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People are actually buying this $100 grilled cheese sandwich

The once-humble lunch has been transformed into an 'ultimate culinary indulgence' by a Chicago restaurant.

By Money Staff Apr 30, 2014 3:09PM

This post comes from Charles Passy at partner site MarketWatch.

MarketWatch on MSN MoneyThe pitch:

Why settle for your everyday grilled cheese when you can go gourmet? That’s what the team at Chicago’s Deca Restaurant + Bar in Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton hotel has to say when it comes to this old-school favorite.

 The Zillion Dollar Grilled Cheese
 - Courtesy of deco Restaurant + Bar via Facebook, honor of National Grilled Cheese Month (ending today), the eatery has been offering what it calls the "Zillion Dollar Grilled Cheese." In truth, it’s not a zillion dollars, but it’s plenty pricey at 100 bucks. Still, the restaurant practically makes it seem like a bargain, noting how much the sandwich packs in between and atop those two slices of bread (and artisan country sourdough bread, no less).

Begin with the cheese itself — a 40-year-old aged Wisconsin cheddar that’s been “infused with 24K gold flakes, taking the grilled cheese to the next level of decadence,” according to the restaurant’s press release. Add in thinly sliced black Iberico ham that’s “sourced from pigs living primarily in the South of Spain, allowed to roam free in the pasture eating acorns.” And don’t forget the heirloom tomatoes “lightly drizzled with 100-year-old aged balsamic vinegar.”

And for that matter, don’t hold the mayo — or in this case, the aioli (a spread similar to mayo) that’s been flavored with truffles sourced from Oregon. Finally, there are the toppings: foie gras straight from New York’s Hudson Valley, a sunny side up duck egg and shavings of that Oregon truffle.

Need an accompaniment?  The restaurant includes a side skillet of lobster mac ‘n’ cheese with the sandwich, calling the complete package “the ultimate culinary indulgence.”

The reality:

Obviously, you don’t need a culinary degree to know that a quality grilled cheese sandwich can run well below $100 — or well below $10, for that matter. But even if you allow for the fact that this sandwich has pricey stuff in it that might justify the three-figure cost — see this item-by-item breakdown — some foodies suggest that it’s not necessarily a “great” sandwich.

In particular, they point to the fact that the choice of cheese may not be ideal. Clark Wolf, author of “American Cheeses” , says he’d prefer a Vermont cheddar over a Wisconsin one since “the Vermont is creamier.” (Another possibility, say cheeseheads, is a Gruyere since that cheese is known for melting well — it’s what goes in the classic fondue recipe, after all.)

Additionally, experts raise issues with, well, the additions: Some of the extras may be superfluous (food professionals note that edible gold leaf doesn’t really have any taste) and some may be wrongheaded (Clark Wolf says the duck egg is too gamey — he’d prefer a quail egg). But more to the point, they say, too many toppings and fillings can get in each other’s way. “It’s like the cocktail that has nine ingredients,” says one New York cheesemonger who preferred to remain anonymous.

And that’s not even factoring in the wrongheadedness of a “luxury” grilled cheese sandwich served in a high-end hotel eatery, says Clark Wolf. “For me, the ultimate grilled sandwich is one made by me in my pajamas,” he says.

The restaurant counters such criticisms by noting that the idea was to have a little fun in honor of National Grilled Cheese month. “We wanted to make a statement about grilled cheese,” says Tom Segesta, general manager of the Chicago Ritz-Carlton. Segesta also notes that the choice of a Wisconsin cheddar was to play up the hotel’s Midwestern locale.

Finally, Segesta says that despite the hotel’s “ritzy” reputation, it can be a relatively reasonable place for lunch, with most items at Deca Restaurant running $14 to $25. Still, some patrons apparently had no problems forking over $100 for a grilled cheese sandwich: Segesta says the Deca has sold more than 30 to date. 

More from MarketWatch

Apr 30, 2014 5:43PM
A grilled cheese sándwich is still a grilled cheese sándwich.  Anyone who would pay 100 bucks for one is stupid.
Apr 30, 2014 6:56PM
I love this MSN....a grilled cheese sandwich that you allow people to comment on. While our economy, the FED, Russia, Syria, serious crimes commited in WA DC and a list of articles that goes for miles are sans by you of any voice or reply from your readers.
Apr 30, 2014 9:12PM
Still more proof  that humans are, far and away, the dumbest animals on the planet.
Apr 30, 2014 11:16PM
People could be sold Shiit on a string with very little effort as long as they see it as the in thing. Remember there's a sucker born every minute and they grow up to buy this sort of crap.
Apr 30, 2014 9:11PM

if you have the money for $100 grilled have too much money

And don't give me the sob story about how its their money and they can spend it as they want

You blow $100 dollars on a grilled cheese, you have no concept on what money is worth

May 1, 2014 6:15AM
It's all relative, isn't it? 

