Friday, December 14, 2007

CELEBRITY CHEF BEATS UP GERMAN SHOPKEEPER!

If you're a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, be sure to check out today's article (12/14/07) on the battle over Foie Gras.

Several famous chefs give Wolfgang Puck's efforts against Foie Gras a well-deserved dressing down, including Anthony Bourdain, who proves once again nothing can hold back his tongue.

"I think he should stop worrying about cruelty to animals and start worrying about all the customers he's flopping his crap on at airports...He got squeezed and pressured and phone-called from all angles, and like a good German shopkeeper he folded and sold out the people hiding in the cellar next door. I got no respect."

Yep, nothing like referencing the Holocaust the raise the level of a debate. At least he didn't swear.

Daniel Boulud and Jaques Pepin also toss their two cents into the mix - though with a bit more reserve - and the article actually gives the Foie Gras supporters the kind of fair shake you don't see much in the broadsheets.

FoieBlog is sure it's only a coincidence that this article appeared on the first full day of Rupert Murdoch's ownership of the paper, aren't you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

TONY DISHES IT OUT

Once upon a time Anthony Bourdain went to his brother's house for the holidays, and put on a pretty good show in the process. So scripted, so contrived, so entertaining.

And he did a good deed for Foie Gras along the way.

Sure, the fair and balanced way he went about it - stacking the deck with our favorite purveyor, D'Artagnan's Ariane Daguin, and that cuddly old veterinarian of unknown credentials for his in depth expose of Foie Gras production at Hudson Valley Foie Gras - made Fox News look like NPR, but what the heck, it sounded good to us. And damn if that Foie Gras didn't look tasty - even those crazy kids from Queens of the Stone Age looked like they were enjoying it.

Once again Bourdain provides us with a reasonable sounding argument in support of Foie Gras. No, he won't convince everyone. As he says, there are "these f****** people [who] are not really all about us not eating duck liver. No, no, no. They don’t want us eating any animal product whatsoever," and they're a lost cause. But if you listen to Uncle Tony, the next time you run into a flock of them, at least you'll have some verbal ammo to go hunting with.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2007

THE PART OF PERRY COMO WILL BE PLAYED TONIGHT BY ANTHONY BOURDAIN

Boy, the things having a kid will do to you.

Tonight (Dec 10) at 10pm the Travel Channel presents - wait for it - Anthony Bourdain's Holiday Special!

FoieBlog isn't sure if Tony will be leading his family in a rendition of the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)", but we hear everyone's favorite holiday treat - Foie Gras - will be featured on the menu he's preparing, as he travels to deepest darkest Connecticut - via D'Artagnan and Hudson Valley Foie Gras - for Thanksgiving with the family.

Bourdain has been over many rivers and through countless woods these past few years, but we're sure nothing has prepared him for this.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

BUT STEAMING CRABS TO DEATH ISN'T A PROBLEM?

The Veggie Vigilantes are putting the squeeze on Maryland, and at least two chefs don't have the stomach for it.

The Columbia Reporter reports that Michel Tersiguel of Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant in Ellicot City will be taking Foie Gras off his menu with the New Year after members of the Baltimore Animal Rights Coalition threatened to start protesting out front. The Iron Bridge Wine Co. - run by Steve Wecker - in nearby Columbia has also cleared it's kitchen of Foie Gras after complaints from customers. Such a shame to see these guys go down without a fight. Tersiguel said he had no choice, and it was a "no-win situation for us."

FoieBlog disagrees.

Just ask AAEFAAA award winner Parind Vora of Jezebel Restaurant in Austin, Texas, who has been fending off a twice a week protest for several months now and is no worse for wear.

Yes, it's easy for us to say go for it since we don't run a restaurant ourselves. Just don't be surprised, Mssrs. Tersiguel and Wecker, when you're faced with another "no-win situation." The name of the group is the Baltimore ANIMAL Rights Coalition. Not the Baltimore NO FOIE GRAS Coalition.

They'll be back.

Actually, they'll be at Louisiana Restaurant in Baltimore on Dec 7th where you can currently get a Veal Tenderloin En Croute Stuffed With Foie Gras Over Wild Mushrooms With Madeira Sauce and Truffle Oil.

Let's see if you still can in 2008.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

FAUX GRAS SPREADING LIKE PATE

Perhaps it's time to buy stock instead of Foie Gras.

British supermarket chain Waitrose has introduced a new faux gras product. The Scotsman reports that after taking Foie Gras off it's shelves six years ago, the purveyor has developed a pate that includes the naturally fattened livers of free range geese and ducks - raised in, of all places, Foie Gras-free Britian.
Hmm, sounds to us that someone at Waitrose got this idea after reading Pateria De Sousa's press. In any event, FoieBlog will continue to follow this development, as this "alternative" has now spread to at least three countries (UK, Spain, and Schiltz Goose Farms in the USA).
While we have yet to try any of this ourselves, most reviews say it's an alternative, but far from a replacement for Foie Gras. Still, our accountant is starting to think we should get in to this business on the bottom floor. It's no Google, but maybe our retirement will have to settle for Goosegle.

Friday, November 23, 2007

FOUNDING FATHER FOIE

OK, so it's not Foie Gras, but while going through the giblets from our Thanksgiving turkey, we couldn't help but toss a bit of the liver in a pan and have an impromptu snack.





Not as good as the real thing, but with a little olive oil and rock salt, not too bad either - and still better than a dry turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

THANKSGIVING TURKEYS

Ahh, the holidays in New York City, there's truly nothing like it anywhere else. The Rockefeller Christmas tree, Tiffany's crystal snowflake over Fifth Avenue, and, of course, carolers from Farm Sanctuary.
FoieBlog passed by Fairway on Manhattan's Upper West Side yesterday and was greeted by the latest chapter in the on again, off again No Foie Gras protest outside one of the cornerstones of the city's culinary heart. Thankfully, the activists didn't seem to be making much headway with the throngs of shoppers coming in and out of the store, and FoieBlog was actually impressed by the level of decorum being exhibited by the protesters - at least at the time we were there.
Come on, guys, do you really think such a flaccid exhibition is going to sway anyone to your side? At least try to come up with some catchy holiday-themed slogans, or hire a Santa Claus to attract attention to your efforts. Oh, that's right, you probably don't agree with his enslavement of reindeer and diminutive humans.
In any case, FoieBlog readers in the neighborhood can show their support by dropping in the the store and picking up a bit of Foie Gras in one of the many forms available, including a very easy and affordable 2 medallion package from D'Artagnian.
It makes a great gift for your favorite bloggers. (Hint, hint)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

LOBBYING LOSING IT'S LUSTER IN THE UK

As GrasGuy will tell you from his days in DC (as an observant and poorly-paid underling), one of the great perks and attractions of being a lobbyist - aside from an enormous salary and access to the highest levels of power - is all the free food you have access to at events around the Capitol.

While most consist of the same, huge, uninspired smorgasbord of fatty meats, cheeses and pastas offered with a perfunctory salad to make you feel slightly less guilty about consuming a day's worth of calories in one sitting - knowing full well you'll be eating dinner when you get home anyway - occasionally you come across an event planned by someone with an interest in food and a big enough budget to have an actual restaurant cater it rather than the generic 'pick 5 items from each column per 20 guests' purveyor used by the guy from across the aisle.

These meals, while never quite four-star, are created with the sole intent of placating the guests' palates in such an absolute way that they lower all of their defenses and and let the lobbyist in for the kill to influence whatever bill they're after that week. Washington represents the epitome of this kind of lawmaking, attracting the most effective lobbyists the world has to offer and lawmakers ready to be entertained by them, but it's the same system seen in one form or another in every city in the free world. Unfortunately, in three of those cities in the United Kingdom you won't be seeing Foie Gras on any buffet tables - at least not in city hall.

In the past couple of weeks, the cities of Bolton and Norwich have joined Paul Blanchard's cronies in York by passing largely ceremonial laws banning Foie Gras from council chambers and events. The councils, of course, have no power to ban the sale of Foie Gras in city restaurants and shops, but hope to set an example for the ignorant townsfolk who continue to enjoy unfettered access to the delicacy - save the occasional protester outside their favorite eatery. Unfortunately the people who really suffer here are the poor lawmakers, lobbyists and political hangers-on who will be deprived of this dish so often served at political functions in these cities - we're sure. FoieBlog readers thinking about getting into politics will want to look elsewhere for employment, and those already working in these cities will have to steal away from their meetings early to head off to their local gourmet for a Foie Gras fix when necessary. This having an obvious adverse affect on the well-oiled and well-fed lawmaking processes in these cities eventually leading to the demise of United Kingdom as we know it.

