Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Down in front!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
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.
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.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
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 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.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
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
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
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
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.