If you have yet to be served a dish of foie gras, then you are depriving your taste palette of an educational and indulgent experience.
The French delicacy, made from the fattened liver of a duck or goose, has made quite a stir in current news, with it’s soon to be banned status fast approaching. As of July of 2012, the state of California will be implementing a ban on the serving of foie gras. While this move has the full support of organizations like the Humane Society and PETA, it is being confronted with anger and opposition by the likes of chefs and foodies.
The controversy over the matter of foie gras lies in the methods used in farming the ducks and geese in preparation for slaughter. The birds are force-fed, so that they will fatten up, causing their livers to inflame. It is through this process that foie gras gets its decadent texture. Kind food enthusiasts label this treatment as animal cruelty, considering the confinement and force the birds are subjected to, but those against the ban point out that the geese in nature gorge themselves by their own accord. They overfeed during the time of their winter migration to fatten their livers in preparation for their time to go. What’s more, these farms time the birds’ slaughter to coincide with that natural process.
California restaurants are not the first to be hit with this culinary ban. The city of Chicago implemented a similar statute back in 2006. However, the movement was short-lived, with the ban being lifted in 2008. While no specific reason has been given for the lift, many speculate that it was out of sheer embarrassment on the part of the city council for concerning itself with comparatively frivolous matters, coupled with pressure from restaurateurs. During the absence of foie gras in the Windy City, French cuisine took an interesting twist. A popular Chicago restaurant, Cyrano’s, added Chicken Liver Terrine to the menu as a suggested condolence. Copperblue still offered duck liver, but insisted that it was derived from naturally fed ducks. Bin 36 took a more unique approach, offering a suspiciously pricey fig, apricot, and honey salad, with foie gras torchon as a free add-on. So the restaurant did not sell foie gras on the menu, it just offered it on the house. Naturally, this did not last long before Bin 36 was fined and forced to remove the dish.
First was Chicago, then California, and next there is the possibility of Albany, New York joining the list of places to deprive its residents of the savory French food. A bill was presented in 2008 to ban foie gras, giving Albany an eleven year window for its farms to evolve into another business before the ban is fully implemented. Whereas the foie gras ban in Chicago did not take much a toll on the city’s economy, it will definitely hit New York much harder, as the state is the largest foie gras producer in North America.
So for those Californians looking to savor their last treasured bites of foie gras before the ban takes full effect, then look no further than Gary Danko, which just received its sixth 5-star rating from Mobil. The San Francisco restaurant is revered in the culinary world, but it is specifically well-known for its French offal dish of froie gras. Chef and owner Gary Danko estimates that they serve forty orders of it a night, and twice that amount when animal rights protestors are present. Despite his recipe’s success, he has no plans to fight the ban. He simply plans to come up with a new menu item to console his disappointed patrons.
Foie gras will be sorely missed by the food connoisseurs lining the west coast, and those along the east may have to prepare themselves for a similar blow, but considered the movement’s longevity in Chicago, perhaps it is not the end of the battle just yet.