When Judy Ann Santos and hubby Ryan Agoncillo went to Italy last April, one of the unexpected highlights of their two-week tour was their truffle-hunting expedition.
Truffle is highly prized as food, and was dubbed "the diamond of the kitchen" by French gourmet Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
Juday told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in an exclusive interview July 27, on the set of Starla in Victoria Sports Tower, “Nung pinaplano namin yung mga tours, hindi ko naisip mag-truffle hunting.
"Kasi hindi ko naman alam na puwede pala yung truffle hunting. Lumabas lang siya habang nagse-search ako.
“Nagkataon, season ng truffle nung dumating kami sa Florence, 'tapos patapos na yung white truffles.
"E, yung white truffles yung isa sa mga pinakamahirap hanapin, e, so siyempre, merong orientation, may lecture, ganyan."
Accompanying them to their truffle hunt was their Italian guide and his hunting dogs.
Pigs are also used to hunt truffles.
Juday (her nickname) continued, "Baboy talaga, pero yung parang… yung baboy kasi kinakain agad [ang truffle].
"Yung aso puwedeng pigilan… pero hindi, kinakain din! Pag hindi mo nahabol [ang aso] kakainin din niya.
"Puwede mo siyang i-handle agad na huwag niyang kainin. Pero kailangan mabilis ka.
"Pag may naamoy na siyang truffles…Very specific yung dog, hindi naman puwedeng kung sinong dog lang.
"Ano talaga siya, pang-hunt talaga siya, very sharp yung pang-amoy nila [sa truffles]."
Juday pointed out that truffles aren't that easy to find since they're underground and have to be dug up.
How many pieces did they unearth during their search?
"Pito," she proudly said.
Did the hunting dogs consume any of their “prize catch” for the day?
"Marami," Juday said, adding that their hunting guide usually let the dogs eat some of the truffles they find, as a reward of sorts.
"'If they want to eat it, okay, because they deserve it!'
"At saka pag malayo na, medyo hindi naman na din ganun kabata yung truffle hunter so pag malayo na yung itinakbo ng aso hinahayaan na niya. 'You just eat it.' Ginaganun niya."
The trip to Italy was actually a triple celebration—Ryan's birthday was last April 10, their 9th wedding anniversary was on April 28; Judy Ann's birthday was May 11.
For their anniversary, the couple was able to book dinner at a very upscale restaurant, which doubles as a restaurant and museum.
“Yung anniversary nagkataon lang din na sa Gucci Garden kami nakakain.”
Gucci Garden is a well-known establishment in Italy that doubles as a restaurant and museum.
It was established in Florence by Guccio Gucci in 1921.
Judy Ann elaborated, "'Tapos, yung Gucci Garden na yun, ang chef dun, ang nag-create ng menu na chef dun, si Massimo," referring to Massimo Bottura, an Italian restaurateur and the chef patron of Osteria Francescana—a three-Michelin-star restaurant, which ranked number 1 in The World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2015, 2016, and 2018, according to CNN.
In January 2018, he opened Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura at the Gucci Garden.
The Kapamilya actress said it was hard to get a booking in the resto.
She and Ryan were lucky to get a slot, thanks to the daughter of their good friend, Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan.
"Napakahirap kumuha ng booking sa restaurants niya.
"Nagkataon na si Ate Maricel messaged Rye na nandun yung anak niya, si Ella, nag-aaral, na she can take us around, ganyan-ganyan.
"And nung nag-dinner kami with her, binanggit niya yung Gucci Garden, 'tapos sabi niya, ‘Maybe I can get a table for you.’
"'Tapos sabi ko, 'Tamang-tama, it’s our anniversary.'
"Kasi wala kaming nakaplano. Kumbaga, hindi talaga ako nagplano ng kahit anong gagawin.
"Kung ano na lang yung trip namin ng araw na yun, iyon ang gagawin namin.
"Kaya wala akong dinalang gamit or damit or something na for formal or fine dining na restaurant.
"So, nung sinabi niya sa amin na, 'I’ll try to get a table for you.''Tapos sinabi na niya, 'Oh, I got you a booking, ate!'
"Ganyan-ganyan. Yun na yung pinaka-naging highlight 'tapos nagkataon pa pagdating namin sa Gucci Garden… although sinabi sa amin ni Ella, 'Ate, hindi siya garden, ha?'
"Hindi siya garden, ano siya… restaurant.
"Meron siyang seven-course tasting menu, puwede ka naman ding mag-ala carte pero siyempre ang kinuha na namin, yung tasting menu.
"'Tapos, pagdating namin doon, nagkataon na yung al fresco nila, kagagawa lang na maging garden, may mga flowers, na kagagawa lang two days ago.
"Natiyempuhan pa namin.
"Ang ganda ng set-up, para talagang may sarili kang garden.
"Yung totoong restaurant, nandun sa loob."
Their Italian vacation ranks high as one of their best trips as a couple.
Given the chance to do it all over again, they want to bring their three kids, Yohan, Lucho, and Luna.
Judy Ann is currently preparing for her TV comeback via the ABS-CBN teleserye, Starla.
She is also gearing up for the new season of her online cooking show, Judy Ann's Kitchen.