We had a good bit of sport over the astronomical prices paid this past summer for white truffles in New York restaurants. But what if their black cousins, long the déclassé branch of the family, became even more expensive? Or disappeared entirely? That wouldn’t be so funny. And it wouldn’t be good for the price of white truffles, which, like Beluga caviar and shark-fin soup, could become a purely plutocratic pleasure sooner than we expected. (Not that truffles are evil in the way of Beluga caviar and shark-fin soup; we’re just thinking of endangered luxury foods, you understand.) An article in USA Today suggests that the global warming is currently bringing the hammer down on black-truffle production and that (gasp) “France's black truffle will one day be just a memory.” It’s a similar story around the world, as fish stocks are depleted, ecosystems are knocked out of whack, and global demand for things like toro and truffles move beyond a small cluster of ascot-wearing bons vivants.
Last we heard, white truffles were going for about $3,400 a pound. If we know, the chefs certainly do, which makes the following story so awful: It seems that a certain well-known chef came into one of the city’s top Italian restaurants recently and having announced himself, proceeded to order a tasting menu — with lots of truffles. Course after course came out, including several with the prized shavings on them, each one described in person by the restaurant’s equally famous chef. But when it came time to present the bill, the visitor wouldn’t pay it, claiming to be just a hardworking fellow cook. After much fury in the kitchen, and to avoid a further scene, the chef's truffles were comped. He received a nominal bill of a $130 for the feast and tipped $20.
That’s all we can say, we’re afraid, but if you have any guesses as to who the parties involved might be, feel free to make them in the comments. If you get it right, we will nod knowingly here at our desk.
Earlier:Have White Truffles Finally Gone Too Far?