Not a day seems to pass without an Internet story on the world’s most expensive hamburger. In most cases, the burger depicted is not new—there are really only a handful of competitors for the title, and they are constantly written up with the same zeal devoted to the reinvention of the wheel.
The most recent story focused on the unfortunately named Douche Burger, which costs $666 and is sold by Frank Aliquo’s 666 Burger food truck in New York City. It’s a Kobe beef patty studded with gold leaf and covered with caviar, foie gras, truffles, lobster chunks and aged Gruyere, garnished with Himalayan rock salt and a sauce made from Kopi Luwak coffee beans (that Himalayan rock salt will drive up the price every time). The burger is actually a goof, a dish invented by Aliquo to mock the pretensions of people who indulge in gourmet food—hence the name, presumably.
The craze started in 2007 by Daniel Boulud, who featured the DB Royale Double Truffle Burger at his Manhattan restaurant, DB Bistro Moderne. His version was stuffed with truffles, foie gras and short ribs braised in red wine, and cost $120. A similar burger survives on the restaurant’s menu today for $32, with fewer truffles. The most expensive hamburger currently sold in America is the Fleurburger 5000, offered at Fleur, Hubert Keller’s Las Vegas eatery located in the Mandalay Bay hotel. It costs $5000, but comes with a bottle of 1990 Chateau Petrus (the burger by itself is $75). When you consider that 1990 Petrus sells for $3500-4000 in the few retail stores that carry it, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal.
The basis of this collective obsession, undoubtedly, is that the hamburger is something many of us eat on a daily basis. Some of us crave to see how the other half lives with an intensity of longing that is beyond imagining. This craving is really a zero-sum fantasy game—you either have it or you don’t. Fitzgerald thought the rich were different from you and me, while Hemingway simply believed they had more money.
In the world of fantasy food, the $5000 hamburger is really not a show-stopper. In 2008, a pair of Yubari melons sold at auction in Japan for the equivalent of $22,872. The melons, though, were created by Mother Nature, and Boulud and Keller have a long way to go before they can compete with her.