We received an email from Eater the other day with the irritating subject line, Would you pay $300 for barbecue? The story was about an outfit called Goldbely which specializes in packing rare foodstuffs for safe shipping and charges accordingly. The example barbecue was Louis Mueller in Taylor TX, which has upped shipments 30-40% since they started using Goldbely 7 months ago. (That would be impressive if they’d provide some actual numbers. If you’ve gone from 10 to 14 orders a week I’m not impressed.)
I say more power to Goldbely, and Amazon, and anybody else who is helping to make farflung treats more widely available and legitimately wetting their beak in the process. This is different from the experience when I was dabbling in mail order foods a couple decades back, and discovered that many shippers were using their packaging and postage as a profit center. Today you can order what is probably the world’s best barbecue from Snow’s and pay a very reasonable $49.95 for 2nd day air, no matter how much you order. Yes, you will rather quickly climb over the $300 threshold, but how much is your time worth when you are getting up at an ungodly hour (assuming you’ve already made it to Austin, which is also a line item) and driving 50 miles across the post oak prairie to get there before they run out of brisket?
I have frequently hawked mail order sources like Benton Country Ham and ButcherBox, as well as Frog Hollow Farm and Allen Brothers. (Full disclosure, the last two have been my clients at one time or another.) I also buy spices and specialty ingredients that are available on Amazon at obviously high markups with “free” Prime Shipping, because how else are you going to get them in a remote enclave like Saratoga Springs, NY? Paying extra is better than it used to be, when you could only dream about these exotic foodstuffs.
The thing to watch for, of course, is that defrosting and reheating a brisket from Snow’s (it arrives frozen) is not exactly the same experience as ordering it in their little shack and maybe eating outside next to the smokehouse with Kerry and Ms. Tootsie. You need to factor that into your meal planning and maybe do a little research. The meat or other product will be just fine, but for it to be truly worth $300 the right ambience has to be provided by you.