Photo: kukhunthod (Getty)
It seems like just about everything is getting more expensive. We’re old enough to remember when a full-sized candy bar cost fifty cents and a beer was a dollar. Those days are long gone, as now you’ll drop several bills on even the most watery draft at your local bar. But not all food and drink items are keeping pace with inflation – some are pushing the envelope. Absurdly expensive food is something that shouldn’t be in a world still plagued by hunger, but here we are. In this article, we’ll spotlight ten food items that sell for frankly ludicrous prices that will probably make you stick with your cheap fast food option.
Alexandre Polmard’s Steaks
When you think expensive steak, you probably turn first to Japan’s famous Kobe beef. But if you’re really serious about meat, you need to meet Alexandre Polmard. The sixth-generation Parisian butcher inherited a family method for dry-aging beef that makes it incredibly tender and delicious – but it’ll cost you. Polmard’s most expensive cut is a rib aged for a whopping fifteen years. It costs $3,200. That’s for a two-pound hunk of beef that can feed up to six, but that’s still a hell of a lot more than you’ll shell out at Peter Luger. Polmard steaks are served rare or “blue” – ie barely cooked at all – to highlight their superior flavor.
There has been a real surge of interest in honey in the last few years – coincidentally, as we’ve learned that we screwed up the environment bad enough to kill all the bees. But Elvish honey is no ordinary honey. First off, it doesn’t come from hives. A deposit of it was found in a cave in the Saricayir valley of Turkey, some 5,400 feet below the earth. A beekeeper spotted some of his insects flying into the cave mouth and sent a spelunker down. They discovered deposits of mineral-rich honey smeared on the rock walls of the cave and harvested it. They got about 15 pounds out and put it on sale, and now sells for a little over $950 for a six-ounce bottle.
Aji Charapita Chili Peppers
The hot pepper arms race has been a huge driver of the food industry over the last decade or so, as aficionados chase hotter and hotter varietals in order to prove that they can handle the burn. Right now, the most expensive one on the market is the Aji Charapita, grown in the jungles of northern Peru. The small pea-sized peppers were just recently brought out of the wild and into cultivation. Delivering a fruity flavor as well as a solid amount of heat, these peppers are becoming trendy among high-end chefs. A little goes a long way, which is good because the Aji Charapita will run you $15,875 a pound.
Ayam Cemani Chicken
You can get a whole bird fried up at KFC for pretty damn cheap. But if you’re a true poultry devotee, you won’t balk at shelling out $2,500 for a jet-black Indonesian Ayam Cemani breed. These insanely expensive birds are known for more than their striking color, but it’s certainly a big part of the appeal. Every part of these birds – including their meat – is black in color. The meat itself has a strong flavor, and in Asia it’s often eaten in conjunction with various religious rituals. Obviously they don’t spend that much on the birds there, but they’re illegal to import so if you live in the States you’re dependent on breeders, so the supply is very low. If you want to raise your own, you can buy a chick for $200 and test your luck.
Yubari King Melons
Do you like cantaloupe? I mean really like it? Enough to spend at least $100 on one – and maybe as much as $12,000? Oh, okay. Not that much. That’s the draw of the Yubari King melon, a very special cantaloupe only grown in a single Japanese region. These melons are typically given as gifts during the summer festival of Chugen, and they boast a flavor very distant from your common melon. The flesh of the Yubari King is juicy and a little bit spicy, much more robust than what you’re used to. Since they need to grow in a very restricted geographical area to qualify as Yubari Kings, each year’s harvest is scarce. Good-looking melons also retail for significantly more than lumpy or uneven ones.
People who are into cheese can be pretty intense. It’s one of those foods where it’s considered fairly normal to drop serious coin on a fancy specimen. And the stinkier the better. But if you really want to call yourself a turophile, you need to get ahold of some pule. Made only in Serbia from the milk of an endangered Balkan donkey, it commonly retails for over $1000 a pound. Why so much? Well, there aren’t many of the donkeys, and they have to be milked by hand three times a day to get enough raw material for the cheese. It takes fifteen donkeys for a gallon of milk, and the entire population makes about 200 pounds of pule a year. How’s it taste? Intense and salty.
Samundari Khazana Curry
Traditionally curry has always been a workingman’s dish, a hearty stew of ingredients cooked down with spicy, robust flavors. But at Bombay Brasserie in London, you can get a curry that’s fit for a king. The Samundari Khazana translates as “Seafood Treasure,” and they take it literally. For a price tag of $2487.50, you get a Spanish lobster coated in gold leaf, a quartet of abalone, quail’s eggs stuffed with caviar, crab and white truffles. The dish was created to celebrate the release of Slumdog Millionaire on DVD, which is more than a little bizarre, but chef Prahlad Hegde expected them to move pretty quickly.
Da Hong Pao Tea
Of all the foods you wouldn’t expect to rack up high prices, a humble cup of tea is high on the list. But Da Hong Pao, a Chinese oolong varietal grown in the limestone gorges of Wuyishan, is so prized that a single gram of the stuff sells for $1,400. To brew a pot of it you’ll need to part with a cool ten thousand dollars. What makes this stuff so expensive? The soil where it is grown is especially rich in minerals, which imparts a rich and bold flavor. And any authentic Da Hong Po must be grown from a tea tree that was cut from a single group of ancient “mother” trees. There are barely any of those left, and when they’re gone they’re gone.
Marquis Los Cabos’ Popsicle
Okay, now we’re getting ridiculous. You can get a case of 100 Otter Pops for like six bucks. Why would you pay a thousand dollars for one popsicle? Mexico’s Marquis Los Cabos resort in Baja California thinks you would. The frozen delicacy is made from ultra high-end Premium Clase Azul Ultra tequila, along with a little bit of sugar and gold leaf mixed in. Because alcohol doesn’t freeze, the tequila is diluted so you’re not sucking down the equivalent of a half-dozen shots, but it’s still enough to give you a nice buzz. It better be, for $1000.
Strottarga Bianco Caviar
Let’s close this out with a food that’s already ludicrously expensive, just taken to absurd extremes. Caviar typically sells for $50-$75 an ounce, but Strottarga Bianco – only made by a single fishery in Austria – will cost you $40,000 for a single tablespoon. Why the hell is it so expensive? Strap in, buddy. First off, it’s made from the roe of the extremely rare albino sturgeon, which lays white eggs. Those eggs are then dehydrated to a fifth of their weight, grated and mixed with gold leaf. The final product is a powdery substance that not only tastes amazing (we heard) but also has a number of health benefits.