This is a sixty dollar hamburger. When I told people I had paid sixty dollars for a hamburger reactions varied. Some people gave me the business, the kind of good-natured ribbing any sandwich enthusiast gets from time to time. Others were simply shocked and called me a fool. Still a few people sort of shrugged and gave it a “well of course you did.” Their reasoning, it seemed, was that faced with such an item you would have to try it, for the novelty of being able to claim you did so and basically because it’s there. It’s a hamburger that costs sixty dollars; how could you not order it?
Before I headed to Las Vegas I solicited opinions as to where I might find a good sandwich. Associates had a few suggestions, but nearly all of them where hamburger joints, rather than sandwich shops. Las Vegas, it seems, is a burger kind of town. That was fine with me; having recently started featuring hamburgers in Slummin’ It I figured a classy burger would be a nice change of pace. When I got to Vegas one associate regaled me with a tale of a burger he had just eaten. “They put a short rib on top of it!” he crowed, and I looked at him quizzically. “Why not,” I asked, “just make a short rib sandwich?” There was a burger on the menu at the Burger Bar that raised the same question, a burger with half a lobster tail on top. It just seems so unnecessary, like a hamburger and a sandwich had stumbled together into a transmogrifier, emerging as an awful hybrid. That The Rossini didn’t commit this error is a big part of what I found appealing. Contrary to what associates suggested, I didn’t just order it because it was there. In truth, I was charmed. The Rossini is a wagyu beef patty topped with pan seared foie gras and black truffles, served with a brown sauce. It’s not a burger piled high with everything they can think of, it’s not trying to convince you of its value in sheer size. At a glance, there’s nothing ostentatious about it except the price. It looked to my eyes like a burger someone had crafted, legitimately sat and thought about for a long time. A burger someone had mapped and measured, a burger that had ingredients working together to produce the harmony I value so much in sandwiches. But sixty dollars is a lot of money to pay for a hamburger, and the ingredient list wasn’t enough to convince me to order it.
After all, foie gras and truffles is a bit on the nose, isn’t it? It’s almost hoity-toity. It’s a caricature of a fancy burger. Its design might be carefully considered, but I am not so naive as to think it couldn’t be simple gimmickry. Maybe someone simply thought of the fanciest thing they could put on a burger and waited for some rube to come in from out of town and fall for it. Was I willing to be that rube? What settled the issue for me, what finally got me to pay sixty hard earned dollars for a hamburger, was Rossini.
I mention Rossini somewhat frequently in my conversations with people, and it’s usually the same quick story. The opera composer used to tell people that he had only known two moments of true tragedy. The first, he said, was when his mother died. The second was when a truffle roasted chicken fell over the side of a boat, lost forever. I have one associate who scoffs at this story. He thinks it speaks ill of Rossini to compare those two events. I love the story. I think it speaks to how deeply we might hold our passions in life, and not only that but how much we might put into each and every instance of our passion. Do not just love food, the story tells me. Love each and every meal, look forward to each and every roasted chicken as if it held the key to your very existence. Savor every moment of pleasure, and mourn each as it departs.
Stepping back for a moment and trying to read that as I imagine someone else might, it seems a bit much. But that’s exactly the point! Let what you love consume you. Be fearless. Order the sixty dollar hamburger.
It was good. It was very, very good. It was probably the best hamburger I’ve ever had, but I don’t eat that many hamburgers so I don’t know exactly how much stock you should put into that. The beef was juicy and immensely flavorful, the foie gras rich and with a deep flavor that wasn’t afraid to play at the uglier edges of savory. The truffles were an earthy counterpart, cutting the richness of the beef and the foie gras in a way more subtle than other options, something spicy for example. The ingredients worked as I thought they might, a delicate harmony that was at its best at the very center of the burger, the meat the rarest, each bite containing the most foie gras and truffle. Whether or not it’s worth sixty dollars is something each of us would have to decide for ourselves. I’d order it again, full price, without hesitation. Whether or not it’s worthy of Rossini’s name…I might argue that nothing is, but that doesn’t mean that nothing should try. I can only say that it was a very, very good hamburger.