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About this blog: I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently working at the Palo Alto Weekly as education and youth staff writer. I graduated from USC with a major in Spanish and a minor in jo...  (More)

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Foie gras returns to Peninsula menus

Uploaded: Jan 9, 2015
After the news broke Wednesday that California's ban of foie gras, the prized fattened liver of a duck or goose, had been overturned, chefs throughout the state rushed to add the French delicacy back to their menus.

The foie gras ban, backed by animal-welfare activists who oppose the force-feeding of duck and geese to enlarge their livers, initially went into effect in 2012, though many restaurants, including Michelin-starred Chez TJ in Mountain View, continued to serve it as a complimentary dish or simply by calling it a different name. (For more on the that, read this Grub Street interview with Los Angeles Chef Ari Taymor, who actually grew up in Palo Alto and graduated from Paly in 2003.)

"We never stopped (serving it)," said Chez TJ Chef Jarad Gallagher.

The restaurant operated within the law, serving it as they saw fit to some customers without charging and never putting it on the menu. (The law stated that "a person may not force-feed a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird's liver beyond normal size, or hire another person to do so" and that "a product may not be sold in California if it is the result of force-feeding.")

But since a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with an existing federal law that regulates poultry products, it's back on the menu. Seared foie gras will be included in the Chez TJ tasting menu starting tonight, Friday, Jan. 9, and will continue to appear in different forms as Gallagher cures some of it.

"I'm pretty happy about it," Gallagher said. "I don't think it ever should have been illegal."

Foie gras will also regain its permanent place on Woodside's Michelin-starred The Village Pub's menu starting the evening of Friday, Jan. 9, said Karey Walker, who runs public relations for the restaurant group that owns Village Pub.

"Until the ban, it was always offered," she wrote in an email Thursday.

While it will change often, Walker said Village Pub Chef Dmitry Elperin will kick off the return with Hudson Valley Foie Gras (a producer in New York) pain d'epices mille-feuille (layers of bread) with toasted pistachio and candied kumquat ($28).

Starting Saturday, foie gras -- seared, with wild mushrooms, quince mostarda and balsamic vinegar will also be on the menu at Madera at The Rosewood in Menlo Park for $35.

All locations of the Alexander's Steakhouse chain (San Francisco, Cupertino) are "excited to reintroduce foie gras," though The Sea in Palo Alto will only have it as a special for the time being, said Director of Public Relations Marilyn Skinner. The Sea has been serving it seared on top of or next to diners' main dishes, though it will soon be on The Sea's regular menu, Skinner said.

Pastis on California Avenue in Palo Alto has had foie gras on the menu almost every night since the ban was lifted, manager Malek Kaci said.

Despite the outpouring of excitement in many restaurant kitchens throughout the state this week, one Palo Alto chef wasn't celebrating foie gras' triumphant return.

"Although it's nice that the ban has been moved, I quite frankly find it weird and distasteful that so many chefs are celebrating as if some kind of war has been won," said Guillaume Bienaimé, chef and owner of French restaurant Zola. "Yes, we will be serving foie gras at Zola from time to time, but we're not looking to rub it in anyone's face. Considering the events that are occurring in France right now, it would be nice if some chefs could show some restraint and class."

Comments

 +   7 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jan 9, 2015 at 7:05 pm

"Yes, we will be serving foie gras at Zola from time to time, but we're not looking to rub it in anyone's face. Considering the events that are occurring in France right now, it would be nice if some chefs could show some restraint and class." What?


 +   8 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

On a vacation to France one year I sampled some foie gras not really knowing what it was.

Ugh. If you took butter, fat and liver and blended it up and served it, that's about
what it tasted like. I couldn't stomach it and spit it out, as politely as I could manage
while the French people weren't looking. Other than that, I love most French cuisine.

This is not a good decision. I'm not crazy about micro-regulation, but this is not good
for human or for goose.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jan 10, 2015 at 4:12 pm

[Portion of post removed.]

Poultry liver -- like organ meats from most edible critters -- are well recognized throughout human history as culinary treats, sometimes at great value as delicacies. In times not too distant, people were too poor to throw away entrails anyhow. Your attitude reflects one of privilege and lack of struggle.

Chicken liver spread was a supermarket item in the Seventies from Oscar Mayer, not a gourmet item.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Phil, a resident of Professorville,
on Jan 10, 2015 at 8:10 pm

@ Jay Park, poor people would not have the means to force feed a goose beyond what they naturally consume.

Foi Gaus is the result feeding geese and ducks beyond that which they would naturally consume.

