‘Foie-mageddon’: Foie Gras Lovers Scrambling as California Ban Nears

California’s culinary landscape is set to change this Sunday, when the state will prohibit the production and sale of foie gras.

This weekend, foie gras – fattened duck or goose liver – will vanish from California restaurants and gourmet groceries. Photo: Stuart Spivack

From July 1st, California will be the first state in the U.S. to outlaw foie gras, made from the livers of specially fattened ducks, but enthusiasts are not letting it go without a fight. They have dubbed the ban “foie-mageddon” and a final stand has been launched in the form of secret last minute dinner parties

Restaurants and fans across the state are bidding au revoir with a passion. Restaurants have designed lavish, multi-course tasting menus featuring foie gras poached, seared and even served in parfait and ice cream desserts, reports The Sacramento Bee.

For example, restaurant Melisse in Santa Monica, Calif. is offering a seven-course, $185 Foie for All menu. Debuted just three months ago, the menu is now ordered by half of all customers,

“I have never bought so much foie gras in my entire cooking career,” restaurant’s chef Ken Takayama said. “It’s just insane.”

The French delicacy is often served as a complete organ or as a mousse or pate. More than two millennia ago, the ancient Greeks enjoyed the delicacy and it has since been served to French monarch Louis XVI, passengers on the Titanic and countless foodies.

Fans adore foie gras for its rich, buttery flavor. Restaurants’ chefs say it’s a central tenet of their cooking repertoire – comparable to caviar and truffles.

“It is the kind of furtive atmosphere that might have been found in 1920s speakeasies as miscreants knocked back homemade liquor,” writes The Telegraph.

But animal welfare advocates have long decried the force feeding of geese and ducks that’s often used to produce it. Known as gavage, the process involves gorging a fowl with grain via a tube pushed down its throat.

Some experts believe the method doesn’t hurt the birds, which don’t have a gag reflex. Animal rights advocates say it’s inhumane, causing pain and wreaking havoc with the animals’ psychological state.

Italy, Britain and Germany have banned foie gras. In California, a ban was signed into law in 2004 by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The ban forbids the in-state sale and production of products derived from force-fed birds.

Restaurateurs and Sonoma Foie Gras, the only producer in California, were given eight years – until July 1, 2012 – to adapt. Starting next week, violators face a potential fine of as much as $1,000 a day.

Meanwhile, some chefs are scrambling for alternatives. In downtown Los Angeles, the Lazy Ox Canteen will be serving a Forget Foie menu laden with the livers of pork, chicken, rabbit and other animals, while other restaurants are looking into offering Faux Gras, a vegan pate made from lentils, walnuts and onions.

Restaurateurs are still holding on to hope for a repeal. But for now, foie gras’ exile is imminent. And it’s “going to be a big deal economically,” said chef and French native Ludo Lefebvre, as foie gras was both his most expensive dish and top seller.

Despite the prospect of a $1,000-per-day fine, a few of Lefebvre’s chef peers are rumored to be stashing away foie gras to quietly serve to favored customers, and some have considered charging a fee to prepare foie gras brought in by patrons.

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