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In the most sumptuous kitchens of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, there was a culinary must-have for the most special banquets and meals: gold. It was used to garnish the feathers of hunted game, to make desserts shimmer invitingly, to add a touch of luxury to every dish. In fact, gold became so ubiquitous that in the royal courts of Padua in the 16th Century, it was deemed forbidden to use it in more than two dishes during nuptial banquets.
Five hundred years later, gold leaves, powder and petals have come back into fashion in the most exclusive of culinary spheres. Sounds strange? It shouldn’t. 24 karat gold can be consumed in small quantities (as top-tier chefs do) without causing any health problems. And its presence is sure to add lustre to any feast, worthy of kings, queens or even just fine dining lovers that are seeking something truly special.
It’s obligatory to begin with a first course: the famous saffron risotto by the Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi, whose personal re-elaboration features the addition of a very thin piece of gold leaf positioned in the center of the dish. You can either enjoy this delicacy in his restaurant Il Marchesino or in your own kitchen by following the chef’s recipe.
If you’re curious about where this idea came from, don’t miss the story as told by Eugenio Medagliani, the absolute king of Italy’s finest kitchen tools, and a good friend of Marchesi’s. While this golden risotto, maybe one of the most famous dishes featuring this precious metal, it’s by no means the only one. Gold is often used to brighten dark colours, for visual delight: gold nuggets sometimes accompany squid ink tagliolini or risotti, and perfectly pair with fish entrées.
With no distinct taste, gold is added exclusively for visual impact, and for the texture of its powder. It can also be found in one of the most expensive versions of a typical “fast food” in the world: at Washington DC’s BLT Steak, a hamburger made from Japanese Kobe beef is garnished with Grey Poupon mustard, foie gras and gold leaves. The price? 58 dollars. In Dallas, the Marquee Grill offers a version accompanied by truffle French fries.
A special treat in and of themselves, dessert is the perfect time to indulge in gold, and chocolate is perhaps the perfect culinary match for it. The most elaborate, precious of desserts can be found at Serendipity3 in New York, where the famous scene of the eponymous film was shot: it’s a 1,000 dollar gelato made from Madagascar vanilla covered with gold leaf, topped with orange-juice sweetened caviar. An even richer version can be enjoyed for a mere 25,000 dollars.
But the “gold medal” for the world’s most expensive dessert goes to the cake from Britain’s Lindeth Howe Country House Hotel: 34,000 dollars for a chocolate cake decorated with gold leaves and roses. In the centre of one of these roses is a diamond ring. A fine way to pop the question to a lady with a sweet tooth.
What to drink along with your golden delight? Why not gold-infused champagne, or ice-cold vodka with golden flecks. And before bed, you can nibble on gold covered chocolates, 24 karat lollipops or even a tisane flecked with gold powder, which of course, you can also use on your lips, or to decorate your finest porcelain plates; you can find all these luxury treats on DeLafée.