Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beer...Is There Anything It Can't Do?

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley Spotted Together -
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley were spotted at a pub in Cambridge Wednesday night.

The owner of "River Gods" told WBZ the two sat in a booth together and talked for about an hour.

Over the summer, Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly conduct while responding to reports of a possible break-in at Gates' home. Gates accused the officer of racial profiling.

The incident led to a nation-wide debate over racial profiling and race relations, when President Barack Obama commented on the situation - coming to Gates' defense. All three men later sat at a table outside the White House in what became known as the 'beer summit.'

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You Paid WHAT?

Latest Newspaper Column:

Recently, tequila maker Jose Cuervo ­decided to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the company by making a very special "Extra Añejo" blend, which would go for a ­whopping 2,250 bucks a bottle.

I have to say, I was a little taken aback. In the days of my misspent youth, I was known to ­partake of Señor Cuervo's product on occasion, and "premium" is not the word that comes to mind when I reminisce about it. The words that do come to mind are ­"hurling," "psychosis," and, "Oh, God, just let me get through this and I swear I'll never drink again!"

Nevertheless, the pricey tequila, aged in oak barrels for three years, blended with "select aged tequilas from the family's reserves," then aged 10 more months in used Spanish sherry casks, is reported to be a near-religious experience by one drinker. "A beautifully balanced tequila with an elegance you'll find in few sipping ­spirits," wrote Tony Sachs of the Huffington Post.

Well, maybe. But $2,250 a bottle? For that kind of dough, I want more than smooth taste and a good buzz. I want it to make my teeth whiter, my hair shinier and my eyesight better, and give me a singing voice like Van Morrison. And not just to my own ears.

But it got me thinking about conspicuous ­consumption: the quest for not just the best ­product, but the most expensive one. There's just a special cachet that attaches to products that make people go, "You paid what?!"

Take, for instance, the world's most expensive car, the Bugatti Veyron. You might think that $1.5 million is a lot of money for a car. But when you consider that it packs a 16-cylinder engine generating 1,001 horsepower, goes 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, hits 252 mph top speed in less than a minute, and can be ordered with an interior by Louis Vuitton...

OK, it's still a lot of money for a car. So go for one of life's simpler pleasures, like the world's most expensive bagel. Concocted by Chef Frank Tujague of New York's Westin Hotel, the bagel is "topped with white truffle cream cheese and goji berry-infused Riesling jelly with golden leaves."

As it turns out, those white truffles are the ­second most expensive food in the world (with caviar being No. 1). So if you've got a hankering for a nutritious breakfast featuring a tree ­fungus dug up by pigs, hop on up to the Westin. It'll only set you back a thousand bucks.

If want to gloat to your poorer friends and relations that you just dropped a grand on ­breakfast, why not do it on the world's most expensive cell phone? The Swiss company Goldvish SA sells a phone made of 18k white gold and set with 20 carats of fine diamonds. The phone also features Bluetooth, 2 GB of ­storage, FM radio, a digital camera and MP3 playback. What, no bottle opener?

Of course, you're not going to wash a ­breakfast like that down with Sanka. No, you want the worlds' most expensive coffee, the $600-a-pound brew made from the Kopi Luwak beans found in Southeast Asia.

The Kopi Luwak is cultivated, if you can call it that, in a somewhat unusual way. The raw beans are eaten, but not fully digested, by a weasel-like critter called the Asian Palm Civet. Something in the little beastie's digestive tract alters the chemistry of the beans and apparently creates extra deliciousness. When nature takes its course, the natives gather up and sell the beans, then presumably retire to their homes and ­chortle that they just charged some Westerner a premium price for weasel poo.

It just goes to show: There is nothing so ­outrageously priced that someone, somewhere, won't pay for it. Because as it turns out, the Cuervo referenced above isn't even the world's most expensive tequila. That honor goes to a ­bottle of "Super Premium" tequila made by a company called Tequila Ley .925. Price: $225,000. For a bottle of booze.

P.T. Barnum was right. There's one born every minute.