Oddly Enough

Giant truffle sold at auction

HONG KONG (Reuters) - One of the biggest truffles found in half a century -- a 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) specimen unearthed in Italy late last month -- has sold for $330,000 (161,000 pounds) at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, London and Florence.

The giant fungus was presented on a silver platter by an Italian chef flanked by Chinese models to the flash of cameras ahead of the auction at Macau’s Grand Lisboa Hotel.

“I can say it’s very odd. Normally truffles are more round. This looks like the brain of a man ... but it’s nice, very nice,” said Alfonso Iaccarrino, Italian chef at the Lisboa Hotel, who posed with the mushroom and prepared a four-course meal featuring white truffle dishes at the gala auction event.

The winning bid on Saturday night came from Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho, bidding by phone via his partner Angela Leong, who was on stage with the auctioneer.

The South China Morning Post said Ho beat British artist Damien Hirst and Sheik Mansoor Bin Zayed al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi for the prized fungus. Truffles can vary considerably in size and are prized in Italian cooking for their flavour and aroma.

Proceeds from the auction were donated to charities including the Caritas in China, Consortium for Street Children in the UK, and the Telethon in Italy.

The giant truffle, and one of about the same size sold to a Hong Kong bidder last year, were the largest found since a 2.5 kg truffle was found in 1954 and presented to former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, according to media reports.

Reporting by Tara Joseph, writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Jeremy Laurence