Top 10 Luxury Foods
Not to be outdone by European truffles, the Japanese Matsutake mushrooms command similar prices. Not only have they been an important feature of Japanese cuisine for centuries, but they are also part of the tradition in the corporate world of giving mushrooms as a very special gift, one which ischerished by the recipient.
Saffron is a ridiculously expensive spice made from the stamens of the crocus sativus. Because these must be picked by hand and it takes thousands of flowers to produce an ounce of saffron, this little used spice costs in the region of $2,000 a pound. Fortunately it only requires a pinch to turn plain boiled rice into a visual and aromatic delight. It is said to have a hay-like fragrance, and a bitter taste. Turmeric works just as well, so using saffron is an unnecessary luxury.
8 Beluga Caviar
Caviar, accompanied by champagne, is synonymous in most people’s mind with the rich and famous. Caviar is probably the most expensive single food in the world, and Beluga is the cream of the crop. The crème de la crème is the amber coloured Almas variety. The increasingly rare Beluga sturgeon lives in the Caspian Sea. Almas caviar is prepared in Iran and sells for more than $10,000 per pound – a 24 carat gold souvenir box may contribute to the cost.
7 Japanese melons
With a diet that is dominated by rice, noodles, fish and pickles, it is not surprizing that the Japanese go crazy for fruit of many kinds. But the true luxury fruits are the melons, in particular the black Densuke Watermelon and the Yubari Melon. Grown in minute quatities only on Hokkaido, a single Densuke watermelon can cost up to $6,000. They are given as very important gifts. Also grown in Hokkaido, the somewhat less expensive Yubari melon looks like something like a cantaloupe. However, it is quite round, has a smooth skin and is exceptionally sweet due, it is said, to the high volcanic ash content of the soil.
Chocolate is considered – somewhat facetiously - to be a staple, one of life’s essentials, which is exactly the opposite of luxury. But in the hands of a master chocolatier, this favourite confection is elevated to the realm of fine art. Fritz Knipchildt’sChocopologie is the ultimateat around $2,600 per pound. It is handmade from 70% Valrhona cacao and does actually contain some black truffle, with no preservative or additives. Who needs them?
5 Foie Gras
Foiegras, the “fat liver” of ducks or geese, is a delicacy that generates more controversy than most, due to the perceived cruelty of gravage, the system by which the birds are force-fed. They don’t seem to mind all that much, and gravage is not the only way to get the enlarged livers which make such a sensational pate.
4 Bird’s Nest Soup
Cave Swifts have a unique way of creating nests: they spit a certain chemical compound into the air where it hardens to form what look like flakes off a quartered onion. Although certainly one of the most expensive items in the human diet, this Chinese delicacy may fail the luxury test – do lots of people who can’t afford it actually want to eat it. One writer described it as having a musty taste and a consistency like mucus, to put it delicately.
Another Japanese luxury is pufferfish or Fugu. Eating Fug is extremely rare outside Japan as its preparation requires rigorous training and certification because this celebrated delicacy is literally a “dish to die for”. A tiny amount of pufferfish poison is fatal, and incorrectly prepared dishes do lead to numerous deaths each year. Whether it is the taste, or the thrill of cheating death, the Japanese are prepared to pay handsomely for this peril from the sea.
2 Kobe Beef
Fed on a secret formula of grass and beer, subject to daily massages, and genetically disposed to extensive marbling, the Wagyu cows of Japan’s Kobe area produce the most tender and delicious beef in the world. Also the most expensive. It has even been compared to foiegras for its smooth, rich texture. A six-ounce steak will set you back upwards of $100. This can be considered a luxury food on two levels: the pampered luxury in which the cows spend their lives, and what you get on your plate later.
1 White Truffles
As with many luxury foods, the distinctive flavor (and pungent smell) of truffles is an acquired taste. As with saffron, a little goes a long way which is just as well as white truffles cost around $125 an ounce. The record price is $330,000. White Truffles cannot be cultivated and are, therefore, rare. They are available only from September to December and come fromone small area of Italy.Truffles are not cooked; they are sliced into extremely thin slivers and served on top of other food. Truffle-infused oil is another a way to get the flavor off season.