Photo: cyclonebill/Creative Commons
Restaurants looking for some quick press can follow this tried and true formula: Take a simple dish (candy, a hamburger, soup); add some crazy valuable ingredients (gold, truffles, crystal); and market it as "The World's Most Expensive."
And while we know the market for a $5,000 burger, $2,000 sushi roll, and $1000 frittata isn't exactly huge, there are definitely better ways to blow your money in one shot.
1. The $500 Jellybeans
In March, Mogulite reported that Jelly Belly founder David Klein -- whom the site refers to as a "reclusive candy mogul" -- planned to launch a jar of jellybeans with a not-so-sweet price: $500.
The beans will be coated in 24-karat gold leaf and come packed in a crystal jar, but Klein said the taste of the "Beyond Gourmet" line will be the real treat: "It's literally an exotic trip around the world through the sense of taste via never-before-tasted jelly bean flavors," says the press release, while referencing varieties like mango chutney and lemongrass curry.
Wow. And we thought the strawberry daquiri flavor was groundbreaking.
We suggest, to those looking for these oh-so-rare-flavored beans: turn that money over to a local food bank, use it to buy canned goods that can be donated to food drives, or mail a check to a national hunger fighting organization (like Feeding America).
2. The $2,600 Bottle of Water
If you live in an area where you can drink the tap water, then you have no excuse for buying bottled water. And no matter where you live, you have no excuse for buying the $2,600 bottle of water that Bling H20 announced in March.
The water, reportedly sourced from Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains, gets its pricetag because of the 10,000 crystals that encrust the bottle.
Instead: Trust us: You do not want to be known as the idiot who spent $2,600 on bottled water.
You do want to be known as the philanthropist who provided more than two dozen people with fresh water for life -- which is what you'll be when you donate that money to water.org.
The group provides clean, safe drinking water to communities around the world -- Bangladesh, Haiti, Kenya, and elsewhere -- think of it as a more literal way to pour money down the drain.
3. The $5,000 Burger
While the new, $5,000 burger on the menu at Fleur in Las Vegas is pricey in part because of its ingredients -- chef Hubert Keller combines Kobe beef, foie gras, and plenty of black truffles in the finished product, according to The Wall Street Journal -- as any server can attest, it's the alcohol that really boosts the bill.
Instead: While we're not always fans of PETA's attention-grabbing tactics, they do focus many of their efforts on rescuing animals of all shapes and sizes -- and promoting veganism and vegetarianism, a diet that advocates say is better for the environment, better for your health, and better for animals (and which most definitely does not include hamburgers that cost as much as a used car or meat from cruelly force-fed ducks). Send them a check and call it a day.
4. The $1,000 Frittata
The restaurant at the Parker Meridien hotel in New York City refers to this dish as "The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata" -- so when you find out that it really costs only $1,000, that seems pretty cheap.
What do you get for your money? Six eggs, lobster claws, and 10 ounces of Sevruga caviar. And if you're feeling a bit thrifty the restaurant also offers a $100 version -- though you'll find only one ounce of caviar on that.
Instead: Unless you know exactly how the chickens that produced those eggs -- or any eggs -- lived before the eggs ended up on your plate, there's a good chance they were raised on a factory farm, where animals are packed in tightly and diseases spread quickly.
Try making a $5,000 donation to Farm Sanctuary, instead: This Watkins Glen, NY, rescue organization takes in turkeys, pigs, goats, ducks, and other animals making a clean break from the factory farm life.
5. The $175 Soup
That's how long it takes them to put together the £108 dish (about $175), a steaming hot combination of "abalone (sea snails), dried scallops, sea cucumber, ginseng, corn-fed chicken, Chinese mushrooms, and gold" -- of course, gold! -- as per the menu.
Instead: The restaurant says that it uses farmed abalone, which takes as long as five years to mature before it's ready for the plate -- but in the wild, several different kinds of abalone are or have been on the endangered species list.
The slow growth, its sensitivity to water temperature, and increasing ocean acidification make the water less safe for these sea creatures.
Want to help? Donate your $175 to Oceana, and it will go toward efforts to conserve the world's waters and their inhabitants.
6. The $128 Pound of Chocolate
The Amedei chocolate company in Tuscany, Italy, bills its single-origin Porcelana as the most expensive chocolate in the world, made from white beans grown in 3,000 kilo batches on small plantations in Venezuela.
The chocolate holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for most expensive chocolate from as far back as 2006, when one pound cost $90; Pianki currently sells a 1.92-ounce box of the limited edition chocolates for $16.
Instead: Amedei says it has a close relationship with its bean producers, but that's not always the case with other chocolate companies -- unless the bars are produced under Fair Trade guidelines, ensuring safe working conditions, livable wages, and other humanitarian basics.
Buy a Fair Trade bar instead, and then donate the balance to Fair Trade USA to support their work ensuring the proper treatment of workers in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
7. The $2,000 Sushi Roll
The current Guinness Record for most expensive sushi goes to a dish from chef Angelito Araneta of the Philippines, who created a five-piece nigiri roll made from crab meat and wrapped in 24-karat gold -- and finished with diamond studs for a total value of $1,978.15 (we're not sure why they didn't just round up to $1,980 -- with that kind of cash, what's another $2?).
Araneta appears to be a "celebrity chef" who makes a habit of creating ridiculously expensive dishes, so you likely won't find this roll on the menu anywhere (and your wallet will be glad to hear it).
Instead: Eating seafood without paying attention to how it's raised and where it comes from can sink your sustainable eating plan in one move. Look at seafood guides from the NRDC and the World Wildlife Fund -- and then put your money where your mouth is by helping those organizations further their efforts to protect the food chain.