“Towards the end of my meal, the waiter put a plaster cast of a human brain on my table and walked away. I picked it up and, like a simian seeing a foreign object for the first time, began examining it from every angle. It turned out, this was no brain: it was a replica of the world’s largest white truffle.
It wasn’t found in Alba, the Italian town many people associate with this delicious subterranean fungus. On 2 November 1999, a truffle hunter in Istria (the north-west swath of Croatia) named Giancarlo Zigante and his devoted dog, Diana, unearthed this 1.3kg heavenly hunk of temptation. Soon after, it was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest white truffle ever found (at the time).
Today, visitors to Istria can indulge in all things truffles, particularly at Restaurant Zigante (founded by Zigante in 2002 in the small town of Livade after his find led to foodie fame) where I was shown the replica of the legendary record-breaking tuber magnatum, as white truffles are called in scientific terms. Visitors can also accompany Istrian truffle hunters (and their dogs) on a hunt and then indulge in a lavish truffle-sprinkled meal afterward – which is what I did on a recent visit to Istria.”