It was Auntie Mame who coined the phrase, “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” We’re pretty sure that Rosalind Russell’s infamous character, Mame Dennis, wasn’t exactly referring to food when she made this proclamation, but you could certainly apply that sentiment to the current trend of food dipped, coated, infused, wrapped, and dusted in gold.
Long before 24 gold leaf began to pop up on menus in this century, the use of gold leaf, gold flakes and, even molten gold was eaten and imbibed by the aristocracy from ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages. In the 16th century, members of French nobility actually drank liquid gold as a cure for aging. While the faithful may have been well preserved for their age, they met their fate from the very drink meant to keep them young forever.
For more than 400 years the Japanese city of Kanazawa has been perfecting the art of gold leaf handcraft. Nearly all of Japan’s gold leaf is produced in the capital city of the Prefecture of Ishikawa. The month’s long process of pressing and hammering gold between sheets of specialized paper results in superfine sheets of gleaming 24 karat gold leaf. And, because the Japanese have an affinity for cultivating trends, they’ve been using gold leaf in food since the late 16th century and continue to do so today. In 2015, the Nestle branch of Japan introduced a limited series of 500 Kit Kat bars wrapped in gold leaf as an offering of luxury to their chocolate-loving clientele. Gimme a break indeed.
If you haven’t experienced edible gold for yourself, you’re probably wondering why anyone would choose to indulge. Well, why not? Edible gold is completely non-toxic and even thought to improve blood circulation and possess anti-inflammatory properties, although it’s highly unlikely those are the reasons we’re consuming golden Kit Kat’s. For the past several decades you were more likely to find gold sprinkled on the haute cuisine at expensive, luxury restaurants, used by the world’s top chefs and patissier. But the hunger for more democratic cuisine across the globe has leveled the playing, or in this case, cooking field. Now we’re seeing the trend of gold leaf covered donuts, pizza, burgers, sushi, and soft-serve ice cream. Junk food for the gold-obsessed masses.
Tipping the scales at $2,300, Dutch Chef Diego Buik holds the record (according to Guinness) for the world’s most expensive hamburger. Made of aged Japanese Wagyu beef, lobster, foie gras, white truffles, and caviar, Buik’s burger is finished off with a gold leaf covered bun, of course. Vegans will have to pass on this one.
Tucked in Anaheim, California’s Garden Walk shopping center is Snowopolis. An ice cream shop known for its adventurous take on ice cream, shaved ice, and frozen yogurt, their latest addition is the 24 karat gold ice cream cone that has a statue-like appearance, as though it were dipped in liquid gold. Its special creamy vanilla soft serve ice cream is made with actual gold flakes and completely coated with 24 karat gold leaves and has a waffle cone that’s sprayed with 24 karat gold dust. At a mere $14.95, it feels like a bargain compared to Buik’s golden-topped burger. But if Snowoplis’ Golden Ice Cream Cone feels a little basic, you can always shell out $25,000 for Serendipity 3’s Frrrozen Haute Chocolate Sundae in New York City. Made with 5 grams of 24 karat gold, this high-end version of the classic dessert is served up in a golden goblet and accompanied with a golden spoon and gold and diamond crown, your highness.
We’re not quite sure what sparked the current revival of gilded food, but gold has fascinated man (and woman) for thousands of years, and we’re pretty sure it will continue to pop up in most unlikely places in the future. So if you can’t beat ‘em, then just eat ‘em.