Restaurants, suppliers ready for foie gras ban
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Pastore predicted that the battle is not over, and that supporters of foie gras will continue to pursue legislative and legal remedies to get clarity about what might constitute humane practices for producing the high-end ingredient. Meanwhile, he added, restaurants may be subject to the “vigilante” enforcement by activists.
Ken Takayama, chef de cuisine at Mélisse in Santa Monica, Calif., said his staff has already received threatening phone calls and emails. The high-end restaurant has played host to a number of foie gras dinners and events over the past few months, some of which have attracted protesters outside. “These people are pretty extreme,” the chef said.
Meanwhile, consumers have clamored for foie gras the same way Michael Jackson fans might have scrambled for tickets to his last concert, he said. Next week, however, Takayama said Mélisse’s menu would be foie gras-free — for now.
“I’m sure other people will find a way to serve it,” he said. “For me, personally, if you have to go that far to serve foie gras to save your restaurant, what does that say about the rest of your menu? Is foie gras really that important?”
David Féau, executive chef at The Royce in the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Calif., said foie gras dishes and specialty dinners have done very well this year.
For the last days leading up to the ban, The Royce has offered foie gras 30 different ways over three days. Popular dishes have included seared foie gras with torched leek ash and rhubarb gelée; foie gras croquembouche puff pastries; and foie gras fondue with tarragon-printed pasta and crimini mushrooms in a dry-aged beef bouillon. The dishes started at $20.
Next week, however, Féau said foie gras would be off the menu – along with the rest of the duck.
“The whole point of the ‘foie gras battle’ is to support sustainable farming practices and ‘the whole duck,’” he wrote in an email. “If we can’t serve the liver then we can’t serve duck. I will serve calf liver and animals that are not corn-fed.”
California’s only foie gras producer, Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras, is reportedly closing up shop, leaving about 35 people without jobs or with greatly reduced hours.
Laurel Pine, owner of foie gras retailer Mirepoix USA, moved her business out of California to Nevada in anticipation of the ban. Pine said Friday her company’s foie gras sales were nearly six times what is typical for June and the highest in her eight years in business. On Friday, California buyers were paying a hefty $55 shipping fee to ensure it arrived before the ban goes into effect on Sunday.
Mirepoix is looking into opening a retail location near the California border in Reno, Nev., and in Las Vegas, where she said Californians can buy the product legally — though she said it’s not clear whether restaurant operators could take advantage of such retail locations. “Nobody really knows what’s going to be okay until the violations start happening,” she said.
Daguin of D’Artagnan said she hoped the ban would light a fire under restaurant operators who want to serve foie gras. “I hope they will show strong interest and motivation to get rid of that ban,” she said.