If the Palo Alto Weekly removes these two links which exposes the cruelty than you know that the Palo Alto Weekly is not objective of biased for its wealthy advertisers and reporters.

Web Link

Web Link



 +   23 people like this
Posted by Katie, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Jan 10, 2015 at 11:18 pm

Do people really know what foie gras involves? Do people realize in order to obtain foie gras, ducks and geese are force fed with long steel tubes inserted down to their stomachs and they suffer immense pain during this procedure? Do people realize ducks are geese are sentient creatures who are able to feel pain and fear and they suffer? Does the immense suffering of a sentient creature mean nothing to you and you can eat the sick liver of an animal as foie gras to give pleasure to yourselves just for a few minutes?

People who can eat foie gras without any compassion for the sentient being who suffered make me ashamed of my humanity.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by fjd, a resident of another community,
on Jan 11, 2015 at 11:13 am

Could someone comment on the difference in flavor between foie gras and standard liver (i.e., liver from an animal that has not been force fed)? As a follow up, is it possible to take standard liver, add some butter and bacon fat (say) to it, and make it as (ostensibly) tasty as foie gras?


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jan 11, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Various food writers have commented about foie gras production at length.

Michael Pollan is one and he says that the media/public is wrong at focusing their attentions at foie gras: commercial food production practices are far more brutal than what ducks destined for foie gras production endure. He also notes that ducks/geese do not have gag reflexes.

If you want to be outraged at food production processes, start with chicken.

@fjd:

The taste is different between normal duck liver and foie gras. The taste cannot be duplicated by alternate ingredients, otherwise people would have done this centuries ago (butter, pork fat is way cheaper than foie gras).

In most cases, you cannot duplicate the taste of one ingredient with a combination of others, at least with natural ingredients. A chicken-apple sausage does not taste like a pork sausage, which is why there are still pork sausages. A tofu burger does not taste like a ground chuck burger. That's why many recipes/preparations are hundreds of years old.

Sometimes the alternatives are healthier, sometimes they stand up on their own in terms of tastiness, but they are different.

Artificial flavors are a different creature. They are formulated in a lab to duplicate something that exists in nature. Artificial flavors (or substitutes) won't fool everyone, they are just designed to mimic the original for a suitable percentage of the buying public. Artificial vanilla flavor? Good enough for many, but some peoples' palates are good enough to distinguish the difference.

That's why when you walk into a market, there are a bunch of things. You can't take an onion or scallion and make it taste like garlic. If you want something that tastes like garlic, you buy garlic.

Heck, even margarine doesn't taste like butter, and margarine manufacturers have been working on their products for nearly 150 years.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by resident, a resident of Cuernavaca,
on Jan 12, 2015 at 10:30 am

Is it possible to make foie gras without shoving machines down the throats of the birds? How was foie gras made before these machines were developed or is this just a relatively new dish? Are the machines used now just to boost profits?


 +   6 people like this
Posted by pearl, a resident of another community,
on Jan 12, 2015 at 1:28 pm

pearl is a registered user.

@Phil: Thank you for posting those two links about the force feeding of ducks and geese for the purpose of making foie gras. If that information doesn't change people's minds, I don't know what will. Thank you, again, for posting that information.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by stats, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 12, 2015 at 11:37 pm

I think virtually all farm animals have a pretty raw deal, especially in industrial farms run as fattening mills. Peta can come up with some pretty ugly footage from any of the big industrial ranches or chicken farms. Seems like people react very emotionally to the gavage funnel going down the gooses neck without realizing that

a) unlike humans, they are built to swallow full fish, etc. whole.
b) they don't have gag reflexes
- worth watching video link below to see a different perspective from one of the 3 artisanal US fois farms

Web Link



 +  Like this comment
Posted by Elena Kadvany, a resident of another community,
on Jan 13, 2015 at 7:14 am

Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting. I am by no means an expert on foie gras, but tune into KQED Forum this morning (Tuesday, Jan. 13) at 9:30 a.m. for what will surely be an enlightening discussion on the topic:
Web Link


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jan 13, 2015 at 8:32 am

@stats makes some very salient points.

The atrocities committed in commercial livestock & poultry operations (chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc.) can be extremely brutal and usually for the entire lifespan of the animal in question.

Relatively speaking, foie gras ducks and geese have a pretty comfortable existence for the majority of their lives; the gavage force feeding program is the last two weeks before slaughter. While their diet in the months leading up to the end, they are typically allowed to range.

