A Brief History Of The Expensive Burger

It may be hard to believe we once lived in a world where there was no such thing as a $50 hamburger. But it has only been a decade since the humble ground beef patty entered the high cuisine pantheon.

Daniel Boulud and 50 burger-eaters celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his groundbreaking foie gras– fattened burger with a lunch and a panel discussion June 3 at db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan. This is the restaurant where in 2001, Boulud introduced his "DB Burger," a sandwich that shocked the culinary establishment with both its $27 price tag and its inclusion of exotic cuts of beef and a dab of goose liver in the patty.

During the "State of the Burger" panel, Boulud revealed that about a dozen years ago he had been tinkering with the idea of a gourmet burger. At that time, he was contacted by John Tierney, a newspaper reporter, for an article about French terrorists who were threatening McDonald's restaurants in France.

Daniel said that he told the reporter that the French were upset they had not invented the burger themselves. He then told Tierney to come to his restaurant in a few weeks to try the burger he'd been working on.

Tierney came. He ate. So did 10 other guinea pigs in Daniel's restaurant that day. Some pigs! The recipe has not changed: a sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle on a parmesan-dusted bun.

Those who came and ate this Friday in New York paid $110 for the burger, an appetizer, red wine, a copy of a new Esquire cookbook for men, and the mixed joys of a 90-minute roundtable on hamburgers.

Other highlights from the panel: Daniel Coudreaut, the executive chef and director of culinary innovation at McDonald's said the company had originally intended to offer its 1/3 lb. angus burger, which he spent two years helping create, for a limited time, but it was so popular, "We couldn't take it out. There would have been a mutiny."

One panelist complained to Randy Garutti, the chief operating officer of Shake Shack, that his single patty burger, though popular, is not enough to fill a hungry man's stomach, but that a double-burger is too much. "One and a half shake shack burgers would be the proper size," he declared.