Billed as the first in the Mideast, truffle auction raises over $17,000 for charity

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White truffles from Alba are one of the rarest, most prized — and most expensive — things in the world of gastronomy. (Shutterstock)
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Truffles are pictured before the international auction for truffles at the Grinzane Castle in Grinzane Cavour near Alba, northwestern Italy. (Reuters)
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Truffles are pictured before the international auction for truffles at the Grinzane Castle in Grinzane Cavour near Alba, northwestern Italy. (Reuters)
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Italian chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo holds a set of truffles weighing 850 grams during the international auction for truffles at the Grinzane Castle in Grinzane Cavour near Alba, Italy. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2017
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Billed as the first in the Mideast, truffle auction raises over $17,000 for charity

DUBAI: White truffles from Alba are one of the rarest, most prized — and most expensive — things in the world of gastronomy. The annual charity auction in Alba, where they come from, is an 18-year-old tradition that was brought to the Middle East for the first time earlier this week.
An initiative of the Italian Restaurant Consulting Group, the Middle East edition of the World Alba White Truffle Auction aimed to put the region on the global culinary map, while contributing to a cause.
Historically, the auction has been held at Grinzane Castle in Alba, Italy — the home of the hyper-seasonal mushroom — and has only traveled to Hong Kong and Philadelphia in previous years. This year, the event was held simultaneously in three locations, Alba, Hong Kong and Dubai, with all three locations connected through satellite.
“We succeeded in bringing this auction here because we believe we have the right kind of people here, who are willing to spend for a cause, and also, there’s a good understanding of what truffles are, and their value,” said Aira Piva, general manager of Italian Restaurant Consulting.
Three truffles were auctioned off in Dubai n Nov 12 to an exclusive invitee-only audience of VIPs from across the GCC. The winning bidders not only get to own their own mushroom, but they also get a bespoke dinner in Dubai’s top restaurants, including Gary Rhodes’ Rhodes W1. The truffles, which started from a weight of 200 grams, were sold for AED 19,000 ($5172), AED 21,000, and AED 25,000 each.
All the proceeds from the Dubai auction go toward the Al Jalila Foundation, a non-profit established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, which plans to use the resources toward research of childhood diabetes and their “Road to awareness” campaign.
The showstopper of the evening was a rare signature truffle, weighing 450g, which was auctioned across all three locations in a simulcast, with the winning bid being taken out by Hong Kong for the second year in a row. While it was hoped that Dubai would break the world record this year, it was pipped to the post by Hong Kong, which held on to its distinction of being home to the highest bidder who bought the truffle for €75,000 ($88,443)
As Piva summed up, “truffles are very ephemeral, they are just about pleasure when you eat. Using it for charity adds a new level, gives it substantial meaning — to take something that is usually used for pure enjoyment, to help save a life.”
What is a truffle?
Truffles are particular kind of subterranean mushroom, usually found close to tree roots. The Ascomycete fungus is a species of tuber, and there are two kinds used in gastronomy – black and white. White truffles (or Tuber magnatum) are the rarer variety which cannot be farmed or manufactured, and are only found during a very short season between October and November, mainly in the Piedmont region of Italy.
According to Massimo Vidono, the go-to person for chefs and restaurants across the region when sourcing truffles, “truffles are a true gift of Mother Nature. You have to look for them, using specially trained dogs or pigs — some seasons you find lots, some seasons you don’t. That’s what makes them so special.”
Their unique flavor and aroma can only be described as umami and is available in high-end Italian and contemporary fusion restaurants as a seasonal menu item – with high price tags to match.


Nicki Minaj shows off her quad biking skills in the UAE

Nicki Minaj recently released a new album. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018
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Nicki Minaj shows off her quad biking skills in the UAE

  • Nicki Minaj just hit the sand dunes in Abu Dhabi
  • She was just in Milan attending Fashion Week

DUBAI: Pop superstar Nicki Minaj just hit the sand dunes in Abu Dhabi and posted a string of photos on Instagram to show off her skills.

“Ride wit Minaj (sic),” the rapper-singer captioned a snap on the social media site, showing her astride a dune buggy in the desert.

She also posted a video in which she can be seen speeding through the desert with her loose hair streaming in the wind. Earlier in the evening, she posted a video in which she runs along a beach in the UAE at night and talks in a British accent, saying she wants her fans to “see the water.”

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Ride wit Minaj

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Before her trip to the Gulf country, Minaj sat front row at the Versace show at Milan Fashion Week.

She sat alongside Leona Lewis, Rita Ora, model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, actor Luke Evans and Italian influencer Chiara Ferragni in an enormous industrial space in the modern CityLife neighborhood where the runway show was held, according to Reuters.

“I’m so proud of you @donatella_versace You’ve never missed a beat. So tiny, but so powerful,” Minaj posted after the runway show.

“Loved the show tonight. Thank you for my gorgeous flowers & for playing like 75 percent of the Queen album at the show,” she added, referencing fourth studio album, which was released in August to mixed reviews.

Minaj also took a front row seat at the Fendi show in Milan, taking a turn for fans on her way in decked out in a Fendi puffer jacket and matching leggings and cropped top.

Other front-row celebs included Ferragni with her rapper husband Fedez, leaving home their much-Instagrammed infant, Leone, but trailing television cameras as they toured backstage.

While the front-row celebrity attire was highly branded Fendi streetwear, the runway collection by Karl Lagerfeld was more elegant and subtle, the Associated Press noted.

The artist is fresh off a bout of controversy involving US rapper Cardi B, who infamously tried to attack Minaj during a scuffle at a party held on the sidelines of New York Fashion Week earlier in September.

Minaj and Cardi B were the center of attention as A-list guests reportedly huddled around their phones to watch footage of the fracas.
A person who witnessed the incident, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Minaj was finishing up a conversation with someone when Cardi B tried to attack her, but Minaj’s security guards intervened, the Associated Press reported.
Video footage that circulated on social media at the time showed Cardi B lunging toward someone and being held back. Cardi B reportedly threw one of her shoes at Minaj.

Here’s to hoping Minaj has a more enjoyable time in the UAE.