Photo by ulterior epicure via Flickr Creative Commons
A fancy plate of foie gras
There’s only 28 days left.
Barring a last-minute reprieve, May 31 will be the last day that California gourmands can sit down to a plate of foie gras served at their local restaurant. The controversial delicacy has been in the sights of animal rights activists for years, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a ban into law in 2004.
As the July 1 ban looms, many foodies are seeking out the fatty dish for one last hurrah. So where do Angelenos like to go for their foie gras?
When it comes to restaurants, the dish is easy to find. Yelp lists 118 in Los Angeles proper that offer it -- though this is an incomplete list, and a few restaurant managers told KPCC they stopped serving it already.
“We’ve been selling a little bit more than usual” ahead of the ban, said chef Jonathan Kim of Bashan Restaurant, located on Verdugo Road in Glendale. “Maybe three, four, five more (dishes) a week.”
Asked his opinion of the ban, the chef said, “I think it’s ridiculous. I mean I don’t agree with it ... everything is ‘inhumane,’ the way we kill” animals for food.
Referring to the way ducks and geese are tube-fed to produce foie gras, Kim told KPCC the birds’ throats are “meant to be expanded” physiologically, to allow “a whole fish going down their throat. So it doesn’t really harm them.”
(Bashan Restaurant’s menu offers a “Seared Rougié Foie Gras” for $19 -- at least until July 1.)
The great Jonathan Gold, who is pretty much the best food critic anywhere -- and who was writing for the LA Weekly for years before just recently returning to the LA Times -- agrees with Kim’s sentiment.
Although Gold rarely writes about foie gras in particular, he does mention in passing some of the duck-livered items he has encountered -- such as the mu shu foie gras at Starry Kitchen, or “a clunky ravioli stuffed with foie gras in a sticky marsala reduction” at Scarpetta in Beverly Hills.
But in a recent review of downtown’s Baco Mercat for the Weekly, Gold did say more about the controversial delicacy:
“I found myself ordering foie gras there the other night, which surprised me a bit. Through experience and modest study, I know that the animals it comes from are among the most tenderly raised livestock on earth. If I were to catalog my most transformative culinary experiences, I suspect foie gras would figure in almost a third of them. But there are only a few sanctioned ways to prepare it, and its costliness encourages cooks to be conservative. Sear, deglaze, serve with fruit -- I'm not sure I'd specifically ordered it in years. Still, with the upcoming and unnecessary ban creeping up on California, it is exactly the right time to eat foie gras.”