Fisherman’s Fortune: The $736,700 Tuna
At the time of the ban, beluga caviar sold for $200 an ounce, and 60 percent of all worldwide consumption took place in the United States. The ban allowed some U.S. companies to take up the slack, such as the California Caviar Company, which sells caviar from locally-farmed sturgeon that retails for $80 an ounce.
Legal outlets sell caviar with tastes and textures very similar to the banned variety, but for some people, it just ain’t the same. These people are willing to pay much higher prices for the real thing on the black market, and a 2010 report from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development quoted caviar importer Armen Petrossian, who estimated that one ounce of beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea can fetch as much as $500.
A Fish to Die For
Fugu is the Japanese word for pufferfish. Eating it has the potential to be very costly, and not just in the traditional sense. The fugu’s organs contain tetrodotoxin, a deadly poison that asphyxiates its victim if ingested. Common sense dictates that people would stay as far away from fugu as possible, but it’s actually a delicacy for which some people pay handsomely.
To prepare the fish for safe consumption, Japanese chefs are required to undergo up to three years of apprenticeship, followed by a licensing exam and, finally, eating the fish that they themselves have prepared for the first time. If they don’t succumb to paralysis, muscle shutdown and ultimately death, then they pass.
One might assume that the person who would order this meal is a very aggressive, type A personality, possibly one who is hoping to impress his girlfriend. Jameson Parvizad, general manager of the Blowfish To Die For restaurant in San Francisco, Calif. insists that this is not the case. “The kind of people who order it are people that are foodies, and are really down to try something that isn't offered anywhere else,” he said in an interview.
Adventurous Americans wishing to try fugu stateside should be comforted by the fact that chefs have had to receive extensive training similar to that of Japanese fugu chefs in order to prepare the dish. Blowfish To Die For has a single, dedicated chef whose job it is to prepare the restaurant’s special six-course meal for two. The price for an adventurous couple to dine with death is $280.