Tag Archives: fall

The Truffle Hunters Movie

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Many years ago, I happily achieved one of the life goals on my bucket list. I went to the White Truffle Festival in Alba, Italy. For many years I hoped to attend, and when I finally did, it truly was a highlight, an experience that I will never forget. I had been to Alba many times the Piedmont region as it was close to where we lived in Alassio. I would always walk down the main street and visit one of my favorite stores, a tiny very chic boutique Tartufi Ponzi. They carry all sorts of truffle-infused products along with beautiful fresh white truffles which are all displayed under lock and key in the front window. One of my favorite products is their truffle potato chips. Always perfect for aperitivo.

As most of you know, I am obsessed with truffles, and truffle hunting, and the business of truffles. I was able to return to Alba a couple of years ago when I took the La Fortezza Workshop team, the chef, Philip, and the guest liaison, Rachel, to the 2018 Slow Food Festival in Bra, Italy. The city of Bra is right next door to Alba. Of course, I had to take the team to visit my favorite truffle store in Alba Tartufi Ponzi.

As luck would have it, that evening Gianfranco, the owner, was in the store. He was delightful, telling us all about his business, the wholesale/manufacturing business and the retail store started by his parents. One of the charming stories he told us is that when he was a kid, he was not thrilled about this family business. He told us that kids would tease him and say that they could tell he was coming because of the smell of truffles that preceeded him. We all laughed when he told us the story.

We talked and shopped for an hour. In passing, I asked him where he would recommend we have dinner. He was so kind and made us a reservation at his favorite restaurant in Alba immediately. He joined us at the restaurant when he closed up the store. We had the most delicious truffle-infused meal. Of course, the truffles at the restaurant were supplied by Gianfranco. In fact, he is a bit of a rock star in Alba as you can imagine. I felt I had made a new friend. Gianfranco and I have indeed become friends we keep in touch; he’s just the nicest guy and I hope to see him this year.

Speaking of this year, some exciting news is that Gianfranco was the fixer and on a new movie/documentary called The Truffle Hunters. I asked Gianfranco a few questions about how he became involved, and what his role was in helping make this movie happen. I am so excited to share this interview with you.

Q: How did you participate in the film, I remember you telling me that you helped with arranging the activities and organizing the truffle hunters that appeared in the movie?

A: I actively participated in the film. I was what they call a fixer, the liaison between the filmmaker and the truffle hunters in the Piedmont. I am very connected in this world given my decades of experience in the world of truffles. I helped connect the filmmakers with my friends and my relatives, these are the people I work with every day in my business. I helped the filmmakers unlock our world, a world that is little known and sometimes secretive. I loved being part of introducing the world to our world. A place filled with the natural beauty around us. The world of white truffles cannot be studied in books. Truffle hunting is a skill passed down verbally over generations. I was fortunate to be born into a family of truffle hunters. My family taught me everything that I needed to know.

Q: How did you meet the filmmaker?

A: I met Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw during the annual White Truffle Festival. They came into my shop and from there we started a wonderful collaboration. It was amazing that I could even stop to talk to them. This is a time that there are tons of people in our shop. We were all busy selling truffles. It was a tough time for me and my family as well, my Father was very ill and I had to manage the store and help my Mother. The highlight was the filmmakers asking me to help with this project. It gave me something to look forward to during this challenging time. We communicated, and I got an idea of what they were looking for. Once they arrived to film, I had everything arranged for them. So many wonderful people allowed themselves to be filmed, I was so grateful.

Q: Who do you sell your truffles to in the US?

A: Thanks to this new world of technology, it is much easier. Our website has connected us to the world. Currently, we are working on our online store. But most of our customers contact us by e-mail or by phone. Our clients include serious foodies and chefs. We sell to some of the best restaurants in the world. Our mission is to select the truffles with care the best quality white truffles. We pack them the day they come out of the earth. We ship them in refrigerated packaging, so they arrive fresh. Each order includes instructions to better enjoy our “Gold of the Langhe”.

Q: How has Covid-19 affected your business?

A: At the beginning of 2020, we never thought that a virus could change our lives so much. In the first months in lock-down, we did not have white truffles. Then summer came, work resumed and in September the white truffle season finally started. Then another lock-down arrived. We had to assess how we would make our business work, like so many.  Our truffle hunters were out hunting, so we were able to ship every Monday and Tuesday until the end of last year. Lucky for us, we had customers that were ordering although business was definitely affected. We are so grateful for our loyal customers. We are hoping to welcome everyone back this fall. It was a big adjustment, but we are tough and we will be alright.  I believe all of us will be alright.

Q: How has this film impacted your business?

A: The Film was viewed at a few film festivals in 2020. It will be distributed in 2021; look for it online in May. We were lucky that in October  2020, they were able to organize the White Truffle Festival and people from neighboring regions were able to travel.  A Swiss girl in front of my shop recognized me from the film and was thrilled to have found us. She saw the movie at The Zurigo Film Festival. I was very pleased. So the film is slowly starting to circulate. I am sure that once the film is readily available to view, we will enjoy some notoriety. Which obviously I look forward to since it will be great for business.

