In Alba, Italy, today, I witness a white truffle sell for a price of a Range Rover Sport.
In his rousing hit "Uptown Funk," Bruno Mars declares, "This hit, that ice cold…Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold.”
The still-stunning screen goddess, whose Hollywood debut seared itself into pop culture the moment she stepped into that glass elevator in the movie Scarface, is not the only avatar of "white gold," however.
The tartufo bianco d'Alba - or white truffle of Alba, Italy -- is another rare commodity known as white gold. Today at the 18th administration of the World Truffle Auction in Alba, Italy, it lived up to its sobriquet. I witnessed a trio of white truffles, a total of 480 grams of the knobby mushroom perched on a velvet red pillow, be purchased by Hong Kong mogul Eugene Fung for the eye-popping sum of $87,000. Proceeds benefit a local hospital in Italy.
A TOUGH SEASON
Suffering from an unseasonably dry and hot summer and early fall, Italy's Piedmont region has endured one of the worst seasons for white truffles on record. Prices for the coveted delicacy have accordingly doubled to at least 6000 euro per kilogram, placing it out the reach of many restauranteurs and diners. Undaunted, Mr. Fung bid from Hong Kong via satellite link, dogfighting with other bidders for about eight minutes and ultimately emerging the winner of the enormous cluster of white gold.
If he chooses to enjoy his white truffle as it is traditionally done, he will be shaving the funky, earth fungus raw over buttered noodles or scrambled eggs, the customary vehicles for what many consider the world's greatest culinary delicacy.