the village bars in the hills around Asti are awash with tales of sabotage and skulduggery. Car tyres have been slashed, paths scattered with nail barbs and poisoned meatballs left in the undergrowth to kill hunter's dogs." Happens every year, but let's not let that get in the way of the story.

Where Clarke goes hilariously off the rails is in her attempt to find a telling description of what white truffles are: "White truffles are fungus balls that smell of rotten eggs but taste of garlic." Pardon? These things that sell for £1,100 a kilo smell of rotten eggs? And taste of garlic? The byline states that Clarke is actually in Asti (not very far from Alba, in the Piedmont), but if that's the case, surely she could have managed a slightly more educated sniff. Or perhaps she's anosmic.

One suspects that the celebrities attending this year's big charity white truffle auction in Italy will not be paying through their collective noses for something smells of rotten eggs. And I hope that if Roman Abramovich (Chelsea FC owner) and Gwyneth Paltrow buy a truffle this year, they will ensure that their chef doesn't let it rot before they get a chance to taste it.

It's taken me a while to do it, but I've finally managed to edit the TV One news item about this year's NZ truffle dog trials, shrink it for the web, and figure out how to post it to the Limestone Hills website. Click on over there, and see Peg win! I get precisely two short sound bites, but Ian Hall and Christina Weden are much more cogent in any case. (3.1MB, Quicktime required).

Gordon Ramsay is a chef with a fearsome reputation - and tongue, if you have seen him on TV lashing some hapless young proto-cook on his cooking "reality" shows. He is, of course, an extremely fine cook, possessor of Michelin stars and the culinary gravitas that goes with that, and is therefore unafraid to charge like a wounded bull when the situation demands it. Which, at his Ramsay's Maze in central London, it apparently does, because a pizza with white truffle shaved on top costs £100. The Daily Mail (I used to write a column for them in the early 80s) explains all...

Looks very nice, as you'd expect. But I'd rather make my own. And I wouldn't shave truffle on top either. I'd make a pizza bianca, as I blogged earlier this year. But then I'm not Gordon Ramsay.

The new Limestone Hills web site has just been uploaded, and a sample pdf of the Foreword, Introduction and first chapter is now available for download.. Just go here, and click on the download link. I'm currently finalising proofs with the printer and resolving a pre-press issue (the strange case of the disappearing ligatures) (not a medical problem). The whole thing should be on press very soon. I have to put my selling boots on. I wonder if they'll fit.