The truffle - a misshapen, odd looking fungi found growing underground and almost always simbiotically with a particular range of trees. There are many types of truffels; white, black, chinese and summer or burgundy, all which grow in various locations throughout the world.
The white truffle, also known as 'Alba Madonna', comes predominantly from the Langhe area of the Piedmont region in Northern Italy and Alba but is also found in Croatia. 'Tuber borchii' or 'whitish truffel' variety of truffel which is found in Tuscany, Romagna, the Marche and Molise yet this particular type lacks the distinct aromatic quality as those from Piedmont. The white truffle grows with oak, hazel, poplar and beech trees and is recognised by the signature pale cream colourings or brown-with-white-markings and have been known to grow to 12cm and 500gms. So highly esteemed is the white truffle that as of 2009 they were being sold for 10,200 euro per kilogram.
The black truffle is also known as the 'black perigord truffle' and acquired such a title after the Perigord region of France. It is found almost exclusively in the areas of France, Spain and Italy and production is at 45, 35 and 20 percent respectively. Smaller amounts of production are also known to occur in Slovenia, Croatia and the Australian states of Tasmania and Western Australia. The black truffle grows exclusively with Oak. Of the production occurring in France, around 80 percent comes from the south-east, including upper Provence. As of 2009 black truffles were selling for around 1000 euro per kilogram in a farmers market and around 3490 euro per kilogram at retail level.
The Chinese truffle, harvested bountifully in China is commonly exported to the West as an inferior quality subsitute to the Black Truffle. A variety of this particular type of truffle is so similar in appearance to the higher quality Black truffle that it sometimes requires a microscope to spot the difference.
Summer or Burgundy truffles are found widely throughout most European countries and enjoyed as a quality subsitute to the far more expensive black truffle. Although molecular research has proven Summer and Burgundy truffles are one species, the environmental factors associated with the growth of the truffle ultimately affects the size, colour and taste of the variety. The burgundy truffle is usually large in size, ranging from two to ten centimetres in diameter and has an intense hazelnut-like aroma, rendering it a gastronomic delight. As the name suggests the Summer truffle is harvested throughout the periods of May to August. The flavour and size is similar to the burgundy truffle but the aroma is less intense and the colour is of a more pale hazel hue.
Provence is littered with street markets, actually it is more appropriate to say France is littered with street markets. From vintage clothes, to the flea market kind full of little trinkets and odds and ends, from local fresh cheeses and breads to fruit and vegetables, these are the goods awaiting an eager buyer. The shopper may return with a box of robust reds, freshly picked flowers or some truffel infused olive oil. Whatever the purchase, it is sure to be a satisfied one.
Handwoven rugs represent a timeless piece of decor. Indeed the older the rug, the more esteemed it becomes. Whether you lay one as a runner in the hallway or position it on the wall as a piece of art, the oriental rug is universally recognised and revered. There is no one set origin for the oriental rug as it has been produced in many geographical locations for centuries. Thus it is categorised by origin, for example Arab rugs, Persian rugs, Chinese rugs, Turkish rugs and Turkestanian rugs to name a few.
One major problem for many when purchasing an oriental rug is knowing whether it is genuine or rather a fake posing as the real deal. Many people have and continue to be caught out and find themselves stuck with a machine manufactured imposter and a hefty dent in their wallet. Even Mayle jokes at the seller's over enthusiasm at trying to upsell the products, whilst donning a patented pair of shoes. Yet if they are real, which can usually be distinguished by a few tips including identifying the same design on the front and back of the rug (machine manufactured rugs tend to have a less distinct pattern on the back), a fringe that hasn't been stitched on after the completion of the rug, and signs of some kind of age, wear and tear then you can smile at being the proud owner of a highly regarded, and aesthetically beautiful, piece of handmade art.