The $175 burger: Conspicuous consumption or edible art?


What was the most extravagant, self-indulgent culinary culture in history? Was it the Victorian British, with their heavy puddings, Beef Wellington, and cream-laden sauces? Perhaps France's haute cuisine deserves the distinction, with its reliance on butters, creams, and hours of cookery. Or maybe we could go back to the ancient Romans, who put such an emphasis on the use of expensive spices that the mark of a great chef was that his food tasted nothing like its constituent ingredients.

Regardless of who gets your vote for most outrageously decadent cuisine, there is little doubt that the United States at the dawn of the 21st century is doing its best to stay in the running. A while back, I wrote a post about how New York chefs were heavily lacing their dishes with truffles in order to create ridiculously luxe comfort foods. I mentioned the $85 mac and cheese, the $55 baked potato, and the $1000 bagel, all examples of outrageous waste and insane over-consumption.

I thought that my post had more or less closed the door on the topic. Admittedly, I failed to mention such ridiculous extravagances as the new Johnny Walker King George V (a blended scotch that costs $600 a bottle), Norma's "Zillion Dollar Frittada" (a $1,000 concoction of eggs, lobster, and caviar) and the $1,000 "Luxury Pizza" at Nino's Bellisima (topped with creme fraiche, chives, salmon roe, wasabi, lobster, and four different kinds of caviar). Still, I thought that I'd given the world of over-the-top cuisine its due. Of course, as soon as you decide that things have gotten as ridiculous as they can get, someone has to go one step further...