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Adding pleasure to life

When times are hard, a little truffle luxury goes a long way

WE all have things that we deem necessary, but what these necessities are might be different for different people. Counting on your fingers might seem enough for some when praying the rosary, but others can’t do without a lovely jeweled chain. Either way, when we can, it’s always best to inject a little bit of pleasure into our lives.

Rochelle Suzara Farrales, proprietress of Caprichosa and Bead Studio Manila has moved from one pleasure to another. Ms. Farrales had been making Faith Fashion Wearables (what may be described as wearable rosaries) which were sold at the home department and some Ladies departments of Rustan’s. But the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has scuttled some of their plans. “Prior to the pandemic, we were all set for the roll-out in the Ladies Department of the Makati store. Well, that was put on hold obviously: sales went from quite decent to nada, and the pick-up since GCQ (general community quarantine, the third strictest of four lockdown levels) was announced has been slow but reassuring,” she told BusinessWorld in an interview.

“Things are looking brighter now,” she said. “That was not the outlook when the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine, the strictest quarantine level) was imposed. Our income was sliced in half at best, and things were bleak and gloomy. Our Bead Studio which is actually located at home was stocked well because we had full intentions of being very productive during the lockdown. Of course, that was not the case. During the ECQ there was zero income from all our sources and the insecurity of the times was not conducive to any creativity for us at all.”

But the quarantine couldn’t keep them down. In the interim between the initial lockdown and the holiday season, Ms. Farrales came up with Caprichosa, a line of luxury condiments that included truffle honey and butter, but also crab fat butter, fruit compotes, and pâté.

“I think what I am trying to say is while the obvious pivot was into food and I longed to put something fast moving and mass-based into the market for swift returns, our daughters inspired me to stick to what I love, and I love French truffles on everything!” she said.

Her daughters have also created their own ventures of macarons and chocolates during the lockdowns. “I’ll tell you this: one of the things I learned as a mother during this entire gourmet food adventure… is that the girls will survive and that they now have seen with their own eyes that family is truly important and together we are stronger.”

Talking about her fondness for the rare and expensive fungus she said, “There is just something beautiful about the elegant touch of black truffle in a well-prepared dish, black truffles can take a beautiful dish to even greater heights. I am particularly in love with black truffle honey, and with the delis closed, it was hard to come by. So I thought, that is what I want to do: make little jars of black truffle honey happiness for all to enjoy. I have been purchasing black truffle honey from stores and delis over the years, and gifting them to people we love. It was always hard to come by, small bottles of this delicious condiment, so it made sense to fill that scarcity.”

Truffles are rare and expensive because they are difficult to grow and cultivate. There have been several attempts to domesticate the truffle in Europe for centuries, but it’s mostly still a hit-and-miss game. That’s why truffle oil had become so popular in the last 20 years or so: it was a way to bring that delicacy to the masses through a light and affordable approximation of the taste and scent of real truffles. Ms. Farrales doesn’t go that way, and uses real truffles in her creations. “People assume that the difficult part of creating black truffle honey was sourcing the black truffles. It actually was not. With eBay and Amazon shipping in, and local distributors of imported brands readily available, that was not the difficult part at all. The more challenging hurdle was sourcing the honey.”

Honey is fast becoming a luxury itself. Authorities recently found that several supermarket brands which claimed to be pure honey were actually adulterated with syrup. The drop in populations of bees worldwide also poses a problem.

“We did not know that would be so difficult!” said Ms. Farrales. “We must have purchased dozens of liters of honey from various sources until we found honest distributors who represent the honey hunters. You see, some apiaries feed their bees raw sugar, not only so they can survive the rainy season when the bees cannot make honey, but all year-round. What is produced is a honey product which lacks the natural taste and endemic medicinal properties of real honey. Oh, they will pass all kinds of honey tests, but the taste will not lie. We are happy that [after] more than a month of sourcing we finally found a reliable source of honey from the different regions — all wild, pure, raw and beautiful. In order to infuse the black truffle essence, we needed a light and delicate honey that would lift, and not drown out, the black truffle,” she explained.

A little luxury goes a long way in difficult times like these. Ms. Farrales’ products start at relatively low prices for a little below P300 for 50 mL of the truffle butter and truffle honey. “These products, while luxuries, do not actually break the bank,” she noted.

Ms. Farrales went on to explain the necessity of little luxuries in difficult times. “During times of difficulty and insecurity, it is good to have little things to lift the spirits and provide satisfaction for the yearning for actual luxuries that we cannot afford due to financial and/or physical constraints or even limited mobility. We like to think our products provide that satisfaction. They also deliver on the emotional assurance that maybe things aren’t all that bad.”

She adds, “Of course, these do not take the place of the more important things in life — family, health, job security, as well as physical, spiritual and mental health — but they certainly help.”

For details and orders, contact Rochelle Farrales at 0917-5011372. The spreads can be combined as sets with prices ranging from P560 to P1,980. — Joseph L. Garcia

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