A recent viewing of CBS’s latest, “FBI: Most Wanted” inspired me toward a bit of detective work of my own. Granted, this was accomplished from my own couch, but it was brain fodder nonetheless.
Admittedly, I’d be pretty useless where tracking down fugitives is concerned, excellent social media stalking skills notwithstanding, but it got me thinking about a different kind of wanted list. Most Wanted Foods (and Beverages); especially those that tend to elude us. (Ever heard of Dry January? And also New Year’s Resolutions? This is where my brain is at.)
Even in the Golden Age of Amazon, not everything is always just a click away, evidenced by these five foods and beverages that are seriously hard to come by.
1. Popeyes Chicken Sandwich
Someday I know we will live in a society where the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich is just another item on a fast food menu, where the only difficulty in acquiring one is relative to one’s proximity to a Popeyes. But that day is not yet upon us. After its spectacular, selling-out debut in August of last year, the PCS continues to enjoy a start/stop existence, depending on where you live, and how likely you are to suffer bodily harm while waiting in line for one.
2. The Alchemist Heady Topper
Just by reading this list, every beer nerd within striking distance of you just swooned. Such is the power of Heady Topper, one of the brews that inspired the term “unicorn beer,” not for any multicolored frippery, but because it really is just that rare. With zero marketing, this small-batch, unfiltered, unpasteurized, double India Pale Ale from The Alchemist in Stowe, Vermont is one that true beer disciples will make a pilgrimage for. (The West Coast equivalent is Pliny The Elder by Russian River Brewing Company.) It can be bought, but only in the Northern East Coast, and only in limited quantities. Outside of the brewery itself you’ll pay upwards of $20 for a single 16-ounce can.
3. Wagyu/Kobe Beef
Here’s the thing: It’s not that it’s hard to come by, rather, it’s hard to know whether what you’re getting is the real thing, or even what the real thing is, as laws and terminology have left Americans confused over the last decade. To begin with, Wagyu is a breed, and Kobe is a place. Kobe beef must come from a particular town in Japan, whereas Wagyu cattle can be raised anywhere, whether or not they are treated to a lifestyle and diet way more luxurious than yours, resulting in the telltale marbling. Twice in the last 20 years a ban in the U.S. on the importing of actual Kobe beef was put in place and then lifted, so you’ll still find relics of information that tell you it isn’t legal here at all, making you question the authenticity of that which seems available to you. (It currently is legal.)
Basically, if you see Kobe on an American restaurant menu, be dubious. If you see Wagyu, you stand a better chance of having that be accurate, but it’s not likely Japanese. If you see Wagyu as a burger or ground meat option, go back to being dubious. If you want to buy some actual Kobe beef for enjoyment in your own home, expect to pay about $200 or more per pound.
Terroir of Japan Steak Flight, $879 on Goldbelly
4. Pappy Van Winkle
Now all of the whiskey nerds have swooned. The first family of bourbon brings new meaning to the word “allocated,” and leads with an apology on their own website: “We are frequently asked why our whiskey is so hard to find…” Only bars, restaurants, and retailers with a solid history of selling whiskey are allowed even a bottle apiece yearly of Old Rip Van Winkle’s six offerings, and the higher you go in age, the higher the sticker price.
Yearly allocations happen around the 1st of December, and because of the cult following of those who need to get their lips on a sip, or even their picture next to a bottle, if you’re looking for Pappy after New Year’s Eve, you’re probably too late, even when the price of single pours start to creep into the hundreds of dollars. Whether it’s just that good or worth it isn’t even the point; take a basic economics lesson about supply and demand from Pappy.
5. White Truffles
Only available for a short season around November and December, the life of a white truffle from Italy’s Piedmont region plays out like a crime drama itself. Hiding out amongst certain tree roots, it takes specially trained dogs or pigs to unearth them. (Apparently dogs are more commonly used, as the pigs eventually figured out how enjoyable they were and stopped prioritizing giving them over to the humans.) The value of white truffles is in their decay—the prized, umami aroma comes from the ongoing loss of volume that begins once they are ripped from the ground, so getting them from the earth to consumers as quickly as possible requires a mercenary team of hunters, exporters, and distributors, often casually dressed and carrying backpacks like unassuming university students, and not like the delivery mechanism for one of the world’s most expensive substances.
You can actually buy them on Amazon, presuming seasonal availability, but at $155 per ounce, they still remain squarely in the “hard to get” category.
Header image courtesy of Chowhound.