EXTRAVAGANT DELICACIES
by Emma Zang-Schwartz and Fiona Clarke

When you’re looking for the best money can buy, certain foods should top your list. These extremely rare and unique items are in demand for those seeking to taste something that only a few elite foodies would ever consider worth the splurge. Peruse the descriptions to see if any strike your fancy. Then check out the price tag. Warning: you may need to make arrangements with your banker before finalizing your purchase. But, why not? You only live once. Bon appétit!

MATSUTAKE MUSHROOMS

This rare variety of mushroom has been part of the Asian cuisine for centuries. In Japan, Matsutake Mushrooms were only consumed by the imperial court until the 17th century. Today they are still used as a status symbol and are given as wedding or business gifts. Available for only ten weeks of the year, this delicacy is in season from from September through mid-November. Found under pine needles, these “gems” must be harvested by hand. Prized for its distinct spicy and fruity aroma, this purchase will set you back as much as $1,500 for just one kilogram. 

ALMAS CAVIAR

Caviar is indeed one of the most expensive delicacies in the world. The “Almas” variety, which translates to the word “diamond” in Russian, is considered to represent the pinnacle of Osetra caviar. Produced from the roe of an extremely rare, wild albino sturgeon between 60-100 years old that swims in the pristine, unpolluted waters of the Caspian Sea, this caviar is known for its elegant flavor and subtle richness. Priced at $25,000 for  one kilogram of these “golden eggs” I can only relate what I’ve been told. Unless you just won the lottery, two ounces of other fine Iranian caviar can be found for around $400.

WAGYU BEEF

Steak can be expensive, but this variety holds the record for being the highest quality money can buy. It’s the unique marbling and fine texture that makes Wagyu beef especially flavorful. Prized for being incredibly tender, the meat actually melts in your mouth. These cattle are massaged daily with sake, fed a daily diet that includes beer to increase their appetite and allowed to lounge around all day, which results in meat that has a rich, buttery flavor. You can purchase two pounds of 100-percent authentic Japanese Wagyu with certification for $350.

SAFFRON

Saffron is a labor intensive crop, which makes it very expensive. It has three delicate crimson stigmas in the center, which must be hand-picked, placed on a riddle and cured over heat to amplify its flavor. Its most classic use is in rice dishes: risottos, pilafs, paellas and desserts like custards. A small pinch adds brilliant color, aroma and flavor. Originating in ancient Greece, it was revered for its medicinal properties. Today, saffron has been linked to health benefits such as improved memory, reduced inflammation and  a source rich in antioxidants. 

ITALIAN WHITE ALBA TRUFFLE

This precious white fungi is only found near Alba, a city in the Piemonte region of Northern Italy. Why so expensive? In general, truffles are relatively rare and although there are over 200 species, only a handful are fit for consumption. Impossible to cultivate, truffles only grow underground. Slow growing, they require perfect conditions. For harvesting, the gatherer needs a trained dog or pig. But it’s the luscious Italian White Alba Truffle that claims the highest honors costing $2,500 per pound. Only available from October through early December, once unearthed it must be enjoyed within three days before the flavor is gone. 

DENSUKE WATERMELON

Highly valued for its unique, sweet taste and crunchy texture, Densuke watermelons are only grown on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido where the soil and climate are ideal for this fruit. A maximum of 10,000 watermelons are produced each year, with the first harvest producing the most coveted and highly-priced melons. Known for its circular shape and distinctive black skin, the exterior resembles a bowling bowl while the inside is just like the juicy, sweet, pinkish-red colored watermelon we know and love. Just last month a Densuke melon sold for a whopping $6,000 per kilogram.