All joking aside, the casual way these symbolic bills made their way through council remind us of Chicago's passge of the 'silliest law', and stand as yet another warning against apathy from Foie Gras lovers, chefs and purveyors on this issue.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

DEADLY BLAZE AT HUDSON VALLEY FOIE GRAS

Late Tuesday night (10/30/07), Hudson Valley Foie Gras suffered a terrible tragedy when a fire of unknown origin swept through a structure housing 15,000 breeding ducks, killing the entire flock. The blaze appears to have started in an adjacent building where the mechanical and climate control equipment for the structure was located. Sullivan County fire officials are investigating the blaze and an exact cause has not been determined at this time. Arson has not been ruled out, but HVFG owner Izzy Yanay says he believes the fire was accidental.

Our best to the folks at HVFG as they recover from this event. While they assure FoieBlog their business will survive, the emotional scars inflicted by it will surely take some time to get over. Any responsible farmer will tell you how difficult it is to see the animals they care for injured in any way, and a disaster like this is unimaginable to anyone who hasn't lived through something similar.

The wonderful people at Farm Sanctuary, however, wasted no time in taking advantage of the tragedy to further their goal of putting HVFG out of business. FoieBlog won't give them the benefit of linking to their press release on the fire, but their statement that "as horrible as the suffering of the ducks who burned must have been, the suffering that awaits the survivors is equally horrific," is appalling beyond words. Such rhetoric is devoid of any semblance of accuracy or propriety, and is a further indicator of the lows activists will stoop to in order to influence their audience.

Friday, October 26, 2007

HALLES OF FAME

GrasGuy is a fan of Anthony Bourdain. I've admitted it before, and will do so again. I've read the books, enjoyed the shows, but I'm ashamed to say I haven't eaten the food. So, after passing by Les Halles dozens of times on my way to one of the newer, hotter restaurants in the Park Avenue South/Madison Square neighborhood - many of which are already out of business while Les Halles soldiers on - I finally decided to drop in for a bite. It's the least I could do for the man who penned the most honest and reasoned defense of Foie Gras ever put to paper (or, more likely, to computer screen.)

If nothing else, Les Halles lives up to its name. Belying the Manhattan-standard postage stamp-sized sidewalk cafe out front, the capacious interior that confronts you upon entering hits like a tidal wave of open space. There's actually room to stride between the tables without ever having to say 'excuse me' as you bump into yet another handbag hanging off the back of a chair. Still, you can't help thinking they could probably squeeze in another 10 or 15 two-tops if they filled it to the brim like most restaurants in NYC. It smacks of a business with a very old, relatively cheap lease that will come up sooner or later and force them to sell out to a billion-dollar chain like Starbucks or UniQlo. Then again, Les Halles is itself a chainlette, with locations in Washington, DC and Miami, and as long as Tony's star power keeps driving celebrity-chef suckers like me to the restaurant, they can probably fend off the certain doom of Big Apple real estate for a few more years, at least.

OK, enough with the business analysis from someone owns nothing but a set of Henkels knives and an out-of-tune guitar that's been unused only slightly longer than the cutlery.

Bourdain often extols the virtues of straightforward, honest food, and his writing - when not off on some hyperbolic tangent about exploring deepest darkest wherever or in the midst of some passive aggressive assertion of what defines good cooking - follows this mantra as well. This fact was obvious as soon as I was led to my table and seated on a banquette upholstered with torn brown vinyl that was repaired with brown duct tape - clearly the product of a restaurant held together by System D, Bourdain's beloved catch-all term for the mysterious methods restaurants use to fix things without actually fixing them. Who even knew brown duct tape existed? Nevertheless, take one star off for ambiance, but award one happy face for ingenuity.

On the other hand, Les Halles' lunch menu flies in the face of the simplicity Bourdain often espouses, and would give Gordon Ramsay a true kitchen nightmare if he were confronted by it on his show of the same name. There are no less than 50 dishes listed, not counting the separate Brunch menu also available on weekends, but which any reader of Bourdain's would steer clear from if his warnings about the original fourth meal are to be believed. It's hard to imagine any chef turning out this many different plates with any consistency on a Saturday afternoon, but this is the home of Anthony Bourdain, a man who's never been on Iron Chef, nor really claims that his stuff is all that great, so there you go.

Of course, my first instinct was to order the Foie Gras Sauteed with Apple, Walnuts and Calvados Sauce and follow it up with a nice Cassoulet Toulousain, and be done with it. But as I began to put down the menu, my gaze was caught by the intriguingly-named Hamburger Rossini. Who is this Rossini? And how dare he serve a burger with Foie Gras Terrine Melting on Top and a Black Truffle and Red Wine Sauce on the side!

Damn, and I really was in the mood for Cassoulet, but for $19.50 I really had to find out.

Charting this new course, and imagining a thick slice of terrine the size of that bun McDonalds puts between the two burgers in a Big Mac, but made in house with creamy D'Artagnan Foie Gras, I backtracked on the appetizer and went with the Fresh Wild Mushrooms and Salsifis in Puff Pastry instead, fearing an afternoon Foie Gras overdose and feeling a need to continue my exploration of salsify at French brasseries. I'm glad that I did.

Besides being a surprisingly large plate for an appetizer, fitting of the surroundings, the pastry was perfectly done and the filling very flavorful in a home cooked kind of way. As the usually white salsify was as deep brown as the mushroom sauce, this had clearly been stewing for sometime, and the entire dish was infused with all of the underground goodness of it's ingredients. Delicate? No, but why should it be?

Unfortunately the Nicoise Salad my wife ordered wasn't nearly as successful. A nice dressing undone by some big, sloppy red leaf lettuce and an overambitous, oversized, and overcooked piece of tuna that wouldn't have seemed out of place in an Astoria diner. Thankfully, the Hamburger Rossini would.

No, my vision of the ultimately decadent Foie Gras-laden sandwich was not to be, the melted terrine in reality only a small schmear on top of the beef patty - but oh what a schmear. Offering just enough Foie Gras flavor to stand up and be noticed over the perfectly-cooked meat and truffled wine sauce, the Foie Gras makes this a burger to be reckoned with in a neighborhood known for it's burgers. No, Danny Meyer's Shake Shack, down the block in Madison Square Park, doesn't need to worry about the competition - they play to different audiences - but the latest Best Burger In New York at Resto, a Belgian Beer pub just around the corner, is easily bested by Rossini's creation, although, even in this town, $19.50 feels a little steep. Sadly for Bourdain, despite his incessant claim that Les Halles makes the finest Pommes Frites in the world, the Flemish Walloon crowd at Resto do a better job. There's nothing wrong with the frites at Les Halles, they're as good as any, just not the kind you find yourself daydreaming about weeks later. I'm thinking of Resto's right now.

If a restaurant is truly a reflection of it's chef, then it's obvious that Anthony Bourdain must be more than merely a titular executive toque at Les Halles. Like his writing, it's a little rough around the edges and a bit uneven, but entertaining overall. Yes, I'll return one day for that Foie Gras and Cassoulet, but I'll still pass on brunch.

I'm sure Tony will understand.

Friday, October 12, 2007

NOT THINKING LOCALLY

If you grew up near a town with an IGA grocery store, you probably have fond memories of it.

Usually smaller, always more personal than the big supermarkets, IGAs are in essence mom and pop outfits that have banned together as a group to get more competitive pricing from suppliers and distributors. Without the alliance many of them could not survive on their own, and would be replaced by whatever behemoth chain has taken over the neighboring towns.

Well, as if they didn't have enough trouble dealing with their major competitors, now the Concordia Animal Rights Association (CARA) - the same folks who take credit for ridding Canada of the scourge of evil teenage farmhands - has started targeting IGA stores in the Quebec province as part of their effort to ban Foie Gras.

The very unbiased McGill University Daily (note their pointed and painful description of gavage in paragraph 12) reports that CARA has begun protesting outside of IGA stores in an effort to get them to stop selling Foie Gras.

Call us at FoieBlog cynics (you won't be the first) but we wouldn't be surprised if most of the CARA crew, when not saving the Canadian goose population from extinction, have been to their fair share of anti-globalization protests as well. We've been berated for years about how small, locally-owned companies are the answers to all the world's ills. We've gotten the message. Too bad whenever it's "save the animals" week in activistland they conveniently forget this mantra and set up their soapboxes in front of stores like IGAs and independently-owned restaurants that employ many of their hard working, low-income neighbors while providing the community with the products and services that it demands, which in many places, includes Foie Gras.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

BATTLE FOIE GRAS!

We all have our heroes.

For chefs there are Escoffier, Robuchon, Adria.

For lazy, untalented, imitation bon vivants like us at Foie Blog, there is only one:

Chairman Kaga.

Oh, to be able to summon the greatest chefs in the world before us to craft the finest dishes for our amusement and gastronomic approval. It is the dream.

Sadly for us, it is likely to stay just that.

Thankfully, there is Iron Chef.

Thankfully, there is also You Tube.

Battle Foie Gras.

Enjoy.

