How would you describe the smell and taste of a fresh white truffle? Meg and I asked each other this very question as we navigated the streets of Alba, lost on our way to Pio Cesare winery. We debated this because we were in possession of a tiny truffle that filled our tiny Lancia with its odor. And odor seems the right term — I definitely would not call it a fragrance or a scent. Like most people experiencing the white truffle firsthand, we’d been throwing out the usual descriptors: earthy, pungent, woody, rooty, garlicky, cheesy. We were also still laughing about the unfortunate description of its taste by food writer Corby Kummer, published in Gourmet some years ago: “It tasted of parts of the body I urgently wanted to know better.”

“It’s like a regular mushroom… More…