Monday, May 19, 2008

It Costs How Much?

When reviewing a restaurant or compiling a "Best of..." list, price is always a consideration. "Am I getting a good value for my money?" is a question that we often ask ourselves, and while working on my "Best Burgers in Dallas" post, I came across an interesting article about the World's most expensive hamburger. This intrigued me. How much are people with disposable income really willing to pay for typically mundane or common dishes that have been taken to their highest level? Here are some outrageously priced gastronomic extravagances that are, or have been available.

Each bottle of the Danish Brewery, Jacobson Brewhouse's "Vintage Nr. 1" comes corked and wax-sealed in a green champagne-like bottle. The beer has 10.5 per cent alcohol by volume and is aged for six months in Swedish and French oak. Only 600 bottles have been produced and each sells for $393 per bottle.


A South Norwalk, CT company, Knipschildt Chocolatier, produces a chocolate truffle called "The Madeline." It is made with French Valrhona chocolate (one of the finest produced), fresh cream, vanilla pods, pure Italian truffle oil, with a French Perigold truffle for the filling. A single piece sells for $250 or about $2,600 a pound!


Caviar is undoubtedly considered one of the World's most expensive foods, but what caviar sits atop it's field where price is concerned? It's the Iranian Almas beluga caviar. Coming from sturgeons that are between 60 and 100 years old, these pale amber ichthy-oefs will set you back $48,750 for a 3.9 lb container, or $781.25 an ounce.


Back in 1995, Krug produced a scant 3,000 bottles of their Clos d'Ambonnay. One of the retailers that stocked up on this vintage bubbly was the iconic Connaught Hotel in London, where one can purchase a glamorous glass of this champagne for $1,544.00!


The Merchant Hotel in Belfast serves the "original" Trader Vic's Mai Tai. It is made with 17 year old Wray and Nephew Rum, which was used by trader Vic Bergeron to create the original Mai Tai over 60 years ago. Now there are only six bottles of the rum left in existence and each bottle sells for around $50,000. This nifty little bit of cocktail history will only cost you $1,475 per drink.


Grown in Indonesia, Kopi Luwak coffee beans certainly carry the highest price per pound, due to the nature of their harvesting. There is a small omnivore mammal called the Palm Civet, from the family Viverridae. These little cat-like creatures have the uncanny ability to select only the very best coffee berries to ingest. After digesting the fruit, the Civet excretes the berries which are then collected and sold primarily in Japan and the U.S.. It is said that an enzyme in the Civet's digestive tract breaks down the protein that causes the bitterness in coffee, thus producing a smooth, rich cup of Joe. A recent blind taste test at Stanford University concluded that over 1000 subjects could not discern Kopi Luwak from three other coffees, side by side, yet this bean still sells for between $120 and $600 per pound.

Ice Cream:

On Manhattan's Upper East Side, Serendipity 3 offers up not only the most expensive ice cream sundae, but the most expensive desert in the world. The "Golden Opulence Sundae" contains five scoops of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, infused with Madagascar vanilla, covered in 23 karat edible gold leaf, drizzled with Amedei Porcelana, the world's most expensive chocolate, and covered with chunks of rare Chuao chocolate, which is produced from cocoa beans harvested by the Caribbean Sea on Venezuela's coast. It is then suffused with candied fruits from Paris, gold dragets, truffles and Marzipan Cherries. It is topped with a small glass bowl of Grand Passion Caviar, an exclusive dessert caviar, made of salt-free American Golden caviar, known for its bright golden color. It's sweetened and infused with fresh passion fruit, orange and Armagnac. The sundae is served in a baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet with an 18K gold spoon and served with a petite mother of pearl spoon, then topped with a gilded sugar flower by Ron Ben-Israel. You can get all this for $1,000.00.


F. Duerrs & Sons (Est. 1881) created a batch of preserves to celebrate the company's 125th anniversary. Packaged in a hand-made crystal jar ($2,200), it contains 62 year old Dalmore whisky ($7,000 worth), Pol Roger champagne ($700 worth), and edible 23 karat gold ($250 worth). At $10,000 a jar, this equates to about $150 per slice of toast! The makers suggest that it be on white bread, not brown and spread with butter, not margarine (of course).


