Eating Molise, part 2

The day after our eating orgy in Casalciprano, we went to visit the clan behind the Sapori Italiani ("Italian flavors") truffle products line. (The name has since changed to Sapori Molisani--let's hear it for Molise pride!) The plan was to go out with one of their truffle-hunting dogs, then have a home-cooked, truffle-centric lunch.

We ate breakfast and hurried out to the town of Busso for the 10 a.m. start time. Once we arrived, however, we discovered that Teresa, the family matriarch, had prepared a sumptuous breakfast of coffee, pastries, ham, fruit salad, and a wonderful salame-spiked egg torta sort of thing. It seemed impolite not to indulge.

Then it was off to the truffle hunt. The dog, Jimmy (Gimi?), seemed a little young for the job and rather easily distracted, which obviously disappointed his handler. But even so. the dog managed to smell out a bagful of the dark, rough-skinned fungi. Luckily for us, we were not out in the dense woods nearby but in a cultivated truffle field of evenly spaced oak trees surrounded by grass, designed to be an ideal truffle-growing environment.

It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place, but I'd somehow fantasized that we'd be getting a lot of exercise, when in fact we mostly stood around admiring the dog and the landscape. 

Back at the house, we got a tour of the production facility in the ground floor of the family home. This was the haul from the morning's hunting, plus a few more, since Jimmy's production apparently didn't come up to expectations that day.

Mario, Teresa's son-in-law, led the tour in excellent English. He's the sales and marketing end of the business. Molise produces 40 percent of Italy's truffles but doesn't have nearly the name recognition of Alba, which is world-famous for its white truffles. Mario intends to change that.

Pinuccio, Teresa's husband, cleaned truffles then grated it into a little pool of olive oil and made us all bruschetta. These summer black truffles are milder than the more pungent winter whites, with a subtle herbaceousness when they're raw. The family ships fresh truffles to clients in Europe and also produces a variety of truffle products in jars--truffle slices, grated truffles, truffle butter, and dozens of other things, all out of the little facility in their house. 

After the tour it was time for lunch. That's Mario standing at the head of the table, and Teresa to his right.

Teresa dished out a gigantic spread--truffle-spiked sausages and other salumi, a truffle frittata, two pastas with heaps of fresh-sliced truffles on top.

Pinuccio grilled steaks over the open fire and served them topped with arugula, Parmesan shavings, balsamic vinegar, salt, and, of course, truffle shavings. Next came the truffled cheeses with homemade onion relish, followed by their own sour-cherry liqueur, and then tiramisu and coffee. All of it was sensationally good, and moderation proved impossible. Even Steven, whose appetite seems bottomless, started to look like he was going to pass out.

A few of Teresa's antipasti
Later Mario told us that Teresa had served us a light lunch. When far-away friends come to visit, he said, she usually offers a lot more dishes.

It was only the next day that we were informed that emptying your plate or your glass, per the rules of Southern Italian hospitality, dictates that your host give you more. We realized that if we were going to survive this trip, we'd have to stop being members of the Clean Plate Club. But that proved difficult to impossible when the food was so good.

That night Steven's mom, Janice, arrived from Glasgow. This was our first chance to meet her, after all these years (four) of Lina and Steven being a couple. Steven celebrated by cooking up some pasta at our place--a carbonara and a pasta with truffles we'd bought from the truffle family earlier in the day.
The carbonara

The truffle past

Steven adds olive oil while Lina and Janice admire his handiworkAnd reader, we ate it all.