Aristocracy cooking: Using truffles to throw away money

Ever since I quit smoking and downing the occasional bottle of NyQuil, I seem to be running low on vices. Back in the day, I used to eat Big Macs two at a time, smoke cigarettes like I was Bogie with a death wish, and guzzle booze like Lindsay Lohan on...well, on any given Thursday night. Over the last few years, I've cleaned up my act and cut out most of my nasty habits. Nowadays, I feel like I'm breaking the rules when I don't check to make sure that my whole-grain bread is free of high fructose corn syrup or my V-8 is low sodium.

I still have a few guilty pleasures, most of which revolve around food. Although I generally eat well, watch the nutritional content of my meals, and budget carefully, I still like to splurge from time to time. Mostly, however, my culinary crimes revolve around either cheap ethnic restaurants or foods that I prepare myself. To put it bluntly, I'm starting to question whether fine dining is really worth the money. Lately, it seems like many restaurants are focusing on price to the exclusion of art and quality. A prime example of this is the recent explosion of truffles.