If the question is TO splurge or NOT to splurge I can promise you my husband's answer is a definite NOT. Ok. That's not completely true. He can be exceedingly generous and he really does enjoy the finer things in life. He just seems to go through phases. One week he'll come home with a very lovely, albeit very expensive bouquet of flowers and declare that we're hitting the town that night. The next week he'll ask if I really needed to buy ALL that toilet paper. I mean, what are we doing with it all? Flushing it down the toilet or something?
And thank goodness for that! Honestly. I'm so happy he has a sound financial system (which I would know nothing about because I haven't looked at our bank statement since our wedding). I always say that if it weren't for him I'd be hitchhiking around the country and living in a cardboard box...but of course eating black truffles that I shaved using my handy dandy imported Italian truffle shaver!
I certainly try to save money whenever and wherever I can, but I also have two soft spots...travel and cuisine. I always start planning our next vacation before our plane from our present vacation even touches down and I reach for that shiny French kitchen gadget or ornately packaged Italian fungus like most women reach for Manolo Blahnik shoes.
So when it comes to food, what should you splurge on and what should you leave on the shelf? Here are two food items I've recently splurged on. One was a winner. The other a huge waste of $15 (that I might as well have just flushed down the toilet). **spoiler alert - Black Truffle Oil scam!**
Splurge #1: "worthy splurge"...Saffron
I'm sure you have heard that saffron is the harvested from a saffron crocus thread. Which means that it takes A LOT of flowers to get a usable amount of saffron. That also means that saffron is pricey, pricey, pricey. Even some of the lowest quality saffron costs around $1,000 per pound. For that price you would think it would do more than just flavor your rice. But you would be amazed at how a little bit of it goes a long way. I bought this small package (0.4g) of Spanish Saffron at a local grocery store for $6.00, and it will get me through about 4 or 5 dishes, depending on their size. It's an amazing spice.
And the flavor!?! I use it to flavor SO many dishes. From fish stews to rice dishes. I put it in chicken stock before I add it to sauces. I use it to cook fingerling potatoes. The list is endless. It adds the most earthy flavor and floral aroma. I love it. Of course it's to be used sparingly, but it's worth the price. Every penny.
Splurge #2: "scam splurge"...Black Truffle Oil
I personally love truffles. They are earthy, aromatic and completely unlike anything else on earth. Have you ever seen one of those travel shows where they demonstrate how pigs sniff for truffles? It's adorable!! Those pigs are not only cute, but they're also money making machines. These ugly looking fungi cost about $500 per pound and......WAIT!....stop the presses....while researching the price of black truffles I just read that most truffle oil doesn't even contain truffle! Apparently the vast majority of truffle oil in the US is olive (or grapeseed in my case) oil flavored with something called Dithiapentane.
No wonder my truffle oil sucks. It doesn't even have truffles in it! Now that I read the label they keep saying, "infused with black truffle AROMA". Ha! I knew this was a waste of $15 the moment I first cooked with it. I would place a crock of truffled-mac-and-cheese in front of Nick and say, "what's the secret ingredient" and he would say, "cheese?". I would even drizzle copious amounts over mild vegetable and all he could say was, "why did you put all of this oil on the veggies?". It was practically flavorless (in our opinion). Now I know why.
So long story short, this small (8 oz) bottle of truffle oil is not a good splurge by a long shot. Not only does it not add ANY discernible flavor to my cooking (and trust me, I've tried it a million different ways) but it's not even infused with freakin' truffle!
Here you have it. Two very pricey items. Two very different flavors. Two very different results. One is worth every penny, and the other might as well be infused with old pennies...perhaps it would even make it more flavorful.