Q: How did the film impact the people featured in the film?

A: It was all so surreal, the stars of the documentary are humble people from our countryside. They have always lived a simple and quiet life and suddenly they were thrown into the spotlight. Yet I was not surprised they did a great job sharing their rich lives with the filmmakers. It was fun to hear our villagers speaking in dialect during filming. It is such a real slice of our daily life. It is an authentic view of how we work here in the Piedmont. The documentary really highlights the struggles and victories of the truffle hunters and their friends and family. I feel it has never been seen before. The documentary is a beautiful memory for them to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

Q: How long have you been working in the Truffle business?

A: Since I was a child, I have always had truffles in my hands because my mother and her sister started the business with a restaurant that shaved truffles on pasta and risotto. My aunt opened a company of truffle products. My mom started the shop in 1987; she started selling truffles and my aunt’s preserved products. The world of truffles has evolved, and we have as well. Now I run a truffle boutique that is highly successful. My cousins have since taken over running the company that develops and manufactures truffle-infused products. As you can see it’s a family affair. We distribute fresh truffles all over the world, and fresh truffles are sold in our shop as well. I’ve been living on truffles for almost 40 years. As a child, my breakfast was biscuits and truffle milk. Every morning my mother and I went to the truffle hunter’s house to collect the morning truffles, and we would have the freshly picked truffles in the fridge.

Q: I was curious when he said truffle milk so I asked Gianfranco “What truffle milk was?”

A: He told me that in the early years, they had just one refrigerator in the house. So all the truffles for the shop were stored in that fridge. All the food in the fridge became infused with truffle flavor, the eggs, the cheese, and the milk. So when he would drink milk it tasted of truffles. Wild, I love it.

Q: Tell us about some of the special products in your store.

A: The products are constantly evolving year after year. We study new recipes, new colors, and we are always improving to keep up with people’s requests and needs. For some years we have embarked on the path of organic products, gluten-free products, and some vegan, always maintaining the taste and aroma of our truffles. We have created a line of freeze-dried truffles, that is truffle flakes ready to be re-hydrated in hot butter and consumed as fresh almost as good as fresh. I must say that this new line is very popular. We sell most of this product to America, China and Japan. You can eat white truffles at any time of the year by purchasing our dehydrated or preserved products. Our best sellers are white truffle salt best on meat and fish, white truffle powder that can be used on everything, as you would use spices, organic white truffle butter, and white truffle cream. Available online.

My favorite products are the white truffle chocolates and the white truffle potato chips and the dehydrated truffle is crazy good, let’s face it I love it all…except maybe truffle milk, hahaha.

Thank you Gianfranco ci vediamo a presto, can’t wait to see you again. x


Gianfranco and I in front of his shop


Me at the Truffle Festival for the first time


White Truffles for Sale


the most incredible, 40 egg angel hair pasta heaped with white truffles.


Gianfranco’s daily haul of white truffles

Here’s the trailer for The Truffle Hunters. I hope you enjoy it.

Look for The Truffle Hunters streaming by mid May 2021.

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Cauliflower Soup

creamy-cauliflower-soup-sans-cream During my juice cleanse, I always try to make some roasted cauliflower soup for dinner one night, especially when I find some beautiful heads of cauliflower at the market. This soup is creamy and rich without all of the added dairy (but of course, feel free to add a little cream should you feel so inclined!). Let me know what you think!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Serves 8

You will need:

– 2 heads of cauliflower broken into pieces
– 1/4 cup olive oil for tossing the cauliflower
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 cup olive oil for the shallot
– 1 medium size shallot chopped
– 3 stalks of celery diced fine
– 3 cloves garlic minced
– 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
– 1/4 cup skim milk optional*
– 8 tablespoons truffle oil optional*

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss cauliflower with oil and salt and place into the oven for 45 minutes until nicely browned.

4b648ddce8ca008c1b439e9fada07567 While the cauliflower is roasting chop shallots and celery, mince garlic. Place shallots, celery and garlic and 1/4 cup oil in a heavy stock pot on medium heat saute until transparent. Add roasted cauliflower to the garlic, shallot celery mixture, add stock (and milk* if you like) and warm for 10 minutes. With a handheld blender or in a food processor place the soup in the processor, or hand blend in the stockpot  blend until smooth. Place on heat for 1/2 hour and serve warm with 1 tablespoon truffle oil per serving.

*This is a no cream recipe although you can add a little skim milk if you want the soup to look lighter and creamier.


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Eating Healthy for 2021 Roasted Tomato and White Bean Stew


Recipe by, Colu Henry and Photo by Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Nothing like a warm bowl of goodness. I found this dish on the New York times Food Section page. If you don’t already subscribe, it’s a great way to try lots of new recipes. When you subscribe you get a recipe box where you can save all your favorite recipes; it’s really clever.

