It was Harry Hill, you may recall, who used to orchestrate battles of the absurd.
This month we copy him by letting France face Italy to determine the best place to hunt a very special culinary fruit: the truffle.
So we ask, Tuscany or Provence - which is best?
Only one way to find out: flight!
Choose Tuscany Tuscany’s rolling landscape of lush green hills threaded with vineyards, olive groves and pine forests hosts many treasures.
But the subterranean fungus sniffed out by pigs or dogs and known as the truffle sees even the hardiest foodies swoon.
The Romans adored truffles for their aphrodisiac qualities. Today cooks use them to add deep flavour and a touch of class to dishes. These gourmet delicacies are so precious some are even worth their weight in gold.
In Tuscany, they grow plentifully in the countryside (although a scarcity of rain has made them rarer this season) making October and November some of the best eating months. There are six varieties, and here you can hunt them all. The Tuscan white variety, found mainly in the Chianti region, is said to be just as flavoursome as its counterpart in the Piedmont region, but much better value for money. For this reason, more and more truffle lovers head here in autumn for a truffle experience with more of an intimate and less commercialised atmosphere. Castello Del Nero, Tuscany We can recommend a magnificent 12th century castle set in the heart of Tuscany as your base. The Castello del Nero Hotel & Spa is a place we know and respect, and our growing friendship with the team means that anyone making a booking through Abbotts Travel will be well looked after. We love the incredible landscapes, rustic farmhouses, olive groves and vineyards. Its stunning interiors are steeped in history with fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, original frescoes and Del Nero and Torrigiani family crests. The 50 bespoke rooms and suites combine opulence with enchantment and all the modern luxuries you desire. The team is passionate about providing a 5-star luxury experience with distinct Tuscan charm.
Truffle Hunting Package In the local forest, your licensed truffle hunter will share his knowledge on the world of Tuscan truffles, after which a sumptuous four-course lunch is enjoyed in the charming village of Badia A Paassingnano.
For guests who’d like to learn how to prepare authentic Tuscan dishes, cooking classes are available at Castello del Nero with the highly regarded head chef Giovanni Luca Di Pirro. Package for two people:
Three night stay in your chosen room or suite category
Daily buffet breakfast served at La Torre Restaurant.
Dedicated in-room amenities
Half-day truffle hunting: Hunt for rare truffles in the forest of Tuscany and then enjoy your treasures in a dedicated meal (transportation excluded)
Three entrances per person to the Spa Heat Experiences: Laconium, Caldarium, Experience Shower, heated Vitality Pool
TV on demand including movie selection.
Courtesy shuttle to/from Florence or Siena according to schedule
Wi-Fi in room and in public areas.
Outdoor heated pool (available during the summer months)
Use of two tennis courts.
Use of Fitness Suite
Choose Provence Provence produces four out of every five French truffles.
The Vaucluse department hosts two of the most important truffle markets in the world: in Richerenches and Carpentras, the latter being the oldest truffle market in the world with a 1000-year history.
During the Middle Ages, truffles were considered as a product of the Devil (truffles “burn” trees around them in a perfect circle, which may have seemed demonic).
They swiftly found favour with the elite and their power to enchant when paired with fish, pasta or a simple omelette. The truffle is a hypogenous mushroom, meaning it grows underground. So hunting them requires more than the naked eye. Trained dogs and pigs are famously used, but the helomyza fly can also detect pheromones that are produced by the truffle.
During your Truffle and Wine weekend, the Jaumard family works with dogs, because pigs eat the truffle when they find it! Hotel Crillon Le Brave, Provence
Hotel Crillon le Brave is a relaxed and informal refuge where you can enjoy all the simple pleasures of Provence. It's our recommended partner for an adventure this elegant, offering a level of service we find impressive. It's only 15 minutes from Carpentras, perched on top of a tiny hill village surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. There are 28 double bedrooms, 7 suites and a small village house, Sousto. They are located in eight old village houses connected by bridges, alleyways and hidden courtyards.
Rooms comes with Vi-spring beds, Bose Wave sound systems, high-speed Wi-Fi, air conditioning and more. The property has superb views of the Rhône Valley and nearby Mont Ventoux (one of the most challenging ascents in the Tour de France).
Wine and Truffle Weekend Join the 'trufficulteur extraordinaire' on an extraordinary weekend led by the charming and knowledgeable family Jaumard.
The three-day programme includes truffle hunting and a rustic lunch with Frank and Alexis, a wine visit and tasting at one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s finest estates and a truffle cooking demonstration with our chef.
On Sunday morning take a leisurely drive to the antiques hotspot of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and its vibrant market. The price for two people for three nights sharing a classic room is €1,371 (or €1,638 in a deluxe room) including all events mentioned above.
You will need your own transport to get to and from the truffle and wine events; the visit to the market on Sunday is unaccompanied.
Departure dates for 2016 (Thursday to Sunday):
3 to 6 November (English speaking)
10 to 13 November (French speaking)
17 to 20 November (English speaking)
24 to 27 November (English speaking)
Departure dates for 2017 (Thursday to Sunday):
2 to 5 March
9 to 12 March
16 to 19 March
23 to 26 March
For further information, and to take advantage of Abbotts Travel's special relationship with both of the hotels mentioned here contact firstname.lastname@example.org, book an appointment online, call 0208 989 9445 or visit the shop at 134 George Lane, South Woodford, E18 1BA.