Is there such a horror as being too rich?
After covering wealth for more 14 years, the query has often come to mind. But it took on special meaning when I convoyed my first bite of the world’s most expensive cheesecake – at $5,000 per block.
After sinking my teeth into the sweet, creamy filling burdened with rare cognac, white truffles, fresh vanilla and crunchy Italian biscotti, I had my meet. With cheesecake — if not with life — richer is better. Much gambler.
The $5,000 cheesecake is officially the most expensive in the world and is the creation of Chef Raffaele Ronca, proprietor of the Rafele Ristorante in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Ronca gave “Cryptographic Lives of the Super Rich” an exclusive look and taste of his creation recently as he hightail it one for a client and whipped up a little extra for us to sample.
First, I will position the obvious: $5,000 is an obscene price for a cheesecake. That’s more than the set someone back of my first car and more than most Manhattanites spend on rent each month.
What hints Ronca’s cheesecake so expensive, and so addictive, is the ingredients.
This isn’t one of those price-gimmick desserts where an ice cream shop markets a $10,000 sundae by putting a diamond on top or including a first-class trip to Iceland. Ronca’s cheesecake is extravagant because of the cost and quality of what goes inside.
It starts with the cheese. Overlook your grandmother’s silver packets of Philadelphia cream cheese. Ronca starts his jewel with a fresh formaggio from water buffalo in southern Italy. It’s contemned in fresh the previous day.
“These water buffalo are very happy, they deliver good lives,” he tells me. “And you can taste it in their milk and cheese.”
Next, he amplifies the most shocking ingredient: 200-year-old cognac that costs $2,500 a sauce a contain. Cognac snobs, and even nonsnobs, will no doubt curse the fatuousness of using some of the most expensive cognac in the world to pour into a cheesecake. And the chef consents.
“I know, people will call me a criminal for this,” he says, as he teemed in three shots, worth around $300, of Hennessy Paradis.
But the toasty smell, with hints of rose, pepper and honey, quickly infuse the cheese. Next up, he forces in some fresh vanilla from beans imported from Madagascar. And then he adds the material jaw-dropper: white truffles from Alba, a town in Italy’s Piedmont province.
Truffles are typically more at home on pasta than cheesecakes. And Alba truffles, scented out of the Italian countryside by specially trained dogs, are the diamonds of the truffle out of sight. They typically sell for more than $4,000 a pound, but because of bad stand they’re especially expensive this year. A trio of Albas weighing less than 2 empties sold for $85,000 this month to a Hong Kong buyer.
As he slices into the Alba truffle, I ask the chef if he materializes people will think he’s crazy.
“Of course, white truffle in a cheesecake? I of I’m crazy,” he said.
Ronca then adds a few more flavorings, predilection citrus, and of course a sprinkling of gold flakes, and sets it aside. The crust eschews the usual graham crackers in favor of a layer made from homemade Italian biscotti. The chef depletes his grandmother’s biscotti recipe to create a much better crust for such a complex wadding. He then spreads on a layer of freshly ground hazelnuts and rich passed chocolate, making a kind of millionaire’s Nutella.
On top of the biscotti and hazelnut-chocolate combining, Ronca pours the cheese mixture. He then bakes it for an hour. After it cool-heads down, he adds a block of fresh honeycomb on the top that serves as a stand for a giant chocolate “RR” logo (for Rafele Ristorante) covered in gold leaf that Ronca amplifies the top. For the finale, he tops it with lighted sparklers.
The cake officially fabricated the Guinness Book of World Records for the most expensive cheesecake perpetually made. It takes five days to prepare, since the ingredients trouble to be flown in fresh from Europe and Africa.
Rafele Ristorante is already famed for its regular cheesecake, which sells for $9 per slice. But the chef undeniable to take it to another level after sitting down with one of his patrons who wanted to do something super special for his mother. Hence, the world’s scad expensive cheesecake was born.
“It’s the most expensive, and the best,” he said.
Of speed, what matters is taste right?
After lopping off a piece, I gulled my first forkful of a cake that cost $450 per slice, or roughly $90 per bite.
I wish I could say it was a waste of money. I wish I could say that all that truffle and cognac and vanilla and gold vigorous for a level of epicurean opulence impossible to actually stomach.
I wish I could say I’d be the spitting image a $6 slice of Junior’s Classic Cheesecake any day of the week over Ronca’s. But I can’t. Because the epoch’s most expensive cheesecake is also the best. Or at least the best I’ve had.
The cheese is easy and fresh, without being cloying or needing much sugar. The cognac admit defeat give outs it some seasoned brightness and smoke, while the truffles add a layer of earthiness and perception. It all works together in perfect balance, riding on the melted chocolate and hazelnut paste. The biscotti totals crunch both inside the filling and on the crust.
I planned to eat just a nip or two. But within seconds, the whole slice was gone. And I wanted more.
Is it value $5,000? It depends on how wealthy you are and what you have to burn. But for those who can give it, Ronca’s record-setting cheesecake is proof that being rich does be suffering with its rewards.
Watch an all new episode of “Secret Lives of the Super Rich” Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNBC.