Blame Alain Ducasse. Before his eponymous restaurant opened in 2000, you could eat at the fanciest places in town for around $100 per person. Suddenly, the all-in cost of his prix fixe was more than twice that, based partly on absurdist flourishes—such as footstools to put your purse on and a choice of pens to sign credit card receipts—and other restaurateurs began salivating like hungry hounds at the prospect of doubling the cost of a meal. A whole new crop of fiendishly expensive restaurants began appearing. In fact, an entire campus was recently created in the new Time Warner Center, where an elliptical, Vegas-style shopping mall rose around the bewildered statue of Christopher Columbus. Standing atop his pole in an ermine-trimmed robe, even the high-rolling colonialist seemed to be looking... More >>>