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15 of the World’s Most Expensive Foods

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If you ever find yourself in a Brewster’s Millions situation and have to burn through a fortune in a hurry, then all you need are this article, a few plane tickets and an empty stomach. (It never hurts to plan for the unexpected.) So just in case, here are 15 meals that can help you wipe out your bank account in no time.

1, 2 & 3. The Most Expensive Burgers

Where You Can Find It: Serendipity 3, New York

Price: $295

What Makes It So Expensive: Le Burger Extravagant is made with white truffle butter-infused Japanese Wagyu beef, topped with James Montgomery cheddar cheese, black truffles and a fried quail egg. It’s served on a gold-dusted roll spread with white truffle butter and topped with a blini, crème fraiche and caviar. If that weren’t enough to excuse the price, it also comes with a solid-gold, diamond-encrusted toothpick.

There’s Competition Though: While they may not be recognized by Guinness, New York food truck 666 Burger offers the $666 Douche Burger that features a Kobe beef patty stuffed with foie gras and gold-leaf, covered in caviar, lobster, truffles, Gruyere cheese melted with champagne steam and BBQ sauce made with Kopi Luwak coffee. While the burger was a satire of La Burger Extravagant, it is actually available for sale, but as of yet, only one person has actually ordered it.

There’s also the FleurBurger 5000, from Vegas restaurant Fleur that features a Wagyu beef and foie gras patty with truffle sauce and shaved black truffles. Your order for this $5,000 burger also includes a bottle of $2,500 wine, Chateau Petrus, so really, you’re not just paying for the burger -- but still, the $2,500 burger might be the world’s most expensive, even if it’s not official yet.

4. The Most Expensive Dessert

Where You Can Find It: Serendipity 3 (Yes, the same place as the most expensive burger)

Price: $25,000

What Makes It So Expensive: The Frrrozen Haute Chocolate ice cream sundae contains a blend of 28 cocoas, including 14 of the most expensive in the world. It is decorated with edible gold and served in a goblet lined with edible gold. As if all that weren’t enough, there is an 18 karat gold bracelet with 1 carat of diamonds in the bottom of the sundae, and the treat is served with a golden spoon decorated in white and chocolate diamonds, both of which go home with the diner.

5. The Most Expensive Curry

Where You Can Find It: Bombay Brasserie, London

Price: $3,200

What Makes It So Expensive: The Samundari Khazana (meaning “seafood treasure”) contains Devon crab, white truffle, Beluga caviar, gold leaf, a Scottish lobster coated in gold, four abalones and four quail eggs.

6. The Most Expensive Pie

Where You Can Find It: The Fence Gate Inn, Lancashire

Price: $14,260, or $1,781 per slice

What Makes It So Expensive: This meat pie contains $870 worth of Wagyu beef fillet, Chinese matsutake mushrooms (that cost around $400 a pound), winter black truffles, and French bluefoot mushrooms (they go for around $160 a pound). Two bottles of vintage 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine are used in the gravy (another $1,740 per bottle) and the crust is covered in edible gold leaf.

7. The Most Expensive Frittata

Where You Can Find It: Norma’s, New York

Price: $1,000

What Makes It So Expensive: The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata contains 10 ounces of sevruga caviar, one pound of lobster, six eggs, cream and chives. While that might not sound that impressive, consider the fact that the restaurant has to pay $65 per ounce for that particular caviar.

8. The Most Expensive Bagel

Where You Can Find It: Westin Hotel, New York

Price: $1,000

What Makes It So Expensive: Executive Chef Frank Tujague topped the most expensive bagel with white truffle cream cheese and goji berry-infused Riesling jelly and gold leaf. At least a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Les Amis d’Escoffier Scholarship, which benefits current and future culinary students.

9. The Most Expensive Pizza

Where You Can Find It: Margo’s Pizzeria, Malta

Price: $2,400

What Makes It So Expensive: Up to 100 grams of white truffles and gold leaf. Orders must be placed one week in advance and, on the bright side, the chain gives all the money from this particular pie away to charity.

11. The Most Expensive Hot Dog

Where You Can Find It: Capitol Dawg, Sacramento

Price: $145.49

What Makes It So Expensive: The California Capitol City Dawg is a ¾ pound, 18” all-beef frank with French mustard, garlic and herb mayo, sautéed shallots, mixed baby greens, applewood smoked uncured bacon, Swedish moose cheese (which costs $200 a pound), tomato, dried cranberries, pepper and a basil olive oil/cranberry-pear-coconut balsamic vinaigrette. It is then served in an herb focaccia roll toasted in white truffle butter.

12. The Most Expensive Ramen

Where You Can Find It: Fujimaki Gekijyo, Tokyo

Price: $110 per bowl

What Makes It So Expensive: This isn’t the ramen you snacked on during your college days. Owner/chef Shoichi Fujimaki opens the doors to his menu-less, reservation-only restaurant to those who have already dined at one of his other restaurants. Once you get access to the restaurant, you will be served the Five-Taste Blend Imperial Noodles made with over twenty ingredients and two different soup stocks.

13. The Most Expensive Soup

Where You Can Find It: Kai Mayfair, London

Price: $190 per bowl

What Makes It So Expensive: The Buddha Jumps Over the Wall contains shark’s fin, abalone, Japanese flower mushroom, sea cucumber, dried scallops, chicken, huan ham, pork and ginseng. Orders must be placed five days in advance so the chef can source all the ingredients.

14. The Most Expensive Sushi

Where You Can Find It: Request it From Filipino Chef Angelito Araneta Jr.

Price: $1,978.15 for five pieces

What Makes It So Expensive: Well, each piece of sushi is wrapped in gold leaf and topped with caviar, three Mikimoto pearls and served with a diamond. No word on what fish was actually used on the inside of the sushi rolls, but I’m kind of hoping it’s imitation crab.

15. The Most Expensive Ham

Where You Can Find It: The Food Hall in Sefridges, London

Price: $2,682 for a 15 pound ham (about $180 a pound)

What Makes It So Expensive: The Albarragena Jamon Iberico de Bellota is made from pigs that were only fed acorns and roots to give them a distinctive flavor. The ham is then cured for three years before being put in a handmade wooden box with an apron handmade by a Spanish tailor. And just so you know what you’re getting, each ham comes with its own DNA certificate confirming its authenticity.

Personally, I find it to be cheating when a restaurant serves their “most expensive” food item with an expensive bottle of wine or a diamond accessory. What do you guys think? Is it cheating to throw something extra in with the food items? And lastly, if you were going to indulge in one of these, which would you choose?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Stephen Missal
crime
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New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
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A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]

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