White truffle season is here again, that glorious period each fall when fancy dining rooms across the world are perfumed with the most fragrant of all fungi — and this year it could be considerably more affordable to eat them.
Bloomberg reports this year’s truffle harvest in Italy is looking particularly plentiful due to heavy rain. The season typically runs November through January, but this year truffles from Alba hit the market as early as late September. That’s led to wholesale prices plummeting 30 percent from last year, “meaning 100 euros ($109) buys 72 grams of white truffles, compared with 52 grams in 2015.”
But those prices are from the Asti truffle market in Alba, Italy, where truffle hunters offload their weekly supply to resellers, and sadly that doesn’t necessarily mean the average retail consumer can expect bargain truffle prices: Eataly, which sources its white truffles from big-time distributor Urbani, is still charging a whopping $230 for a single ounce of the prized mushrooms; the same amount can be purchased from D’Artagnan for $225.
And while a number of restaurants have been known to lower the price of their white truffle supplements in accordance with the market price, many others will decline to do so — after all, this is a luxury item we’re talking about, and folks tacking on white truffles to their $27 handmade pasta aren’t really looking for a bargain.
In New York City, where fine dining restaurants are happy to make it rain truffle shavings for hundreds of dollars in supplemental costs, Thomas Keller’s Per Se charges an additional $175 to add white truffles to the $325 chef’s tasting menu. For that $175 the diner gets a plate of cheese mousse topped with browned butter and shaved white truffles from Alba, Italy. It’s the same price Per Se charged in 2014, when Bloomberg’s truffle index was trending significantly higher than it is today.