The most expensive Valentine’s Day dinner? Try $99,300

The rich are different than you and me, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, and that includes how they celebrate Valentine’s Day. 

Pitched at the world’s growing class of ultra-rich 1 percenters is the most expensive Valentine’s dinner ever: a $99,300 meal that will be prepared by a Michelin-starred chef at your home. 

The dinner includes ritzy ingredients such as duck eggs and truffles, as well as a dish of Wagyu beef touched with silver leaf that’s served on a bed of dry ice. Each dish in the eight-course meal is combined with a fine wine, such as the $27,680 bottle of La Romanee-Conti, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, 1990. The price tag also includes a harpist, a poet and doves, as well as chef Adam Simmonds, who earned a Michelin star in 2006. 

 “We felt it was incumbent to offer something that was truly exceptional and where finance wasn’t the issue, but what was the issue was the ultimate and extreme in romance," said Marcel Knobil, the founder of London-based VeryFirstTo, the company that masterminded the dinner.

Catering to the wealthiest doesn't just mean providing cookie-cutter products, Knobil said. 

"There are significant segments of consumers throughout many territories of the world who have a great amount of disposable income, and more and more are not as willing to buy luxury off the shelf," he said. "They would much rather have something that’s bespoke."

The Valentine's Day dinner can be tweaked to fit the client's desires, Knobil said. He added that his company has not yet sold the dinner, although he is expecting the offer to generate interest. 

 By contrast, the sumptuous meal is unlikely to be of much interest to the hoi polloi. The cost of the dinner amounts to almost twice the median American annual income of $53,000. The average earners in the top 1 percent recorded income of $1.12 million in 2010.  

As for the rest of America’s 99 percent, Valentine’s Day is slated to be a more modest affair. Only 54 percent of Americans are planning to celebrate this year, down from 60 percent in 2013, according to the National Retail Federation. The average expense on candy, cards, dinner and gifts will be $133.91, just a few dollars more than last year’s $130.97.

And for those who are really watching their budgets, fast-food and chain restaurants are increasingly muscling in on the Valentine’s Day bonanza. This year, Waffle House will offer Valentine's dinners by candlelight, with their waffles and bacon served up on white tablecloths.

Even as a publicity stunt, of course, VeryFirstTo's extravagant meal underlines the growing buying power of the world’s top 1 percent of income earners, who have continued see their wealth multiply. The top 1 percent now controls almost half the world’s wealth, according to a January report from Oxfam. That means the wealth of the richest 1 percent equals $110 trillion. 

With a growing market for luxury products, marketers are responding to the demands of the ultra-elite. General Electric's (GE) fastest-growing appliance line is the Cafe brand, with refrigerators bearing price tags as high as $3,000, the New York Times noted on Sunday.

With their greater buying power, top income earners are largely driving the economic recovery, according to research from economists Steven Fazzari and Barry Cynamon. Although that's all and good for makers of luxury goods, it poses problems for all manner of companies that serve consumers lower down the income ladder. With consumer spending accounting for roughly 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, a broad slowdown in consumption also would spell trouble for the economy at large.

  • Aimee Picchi

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