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Feed Me The Money 

Food as a major investment

The most expensive purchase you're likely ever to make is your home. You can drop a bundle on a car, too. Shelter and transportation are basic necessities, but there's nothing more basic than food. So for those who must live in a McMansion and drive a car that costs six figures, here are a few "foodstuffs" that could give conspicuous consumption a whole new meaning. Start your day with a steaming cup of coffee, but don't go slumming at Starbucks. Brew yourself a pot of Kopi Luwak coffee. Kopi (the Indonesian word for coffee) Luwak comes from the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi. On these islands live small marsupials called luwaks. These little creatures like to climb into coffee trees and eat the reddest, ripest coffee beans. Problem is, they really don't digest them all that well, so the beans are excreted almost intact. The enzymes in the animals' stomachs add something unique to the coffee's flavor through fermentation. Coffee plantation workers scoop the luwaks' poop and extract the beans from it. After going through all that, it's no wonder Kopi Luwak costs up to $75 a quarter pound. That'll wake you up.

If you want just a light salad for lunch, forego the bottled Ranch or Thousand Island and whip up a nice olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Badia a Coltibuono's Campo Corto is a premium brand of Tuscan olive oil. A 500 ml. bottle is $39.95. But that's chump change. How about 100-year-old Leonardi Balsamico "Reserva Oro." This complex, viscous vinegar can also be drizzled over grilled fish or meat, or sipped as they do in Modena. The elegant square bottle is packaged in a velvet-lined wooden box and sells for a mere $549.99.

Splash Reserva Oro on some wild mushrooms. Fresh porcinis go for $35-$50 a pound. Or you could pay $28 for six truffles, those elegant fungi rooted out from their underground beds by trained pigs. One variety, tuber melanosporum, can cost between $800 and $1,500 a pound.

Kobe beef is a special grade of beef from Wagyu cattle raised in Japan. These cattle are massaged with sake and their daily diet includes large amounts of beer. This produces extraordinarily tender meat — probably because the cows are too soused to build any muscle by exercising. Kobe beef often costs over $100 per pound, which would make one quarter-pounder worth $25. And that's without the bun!

Caviar is the epitome of luxury foods. Serving it implies that money is no object. And it had better not be, since a 2-oz. jar of Beluga Imperial Malossol caviar is $180.

There's only one thing missing from this flight on the culinary Concorde. The Algonquin Hotel in New York City has just what you need. Their "Martini on the Rock" is an ordinary gin and vermouth cocktail, but the ice tinkling in the glass is a diamond. The $10,000 cocktail requires 72 hours' notice — the ridiculously rich (or stupid) buyer meets with the hotel's in-house jeweler to pick out the stone, and the hotel's staff ensures that the martini is delivered to the right table. That would be enough to shake and stir just about anyone.

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