Relishing duck foie gras without the guilt | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

PÂTÉ of foie gras

As we sat around the table tasting a special menu featuring Rougie’s duck foie gras, we couldn’t help but discuss the ban on the dish in Chicago. The move was triggered when celebrated chef Charlie Trotter said he wouldn’t be serving the duck’s fatty liver ever again.

We were at L’entrecôte, a small bistro-like place at Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City. The name is supposed to tell those in the know of its history that began with the original restaurant in France and where the main dish is steak frites, good cut of meat with fries.

But chef Martin Kaspar has done special foie gras dishes accompanied by wines paired by distributor Sommelier Selections.

The appetizer of foie gras pâté was expected but it was served in such an artful way. Melba toasts were upright in a glass, colorful dried fruits with hints of cognac and some pink Himalayan salt were in small containers while the pâté cylinder stood at one corner. The lighthearted spirit around that table made us refer to this rich expensive pâté as liver spread which, technically, it is.

Our wine was a sweetish white, AOC Montbazillac, Domaine du Petit Paris 2009, a combination of Semillion, Muscadelle and Sauvignon, perfect for the foie gras. (For a bottle shared by a group, it didn’t dig deep into pockets.)

Thankfully, we had small tastings or we would end up ourselves with fatty liver. These included foie gras as canapé with fig and then pan-fried, the usual way with this ingredient. But wrapped in filo pastry with mushrooms, it was perfect, so good that the expression of appreciation was to make the expensive ingredient hoi polloi by calling the dish as hopia.

And while we savored all that, we savored as well the fact that the Chicago ban was repealed eventually in 2008, two years after it was enforced. It was described by one politician as a “legislation for ducks.” This was according to Mark Caro, author of “The Foie Gras Wars” (Simon and Schuster, 2009), a chronicle of the major food fight.

Main dishes

ROUGIE Rossini

Time for  main dishes. Pasta came first, an enriched carbonara. Then slices of foie gras were placed above sliced potatoes and sweetened with berries (Farmer’s Meal).

Another had the duck’s liver with slices of duck’s breast. Finally, the steaks came and their delightful fries. The potato slices are done fresh, according to chef Kaspar.

Actually, I was more afraid of what the fries would do to my health, than the foie gras itself,  because it was difficult to quit eating those fries.

Thankfully, again, we shared the steaks, a Rossini with the required foie gras on top and the other, stuffed with the liver then wrapped with bacon. A full-bodied red with a mix of Malbec and Merlot in the AOC Cahors Benjamin, Chateau Lamarine, tamed the richness yet heightened the flavors.

California ban

This tasting made me review the issue. I found out that foie gras will be banned again in California just a few days from now, in July. There are farewell dinners in many restaurants. And chefs like the eminent Thomas Keller have lobbied that the ban be repealed as in Chicago.

I suppose Keller, being a celebrated chef, will make a difference just like Charlie Trotter whose announcement triggered this food fight.

Trotter, by the way, will close his restaurant in August on its 25th anniversary, admitting that revenues have gone down every year. Some writers think that the chefs who have worked under Trotter have now outshone their mentor.

At the heart of the argument for banning is that force feeding of geese and ducks is cruelty to animals. And that fattening the liver is as cruel.

LIVER and mushroom in filo pastry

Those against say that there is no scientific proof to support those allegations.

In the land of the free, (the United States in case you don’t know), the food you eat is regulated. Recently, New York is looking to ban large sodas. Los Angeles and Massachusetts are also proposing the same ban.

The food police (others call them food Nazis) are striking again. There have been counter groups like the Chicago Chefs for Choice and it is likely that in California, there will be underground dining events where foie gras will be served.

I am glad I live in this country. Otherwise, I won’t ever taste balut which animal rights people will probably describe as aborted duck embryo.

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