To answer some earlier questions, foie gras is not a recent preparation. Force feeding waterfowl dates back to antiquity; around 2500 BC, the Egyptians discovered that ducks and geese could be force fed, manually back then, of course.

The modern gavage machines reduce the feeding session time to 2-3 seconds, not much longer than the time it takes one of the these birds to swallow a whole fish (as they would do in the wild).

Ever since man domesticated animals for their own purposes, humans have carefully sought to alter the natural diets of these animals for various reasons: cost, convenience, taste, etc. Today, we have generations of American consumers who prefer corn-fed beef (which is a recent development). Of course, cows don't eat corn if left to graze on their own.

Heck, even the food we serve to household pets has been highly altered from the original sources for the benefit of humans in terms of cost, convenience, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, and storage.

If you are consuming any sort of commercially produced meat or poultry on a regular basis, you are implicitly supporting industries that have a much broader, deeper and troubling intrusion into the natural eating habits of animals as well as the overall impact to the environment (e.g., massive feed corn farms full of bio-engineered crops, heavily fertilized, and sucking up enormous amounts of water). By contrast, the odd feeding practices of foie gras waterfowl can almost be considered an artisanal farming tradition.

Of course, protesting foie gras production is free speech, but it doesn't improve the farming practices of 99.99% of the poultry consumed on this planet.

I won't be able to tune in myself, but the KQED Forum discussion should be very interesting.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Cant understand, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jan 13, 2015 at 8:59 am

We live in a world with so much good food, so many variations and so many delicacies, I cannot understand why anyone would want to eat that disgusting item when we know how much cruelty is involved in producing it.
Is the real problem that people are so bored with their lives, they need the excitement? Not fat enough? Watch wrestling! that's disgusting enough and no one gets hurt.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Jan 13, 2015 at 2:03 pm

What a shameful decision. The saddest part, aside from the intense animal suffering, is that some choose to eat foie gras even after learning what it entails. Unfathomable.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Stats, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on Jan 13, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Nora, Can't,

Take a look at the link I posted. I did my homework to understand the level of suffering experienced by the geese and found it to be no more than what might be experienced by a typical farmed meat-bearing animal. Definitely no intense suffering, especially when buying from one of the 3 US producers.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jan 13, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Foie gras production isn't cruel, the animals don't suffer and more than any other farm poultry. If you want to be a began, more power to you, but to eat chicken then claim foie is cruel is ridiculous and hypocritical. You'd have a better case banning chicken mcnuggets.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by David C, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jan 13, 2015 at 5:42 pm

The foie gras ban was selective and arbitrary. Animal right activists strategically picked foie gras because they knew it (a) force feeding gooses, just from the sound of it, feels wrong (b) not many people actually eat foie gras that frequently and (c) let's face it, its foreign. If you truly cared about animal suffering and how food is produced, then we should really ban things like:

KFC where chickens literally pluck each other's eyes out because they are packed so tightly
Any beef product because industrial cow slaughter involves hoisting a cow up by its legs and shooting a metal bolt into its head.

But garnering public support for banning fried chicken or steak would be much much harder to make, even though those animals probably suffered just as much or far worse than the ducks/geese used for foie gras.

If you truly feel that foie gras is animal cruelty, don't patronize restaurants that serve it. Don't ban it.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Phil, a resident of Professorville,
on Jan 13, 2015 at 8:05 pm

@stats:

Granted there are much greater inhumane acts being perpetrated against other animals and live stock but just because other animals are being brutalized does not justify the brutalization of another animal by another means even if it is to a lesser degree.

Deliberately enlarging an animal's liver, forcing disease upon an animal, so that a person can consume a diseased organ is not humane nor is it healthy to the animal or for that matter the person.
Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jan 14, 2015 at 2:52 am

That would be a very loose or invalid definition of "disease", purposed to cause loss of appetite. Some respondents above sound like they'd make great dinner companions, capable of ruining any festive occasion. Kind of like I used to do at birthday parties when I'd loudly proclaim that chocolate cake gave me worms.


 +   22 people like this
Posted by Reality is complex, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jan 14, 2015 at 8:18 am

I don't even know if I should comment here because I'm in the thankless position of knowing a LOT more than most people about the subject. (It's thankless because when you explain realities conflicting with what people have heard, they don't believe you -- though they could well verify it for themselves -- and are even hostile.)

"resident," "stats," and especially "David C." above have it exactly right. Commercial foie-gras production may be compassionate or it may be cruel, depending on the people doing it. In that respect, it's like other kinds of livestock production for food.