The lowest-priced NBA playoff tickets this year were $138. That's for nose-bleed seats. A roast pork sandwich and mac & cheese at a game cost cost $21 total for the highest level of processed food imaginable. Parking is another $35 and traffic will be a nightmare. Yet you go (and take your family so you're really paying 3-4x that amount) for the experience and the memories. 

A family day-trip to Disney set you back at least $1000 when all is said and done. 

People pay hundreds of dollars for iPhones and iPads when for most a flip-phone will do. 

Heck, just having a sit-down lunch at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan will set you back $20-40 not including the tip. 

Anyone can put together a similar sandwich for 1/4 of the price but is this really any crazier than any other American indulgence? 
Apr 30, 2014 6:47PM
 “For me, the ultimate grilled sandwich is one made by me in my pajamas" -Author Clark Wolf

Could he have questioned the sophistication of the msn reader, after that quote?
Apr 30, 2014 11:04PM
We want BACON!  BACON!  BACON!  on that sandwich, and lots of it.
May 1, 2014 8:40AM
Apr 30, 2014 8:52PM
  One of the most STUPID AND WASTEFUL things I've ever heard of !! First off , who's STUPID ENOUGH to spend a HUNDRED BUCKS on a GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH ??? Answer : RICH IDIOTS that don't have anything else BETTER to do with their money !! Secondly, who wants GOLD IN THEIR CHEESE ?? That's a TERRIBLE WASTE - there's A LOT BETTER things to use gold for ! CONCLUSION : Only a COMPLETE MORON WOULD BUY THIS SANDWICH !
May 1, 2014 12:28AM
I personally don't think I would order it.  But, come on, everybody chooses something to splurge on once in a while, at the least.  Spending a hundred dollars on occasion on one meal is not THAT uncommon.  People who are complaining so much about this should think about the things they buy that they don't need to or SHOULDN'T, like soda, cigarettes, etc.
May 1, 2014 1:10AM
Please this is just crated for the publicity...and voila!
They got the publicity
Mission Accomplished
Apr 30, 2014 6:33PM
conspicuous consumption at it's best.
May 1, 2014 7:18AM
No thanks.  I think I'll stick with my extra sharp cheddar on whole wheat.  Its expensive as sandwiches go, but its not a hundred bucks and I get to decide how much cheese and butter I want to use.
May 1, 2014 10:26AM

I would try it... Can just as easily burn $100 on other stupid sh*t.

May 1, 2014 11:14AM
I saw the chef buying the cheese at Costco!!!!!
Apr 30, 2014 8:50PM
I wouldn't eat it for $100.00 much less pay that for it.... Heart attack right at you gut. Maybe this sandwich would work in the right way for the Obama followers....
May 1, 2014 6:43AM

I am with Yippiee..

Where's the bacon, can't make a grilled cheese without bacon. Come to think of it, can't make anything without bacon. Bacon, bacon, bacon... got a have bacon

Apr 30, 2014 11:02PM

This cheese sandwich is so sublime it would have the old dude from Monopoly salivating. Just look at the ingredients.  40 year old Wisconson cheddar; Straight from a dairy cow that wasn't treated with BHT horomones. Black Iberico pigs; The feeding of acrons give the meat a buttery taste. Heirloom tomatoes; all natural from a strong line of REAL tomatoes (NOT the GMO seeds that are going to make us grow a third eye or second head). 100 year old balsamic vinegar; as with every thing, as things age, the taste improves ( 100 years ago Henry Ford introduces the assembly line for the Model-T). Aioli; High end mayo flavored with truffles ( truffles are like a mushroom that enhances the flavor and costs $60.00 for 3 ounces). Foie gras; ( Duck liver pate from award winning New York's Hudson Bay 1.5 LBS for $89.00) Duck eggs: tastier due to a higher fat content. So all in all, A  sandwich fit for a king.        

For the rest of the 99 percent , Texas Toast, Best Foods Mayo, Kraft Velveeta or Land O Lakes processed cheese or natural cheese. Chesse should be room temp before grilling. Also Kraft or Land O Lakes Mac and Cheese with a can of Lobster or Crab Meat.  Bon Appetit!                                                           

May 1, 2014 10:35AM
I think a $100 bill between two pieces of cardboard sounds more appetizing.
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