Segment 1
Segment2
Segment3
Segment4
Segment5

(Skip to segment 5 if you can't wait to see the tasting)

Monday, October 8, 2007

BLANCHARD IS BACK!

As we have noted before, many years ago GrasGuy lived in Washington, DC, where he circulated in the highest circles of power - it's a frightening thought.
A good amount of that time was spent in and around Capitol Hill, and he often found himself buying lunch in the various cafeterias of the US Capitol building. The food there was very typical cafeteria fare - burgers, sandwiches, mac and cheese - and nothing much to get excited about. So it is with much surprise that a dinky little government outfit like the Council of York, UK, has banned the sale of Foie Gras in their city hall.
According to our favorite birdcage liner, The Guardian, our old friend Paul Blanchard has managed to get a motion passed in Council banning Foie Gras sales on the premises, and condemning it's sale elsewhere in the country. Fortunately for everyone other than Blanchard, the Council recognizes that they do not have the power to ban the sale of Foie Gras in shops and restaurants around town. Still we are saddened by the passage of the motion.
Oh for the days when Foie Gras vendors would ply the steps of York city hall hawking their lobes to legislators and barristers alike. "Care for a bit of the goose, guvnor? It's right fresh today it is."
Right fresh, indeed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CHEAPEST GOOD CAUSE EVER

Ok, helping an old lady cross the street is still free, but no one is trying to ban helping old ladies across the street...yet.

However, if that old lady is on her way to a nice restaurant in Philadelphia you might have to help her past some loud-mouthed protesters trying to ban Foie Gras, and if they have their way one day you could find yourself being arrested as an accessory to a crime. But now, for the low low price of $5, you can help stop this draconian future from coming to pass and save yourself the expense of hiring a high-priced attorney.

Next week, a group of Philadelphia restaurateurs who have joined forces as Philadelphia Chefs for Choice (sorry, Chicago Chefs for Choice was a bit catchier) are hosting Freedom Foie For Five (ok, now that's catchy.) From Oct. 1-7 all of the participating restaurants will be offering Foie Gras dishes at only $5 a creamy, luscious pop.

The goal of the event is to spread the Foie Gras as far and wide as possible, so those who've never had the opportunity to enjoy it before will spread the word and influence the public opinion needed to keep City Councilman Jack Kelly's proposed Foie Gras ban from coming to pass. Hopefully some of Philly's lobbyists will be happy to shell out the extra fiver when they're out to lunch with other members of the City Council - or at least slip it under the table. Wink, wink.

FoieBlog wishes Philadelphia Chefs for Choice the best of luck. Hugs for Puppies is going to have their work cut out for them next week staying on top of 20 restaurants dishing out more Foie Gras than ever before - up until now they've barely been able to muster up a protest at one eatery at a time.

We also encourage our readers not to look at this as just an opportunity to save a few bucks, but to spread the joy among your friends. Just think about it, for the price you usually pay for Foie Gras, you can introduce 3 or 4 of your gastronomically-naive friends to our favorite dish.

Philadelphia Chefs for Choice say you'll be enjoying the kind of freedom Abe Lincoln would be proud of - we only wish they'd chosen George Washington. Democratic Ducks for a Dollar!

Maybe next year.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

JEZEHELL

FoieBlog has never seen a restaurant faced with such an onslaught of animal activism as Restaurant Jezebel in Austin, TX. Twice a week for months now, Noah Cooper's gang from Central Texas Animal Defense have continued their annoying protests, threats, and vandalism against Parind Vora's establishment. Nevertheless Parind tells FoieBlog he will never take Foie Gras off his menu, and we have no reason not to believe him. Heck, Foie Gras sales are up as a result of the controversy, so he says.

Now, Vora's plight is finally being recognized nationally, as the Center For Consumer Freedom has thrown it's weight behind him. If only they could get that trans fat ban in NYC overturned, then we'd be really happy.

If FoieBlog gave out an Award for Achievement in Excellence in the Face of Animal Activist Adversity, Parind Vora would be our top candidate this year. In fact, lets go ahead and establish that award right now. Tickets for our gala ball will be on sale later this month, and we'll be sending out invites to all of Hollywood's finest vegetarians just as soon as we get around to it.

I wouldn't expect Moby to be performing at the awards ceremony, but maybe Ted Nugent will be available.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

ON THE MENU: JUSTICE

After a quick chase on Tuesday, Austin police apprehended Josh Rosenberg, the animal rights activist accused of defacing Restaurant Jezebel, as he tried to run out of his backyard. Kudos to the fine officers of the APD for tracking down this creep. Rosenberg now faces felony criminal mischief charges and is being held on $20,000 bail.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

BE ON THE LOOKOUT

FoieBlog doesn't expect much decorum from animal activists, but this is pretty bad.
According to their website, the illustrious Central Texas Animal Defense has scheduled yet another protest outside of Restaurant Jezebel in Austin for this most solemn of days. No, we are not trying to draw any parallels between the 9/11 terror attacks and the feeble activists of CTAD, but there are days for this sort of thing and and there are days that aren't. 9/11 should not be one of those days. We doubt this will sit well with the residents of 43's home state.
In any event, there could be some action outside of Restaurant Jezebel this evening worthy of an episode of COPS. KVUE reports that Austin police have identified the person responsible for vandalizing the establishment on at least 2 occasions. According to the report, Jezebel's owner, Parind Vora set up a surveillance camera to catch the creep in the act. He did, and the cops cross-referenced the video with one taken at a recent protest outside of the eatery where the suspect, Josh Rosenberg was present. Despite Noah Cooper of CTAD insisting that the ones responsible for the vandalism "are putting themselves and the perception of animal rights activists are risk," it looks like they are a bit closer than Mr. Cooper would otherwise admit.
FoieBlog would also like to thank one of our readers (JS) for pointing out that CTAD has started taking their dog and pony show outside Austin and is now harassing Bistro Vatel in San Antonio. Run by a Damien Watel, who claims to be the descendant of a chef of Louis Quatorze, Bistro Vatel features Foie Gras et Pain Perdu as an appetizer on a very nice-looking bistro menu that also offers Duck Breast with Rhubarb and Sauteed Sweetbreads in Bernaise sauce. Protesters are expected this Saturday, 9/15.
For Watel's sake, FoieBlog hopes the police in San Antonio are as diligent as Austin's finest.

Monday, September 10, 2007

FOIEBLOG GOES XXX!

Like a struggling actress in Hollywood looking for her big break, or a simple blogger overwhelmed with bills for website hosting and T1 lines, FoieBlog has taken the inevitable step of going into porn.

We know, whatever sliver of credibility we may have had is history, but when you take a look at the pix, we think you'll be as persuaded as we were.

Enjoy!

(Our thanks to MH in upstate NY)

Friday, September 7, 2007

DISGUSTING!

No, we're not talking about the cockroaches.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that our friend, Didier Durand of Chicago's Cyrano's Bistrot was the target of some pests who decided to rat him out to the health department for supposedly serving Foie Gras in defiance of the city's ban.
While they came up empty in their search for the contraband, a few creepy crawlies were found - apparently due to some construction going on elsewhere in the building - and the restaurant was shut down.
FoieBlog hopes whoever the snitch was feels good about what they've done. Not only have they initiated the massacre of some poor helpless creatures (what, you guys don't care about insects, or not soft and cuddly enough for you?) but they put several hard working waitstaff, cooks and dishwashers out of work for a couple of days. Nice to see these lousy activists care so much about their fellow Chicagoans.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

THAI HIGHS AND LOWS

GrasGuy doesn't get French Thai.

It's not that I don't like the concept. Who wouldn't? Two of the world's great cuisines mixing to create a culinary atom bomb combining the creamy, buttery fatty goodness of traditional French cooking with the powerful, sinus-dissipating spices of traditional Thai, it's hard to imagine a better idea.

No, GrasGuy doesn't get French Thai, because he can't get it, because it pretty much doesn't exist.

Yes, there are "French Thai" restaurants aplenty, but take a look at the menus. More often than not they're straight-up Thai with a Steak au Poivre or Bouillabaisse thrown in for good measure. Maybe the chef even uses a little French technique on his Pad Krapow, but true fusion? Rarely. And that's a shame.

Sure, I'm making a broad generalization, and many of you will disagree. But it's not often I've seen baguettes in Bangkok (so to speak), and if you think about it, you probably haven't either.

So how did Foie Gras end up on the menu of one of my favorite Thai restaurants in New York?

Thai food in Manhattan is very much like Chinese food in Europe. Terrible, and unauthentic to a fault. So I'm not surprised when people tell me they don't like Thai food. Saddened, but not surprised. I'm equally upset when someone tells me they love Thai food, and then tell me where they had it. More often than not its called Thai Somethingorother 3.