Foie gras occurs in nature all the time (that's likely how it was first harvested). Waterfowl fatten themselves in nature (particularly their livers, far beyond normal) to store energy efficiently for long flight. (The bird's fat liver when cooked has a subtle, delicate flavor different from lean-poultry livers, let alone bovine livers.)

Raising ducks for foie gras DOES NOT require "force" feeding, or even gentle tube feeding. Given free access to food, ducks and geese instinctively become gluttonous and fat. All that's fundamentally needed to produce FG is to offer food. Also, waterfowl anatomy is different from mammals'. In nature, these birds swallow whole fish, and feed their young by injecting food via the esophagus. (That's the "no gag reflex" you'll see mentioned.) Therefore, if the birds become very fat and sedentary, they'll gladly welcome tube feeding (just as they did from their parents when young), and it need not be mechanically "forced" -- all of that (and the potential for injury and avoidance reactions) is associated with opportunistic farms more interested in profits than care of their animals.

How many people here dropped in on northern California's former FG farm to see for themselves (long before this issue surfaced publicly)? The ducks clamored for food when they saw the feeder with her bucket. They needed no encouragement, let alone "forcing."

Why don't you see THOSE images in journalism, and "animal rights" discussions? Why have so many people, who never heard of the subject before, accepted uncritically the horror stories and videos (cherry-picked from the worst foreign poultry farms for shock value)? Why do people like "Phil," "Katie," and "pearl" here buy emotionally into the "cruelty" and "diseased liver" rhetoric? (When I raise to such people topics like non-forcefed and cruelty-free FG, usually they're dumbfounded, or they change the subject. So effective has been the manipulative message they, uh, swallowed that they never stop to consider it might be less than the full picture.)

David C. explained. This subject was seized by a few opportunistic propagandists (some of them on record militantly opposing all meat consumption, even pet ownership) as a good bet for a campaign to marshal support (and contributions), given that a larger effort against all livestock would be a harder "sell" to the American public. Better to focus on something exotic, that most people hadn't heard of. It's worked (as you can see by comments here), and paid off in contributions to PETA and the like. And why wouldn't it? Who wouldn't oppose "cruelty?" IF ONLY the reality were so simple.

Campaigns to ban consuming something by demonizing it with shallow "moral" arguments have two general features. First, the campaigners aren't interested just in renouncing it themselves, they yearn to control other people's behavior. Second, it's counterproductive. That's what's happening here, as it did when Chicago banned FG for a while (but then found it'd become an underground sensation). People never otherwise interested see the front-page publicity and get curious. The fanatics behind this crusade have, as usual, produced results opposite from what they espouse, and they bear full responsibility for their own actions, before history. To the extent that some of the FG imported into the US was produced inhumanely, nothing prior ever helped increase demand for it like branding it as forbidden fruit.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jan 14, 2015 at 8:28 am

@Reality is complex:

At this point, your thoughtful and detailed explanation doesn't matter.

A certain percentage of the readers here have already stuck their fingers in their ears.

But thank you.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by pogo, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Jan 14, 2015 at 6:45 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Kudos on the nice post, Reality is complex. Perfectly stated.

Like many issues, this is more religion than science and minds are difficult to change.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Apologists?, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 1:08 am

Complex Reality person...

"Foie gras occurs in nature all the time..."

That is a completely useless argument. Certain bird species have evolved to do the very painful process of force-feeding themselves to avoid extinction. It is involuntary, but still unpleasant. But this is not nature. It is not a matter of survival. It is the intentional infliction of pain on animals for the purpose of creating a "delicacy".

There are lots of things that happen "in nature" that we wouldn't want to do purposefully with our animals. For example, male grizzly bears will eat their young and the mother will have to fight off the attack. Should we capture or raise grizzly bears, put the baby, the mom and dad in a ring and have them go at it? Well, it happens in nature, right? It's enjoyable to humans (some of them anyway) like foie gras is. So, it should be allowed?

Dog fighting? Cock-fighting? Are the foie gras defenders supportive of those activities too? If not, then please explain yourselves...


 +   8 people like this
Posted by pogo, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 9:03 am

pogo is a registered user.

As I said, this is more religion than science.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 10:31 am

California is unfortunately infested with ninnies and statists who love making decisions for other people, especially if there can be a blame-the-rich angle to it. If you feel foie gras is wrong... then don't eat it.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Reality is complex, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 10:54 am

Yes indeed, pogo. And when I see passionate argument coming from within the narrow vision of an eagerly embraced dogma (e.g., 'it is the intentional infliction of pain on animals for the purpose of creating a "delicacy" '), I know I'm dealing with someone whose understanding of this subject began with the propagandists' "cruelty" messages, and hasn't fundamentally progressed beyond that (though such people are adept at searching for and quoting further rhetoric in support of the mindset they've already embraced -- never truly examining or questioning it).

