Updated: Feb 5, 2018
Mmmm ... the enveloping waft of the noble white truffle ...
The smell hit us as we entered the white tent that is raised every year for 10 weeks in Livade, truffle capital of Istria, from mid September to mid November. The occasion, quite simply, the celebration of the truffle, that unseemly tuber, the most precious fruit of the earth, which is treasured by chefs and gourmets alike, the world around.
Deservedly labelled an International Gourmet Expo, Zigante Truffle Days is an experience not to be missed. The festival is small enough to maintain a sense of intimacy, but at the same time, brings together not just the joy of experiencing the truffle, but the full bounty of the Istrian land.
The day was a memorable one from the start, as we had just accepted possession of Villa Oliva from Andreas Dussmann. High on life, on a beautiful, cloudless November day, as we entered the fair we somehow resisted the temptation of heading straight for the chef stations, and started to explore the other treasures on show. Olive oils, wines, award winning local cheese, honeys, jams ... stall after stall filled with simple, natural, local produce. Some vendors were clearly established, others were smaller family run ventures, all shared a passion and a pride in the quality of their produce.
A few tastings of Istrian Malvazija under our belt, the region's most famous white varietal, we stumbled upon the wine stall of Dejan Markus - an engaging and knowledgable wine connoisseur, with a clear passion for his trade. Born in Serbia to Serb & Croat parents, and living and working in Zagreb, he proceeded to take us on a veritable virtual wine tour of Croatia! Numerous tastings later, and with our tasting glasses well worn, we committed to a rendez-vous in December in Zagreb, to explore the new premises of his wine store Vino I To.
After all the sampling, it was definitely time for some sustenance. Of the four or five options on offer, the choice for us was clear - simplicity itself ... fusili con tartufo bianco. The smell, the taste ... wow ... so simply prepared and such an explosion of richness. There and then, Mr. S and I toasted to a new commitment - not a year would pass without a visit to this wonderful land during the short season of the Tuber Magnatum Pico - the most noble of truffles, and clearly a gift from the gods.
With renewed energy, a wonderful taste on our tongues, and a delightful warmth in our stomachs, we continued our explorations. We could not resist stocking up on some award winning Pag cheese and local honey, before the enjoyable introduction to Zoran from Capo Winery. The Aries was great, Taurus we would try next time, and who knows, maybe we will invent Leo together in the years ahead !
With a return visit planned for January, we left with rich memories and excitement already for the year ahead. A magical day was capped by exploring Motovun as the autumnal sun slowly started to set ... There was no doubt about it ... we were seduced ....