7 things I learned about truffle hunting in Italy

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First of all, I thought I have the best job in the world…I thought that until a few weeks ago that is…

I had an opportunity to go truffle hunting with a certified guide and his wonder truffle dog, Tito. In the name of research, I had to go for my workshop attendees. Let’s get it straight: my job doesn’t suck, however here’s why I think in another life, I will be a truffle hunter. Full disclosure: truffles are one of my favorite things on the planet, and it’s no wonder that hunting for them proved to me why they are so incredible as an ingredient.

I met Simone and Tito at a designated location, and then we headed off into the mountains for my first ever truffle hunting experience. You may remember I went to a truffle festival in Alba, in the Piedmont a couple years ago. But this, my friends, was truly a bucket list moment for me.

Okay back to Simone and Tito. Tito is a truffle dog, so of course I had a million questions for Simone about how one trains a truffle dog. The breed has been bred specifically for this purpose: to sniff out the yummy goodness of the truffle buried beneath the forest floor. It’s called the Lagotto Romagnolo; that’s a mouth full. Tito was in the back of the car crated and quiet. We drove up the mountain with my never ending questions about training Tito. Simone was very patient in explaining that one must spend many many many hours training these dogs. First you feed the puppies truffles, so they get a sniff and a taste for them (see even the dogs think they are yummy). Then hand signals, treats and even getting on your hands and knees to show them how to gently dig, so as not to break the truffle. Foraging the woods is a team effort. These 2 make the perfect team as I found out after 3 hours of foraging in the beautiful countryside. It was exciting and zen all at the same time. Hence my epiphany that I should have been a truffle hunter. Walking in nature endlessly looking for these hidden treasures was something that was heavenly to me. I learned a lot about truffles and hunting in these 3 hours spent with the ultimate hunting team.

What I learned about truffles:

  1. There are 7 types of truffles that one can legally hunt in Italy.
  2. Hunting for truffles is a year round activity (I thought it was only fall but no, Simone and Tito hunt all year).
  3. Moisture has much to do with the harvest, and rain is a very important factor in the quantity of truffles annually. The more rain, the more truffles.
  4. Hunting with dogs is far superior to pigs as dogs are more delicate and hunt with their paws, and pigs dig up truffles with their snouts often breaking the truffles.
  5. Truffles can be found all over the forest floors, not just the roots of trees.
  6. White truffles are harder to find and much more delicate to extract from the earth than black truffles
  7. There’s actually a school where guides can go to learn to guide truffle hunts

Needless to say, we had to eat truffles for lunch and the perfect place was right up the road. My tortellone with ricotta and egg sprinkled with black truffles was divine. The perfect end to a cool day hunting what I love with a great guide and a spectacular dog, Tito, who won my heart.

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If you’re interested in hunting truffles, you will have an opportunity at our upcoming workshop in 2018 as this will become a staple of the offerings for our free day.

All hail Tito, too! Now I want a truffle dog. xx

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Everything But the Turkey:: Use Leftovers

Thanksgiving

Today is my last post in our Everything But the Turkey series. I hope that throughout the past few weeks, you’ve become equipped with some fantastic recipes and entertaining ideas for Thanksgiving. I can’t believe that we’ll be surrounded by family and friends enjoying a huge festive spread in just a few days.

It’s no secret that I love takeaway gifts. Who doesn’t love getting a little something to take home after a great party? Of course, Thanksgiving shouldn’t be any different, and the secret is to use leftovers!

I like to give guests a few leftovers to enjoy the next day. I always think Thanksgiving leftovers are better the next day anyway, don’t you? Be prepared with a few microwaveable containers ready on hand to load leftovers into. That way, when guests take them home, the leftovers can be popped right into the fridge until the next day.

Of course, I love any excuse to add a little pizzazz. Make leftovers look special, and leave a sweet burlap bag at the front door for guests to grab on their way out. It’s a simple detail that can make all the difference.

Grab a copy of my book, Picture Perfect Parties, for more great holiday entertaining ideas.

xx Annette

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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Everything But the Turkey Decor:: Pumpkin Pepper Place Settings

Tie pumpkin peppers onto a napkin roll for Thanksgiving to create the perfect pumpkin place settings. Tie pumpkin peppers onto a napkin roll for Thanksgiving to create the perfect pumpkin place settings.

Pumpkin peppers are one of the cutest, most festive fresh items out there this time of year. You can typically find them in the cut flower section of Whole Foods or even at Trader Joe’s. They are branches filled with tiny baby “pumpkins.”

A few years ago, it occurred to me that they’d be super sweet tied onto a napkin roll for Thanksgiving to create the perfect pumpkin place settings. To spruce them up a little bit more, attach the pumpkins to a cinnamon stick using linen ribbon and add a tag with the guest’s name to tell them where to sit at your table.

