Bites: Giant truffle saved from right pickle

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The Independent Online

Paying 165,000 for something that in its unadulterated form looks like a giant verruca might seem like folly, but the so-called "white truffle of the century" is no garden-variety fungus.

Weighing 1.5kg, the Tuber magnatum Pico in question (pictured) was sold last weekend as the star lot in the fifth annual International Tuscan Truffle Auction, which raised 250,000 for children's charities. It went to the Macau billionaire Stanley Ho, who beat the previous record price paid for a white truffle of a piffling $212,000. Ho beat off a bid from Brit artist Damien Hirst in an auction held simultaneously in Florence, London and Macau via video conference.

Hirst's losing bid of 55,000 was made via a call to chef Giorgio Locatelli, who was hosting a lunch at the London auction held at Refettorio in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Blackfriars. Whether or not Hirst, if he had won, would have chosen to pickle the truffle or encrust it in diamonds sadly cannot be confirmed.