Thankfully there are a few exceptions. Places like Kittichai, Pooket, and Land, where you can experience all the wonderful flavors Thai cuisine has to offer, rather than the greasy, bland trash most restaurants dumb down for us Farang.

One restaurant that manages to straddle the line between accessibility and taste is a very lively spot called Highline. No, this isn't your Thai neighbor's grandmother's food, but it's a lot better than Bangkok Thisandthat 5 in Midtown, and just as cheap - a miracle, given the swank ultramodern decor of it's three-level layout, not to mention it's location in the high-priced Meatpacking District. While the menu includes many Thai classics like Basil Beef and Green Curry Chicken, it also takes some chances. Pad Thai Spring Rolls is a signature dish you'll likely find nowhere else, but not as surprising as the recently added Foie Gras Puffs.

Filled with Curried Foie Gras and served with a Smoked Soy Reduction flavored with Tamarind, a bite of one of these flaky babies will knock your proverbial socks off but leave you asking - where's the Foie Gras? There's a familiar flavor in there somewhere, I think, but doused in all that curry it could be anything. After dissecting the insides of one of these, I discovered very small pieces of what I assumed was ground Foie Gras and just decided to leave it at that and bask in the whole of this outstanding $8 appetizer. Then, just as I was about to finish, I poked around one last time and, sure enough, came up with a forkful-sized hunk of Foie Gras. Biting into it I was instantly transported to a far away place from my past - my mother's kitchen, as she handed me a fried piece of the liver that comes in that little bag of giblets you get with an oven stuffer roaster.

Yea, it was that bad. But what do you expect for $8.

I know, it's my own fault. I should've just enjoyed the dish for what it was, but being GrasGuy I just had to go deeper, trying to unwrap the dish and find something clever to say about what I found. As it turns out I'll always remember that last, disappointing bite, rather than the first, which made me say "wow!" Lesson learned.

Would I order it again? Sure would. In fact, I've never had a bad dish at Highline. Their version of red snapper with sweet Thai chili sauce is one of the best in town, and the noodle dishes are spot on. And while I could live without the trendy bed/tables on the upper level, there's nothing like drinking a ginger mojito poolside with a disco ball in your face - head downstairs and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Korp Koon Krap, Highline, Korp Koon Krap.

BLOOMBERG BIAS? PART 2

FoieBlog knows it was just one line, a statement of fact, in fact, but it's placement turned us the wrong way, perhaps with good reason. Turs out we aren't alone.

In an earlier post, we voiced our concern over a line inserted into a Bloomberg News interview with Mark Hix, Chef Director of The Ivy restaurant in London, that went out of it's way to point out that his restaurant had been targeted by anti-Foie Gras protestors - in an article that had nothing to do with the subject. To this date, neither the writer nor the Bloomberg editorial staff has responded to our e-mails. However, sources in the UK culinary community similarly concerned about the article tell us that it was not the work of the writer, Richard Vines. Our apologies for any offenses made to him. On the other hand, we understand that it was the editor of the article that was responsible for its inclusion - which raises even more concerning questions. Was this merely the work of some overzealous newsroom hack trying to look smart, or, worse, make his own point? Or was it that said editor was following an internal directive on the subject?

FoieBlog will continue to try to get to the bottom of this, but we urge our readers to be wary in the meantime, and send in tips on any similar occurrences you come across. History has shown that even one sentence, however small, can have great effects.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." - Ronald Regan, 1987

"Can't we all just get along?" - Rodney King, 1992

"I'll be back." - The Terminator, as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1984

British restaurants are under a full-on assault from the anti-Foie Gras activists - including many in the liberal media there - and it's going to be up to the restaurateurs themselves to man the battlements. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "we shall fight in the press."

(OK, doesn't have the same ring without the Cuban cigar and Siren Suit, but you get the point.)


UPDATE: GrasGuy finally heard back from Richard Vines and we can confirm that it was not he who was responsible for the line. While he did protest its inclusion, Mr. Vines says the editors added it for purely "informational" purposes. Again, we apologise for any offenses made to Mr. Vines and appreciate his forthrightness on the issue. We of course still have questions about the editor's motive behind including this "information," but for now will leave the issue alone and keep it in mind while perusing the news outlets of the world.
FoieBlog's motives, of course, remain no mystery.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

BLOOMBERG BIAS?

The Ivy restaurant in London may be overrated, and overpriced, and overexposed, but we at FoieBlog would still go there if given the chance. We may keep a low profile, but we get giddy at the idea of rubbing elbows with celebrities while enjoying a plate of Sautéed Foie Gras with caramelised apples and a raisin jus. Who's that sitting with Sienna?
As such, a recent Bloomberg News article, Ivy Chef Hix Reveals Tips On Getting A Table, caught our attention - and kept it until the end of paragraph three. In the offending paragraph, the restaurant's Chef Director, Mark Hix, muses about what a laid back, casual experience The Ivy is, despite it's revered status. It reads:
'You can have a hamburger, you can have a Caesar salad, bangers and mash, you can eat foie gras.'' (An animal-rights group has protested outside the Ivy, saying foie gras is produced by cruel force-feeding of geese.)
This is exactly how the text appears in the article. The parenthesis are provided by Bloomberg, not FoieBlog. If you read the article in full, you will see that it is nothing more than an interview with a chef about his restaurant that neither poses the question of protests to him, nor raises the issue of Foie Gras in any context. Yet Bloomberg felt the need to include this line without giving Hix the chance to respond.
FoieBlog is not familiar with the writer's, Bloomberg restaurant critic Richard Vines, position on Foie Gras, nor do we know what Mark Hix thinks of this added line. However, it it is so off subject, so gratuitous, it can be nothing more than a political statement, whether by Vines' or the editorial staff at Bloomberg.
At the bottom of the article, as is the case with all of Vines' reviews, there is a disclaimer (also in parentheses) pointing out that the opinions in the article are Vines' own. Since the line in question isn't presented as an opinion, but is presented in parenthesis, it's hard to tell who's responsible for it.
In any case, it's not an isolated incident in the world of "journalism." FoieBlog has come across this sort of offhanded comment before in other publications, so often, in fact, that we've started to ignore it, attributing it to the uninformed masses of reporters thrust upon a subject they've only heard bad things about. To be fair, many of those articles are actually about the Foie Gras debate, but some are reviews like Mr. Vines'. We will no longer be so lax.
Irresponsible, activist, and just plain bad journalists are at as much fault as our pals at Farm Sancutary and VIVA! for misleading the public on the Foie Gras debate. Even the smallest inclusion can lead to tainting the uninitiated reader's opinion on the subject.
Please, Fourth Estate, leave that to us bloggers.
UPDATE: FoieBlog has tried to contact Mr. Vines and the Bloomberg editorial staff on this issue, but they have failed to respond to our inquiries. FoieBlog is not surprised.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A YEAR WITH(OUT) FOIE GRAS

Nice little article in the Chicago Tribune about the continued availability of Foie Gras in Chicago Restaurants - ordered and served sotto voce, of course.
Not much new info here, but a good guide on where to go to recognize the one year anniversary of the ban. There is no better way to show your support for the brave restauranteurs who have defied the ban and have been working so hard to get it overturned than to choose to patronize their establishments, which include some of the finest restaurants in the city. The article in the Trib is far from comprehensive, though, so check out http://www.chicagochefsforchoice.com/ for more ideas. The group's spokesperson, Didier Durand of Cyrano's Bistrot, says this about the current state of fowl affairs:
"Countless 'Duckeasies' are spreading through out Chicago, serving foie gras as a side dish! This delicacy has been pushed aside from the main stage, the position it previously held, and is now being outstaged by the formerly boring, super expensive accompanying salad."
Generally speaking, if a restaurant served it before the ban, they may still have some scraps left in the kitchen that they're looking to give away, so ask nicely and tip well.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

WHERE'S MITT?

