Sunday, October 4, 2009

A real "Fun Guy"

Today I was in Palisades market in the morning, while I had the Laguna eco-Fest staffed. It was cool, breezy and mild; a perfect early-fall day. I was glad to discover a new seasonal vendor in Palisades; his name is Dirk, and he is a specialist in all kinds of mushrooms. It's very rare to see these kinds of mushrooms in a farmer's market, but of course Palisades has a great upscale clientele and I've also met my share of personal chefs. Dirk delights in telling you, in English with a heavy German accent, that he is "a real fungh-guy." It was a sense of humor I don't think of as typically German, but I got a good laugh out of it. Anyway, the real treasure in Dirk's booth was a jar each of fresh Italian black and white truffles, stored as they should be in rice. I smelled first the black, then the white, and told him I preferred the white. He pronounced me to be of excellent taste, then proceeded to tell me that the white were more expensive and better (I knew that...). A moment later a woman came up and gave him an enormous hug; "is that what we do to get a discount on white truffles?" I wondered? In any case, I bought half a white truffle for the same value of my weekly floral budget, and he threw in the cremini mushrooms that I had also selected (see the photo below of the half truffle and a guava I also bought today). I was going to put the fresh truffle in mashed potatoes tonight, but instead I decided to maximize the little morsel, so I quartered it and put it in a jar of olive oil as soon as I got home, so that I can have some truffle oil; and at some point in the fall or winter I will use some of the truffle itself for some great mashed. For the rest of the day my neighbors were smelling the truffle in the tiny brown paper bag Dirk gave me, and I got a kick out of their reactions. Ronnie thought it smelled earthy but sort of like pot. If you do a google search on white truffles, you will see that the price is worse than drugs: $3,000 per pound for white truffles!?? In the end it was an extravagance, yes, and I hope it turns into many nice dishes this fall.....

If you have followed my blog, you know my photo I have used of the mushroom vendor in Beaune; I buy dried cepes from her that I use in the states because you can not find fresh cepes here. Btw I have never seen fresh truffles for sale in any French market, at least that I remember. I will have to go back to talk to Dirk again next week and post more.

In other news, I saw something I have never seen before, a young girl walked through the market with an enormous hotte on her back; this is the type of basket they used in France to harvest the grapes, though I don't think they use them much now. This one looked Asian and not at all European. It was interesting but very odd, and I can't imagine how she would put items in the hotte without some help, but at least she did not seem to have any plastic bags on hand....

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