Norma's Restaurant in New York's Le Parker Meridien Hotel offers up the most expensive omelette in the world. Chef Emillio Castillo serves this "egg-ceptional" dish, nicknamed "The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata" which consists of six eggs, delicately topped with ten ounces of Sevruga caviar and the meat from an entire lobster. This lovely breakfast can be yours for a mere $1,000.00. A smaller version is available for $100.00.


England, known for it's dinner pies, is home to the ultimate savory "dinner in a crust." The Fence Gate Inn near Burnley, Lancashire boasts an eight slice pie, based on the traditional beef and mushroom pie, filled with almost six pounds of Wagyu beef ($1,100), 3.3 pounds of Matsutake mushrooms, so rare that they are grown under the eye of armed guards ($4,450), two bottles of 1982 Chateau Muton Rothschild ($8,500), 9 ounces of French Bleus mushrooms ($26), 3.5 ounces of winter black truffles ($166), and four packets of 23 karat gold leaf ($600). It's also served with two bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Rose pink champagne ($1,366). The cost? $15,900 a pie, or about $1,990 per slice.


No matter how you slice it, we love our pizza and apparently, some people are willing to pay through the nose for it. There is a little town in the south of Italy called Agropoli where one chef makes a pie called the "Ludovic XII" that is made from only the finest ingredients, from the special flour and Australian red salt from the Murray River, to lobster, tuna caviar, and the copious amount of Louis XIII Remy Martin cognac (up to $32,000 a bottle). A slice can be yours if the price is right; about $16,375.00 for the 15" pizza! For those on a budget, Domenico Crolla, a chef in Scottland has created a pizza that is topped with sunblush tomato sauce, Scottish smoked salmon, medallions of venison, prosciutto and a drizzling of vintage balsamic vinegar, then sprinkled with edible 24-carat gold shavings. Named the "Pizza Royale 007" after the elegant tastes of debonair agent James Bond, the over-the-top toppings also include champagne-soaked caviar and lobster marinated in the finest cognac. It just oozes sophistication. The gold-topped pizza, prepared with these amazing delicacies will sell for more than $3,700.00.


The Hempel Hotel in London's Baywater serves up atypical salad fare for the gastronomic pleasures of their wealthier clients. The Florette Sea and Earth salad is lovingly comprised by chef Raymond Blanc, of two types of caviar (Almas golden and Beluga, of course), kreel-caught langoustines, Cornish crab and lobster, and Florette baby leaf salad, tossed in Moulin Jean Marie Cornille olive oil and 30 year old Balsamic Vinegar. The salad is garnished with a basket, hand-made from courgettes (zucchini) with grated truffle, red romano peppers, potato, and edible gold leaf. $1,250.00 is all it takes to taste the "Sea and Earth."


Harvested by hand, it takes more than 75,000 stigma (a stigma is the pollen receptor within the pistil at the top of the pistil, the male part of a flower's reproductive system) from the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) to equal one pound of saffron spice. Each flower produces three stigma. You can see by the numbers how much painstaking work is required to produce this spice. Saffron is primarily produced in Iran, Turkey, India, Morocco, Spain, and Greece. Prices vary depending on quality, but high-end saffron sells for as much as $15.00 per gram or up to $2,700.00 per pound.


The original Da Hong Pao tea trees, in Wuyi, China, are over 350 years old. The Da Hong Pao tea produced from their leaves (loosely translated "Big Red Robe"), has only been available for public auction three times. Once each in 1998, 2002, and 2004. Previously, it had only been offered to government leaders, emperors, and religious leaders. In 1972, Mao Zedong gave President Richard Nixon 50 grams of the precious tea, during his visit to China. Nixon was apparently insulted with such a "small" gift, until an aid pointed out that 50 grams represented 50% of all the Da Hong Pao tea harvested that year. In 2002, 20 grams (about 2/3 of an ounce) sold for approximately $23,000 US. In 2004, the same amount sold for about $21,000.


The Macallan Fine and Rare Collection, 1926, 60 Year Old whiskey is the top dog when it comes to overpriced alcohol. Between 1926 and 1928 only 85 bottles were released worldwide creating quite a demand. So much so that one buyer was willing to pay $38,000.00 for a bottle. While the bottles have all been sold, the Old Homestead Steakhouse in the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. owns a bottle and sells a dram for only $3,300.00.

So, next time you think that you have paid too much for dinner or a potable, just remember, there's always someone willing to pay more.

1 comment: