Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Italy has the most expensive food in the world found in the beautiful Italian province of Perugia. It is the White Truffle which can cost up to three times as much as its closest competitor in France. The French truffle is also known as Black Diamonds. There is a truffle from China that is horrible that is not harvested properly and is trying to ruin the industry. Just a few shavings of a truffle added to your food can make your dinner one of the most expensive dinners you’ve ever eaten.
Just a couple of shavings of the French truffle can cost hundreds of dollars in a restaurant in Paris. In Italy the same amount of shavings from their truffle in an Italian restaurant can cost 6 hundred dollars. Why? Because the Italians harvest it better and wait till the truffle is right for the picking thus the most flavorful.
Truffles are a fancy delicious delicacy. Some say an aphrodisiac. Ounce for ounce still the most expensive food in the world even if you include the horrible truffles that come from China. So, like anything of great value, like the gold rush in the 1800’s, there are people that rush to get their hands on the stuff and want to sell it on the black market for the highest price or do not respect the land where it is harvested to preserve the quality and the integrity of the product thus they are becoming scarce.
They are being trafficked like drugs, stolen and sold again. In Perugia, the most important thing is a man’s trained dog to roam the hillsides and dig for the valued lumpy mushrooms when they are ripe. One at a time, the ugly food is taken from the special earth quality there and sold like a valued gem has been discovered. Truffles grow wild underground usually at the base of an Oak tree.
The rich Americans only see a truffle on an expensive table in a restaurant. Olga Urbane has the market on truffles in Italy. Her company Urbane controls 70% of the worlds truffle trade. Other countries including the United States have tried cultivating truffles with only limited success. It is the combination of European red soil and rainy summers that produce an especially rich and earthy flavor. As all Italians know, food is all about the taste, the flavor that makes Italian food sought out all over the world.
So, a handfull of the ugly round odd shaped balls can be worth $1,000 dollars. It is why the hunters value their dogs more than anything. They find and dig for them and bring the balls to their owners. Now that is the kind of dog I want. Go Fido, get me a couple of grand worth of fungus.
So, these harvested truffles will go right to the Urbane factory where they will be washed, sorted , frozen or canned or flown fresh to fancy restaurants like New York’s DB Bistro Modern where a $150 hamburger is smothered in truffles with real gold flakes on the top of the bun. A few shavings on pasta can be even more expensive.
At an auction in Macau in 2010 a 2 pound White Truffle sold for $330,000 which represents a record amount. It is not like agriculture where you can put a sees in the ground. It is a miracle sent from heaven above. So, Olga is frustrated that she cannot produce the amount that is demanded from her customers. In France, the truffles are so revered that in the village of Duche D’Uzes, a special Mass in the church there has a Mass in honor of the truffle. Church goers not only put money in the collection plate, they also add truffles.
There is a reason for the prayers, because of climate changes the harvests are down from an annual haul from 2,000 tons of truffles a hundred years ago to just 30 tons today. The sacristy and high prices have attracted elements of organized crime. It has turned the truffle trade to now resemble the drug trade.
So, a fancy restaurant will not have their money stolen, they will have their truffle stolen. So, be careful. Hold on to your balls and guard them carefully. Yes, your balls are valuable. Your balls of truffles.

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