I wanted to share it with you. It’s easy to prepare, healthy and most important it is delicious. Let me know how you like it, eating healthy is easy.

Here’s how the New York Times describes this dish:

This hearty, flexible stew comes together with pantry ingredients and delivers layers of flavors. Cherry tomatoes, roasted in a generous glug of olive oil to amplify their sweetness, lend a welcome brightness to this otherwise rich dish. Onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes form the backbone of this dish, to which white beans and broth are added, then simmered until thick. While this stew is lovely on its own, you could also add wilt-able greens such as kale, escarole or Swiss chard at the end, and toasted bread crumbs on top. The dish is vegan as written, but should you choose to top your bowl with a showering of grated Pecorino or Parmesan, it would most likely work well in your favor.

Roasted Tomato and White Bean Stew
Serves 4

You will need:

  • ½ cup roughly chopped Italian parsley leaves and tender stems
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • 2 (10-ounce) containers cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons and more for drizzling (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (such as butter or cannellini), rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth, or water
  • Flaky salt, for serving (optional)
  • Toasted bread, for serving
To prepare:
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, gently toss together the parsley and lemon zest with your hands until well combined; set aside.
  2. In a large baking dish or on a sheet pan, toss the tomatoes with 1/4 cup oil and thyme; season well with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes until they have collapsed and begin to turn golden around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. When the tomatoes are almost done roasting, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large (12-inch), deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium. Add the onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook until the onion is softened and the garlic is fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the rinsed beans and broth and bring to a simmer. With the back of a spoon or spatula, gently smash about ½ cup of the beans so they slightly thicken the broth. If you want a thicker stew, crush some more of the beans. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. When the tomatoes are finished roasting, add them directly to the stew along with any juices that have been released. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more so the flavors become friendly; season to taste with salt.
  5. Ladle into shallow bowls. Top each serving with some of the lemon-parsley mixture and drizzle with some more olive oil, and season with flaky salt, if you like. Serve with toasted bread.

This is not a sponsored post, Note* all opinions are my own.

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Kumquat Cranberry Sauce


A staple at our Thanksgiving table is cranberry sauce, but I always like to put my own twist on it. Cranberry sauce is a perfect complement to Thanksgiving turkey, but instead of opening a can, give this easy recipe a try instead. Even though the end product is luscious and luxurious, cranberry sauce can be whipped up in a matter of minutes, and this kumquat cranberry sauce is perfection.

Everyone will love the citrus flavors paired with the tart cranberries, and it will be the star of the meal. This cranberry sauce is especially good once the flavors come together which makes it perfect for leftovers. I like to serve mine from a jar; it gives it a wonderful homemade quality and is a pretty look for the table. Let me know if you give it a try and what everyone thinks!

Kumquat Cranberry Sauce
You will need:
– 2  cups water
– 1 cup sugar
– 12 kumquats cut into circle slices (cut the kumquat across to create pinwheel like slices)
– 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
– 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
– 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon cloves
– 2 12-ounce bags fresh or frozen cranberries


To prepare:

Combine water, sugar, orange peel, kumquat slices and ginger in heavy medium saucepan. Bring mixture to simmer over medium heat. Simmer 4 minutes to blend flavors.

Add cinnamon, salt and clove and simmer 2 minutes. Add cranberries and simmer until berries burst and sauce is thick, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Refrigerate cranberry sauce until well chilled. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated)

Photo by Stefania Crudeli on Unsplash

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THE BEST Thanksgiving stuffing:: Pear Walnut Crispy Bacon Stuffing

Turkey with Pear Walnut and Crispy Bacon Stuffing

Saying a recipe is the best is a bold statement, I know. But this stuffing really is a game changer. Give it a try and let me know what you think. And if you’re looking for more Thanksgiving inspiration, tis’ the season for my book Picture Perfect Parties. If you want to pull off an amazing holiday soiree, grab a copy!

Pear Walnut Crispy Bacon Stuffing
Serves 8-10


You will need:
– 5 slices of bacon
– 1 yellow onion chopped
– 2 stalks of celery chopped
– 3 cloves of garlic minced
– 1 cup toasted walnut halves
– 3 pears cored and cubed
– 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
– 4 tablespoons chopped rosemary
– 3 links of Italian sausage, out of the casing and crumbled
– 1 loaf of country bread cubed
– 3 cups of turkey stock

To Prepare:

In a large sauté pan, cook bacon until crispy, drain, and set aside. Reserving about a ¼ cup of the bacon drippings in the pan (discard the rest) sauté the onion, garlic and celery in the bacon drippings, when translucent, add the sausage and sage and rosemary walnuts, pears remove from heat. In a large bowl place the bread cubes and the turkey stock, add the mixture from the sauté pan, and crumble the bacon into the bread bowl combine thoroughly.

Grease a casserole dish pour the stuffing into the dish. Set aside until ready to bake

*Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, serve warm


Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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