Sometimes inspiration is just sitting around waiting for you at the grocery store, right?

xx Annette

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Everything But the Turkey Recipe :: Pumpkin Bread Pudding

This pumpkin bread pudding is so easy to make and is a great alternative to pumpkin pie. Prepare it ahead of time to wow your guests at the end of the meal.

This pumpkin bread pudding is so easy to make and is a great alternative to pumpkin pie. Since it makes a large batch, you can easily make as much as you need to fit your crowd. Plus, you can alleviate some stress by making the raisin bread ahead of time. Or, simply use a good-quality store bought bread. Your guests will never know the difference, and you’ll be stress-free hostess.

Assemble this dessert first thing Thanksgiving morning, cover it with foil, and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. You can pull it fresh from the oven and serve it warm. Don’t forget a dollop of fresh whipped cream (or even ice cream), too. Look for this and more recipes plus great entertaining tips in my book Picture Perfect Parties. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Makes 8 servings

You will need:
– 1 cup heavy cream, *milk can be a substitute for cream
– ¾ cup canned solid-pack organic pumpkin
– ½ cup sugar
– 6 large eggs
– ½ teaspoon salt
– ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
– ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
– 6 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old raisin bread
– ¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts
– 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

To prepare:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Whisk together cream, pumpkin, sugar, eggs, salt, and spices in a bowl.
Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.
Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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Announcement: Fall 2018 Workshops in the Italian Countryside

It is with great pleasure I announce the Fall 2018 workshop roster. Join us next year for our most exciting workshop series to date. Come along!

It is with great pleasure I announce the Fall 2018 workshop roster.

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In September:

Domenica-Marchetti-533x800 We have some amazing workshops to offer next fall. Join us for Preserving Workshop with author of the book, Preserving Italy. Acclaimed Italian cookbook author, Domenica Marchetti, will be the instructor for our first ever workshop on canning and preserving in the Italian tradition. Italians are masters at the art of preserving the bounty of the seasons – summer’s tomatoes and zucchini; September’s peppers and figs; winter’s citrus. Domenica has meticulously documented the recipes and techniques of Italian food artisans in her book, Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions. During this one-of-a-kind workshop, we will spend five days in the glorious Tuscan countryside harvesting fruit and vegetables from La Fortezza’s own organic garden and transforming them into jams, pickles, and other preserved foods. We will also hit the road and visit Parma for more culinary inspiration and ingredients (think Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic vinegar. And we’ll meet a local food artisan who makes chestnut honey.

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We will also have Abstract Painting lead by Steve McKenzie. A nationally known abstract painter, this workshop will teach you techniques to intuitively paint abstraction, discover your inner creative voice and transfer that energy to the canvas. This creative retreat includes a multitude of excursions to local museums to study art and discuss how classic renaissance art can inform your abstractions. Steve will be teaching in the visual splendor of The Fortress’s expansive studio located on the grounds in an old stone barn, and the surrounding Tuscan landscape. Steve will guide your painting experience to reflect the juxtaposition of the beauty you observe with an abstract interpretation. In addition, the class will discuss the principles of painting and how to use them in your work. Time will also be spent merging your artwork and your social media. You will expand your artistic horizons in one of the most inspiring places in the world, Italy.

In October:

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In October, join us for The Ultimate Food Photography and Food Styling Experience. We will be hosting one of my mentors, amazing food stylist, culinary guru and professional cookbook photographer and food writer, Angie Mosier. Her work has been seen in Food & Wine, Town and Country, The New York Times, Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles, and Garden and Gun. Her essays on Southern cakes, pies and traditional meals can be read in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.  She has collaborated with cookbook and craft authors such as John T. Edge, Matt Lee and Ted Lee, Virginia Willis, Natalie Chanin, and the Southern Foodways Alliance.  Angie is honored to have worked as co-author and photographer on Chef Eric Ripert’s most recent book, Avec Eric, as well as photography for John T. Edge’s, The Truck Food Cookbook, Kevin Gillespie’s book, Fire in My Belly, and John Currence’s book, Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey.

We are still working on details, but if you would like to work with a food styling legend, this is this is the workshop for you. Dates will be announced next month. Feel free to email me to get on the list I have a feeling this will sell out fast annette@annettejosephstyle.com. 

One more thing: in September, check out Canadian Stylist and Culinary Expert Marisa Curatolo. She will be here at La Fortezza conducting her first ever Italian Culinary Retreat. She will be your guide alongside local experts. Cook with the finest produce, frequent antique markets, and savor the Italian country lifestyle.

Please feel free to email any questions I look forward to hosting everyone next fall. xx

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