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Truffle Kerfuffle at Border

Busted by suspicious beagle.


Tony May, owner of Midtown’s haute Italian wallet-buster San Domenico, almost had his annual White Truffle Gala and Auction confiscated by the Feds. The white truffle (scientific name: Tuber magnatum) inspires a certain madness ($200 baked potato with truffles at The Four Seasons!) during its brief mid-October-to-December season. Truffles must be eaten within a few days—they lose their pungency the longer they are out of the ground— so restaurateurs get them to be hand-delivered. As May’s courier arrived at JFK, a Homeland Security beagle sniffed something alarming. The courier was whisked into a back room, where the pricey truffles, along with some rare red mushrooms, were spilled out on a table. Asked their value, the courier, worried that if he said the actual amount they were worth he’d arouse real suspicion, replied “$300.” The Customs officer was unimpressed. “You paid $300 for that?” he said of the stinky load, and let him go. May had his auction after all. Denise Rich, with her new Austrian financier beau Peter Cervinka, scored a 200-gram tartufo for $1,300.

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