Admittedly, FoieBlog is not familiar with, presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney's position on Foie Gras, but as a Republican running on the requisite small government platform, we're working under the assumption that the idea of a ban on Foie Gras is about as foreign to the ultra-rich Mormon as the idea of one man, one woman - just kidding, pal, we had a great time at the 2002 Winter Olympics, nice job.
And that brings us to Salt Lake City where the Illinois based group SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) has been trying to get Foie Gras off of area menus by trotting around the questionable activist classic DVD "Delicacy of Despair" to area restaurants, according to the Deseret Morning News. So far one restaurant, La Caille in nearby Sandy, UT has succumbed to the effort - although it's the kids at Farm Sanctuary who are taking credit for that one.
While we don't expect this most conservative of states to pass anything resembling a Foie Gras ban, Park City does attract quite a large contingent of that most despicable type of activist - the Hollywood Liberal - and, sure enough, that's SHARK's next stop, with plans to protest Grappa and Chenez this weekend (8/18-19). Since we can think of no better way to end a long day of mountain biking than by devouring a big plate of Duck 3-Ways with Crispy Skinned Boneless Breast of Duckling Served with Duck Confit and Peach Ravioli,Sautéed Asparagus, and Foie Gras Brandy Sauce, why not head over to Grappa this weekend and order yourself up a plate of this menage a troie of our favorite bird.
Heck, with Lindsay Lohan staying at a rehab clinic in Orem, Utah, maybe you can snap yourself a paparazzi photo to pay for the trip.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

DAFFY DUCK

For those of you who don't follow NHL Hockey (sadly, we'll assume that is most of the people who read this blog) Scott Neidermayer is a tough-guy defenseman who recently won the Stanley Cup championship as captain of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks - which took their name from a Disney film staring Emilo Estevez (we'll hope that most people who read this blog are not familiar with that.)
Well, while he doesn't mind beating up opposing players on a regular basis, it seems old Neids has a soft side for our fine feathered friends.
CBS SportsLine reports that Neidermayer recently sent a PETA-backed letter to the members of the Chicago City Council, telling them that "As an Anaheim Duck, I hate to see real ducks tortured so that a handful of wealthy chefs can serve their diseased organs...Please uphold this compassionate law," in reference to the city's Foie Gras ban.
Please, indeed.
FoieBlog can't help but question Mr. Neidermayer's sincerity or education on this issue. Hard as we've tried, we can't find any evidence of his support for Satanism during the years he was a New Jersey Devil, and we find it hard to believe his transformation into a duck is so complete that the species deserves any more of his support than the prince of darkness - or at least the flying hoofed creature that calls the Pine Barrens of New Jersey it's home. Of course we're Ranger's fans, so go figure.

BUT WOULD DIANA APPROVE?

FoieBlog doesn't know a lot about Mohamed Al-Fayed, but clearly he is someone to be reckoned with.
As if he didn't have enough to deal with on the 10th anniversary of his son Dodi's death by the side of Princess Diana, the owner of Harrods department store now has to put up with the crowd from VIVA! knocking on his shop door. As one of the remaining high-profile outlets that refuse to give up Foie Gras sales, Harrod's is set to be targeted by a planned national protest by the activists later this year. In the wake of Harvey Nichols' suspension of sales, The Independent reports that Harrods won't "dictate to customers what legal purchases they make," the store's spokesperson gratuitously adding that they still sell fur - which is the equivalent of saying "bring it on" to the protesters.
FoieBlog would like to attribute Al-Fayed's steadfast support for Foie Gras to his Egyptian background, his ancestors having been the first to enjoy the delicacy. Unfortunately, it's more likely this is a guy who doesn't like to get pushed around by a bunch of whiny Brits and is more than happy to ruffle a few feathers in the process.
In either case, good show.

Friday, August 3, 2007

RUE BRITANNIA

Every time the United Kingdom is beset with adversity - like floods or terrorism or the loss of David Beckham to Spain and now, gasp, the USA - all we ever hear about is the wonderful British resolve, or pluck, if you will. As if the rest of the world just gives up whenever a little trouble comes their way.
Well, it turns out not all of the upper lips in Jolly Ol' are so stiff after all.
Harvey Nichols, the upscale purveyor of fine foods and goods, has joined a growing list of shops that can't handle a couple of protesters from animal rights group VIVA! hanging out in front of their stores. They've made the "economic" decision to do away with Foie Gras to avoid being the target of a upcoming nationwide protest organized by the group. And they're not alone. Another supermarket chain, Makro has "suspended" selling Foie Gras while it investigates VIVA!'s claims of cruelty.
FoieBlog is quite sure that if Makro's investigation comes to the logical conclusion that Foie Gras is in fact not cruelly produced and reinstates Foie Gras sales, VIVA! will not leave them in peace. We cite as example another British supermarket chain, TESCO, who also ceased Foie Gras sales, but is now being harassed by VIVA! for selling live turtles in their stores on the other side of the world in China.
The lesson? Give them an inch and they'll come back for seconds.
Asda, Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer and Co-op have also thrown in the towel, so if you're going to be spending your hard earned pounds on some luxury eats, make sure you do it at a place like Fortnum and Mason or Harrods while you still can.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

FEEDING YOU-TUBE

FoieBlog is sorry to say that we missed the CNN/YouTube debate. Not due to a scheduling conflict, but to avoid watching that idiotic snowman complaining about global warming. Duh.

Still we are fans of the website, and forever in debt to the folks at FoodTVBlog for posting Janet Street Porter's report on Foie Gras which aired on Gordon Ramsay's "The F-Word" a few weeks ago. (Until you kids start clicking on those ads, we'll never be able to upgrade our cable to include BBC and see these things first run!)

In the piece, Porter goes on a quest to find an "ethical" alternative to Foie Gras for Ramsay's restaurants, and makes her way to Pateria de Sousa in Badajoz, Spain to sample Ganso Iberico. On the way, she stops at a traditional, but unnamed, Foie Gras farm in France. There, she witnesses gavage first-hand and doesn't enjoy it too much, even though the ducks look to be very healthy. Of course she shows one pen that appears - out of context - to be avoiding the farmer and the feeding tube, but you'd expect such drama from a Gordon Ramsay production. She never tries the Foie Gras.

Pateria de Sousa, on the other hand, comes off as a luxury resort for geese. One big all-you-can-eat grassy hillside. Porter has no issues here and gives the Ganso Iberico it a try, enjoying it enough to recommend to Ramsay.

Unfortunately, the video ends here, but we understand that the show continues with Porter bringing some back for Ramsey to see if it's a worthy alternative to Foie Gras. One look at the current menus of his restaurants will answer that question for you.

It's always hard to tell if Porter truly goes into these projects cold, or merely plays the role of a nave, though we suspect the latter is the case. People in TV don't often do things blindly - believe us, we know.

In any case, it's hard for our jaundiced eyes to judge what kind of affect this story would have on the truly uninitiated viewer. Sure, some people are just never going to be able to stomach (sorry) seeing those tubes inserted into the ducks, but they otherwise look to be in a pretty good situation, and you know that cute old French couple are taking good care of them - they're straight out of the book of French stereotypes, sans the Gauloises.

FoieBlog expects it will be some time before Ganso Iberico makes it to this side of the pond, and GrasGuy dropped the ball last year when he was travelling in Andalucia, not far from Badajoz. Still, we look forward to trying it as soon as possible, so if you hear about any heading this way, or get a taste yourself, please drop us a line.

Though we suspect we'll side with Gordon.

COWBOY UP IN AUSTIN

Protesters from Central Texas Animal Defense hit Restaurant Jezebel in Austin, TX last night, once again regaling the eatery's patrons with their anti-Foie Gras diatribes...and they'll be back.
One thing FoieBlog likes about organized activist groups is that they're just so, well, organized. In CTAD's case, they've been nice enough to post a schedule of their upcoming protests on their website. Looks like they'll be out front of Jezebel's every Saturday and Tuesday night in August at 7pm sharp.
So if you're looking for a night on the town, why don't you buy one of those "Stop Tofu Abuse, Eat Foie Gras" t-shirts that often show up in the Ads by Google boxes on this blog, and head on over to Jezebel to show your support for Parind Vora and all of the Austin restaurateurs who've been standing tough against Noah Cooper and his CTAD cronies.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

JACQUES ASS

Quebecois Foie Gras producer, Elevages Perigord, has fired an employee seen mistreating ducks on the farm in an undercover video shot by an activist group, the Montreal Gazette reports. Enforcing what they say is a zero-tolerance policy against animal cruelty at the farm, the company determined this guy had to go after an internal review. They do not plan to take action against any other workers until an official investigation by state authorities is completed.
While FoieBlog things it's a real shame this happened at all, its even worse that it was brought to light by a flunky from Global Action Network. We would hope that a well-regarded company like Elevages Perigord would do a better job policing themselves, but things do happen and we give them the benefit of the doubt. That said, we hope intelligent observers will not lose sight of the fact that this is not in any way an indictment of Foie Gras production or gavage, but merely the case of a Jacques Ass of the highest order.
Still, what exactly do we know about this guy? How long did he work at Elevages Perigord? Who did he know? Could he have been a plant himself?
FoieBlog hates to practice yellow journalism, but, what the heck, we're just a blog. What do you expect?