No apparent understanding of different methods of FG production (such people always START with cherished, unexamined assumptions like "force feeding" and "infliction of pain," then proceed from there). No evident awareness of the real range of bird feeding practices in nature, or the realities of California duck husbandry that I cited earlier. Anyone TRULY interested in the broader, complex reality can discover it for themselves; but to do so, they may have to let go of limiting assumptions that some people (as you can see) hold dear.

The real hell of it is my final earlier point. As long as people are content to approach this subject with a simplistic, good-vs-evil understanding (which is how the PETA types carefully framed it, to win over others for their crusade), then the publicity, the forbidden-fruit cachet they created (not to mention how naïve they appear to a significant population that actually knows more about the subject than they do) will keep boosting use of the product they seek to suppress! The same thing happened with Prohibition in the 1920s: total alcohol consumption rose. It's the ultimate payback to the holier-than-thou social engineering impulse.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Fine Diner, a resident of Community Center,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 12:11 pm

To add to the list of restaurants offering foie gras: Bistro Elan on Birch Street has a very nice preparation on their menu. I would love to see someone offer a half portion since an entire liver is really too much for me. I had a couple of bites of a fellow diner's foie gras last night at Bistro Elan and it was very tasty.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by JoAnn, a resident of Ventura,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 3:55 pm

During the Depression, my grandmother used to fatten a goose by force-feeding it, according to my mother. She pantomimed how grandma would sit with the goose under her arm and put grain in its mouth, stroking the throat until it swallowed. She wasn't making foie gras, she wanted the goose to be fat so she could render it out and use it for cooking. They were poor and I guess grain was cheaper than buying butter. Also, you could keep poultry in the city but not a cow to get your own milk. I supposed they ate the liver too.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Foodie, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Interesting discussion. I for one enjoy the occational foie gras and will continue to do so. Some people complain about the way the foul is fed, but it is the same way that bird rescue organizations feel birds that are rescued from events like oil spills. If you eat any form of meat and you buy it from a supermarket then you have participated in far worse treatment of animals than the geese used in foie gras. Until a couple days ago eggs were laid by chickens in California that did not even have room to stand up.

As for those that oppose foie gras because they don't like the taste...DON'T EAT IT. But don't try to tell anyone they can not eat it becuase you don't like the taste. That is like telling someone they can not practice their religion because you don't agree with it.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Let's not confuse foul with fowl.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jan 15, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

I happen to LOVE FG, and ate it everywhere possible during this silly ban.

I grew up in Wisconsin and spent considerable time on my family's farm in Spain (cattle, Iberico Pigs and Sheep). I assure you most people would not eat a hamburger, chicken, Lamp Chops or Iberico/Prosciutto if they saw how it was made. Trust me that cow did NOT jump up on a butchers table by itself.

As an avid hunter I love and respect nature. I have eaten EVERYTHING I've ever killed and love Venison, Partridge and Duck. I can attest that many of the ducks we shoot have ENLARGED livers (giving us Foie Gras) from overeating.

What one culture considers a delicacy is looked on in disgust by other cultures. China is the SOLE consumer of every chicken foot that comes off a chicken in the USA, because we as a culture don't love Chicken feet. Does that make them bad? Disgusting? apparently not in China.

The French ADORE horse meat (it's delicious BTW) and most Americans think them barbaric. Want to eat Snake, then head to Taipei. Want to eat Dog, Korea is your destination....NOBODY is FORCING you to eat Foie Gras, just skip it when you see it on the menu.

I on the other hand rarely skip it when presented. And will be happy I don't have to go to Las Vegas to eat it now. Delicious!

Roy Thiele-Sardina


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Dog fighting Is ok, a resident of another community,
on Jan 16, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Foie gras is apparently OK, because:

1) Cruelty to animals apparently doesn't matter.
2) Some people enjoy dog foie gras.

I guess we should legalize dog fighting, because:

1) Cruelty to animals apparently doesn't matter.
2) Some people enjoy dog fighting.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jan 20, 2015 at 5:14 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Dog fighting Is ok

Now that is some warped logical progression. [Portion of post removed.]

Dog fighting from Foie Gras.....really?

Roy



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