Hound Dog Man
The woods were cool and fresh and it was a lovely day to walk through the trees and brush. The dogs raced around while Giorgio kept up a low-voiced chant urging them on. Esterina was clearly more interested hunting for squirrels than mushrooms. Giorgio told us that a good, well-trained truffle hound sells for around 10,000 Euros and that the peak for a truffle dog is when it's five to ten years old.
Brio stopped at the base of a poplar tree and started digging, dirt flying everywhere. Giorgio held him back so Esterina could get some experience. She wasn't that into the whole thing and Brio finished the job, but not before clawing Giorgio's hand accidently. Brio had found a black truffle that weighed about 40 grams. It looked like a clod of dirt and smelled dank and mushroomy.
In our hour in the woods, Brio and Esterina found two truffles, but he is young and we were a distraction. Trifulau work alone with one dog and keep their hunting grounds a secret. Giorgio patted the soil around the tree roots and scattered leaves each time so fellow truffle hunters won't see that we've been there.
We returned to La Casa del Trifulau where Giorgio and his brother, Natale, both fifth generation truffle hunters, share their knowledge of all things truffle. Natale had prepped us before we went into the woods, and now had the table set with plates of robiola, cheese made from the milk of cows, sheep, and goats, drizzled with olive oil. Just before we ate, he shaved a black truffle very thin over the cheese. Black truffles are white inside in the summer and have a mild taste and a bit of a crunch. With a glass of Barbera d'Asti, this was a great after-hunting snack.
We left the brothers Romagnolo and drove to the Cinque Terre where we will stay the next three nights. The weather, which had been threatening rain, remained good enough for a walk through the streets of Monterosso al Mare. Dinner at the Ristorante Belvedere was a treat. We sat out on a covered terrace overlooking the sea that our fish slept in last night. Locals had told us to try the seafood amphora-sold as dinner for two. Gianfranco brought two giant vats filled with a big piece of fish, a whole lobster, mussels, shrimp, squid, and a baby octopus! We could have fed the audience at the Sermon on the Mount. Karla chose excellent wines for our meal-the white, made from Pigato, a local grape, had a deep yellow color and a citrus flavor. Two reds, a Chianti Classico and a Nero d'Avola worked perfectly with all that fish.