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD

Being avid world travellers and aspiring bon vivants, it's no surprise that we at FoieBlog are great fans of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations." Sure, the episodes can be a little hit or miss at times, but unlike many TV journeymen, Bourdain consistently "gets it," and he remains head and shoulders above the banal travellers of pretty much every other food centric travel show. $40 a day? We'll gladly pay more.
But wait, what's this? Advertisements for a "No Reservations" movie? Where's Tony? Who's that guy in the toque?
We may never understand how a country with such excellent copyright protections allows this sort of thing, but the folks in Hollywood clearly have no remorse hacking titles from respectable properties on to their made-by-consensus drivel like this formulaic romantic comedy. Still their onslaught of advertising is hard to ignore, and that Catherine Zeta Jones is one spicy meatball, so we thought we'd take a - slightly - closer look.
No, we couldn't bring ourselves to actually go to the theater and plunk down $25 to sit through this heartbreaker about a couple of bickering chefs who fall in love and all that, but we did discover a very interesting plot twist that may earn this one a spot in our Netflix queue six months from now.
It seems those West Coast smutmeisters managed to sneak not one, but two four-letter words into this PG-rated family film. Apparently, there's a scene where Zeta Jones' perfectionist chef, Kate, storms into the restaurant to confront a patron who's complaining that his Foie Gras isn't done properly. We can feel our thumbs starting to point upwards - at least we think those are our thumbs.
Considering that the deals that led to this film were probably made over lunch at some of Wolfgang Puck's LA eateries, having Kate's restaurant serving Foie Gras is like standing outside Buckingham Palace singing the Sex Pistol's God Save the Queen. Maybe we've been a little hard on the liberal Hollywood elite. Nah, we haven't, but we'll take what we can.
Sadly, the film's setting, 22 Bleeker Street, only exists in the imagination of No Reservation's screenwriters, but don't fret. To prepare for her role, Zeta Jones spent an evening working at New York's Fiamma Osteria where you can enjoy a Pan Seared Duck Foie Gras with Roasted Garlic Rhubarb, Vin Santo Zabaglione, Brioche and Marcona Almonds.

Down in front!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

GrasGuy has been to some shady places in his day. Afghanistan, Iran, the Gaza Strip...it's true. But before this weekend, I've never been somewhere that I've felt so out of place in...and I didn't even leave the United States.


Forced against my will by the bonds of marriage and friendship (sometimes I really wish I could go just up and go Ted Kaczynski and live in a cabin in the woods with nothing but a typewriter and a flock of geese to answer to) I was dragged to the one city on earth that I dare not go.


Chicago.


Imagine being stranded in a desert, on a planet with no oxygen, populated by Puritans, and you're wearing a great big scarlet "A" on your lapel. Imagine wishing that was the case.


I know, I know...the identity of GrasGuy is largely unknown and all those thousands of windburned eyes watching my every move surely were unaware they had a fox in their hen house, but the world eventually found out who Deep Throat was, so anything is possible. Then again, perhaps the deficiency of Vitamin A due to a lack of Foie Gras intake was affecting my own eyesight. Combined with an onset of sensory disturbances due to low B12 levels, an advanced state of paranoia was likely. Or am I being paranoid? In any event, a safe haven needed to be found. Thankfully, one was not far away.


Double-timing it off the beaten path and into the low rise section of River North, I made my way to the one place I knew I would feel at home. Cyrano's Bistrot. Sure, that slim guy in the ripped jeans and Woodstock '99 t-shirt on my tail might have confirmed my identity when I stepped through the door, but at least I was in a safe haven where I could hole up for a few days if things got hot.


Cyrano's is run a real live French chef, Didier Durand. Sadly, he's been distracted from his work in the kitchen by his duties as spokesperson of Chicago Chefs for Choice - the alliance of eateries fighting Alderman Joe Moore's Foie Gras ban. A photo of the esteemed Alderman, with the phrase Tru Du Cul, greets visitors to this otherwise friendly and charming French Bistro, adding a bit of authentic Resistance to the very authentic bistro experience.


Faced with a gaping hole on the menu where Foie Gras should be, the intriguing Country Ostrich Pate immediately caught my eye. I opted instead for the Three Rilletes of Rabbit, Pork and Duck - needing to find at least some gastronomic association with what I truly craved. On the plate they were hard to tell apart by sight - maybe that Vitamin A issue kicking in again - but their flavors were quite distinctive. While the Duck with Olives and Herbs was very light and tasty, and the Pork with Garlic was as good as pork and garlic tend to be, it was actually the Rabbit with Lemon that won the day - the citrus enhancing the surprisingly strong rabbit flavor of the Rillette. Paired with a bottle of Lucien Albrech Pinot Gris Tokay, I was almost able to forget the trials I was facing outside the confines of this charming restaurant. If only I'd been there before the ban to sample Didier's Foie Gras. Perhaps one day. Perhaps one day soon.


You see, while I can't go into detail now, what I learned in this den of Liberté, égalité, fraternité, is that the movement to restore Foie Gras freedom in this city is alive and well, and the days of the ban may be numbered. Stay tuned.


In the meantime, if you find yourself at Cyrano's for dinner - and I hope that you will - be sure to try the Grilled Country Bread. I can't tell you exactly what's in it, but it's both gluten and carbohydrate free, and like no baguette you've ever had.
Vive la Revolution!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

PHILLY ACTIVISTS RESORT TO DIRTY TRICKS - AGAINST EACH OTHER!

FoieBlog loves a good fight with anti-Foie Gras activists, especially when it's the activists fighting among themselves.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer (check the second item on the page), at 8am on Saturday July 14th a small group of people from Philadelphia Advocates for the Animals stood outside the home of chef Guillermo Pernot vocally protesting his use of Foie Gras at Pif restaurant. Unfortunately for PAFA Mr. Pernot doesn't work at Pif - which coincidentally went out of business the following day - and the restaurant he does work at, Cuba Libre, does not serve Foie Gras.


How could this happen?


Well, according to the PAFA folks, they got a tip from Nick Cooney at the illustrious Hugs For Puppies that was either meant to intentionally embarrass the competing group, or was just plain wrong. Cooney denies the charge and says PAFA screwed up on their own. In any event, it's amazing either of these groups can organize any kind of event, even in the wrong place.


This is somewhat reminiscent of recent happenings in Austin, TX that we've told you about, where Central Texas Animal Defense has been getting an even worse name because of some renegade anti-Foie Gras vigilante who's been vandalizing restaurants by spray painting offensive statements on their windows and facades.


While it's hard for FoieBlog not to feel a bit of schadenfreude about all of this, we also thank the activists for providing such an important lesson for our readers. To paraphrase Patrick Henry - who was surely stealing someone else's line - 'united we stand, divided they will fall.' We'll continue torturing the catch phrases of America's patriotic past by adding 'remember Chicago.' Many in the Philadelphia culinary community are doing just that and taking it to the activists head on - we'd expect nothing less from Rocky Balboa's hometown.

GUILTY BEFORE BEING PROVEN GUILTY

Farm Sanctuary is going after Amazon.com, calling for a boycott of the popular "we have everything" website for selling Foie Gras from the Elevages Perigord farm in Quebec, Canada. Good luck with that, Jeff Bezos probably loses more money in the laundry each day than a Farm Sanctuary boycott could possibly take away from him.


This all started a few days ago when the group released a video they claim was shot undercover at the farm, one of North America's largest, depicting what they allege is an employee treating the birds under his care in quite a harsh manner. The video is admittedly disturbing, and the company has since suspended at least one worker while investigators from the Canadian government look into the matter. What's unclear is how much of the video was actually shot at the farm, and how much of it that is presented out of context. The narrator makes many "observations" outside of the realm of what's seen on the tape. Farm Sanctuary isn't exactly an unbiased news outlet and has been accused of misrepresenting "evidence" in the past.

While FoieBlog too is decidedly biased, we have no love for those who would go out of their way to torture animals of any sort. However, we wish Farm Sanctuary would take a breath and give the proper authorities the opportunity to investigate the situation before they get ahead of themselves calling for across the board boycotts. FoieBlog preliminarily applauds Elevages Perigord for taking swift action in this matter and fully cooperating with authorities. We trust this will turn out to be nothing more than one bad egg in an otherwise respectable operation, but will wait for the outcome to the investigation before passing final judgement. Too bad Farm Sanctuary won't do the same.


As usual, the danger here is that Jeff Bezos only hears the story from one side and decides to cut off Elevages Perigord or other Foie Gras products as a public relations stunt. Vote with your wallet, folks, and if you don't feel comfortable buying Elevages Periord products until more is known about the situation, never fear, Amazon also markets products from always above suspicion outfits like Hudson Valley Foie Gras and D'Artagnan.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

BASTILLE BALL

If you're a Snapple drinker, you'll be familiar with the little bits of trivia they print inside the bottle caps. There's one that's always caught our eye, stating that there are more French restaurants in New York City than there are in Paris. FoieBlog has never fact-checked this, but, come on, there's no way. Maybe 50 years ago, but today with all of the "ethnicity" in the NYC restaurant scene? Non impossible.

Still, despite challenges from Northern Spain and Asia, the French Method lives strong in Gotham, and the culinary community is one to be reckoned with - both in the kitchen, and with the boule.

