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Mar212011

Product Review: Urbani Truffles Showcase Mushrooms in a Whole New Light

You know by now that I'm crazy over anything truffle. Truffle slices, truffle oil, truffles du jour—you name it. I first mentioned Urbani Truffles at the 2010 Fancy Food show, when their truffles and cream on pasta blew me away and won ETR's best in show award in the back of my mind. Admittedly, though, truffles are good on their own, so I didn't know just how much a company could do to make them better. Urbani Truffles has set themselves apart from other truffle importers by not only demonstrating consistent quality within a family-owned business, but by opening my eyes to unique truffle offerings. As you can imagine, the package of truffle products I received last week from Urbani gave me the chance to experience truffles in a whole new light. Truffle butters will upgrade your bread


I was given a lovely assortment of Truffle Thrills (6.5-oz. tins of truffle combination spreads), butters, and other truffle-related delights. First to try were the fresh truffle butters, one with black truffle, and one with white. Rare is the chance when I get to compare similar products in both black and white truffle varieties. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the white truffle butter more than the black. Both were delicious spread on a plain white potato loaf I'd just baked, but the white variety had that pure truffle smell, along with that rich taste, that put it just ahead of the other. I tried the butters in other dishes and spread on other appetizers, but I found that it sometimes got lost mixed with strong foods. Never meant for an everything bagel or smeared onto rye toast, these delicate spreads are supposed to be the star of the show. Still, I wonder how a dollop would taste in mac 'n' cheese. Wrong? Well, I tried it with the red pesto and truffles.


Mixed in amongst the Truffle Thrills was a jar of red pesto and truffles, and it didn't take me long to dig in. A longtime red pesto fan, I was eager to try this flavor combination made in heaven. It wasn't at all what I expected, and though it was good, it took a day to grow on me (as most products do). Rarely do I immediately fall in love with a product, and with this sample, I got flavors that weren't quite sicilian red pesto or truffles. It was a wonderful taste for sure, but I couldn't exactly categorize it as a pesto. It was a good type of grainy, with Grana Padano and truffles in the end taste. By day two, of course, I was using it as a pasta topper, dipping it with breads, using it to grill, and yes, I even tried it as a mix-in with mac 'n' cheese. Delicious, I ruled.  Five of Urbani's various Truffle Thrills, tins of sauces, dips, and more that will make you happy


Other Truffle Thrills included the Artichokes and Truffles (best as a spread or dip), the Pesto and Truffles (just basil instead of sun-dried tomatoes), which had a bright, sweet taste to it, the White Truffles and Porcini, and the Black Truffles and Mushrooms. Now just because these products are all packaged with the same theme, don't think they're the same consistency or that they have similar flavor profiles. Quite the contrary, I found that all the tins were very different from one another. While I'd previously tasted the Cream and Truffles at the Fancy Food Show (yes, I still crave that sample dish), as well as the Artichokes and Truffles at the International Foodservice & Restaurant Show, I'd never tasted anything like the other three. The pestos had expected consistencies, but the White Truffles and Porcini and Artichokes and Porcini reminded me a lot of cream of mushroom soup, just without the chemical taste and with a whole lot more personality. The White Truffles and Porcini was thick, with small chunks of porcini mushrooms mixed in, making it great for chicken, pasta, and vegetables. The Black Truffles and Mushrooms, meanwhile, was made up of finely chopped mushroom and truffle pieces in a flavorful oil. This was unique on its own, but mixed into a risotto at the beginning, then dolloped on top at the end along with Urbani's White Truffle Oil, well, you've got a dish you don't want to miss. I made it twice this week alone. All in all, I'd highly recommend that you try the decidedly unique selection of Urbani's Truffle Thrills. Few foods are this unique and exciting. The Truffle Carpaccio is filled with clices and chunks of summer truffles. What's not to like?


A very impressive coffee table book detailed the Urbani family history, went into detail about Italian truffles (including maps for different truffles of different seasons), and described many of their products in detailed, full-color photos. Other products included large dehydrated porcini mushrooms, which, when soaked for a short time, return to life and add terrific flavor to any dish, and a very important jar of Truffle Carpaccio. This container held great chunks and slices of fragrant, rich, black summer truffles that would make anyone's day. It's unbeatable for anything from fish and lobster to salads and pastas. If for some reason you're unable to afford the small $500/pound price tag put on fresh truffles, then serving slices from your jar of Truffle Carpaccio might make the cut.


Another surprise in my delivery was a bottle of Acetaia Dodi Balsamic Vinegar. Urbani partnered with Dodi just this month to bring a variety of high-end, D.O.P. Vinegars to food connoisseurs all over the U.S. D.O.P. vinegars (“Designation of Protected Origin”) are aged a minimum of 12 years, go through rigorous tasting by a critical committee, and must be bottled and wax sealed in the Reggio Emilia region of Italy.

This balsamic was just right: It's a completely different flavor from that of, say, store balsamic, and different still from more expensive balsamic vinegars of Modena. Where other balsamics are good for cooking, marinating, and infusing, this barrel-aged vinegar (and Urbani/Dodi carry a variety of even higher grades, some aged more than 25 years) is meant for more delicate uses—glazes, finishes, sweets, and topping. In fact, I received much literature on this very vinegar, telling me all about the aging process while including how and how not to use it. Not too syrupy, not too sweet. Some would call it just right


Well-balanced, not too sweet, not very stinging at all, and with hints of fruit and a consistency of a honey-touched glaze, this 40ml bottle arrives wax sealed for around $25—a wonderful topping for ice cream, fruit, cheese, rices, and more. It's rare a vinegar is high quality and simultaneously versatile enough to bring appetizers, entrees, cheese plates, and desserts all to new levels. They even suggest adding a few drops to eggnog, and I can assure you that if I allow this stuff to last until eggnog hits the shelves, that's the first thing I'll do.


Perhaps the most delightful truffle treat came in a small package. Sure, I'd had truffle honey before, and of course I adored it. But this, this was a completely different taste sensation. A few samples revealed extraordinary subtleties made for a very mature palate. No, this isn't the type of honey you'd feed your kids. In fact, there's no point in wasting a drop of this liquid gold on anyone who isn't a complete foodie. It'll likely change the way you think of honey forever. In fact, I haven't been able to have regular honey since--it's that good.  Big flavor comes in small packages


Overall, my Urbani experience was beyond compare. Now nearly a century old, Urbani Truffles is the world leader in truffles, processing around 100 tons every year. Urbani has created products without compare, and anyone who doesn't try the incredible flavors of truffles (and more!) is truly missing out. I've always loved truffles, but Urbani showed me how taking truffles to the next level is even better than I could have imagined.


http://www.urbanitrufflesonline.com/

 

Truffle Thrills, 6.1 oz., $9.95

 

Truffle Butters, 3 oz., $34.80 for a pack of four

 

Truffle Honey, 90g., $24.95

 

Make sure to try all of Urbani's products, including flavored salts, flours, oils, and more.

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