Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ooh la la!

Who knew Vass, N.C., was such a culinary hotspot?

"In rural North Carolina, Susan Rice is planning her attack on the French.

"Her strategy does not involve guns or soldiers. Instead, the assault is gastronomical, as she starts a 200-acre black truffle 'farm' in hopes of earning beaucoup d'argent from the sale of the musky, earthy, aromatic fungi," writes the Associated Press.

"Truffles, which grow underground among the roots of trees, are prized by chefs and gourmands, but difficult to cultivate. A pound of fresh French Perigord truffles can cost more than $1,500 retail, depending on the season. White truffles from the Alba region of Italy are even more expensive.

" 'We're trying to make it more of an American product, where we can enjoy it here,' said Rice, whose farm is near Vass, N.C., about 50 miles southwest of Raleigh. ..."

"In America, the truffle has only recently wafted into popular food consciousness, which has become much more global with the popularity of cable food networks and the organic and natural foods revolution. Even Cheesecake Factory, the American chain restaurant known for giant portions, has offered white truffle oil as a topper to its pasta Bolognese, at a $3 premium.

"To help educate the American palate, Rice has enlisted the help of celebrity Italian chef Nick Stellino, who has had television cooking shows and written several cookbooks. ...

"Brent Demarest, a produce buyer for Whole Foods Market, is interested in Rice's operation and, if the quality of the truffles is good, plans to sell the North Carolina truffles in its stores. ..."

Kudos to Rice. And to North Carolina.

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