Saturday July 14th marked Bastille Day - the French version of Independence Day. To celebrate, a group of French expats and francophiles gathered in Bryant Park for a tournament of that most French game of Pétanque. Sponsored by the good people at D'Artagnan foods, and organized by La Boule New Yorkaise, 16 teams of three gathered to vie for the title of D'Artagnan Pétanque World Champions - a hyperbolic sobriquet to be sure, but New York is still the Capitol of the World, so what the heck.

Played on courts carved out of the gravel walkway surrounding Bryant Park's lawn, once could easily feel as though they've been transported to the Tuileries, what with all the French in the air and cloudy water bottles that look suspiciously like they're spiked with Pastis.

Pétanque is a simple game - get your team's balls closest to a target ball - but one that requires a deft hand and laser-like focus on perfection. So it's no surprise that teams made up of staff members from the kitchens of restaurants like Jubilee and Petrossian were well represented. The team from the Upper West Side's La Mirabelle was particularly intense, decked out in their matching Bastille Day 2007 T-Shirts.

D'Artagnan fielded two teams, and the fix looked like it might be in as the trio led by the company's founder, Ariane Daguin - dressed in an outfit reminiscent of Le Tricolore, disposed of the competition. However, in the end Petrossian prevailed, taking home the cup and all of the glory that goes with it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

VIVE LA FOIE!

The idea of a nation based on the concept of personal freedom was born in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1776. With a little help from our friends in France - we were much closer back then - that dream became a reality, and the shackles of British Imperialism were cast off forever, or at least until the British Invasion of the 1960's. While France was no help in fighting back that onslaught - we're sorry, but French pop music is decidedly non bon - we continue to share a special bond. On July 14th, 1789 a band of Parisians stormed the city's bastille and began a revolution that would mark the beginning of the end of feudalism and initiate the spread of constitutional democracy across Europe. This year, the battle for freedom comes full circle, back to the streets of Philadelphia.

FoieBlog has been following the debate over Foie Gras in the City of Brotherly Love - most notably the trials and tribulations of The London Grill, one of the restaurants targeted by local animal activists that has refused to relent to their demands. In short there's been a series of protests, insults, epithets, and restraining orders that the Philadelphia Inquirer has done a great job of reporting - so we won't try to recount the saga here. Suffice it to say, Terry Berch and her coworkers have taken up the gauntlet of the city's culinary community and has refused to give up an inch to the crowd at Hugs For Puppies.

Although FoieBlog is perplexed as to why a restaurant called The London Grill would celebrate Bastille Day, Ms. Berch has a tradition of dressing up like Marie Antoinette and recreating the events of that day. Perhaps it's the presence of the nearby Eastern State Penitentiary, perhaps it's something better left to a professional to determine. Since we at FoieBlog are rank amateurs, we will forget about trying to figure out this puzzle and merely tip our hats to the folks at The London Grill and wish them our best in Saturday's endeavors. A judge has limited the number of protesters and told them to keep in relatively quiet - we shall see.

As for us, we hope to be spending the afternoon in New York City's Bryant Park at the Bastille Day Pétanque Tournament at Bryant Park, hosted by our friends at D'Artagnan. If you don't know what Petanque is, think lawn bowling with berets and striped shirts and you get the idea. Many of the teams competing are made up of staff members from some of New York's finest restaurants like Petrosian and Le Mirabelle, so it should be a lot of fun. Look for a full report after the Bastille has been stormed - and by Bastille, we mean wine cellar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

AUSTIN ACTIVISTS ATTACK

A group by the name of Central Texas Animal Defense has begun targeting restaurants in the otherwise fun town of Austin, Texas. Fox 7 reports that the group is protesting outside restaurants serving Foie Gras and shopping around PETA's "undercover" video of the operations at Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Unfortunately for CTAD, someone named "V-Gangster"has begun vandalizing some of the same restaurants, spray-painting vulgarities on 7 eateries serving Foie Gras or Veal, making all the activists look bad - as if they needed any help.
None of this has deterred one owner, Parind Vora of Jezebel, who's made the pilgrimage to Hudson Valley himself and says the activists and vandals have it all wrong and are presenting their video way out of context. FoieBlog is shocked by the accusation!
What also shocks us is the sound of Vora's Pan Seared Lapsang Tea Crusted Ahi, with a Honey - Shoyu Gastrique and Seared Foie Gras. Quite the combination, and at $49.95 in a town where $5 BBQ dinners are the norm, we'll hope it's as good as it sounds.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

EAT 'EM WHILE YOU'VE GOT THEM

The Associated Press reports that Bird Flu has once again reared it's ugly head - this time in France. So far it's been confined to just 3 swans found in a pond in the town of Assenoncourt. However, the Agriculture Ministry is taking no chances and wants to nip the problem in the bud, avoiding a repeat of the scare they experienced in 2006, when poultry exports - including Foie Gras! - were affected by the discovery of the disease.
Typically, bird flu is not a food borne illness and requires contact with a live infected bird or its - oh joy - feces. The virus usually doesn't make its way out of the intestinal tract, and is easily killed by cooking. That said, nothing is impossible, particularly if food has been handled properly, but as far as Foie Gras is concerned - there probably is no concern at this point.
Nevertheless, until this blows over, maybe now is a good time for you Foie Gras Francophiles out there to give one of the American producers a try.
Freedom Foie Gras anyone?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

HUNGARY FOR FOIE GRAS

A friend of mine is on her way to Hungary this week for a family affair of some sort. While not everyone who knows me is aware of my dedication to Foie Gras, they are well aware that GrasGuy plans most of his vacations around eating, and they'll usually check in before they head out. Having travelled to Budapest last year, I was more than happy to oblige when she asked for recommendations, and one restaurant was at the top of that list.

Muveszinas on MuvenBajcsy-Zsilinszky ut is about as classic a Budapest haunt as you can get - the interior looking so old and filled with so much memorabilia that there's a good chance it is haunted - all the better. Serving up an extensive menu that is pretty much an encyclopedia of Hungarian cuisine, it's the place to go if you're only going to one place. Even better, you can go there every day and run the gamut of local dishes, many of which feature Goose in it's various forms.

I'd heard the legends about the good old days in communist Hungary - good for visitors at least - when Foie Gras was available for a pittance. $5 a pound? Hard to believe, but it was cheap, nonetheless. Unfortunately, this was in part due to the more industrial nature of the business back then, and GrasGuy is more than happy to pay a bit more for Foie Gras raised in a more proper fashion. Still, Hungary remains an affordable destination for the American dollar, and while Muveszinas isn't exactly cheap, for what you get, it won't break the bank.

What I got I'm afraid I don't exactly remember as I've lost my notes and some brain cells since I was there. What is seared in my memory though, is a plate with two slices of seared Foie Gras the size of tenderloin steaks - not the kind of thing you'll likely see outside of Eastern Europe these days. It was so substantial and so decadent that I hardly needed my entree, a very large pile of sausage and peppers and lots of paprika who's name also escapes me.

If you find yourself in Budapest anytime soon I hope you'll see through this rather pathetic account of my experience at Muveszinas and recognize the true enthusiasm behind the clouded picture.

Truly the most memorable meal I can't remember.


UPDATE: Just received a text message from said friend who was enjoying a Foie Gras en Papillote w/Mushrooms and couldn't get enough. Foie Gras in parchment sounds very interesting, and is definitely not what I had - but there's always a next time.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NOT SEEN ON TV


One of GrasGuy's earliest introductions to fine cuisine was not a flavor or aroma, but a word.
"Julienne."

As seen on TV.

As in, "It slices, dices, and EVEN Juliennes!"

As if slicing tubers into long thin strips is something exotic, a skill one should aspire to when purchasing cutlery from an 800 number. At least they gave you two for the price of one.

One thing those Japanese knives couldn't do was Salsify, and I guess that's because Salsify isn't a verb, but who knew. When I went with a few friends to Brasserie Julien on NYC's Upper East Side to sample their Stuffed Rabbit Loin Medallion Au Foie Gras With Salsify and Braised Endive, the conversation was more about what was "Salsified" rather than the usual dinner blither blather regarding work and derisive comments about people who aren't there.

For those who are interested, Salsify is a white root vegetable that some say reminds them of oyster when steamed or boiled. If a white asparagus had relations with a heart of palm you're probably closer to what it actually tastes like. In any event, it's long and cylindrical and would be the perfect subject for Julienne-ing. Sadly, in this case, it was not. But it was a fitting accompaniment to the dish who's name was also misleading.

Expecting small pieces of rabbit tenderloin that were actually stuffed with Foie Gras, I was surprised to see what looked like an overturned can of tuna with a piece of sauteed Foie Gras on top. I'm still not sure what part of this was stuffed - unless they meant the chips of rabbit were stuffed into a mold. In any case, rabbit and Foie Gras typically work very well together and even this odd mish mash was pretty tasty, despite the run of the mill quality of the Foie Gras.

