As month is left before California’s ban on foie gras takes effect, fans of the fattened duck and goose liver are buying as much the delicacy as possible, searching for legal loopholes and sating themselves at a series of foie-heavy goodbyes.
“We want to get our fill before it’s gone,” said Terrance L. Stinnett, a lawyer from Alamo, Calif., who attended a farewell lunch here recently. “This is a wake.”
The first day of July will be the start date of the hotly debated and divisive ban, which prohibits the sale of any product derived from the force-feeding of birds to enlarge their livers — the most common way to mass-produce foie gras, reports The New York Times.
California’s decision to prohibit foie gras was taken in 2004 and signed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but an eight-year period of grace was allowed.
Over recent years this issue is being highly discussed between gourmands and some chefs on one side, with animal welfare activists on the other.
Since then a number of protests have taken place, warnings of future black market bootlegging, and even death threats against non-compliant chefs.
As The Telegraph writes, one such chef, Chris Cosentino, has reportedly received death threats. In response he accused animal rights activists of having an “agenda for a vegan country.”
At Melisse in Santa Monica, which has two Michelin stars, chef Josiah Citrin is offering a $185 (£120) “Foie for All” five-course tasting menu including truffled foie gras agnolotti, dover sole with poached foie gras, and foie gras with pudding. Citrin says that around 30 per cent of customers are ordering the dish.
“It is definitely one of the most popular things we serve here,” according to the chef. “The great thing about America is we have freedom of choice. I’m personally sad because foie gras is a foundation of haute gastronomy.”
“Our customers love it, the taste is insane,” Café Rolle owner Chef William Rolle added. “We are offering foie gras all month until we can’t anymore.” His café is offering foie gras on his menu until July 1. “It’s our homage to our guests to enjoy this treat,” Williams said.
As for the second side of ban supporters, the means to create fois gras, force feeding ducks and geese, has outraged animal rights advocates and legislators.
“California was right to say this is cruel and if you can’t find another way to produce it, you can’t eat it,” Humane Society of the U.S. spokesperson Jennifer Fearing said.
Well, the question is how chefs are going to replace the delicacy, with its butter-soft texture and rich, subtle taste. They say, is that they can’t, and the sense of loss is palpable.
“It’s unlike any other animal product that I know of,” said Jon Shook, an owner of Animal, a meat lovers’ paradise in Los Angeles where foie gras regularly appears in sauces, as a torchon and in other forms. “We’re working on dishes to replace it, but you can never really replace foie gras.”
Shook was supported by Michael Ginor, an owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, N.Y., who likened it to delicious Play-Doh.
“You can shape it into anything you want,” he said. “You can sauté it, you can serve it cold, you can serve it hot, you can cook it at high heat.”