Even as elite chefs continue to transform and reinvent traditional home-style cooking into high-end masterpieces, some ingredients remain genuine luxuries. Here's a look at the top five classic foods and ingredients that will likely be considered a luxury for eons, as they have consistently been revered for their flavor and high price.
Considered the diamond of the kitchen, truffles are typically harvested from regions of Italy and France. Boasting an earthy odor that some find unpleasant (though many love it), the little fungi are highly prized for their rarity and large price tag. Truffles are often used as toppings on gourmet foods or made into an oil to enhance flavor, and have fetched as much $61,250 for four pounds.
Generally considered the most expensive food item in the world, Beluga caviar is the ultimate luxury indulgence and costs around $4,500 per pound. Beluga ranges in color, from light to dark, with the lighter shades being more expensive. True beluga is harvested from the Beluga Sturgeon found in the Caspian Sea and is nearly impossible to get your hands on, especially if you're in the U.S. where it is illegal due to the fish being endangered. Recently, there has been an increase in domestic caviars, which are less expensive but just don't offer quite the same pop.
Foie gras is a French delicacy, though you can find it spread about in other countries as well—though not easily. Translated it means "fat liver" and refers to the overfeeding of the duck or goose. Served raw or lightly cooked, foie gras melts in your mouth and offers a rich, buttery taste. For years there has been a lot of controversy over the "gravage" force feeding method, leading to court bans and public outrage. Many European countries have banned its production, several U.S. states are fighting in courtrooms over appeals, and last year India banned the import of foie gras entirely. Even famous chefs have weighed in, with Anthony Bourdain on the side that supports humanely-fed tactics and Wolfgang Puck on the opposing team that is against its production.
True Kobe beef is produced only by the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle in n Hyōgo Prefecture in Japan. Genetically predisposed to intense marbling, the cows are fed only beer and grain, and treated to daily massages from human owners to produce the most tender product possible. Kobe is graded on a Japanese scale of 1-5 (1 = Poor, 2 = Below Average, 3 = Average, 4 = Good and 5 = Excellent) based on marbling, yield, meat color, firmness and texture, and fat quality.
Saffron is regularly considered the most expensive spice in the world, with prices reaching as high as $5,000 a pound. The three stigmas and style of the crocus flower are harvested by hand and it takes thousands of these delicate strands to make up just one ounce. Once cooked, saffron is a deep yellow color, which is most commonly used in the Spanish seafood dish paella.