Brasserie Julien is a casual, sometimes boisterous restaurant that looks like the movie Moulin Rouge run through an Art Deco converter, Palm Trees and live Jazz included. There's a great bar and cafe style seating on the sidewalk. A nice wine list and menu filled with Brasserie staples like Moules, Fondue and Steak Tartare make it a dependable though slightly pricey option in a neighborhood flush with Parisiennesque eateries.

Shame they can't spell Julienne.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

PHILLY FOIE FAMILY FIGHTS BACK

A number of Philadelphia restaurants serving Foie Gras have found themselves under assault from a local activist group called "Hugs for Puppies." Several restaurants have already caved just to get these very vocal and physical protesters away from their premises, but a few are holding firm. Restraining orders have been issued to keep the protesters at a distance from the businesses, and a some pro-active restaurateurs are taking the issue to city hall before a proposed ban becomes law.
This is good.
If there's one thing politicians relate to its votes. Even better when those votes are backed by tax-paying businesses that provide jobs and more votes. Even better when those tax-paying business-backed job-creating votes are also the ones who stuff those politicians' faces on their expense accounts. This is what democracy is all about.
The folks over at the London Grill, led by Terry McNally and Jennifer Holcomb have penned a well-argued letter that's being sent around to the City Council and other civic leaders. FoieBlog readers should lend their support by joining in on the campaign:
"We are writing to you as owners and employees of the hospitality industry to express our concerns about the behavior of the activists who participate in protests by the animal rights group, Hugs for Puppies. They have been campaigning to ban the sale of foie gras in the city of Philadelphia. They have been picketing our restaurants, London Grill, Ansill, Amada, and many more. This group has threatened us and intimidated us at every turn. On Monday, June 11, 2007 the group was at London Grill, they arrived dressed in black with black hoods over their faces shouting with bull horns. They came unannounced, without a civil affairs officer and protested in the entryway of the restaurant which directly interfered with the normal course of business. We have been called terrorists, animal abusers and other things not worth printing. Hugs for Puppies has promised to find out where we live and come to our homes.
We are chefs, managers, waiters, bartenders, bussers and dishwashers. We are students, artists, parents, career professionals and voters. We believe that we have the right to come to work, earn a living and raise our families in peace, without fear of intimidation from unlawful protesters.
We are concerned with the lack of support that our industry is getting from the city. Most of us live within the city limits and pay taxes accordingly. While we are aware that this group has the right to express dissent, we believe that their intent is not to use peaceful methods or honest discourse to make their point. We the undersigned, who earn our livelihood from the restaurant industry whether we are owners, waiters, chefs or bartenders, urge you to enforce the law regarding legitimate protest. We the undersigned, urge you to create a forum where all the scientific evidence can be evaluated to resolve this issue with out detriment to our ability to earn a living.
We sincerely hope that our city government and its elected officials will become involved in this matter before it escalates any further."
FoieBlog would like to remind Hugs for Puppies" that one of the most endearing images in Americana is the trusty hunting dog with a duck in it's mouth. If we weren't feeding them Alpo, they'd be chasing us back into the trees. Don't bring them unwillingly into this debate, it's inhumane.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

THERE'S NO SECRET TO RAMSAY'S MAZE

There's a popular new book out titled The Secret. GrasGuy hasn't read it, but the gist of it is that if you wish hard enough for something, you'll get it. Life is as simple as that. It's how Beethoven was able to write great symphonies and how Jimmy got himself a red 10-speed bike for his birthday. I'm not sure if the book is found in the self-help, spiritual, or magic section of bookstores, but there may be a little something to it.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my desire to dine at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at the London Hotel in NYC, but with a 3 month old baby at home it didn't really seem to be in the cards anytime soon. At least I could enjoy watching him whine and scream in the meantime - of course I'm talking about chef Ramsay on his television show, Hell's Kitchen, not my well-behaved son. So you can imagine my surprise on Fathers' Day when wife and baby told me to get in a cab because we were going out to an early dinner at an undisclosed location - and make sure you dress sharp!

Oblivious to where we were headed, visions of Per Se and Masa danced in my head as we approached the Time Warner Center. We did have a baby carriage in the trunk, though, so I wasn't surprised when the cab took a left downtown on 7th Avenue. But then a quick left on 54th street put us smack in front of the London and I couldn't have been happier.

Arriving at an unfashionably early 5pm, we were the only ones in the London Bar's restaurant - which we discovered had just been renamed Maze after his restaurant in the actual City of London. An attempt, I'd guess, to shore up what has been a less than blistering success since it opened a few months ago. All blue-grey upholstery and mirrors - imagine a cross between Cary Grant's suit from North By Northwest and a 1966 Ford Galaxie if you must - the decor is slick enough to catch the eye, but not so outlandish as to distract from the food or company. Of course, behind a pair of mirrored doors in the back, lies the more formal Gordon Ramsay At The London restaurant and the long-desired Pressed Foie Gras and Game with Port Sauce and Pickled Mushrooms that started this adventure. However, whether it be divine providence or that pesky Secret again, the dish is not currently on the menu so I didn't spend the entire meal longing for entry into those gilded confines.

In fact I was more than pleased with the extensive small-plates menu Maze has to offer - including no less, but alas no more, than 3 dishes featuring Foie Gras. In an attempt to outdo my birthday meal at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon, I ordered them all.


The first was a very interesting Apple Cured Duck Breast with Smoked Foie Gras Terrine and Amaranth. The waiter introduced the duck as only cured, not cooked at all. It was moist and looked like four slices of bacon formed into square the size of a slice of mortadella, a small block of amaranth-sprinkled terrine placed in one corner and a bit of Frisée in the other like a golden gloves lightweight facing off with Joe Frazier. If I've had amaranth before, I couldn't tell you, though I'm sure it's been in many a South Asian dish I've enjoyed along the way. On it's own the duck was unexpectedly mild, but when tasted with the impossibly creamy Foie Gras and malty flavor of the amaranth, the acidic flavor of the brine was brought to the front creating quite a stir on the pallet. I just wish it didn't look like a cold cut.


It's rare that two of the world's top chef's have a dish so similar on their menus, but when I saw Maze was offering a Honey and Soy Roasted Quail with Sautéed Foie Gras and Spiced Pear Chutney I couldn't wait to see how it stacked up against Rubochon's Foie Gras-Stuffed Carmelized Quail. Very different in execution, Ramsay's dish consists of two seared quail legs, one served atop the chutney, the other under a slice of seared Foie Gras, in contrast to the mouse-stuffed breast at L'Atelier. The quail itself is a bit tastier at Maze and the chutney - which I usually have no great love for - was savory enough to make me into a believer, but it was the Foie Gras that closed the deal. While Robuchon's stuffing tasted almost like an aged cheese, the Foie Gras at Maze was pure. Cooked perfectly, it was silky smooth while maintaining all of it's natural consistencies - exactly what one dreams about when they dream about the epitome of Foie Gras - if that one is me. With such different presentations, to compare the two would be apples and oranges, or perhaps apples and prunes - which leads us to #trois of the trio. Twice Cooked Poussin, Roast - Coq au Vin with Prune Purée and Foie Gras Velouté.

I have no idea what goes into making a Foie Gras velouté, but the result is a broth that bears no resemblence to it's treasured ingredient, and it's almost a bit sad to see. But there you have it, two pieces of poussin set a top the prunes, floating in a watery opaque yellow liquid that almost looks like Campbell's Chicken Soup before you add the water. Sadly, this isn't available in a can - yet. Rather than having much flavor of it's own, the velouté lends an essence of Foie Gras to the Coq a Vin which exists as an almost sweet BBQ glaze on one piece of the chicken. The combination is unique in my experience and worthy of merit, though the unglazed roast breast probably worked better with the broth. All in all a nice finish to a poultry-heavy meal that made me feel as if I'd just eaten the haute cuisine version of a Turducken.
Accompanied by my wife's order of curry dusted scallops, the most asparagus intense-flavored risotto ever encountered, and some excellent but surprisingly ordinary lamb chops, my only complaint about the meal was the absence of an amuse bouche. I know, very snobby of me, and a just a few years ago I thought an amuse bouche was something you found on the videotapes under your college roommate's bed. But I've been programmed in a Pavlovian fashion to expect such things these days, and expect I do. This oversight was partially made up for by the peanut brittle and four caramel-filled chocolate balls - of which I had three - served after our dessert of chocolate fondant and almond ice cream.
With all of the dishes ranging from $12-$18 and a relatively reasonably priced wine by the glass list to offset a four-figure heavy collection of bottle$, a meal here can be quite a bargain to boot. Unfortunately the competition for this type of dining has gone from nil to a crowd in NYC recently, and Maze is no better than the best. But while that Pressed Foie Gras is gone for now, I know there are a couple of other Foie Gras dishes waiting behind those mirrored doors, so I guess I'll start my wishing for my next birthday right away. By then my son should be able to talk. I wonder if he'll be able to keep a secret then.