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Photo credit: WineSearcher.com

Here's a riddle: how much money is “thirty-seven fifty?”

Sounds like an easy answer – in contemporary colloquial American English, “thirty-seven fifty” is usually understood to mean “37 dollars and 50 cents,” or $37.50 for short. But a New Jersey man says that a waitress at the Borgata in Atlantic City recommended a bottle of wine costing “thirty-seven fifty,” and only after the wine was drunk and the bill presented did he discover he actually owed $3,750.

NJ.com's “Bamboozled” column first told the story of Joe Lentini, who last week attended a business dinner at Bobby Flay Steak at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Lentini said that he and two of the 10 people at the party decided to share a bottle of wine, and the host, who was paying for the dinner, told him to pick a bottle.

Lentini said, “I asked the waitress if she could recommend something decent because I don't have experience with wine. She pointed to a bottle on the menu. I didn't have my glasses. I asked how much and she said, 'Thirty-seven fifty.'”

Even without his glasses, however, Lentini might have noticed that the wine in question is the last one on the Bobby Flay Steak wine list (at least as published on their website) -- and prices do go up as one goes down the list. 

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Bobby Flay Steak wine list

Big gulp

The other two agreed to the price and drank the wine, a bottle of Screaming Eagle 2011, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and when the bill arrived, Lentini said, only then did he realize that the bottle of wine actually cost close to four thousand dollars.

Lentini's fellow diners who overheard the initial price discussion agreed that the waitress had indeed uttered the words “thirty seven fifty” rather than “Three thousand, seven hundred and fifty.” But the waitress disagreed, and when the manager was called over, he said the best the restaurant could do was lower the cost from $3,750 to $2,200. (An online search for the vintage suggests the price is usually somewhere in the $1,500 to $1,800 per bottle range.)

The Borgata, meanwhile, says it investigated the incident and determined that proper practices were followed. Executive vice president Joseph Lupo said “[W]e consistently serve as many, if not more high-end wine and spirits without incident …. In this isolated case, both the server and sommelier verified the bottle requested with the patron.”

The Borgata has surveillance footage (video only, no audio) showing the transaction, but has declined to release it.

In defense of the Borgata, Screaming Eagle has acquired something of a cult following in some circles. It's "a contender for the finest Cabernet Sauvignon produced in California," says the Wine Cellar Insider. "Screaming Eagle is not about power, it’s about elegant, refined, pure fruit and rich, silky, velvet drenched textures."

If it does anything to relieve Lentini's hangover, at least he didn't order the 1992 vintage. It's going for $2,200 or so at wholesale auctions and would probably have run him close to "forty-five" tableside. $4,500, in other words. 


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