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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Ye Olde Foode and Gas-e Costs

May 26, 2008

Ye Olde Foode and Gas-e Costs

I paid $100 to fill my gas tank today. Actually, the pump stopped at $99.38, but I kept squeezing the handle, topping it off, and eking the last $.62 out of the pump just to see if our economy had actually reached a point where it takes a clean, crisp Benjamin Franklin to fill the tank in my vehicle.

One hundred dollars. I sat there and thought about it for a minute. The year the state of Mississippi awarded me a driver’s license was the same year I entered the job market— 1976. I was making $2.20 an hour as a radio station disc jockey. Gas was around $0.60 a gallon. Sitting there in the van next to the pump it hit me: I used to purchase an entire gallon for what I now have to pay for the last little drops used to top off the tank. I felt old.

Food costs have risen more in the last year than in any of the previous 27 years I’ve been in the restaurant business. My raw product costs have risen an average of 40% since last year. We’re doing everything we can not to raise prices, we’ve held firm so far (to the detriment of our bottom line), yet in New York they’re selling $175 hamburgers.

I read a news story on the other day that told of a hamburger joint in the financial district of lower Manhattan that serves a Kobe beef hamburger topped with foie gras, exotic mushrooms, shaved black truffles, golden truffle mayonnaise, and gold flakes. Gold flakes! The burger is served at The Wall Street Burger Shoppe.

Go figure. Wall Street types are paying $175 for hamburgers topped with precious metals and we’re worried about having to raise menu prices a nickel.

The Wall Street Burger Shoppe is one of those places with the extra “pe” on the end of “shop.” I hate that. I would bet that The Wall Street Burger Shoppe used to have a “Ye Olde” at the beginning of their name before they started trying to sell $175 burgers to stockbrokers and fund managers.

A general retail rule-of-thumb: Any place with an extra “e” on the end of any word in their name is going to be more expensive than a similar business without an Old English affectation on their shingle.

New York is also home to a $25,000 sundae (Serendipity 3), a $1,000 pizza (Nino Selmaj’s), a $1,000 bagel (a Westin Hotel), and a $55 bottle of water. Could it be that we people in the flyover states, who are paying exorbitant prices for gas and milk, are subsidizing the eating habits of pin-striped and wing-tipped New Yorkers?

Wait a minute. It’s not just New York. In Philadelphia someone’s selling a $100 cheese steak sandwich using Kobe beef, truffles, foie gras, and heirloom tomatoes. That’s a far cry from the pepper and onions finished with Cheez Whiz of the past (note: neither “cheez” nor “whiz” has an extra “e” at the end of their name).

Reading these news stories infuriated me for a moment. Then I thought of the absurdity of a $25,000 sundae, and I came to the realization that we really don’t have it so bad. In the end, I’d rather live down here and pay $4 for gas than live next door to an idiot who would use gold as a condiment on a $175 cheeseburger.

Black and Blue Burgers

3 pounds Ground Beef
1/3 cup Blackening Seasoning
1 Tbl Kosher Salt

1/2 pound Blue Cheese Crumbles

6 Hamburger Buns
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter, melted

6 Slices Red Onion
8-12 slices Ripe Tomato
2 cups Iceburg Lettuce, shredded

1 recipe Purple Parrot Café Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe below)

Divide the ground beef into 6 equal parts and form 1-1/2-inch thick patties.

Sprinkle patties with the blackening seasoning and salt. Cook over direct high heat for 8-10 minutes for medium- medium well burgers (155-160 degrees). While the burgers are still on the grill, top with blue cheese crumbles dividing equally between burgers. Close the grill lid to melt blue cheese.

Brush the inside surfaces of the hamburger buns with the melted butter. Place on grill and cook over medium-direct heat for 2-3 minutes. Place burgers on the grilled buns and top with onion, tomato and lettuce. Serve the blue cheese dressing on the side

Yield: 6 burgers

Purple Parrot Café Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tbl garlic powder
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp white pepper

Use a wire whip to combine the mayonnaise, blue cheese, sour cream and half and half in a stainless steel bowl. Mix these ingredients together thoroughly and then add the remaining ingredients and blend together. Refrigerate until needed. Best if made a day in advance.

2 1/2 cups

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