Welcome to EatWisconsin, the blog formerly known as Undelicious. This blog will focus on the food, the people, the history, and restaurants in the State of Wisconsin. Though we will focus primarily on the State of Wisconsin, there will be occasional forays into other Cities.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Foie Gras Ramblings

Over at the Culinary Podcast network there was a Culinary Roundtable discussion on Foie Gras, which inspired this post. Not since Dirk Diggler unfurled his junk at the end of Boogie Nights has an organ been so controversial. In general all of those participating in the discussion were very much aware of the controversy and none of them took a completely barbaric tone. What I think is lost in any discussion about veal, Foie Gras, or any animal for human consumption is the fact that in the end the animal is going to be killed and eaten.

Let me start by saying that I have only had Foie Gras twice in my life. Once it was mixed into a pate, which I though was just so-so and the second was served as part of a duck entrée that I ordered at Brasserie at 53 & Lexington in Manhattan. I actually never thought about ordering foie and when I saw it as part of a dish that featured duck confit and a seared duck breast, I figured it was a good time to finally try this controversial treat.

Those on the pro-Foie Gras side like to argue that overeating is what the ducks do naturally before migration. I heard an interview on the Restaurant Guys with Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras where he kept on saying over and over that the ducks voluntarily come up to the feeding tubes at feeding time. Those on the other side argue that the ducks are trapped in a cage and the tube is shoved down their throughts. They claim that the ducks tear out their own feathers and cannibalize each other as a result of severe stress. Many of them die well before slaughter (side note: I have heard that a higher percentage chickens die before slaughter than Foie Gras Ducks) Whether or not any of this is true is kind of irrelevant as I think that you can only look at your own personal beliefs and make a decision. Which brings me to the only logical solution, let people decide. Slowly people are letting our personal freedoms being taken away from us. It may be Foie Gras today but what will it be tomorrow? Veal? Eggs? Milk? Milk you say? Well anyone who has a clue about female anatomy or dairy farming knows that in order for a cow to produce milk, it needs to be kept pregnant. Should we really be allowed to enjoy something that is supplied as the result of forced pregnancy on cows? Anyone ever see the conditions that chickens raised for food or meat live in? Chickens crammed into cages so small they can’t turn around doesn’t sound that humane to me. Sounds silly, I know but this is how groups like PETA force their agenda on us.

Foie Gras is an easy target because only gourmands and rich people eat it. Sally Soccer Mom could care less if they ban Foie Gras but if they banned chicken or eggs she would freak out. The only people who care about the current war on Foie Gras are people who produce, cook, or consume it. I would say that in a poll of 100 Americans, only 50 percent would have even heard of Foie Gras and maybe 25 could actually tell you what it is. Ask the same 100 people who won the last season of American Idol and 90 percent could tell you it was Carrie Underwood (I actually had to google this as I honestly didn’t know). It has always been really easy to enact social change when you pick a so-called luxury item that the general populace doesn’t care about. I remember in the 80s when veal came under attack. That has seemed to die down, but you know as soon as they have really made a dent in the Foie Gras industry, veal is probably the next thing in their crosshairs. After all it is something that most of the population doesn’t eat and those who do don’t eat it very often. Maybe they have some veal parmesan at their favorite Italian restaurant or some veal mixed into their meatloaf or meatballs, but not enough to really get up in arms about it. That is how PETA works. Start with a luxury item (foie), move on to something that only a small segment of society eats with any regularity (veal) and then go after the bigger items like chicken and beef.

My opinion on foie is that like with other controversial food products such as veal is to let the consumer decide. If the practice becomes so horrible and unpopular, let the market will take care of the so-called Foie Gras problem.

Getting back to my first taste of Foie, I imagine this is what smoking crack is like. You have one taste and then you want more. Indeed, I ate my slice of seared Foie Gras as slowly as possible because it was like nothing I had ever eaten before. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The duck breast was described on the menu as a Long Island Duck Breast and Confit with foie gras, Berry compote, and orange-coriander sauce. The entire meal was outstanding. The breast was served medium rare and the berry compote provided the perfect sweet and tart balance to the rich meat. The confit was wrapped in what seemed to be a spring roll wrapper forming a duck stuffed straw. The orange coriander sauce was an awesome dipping sauce for these straws, which also had cilantro (aka coriander) inside. But back to the Foie Gras. There are not a whole lot of meals that I have eaten so slow as to savor every bite (a NY Strip steak served at Aureole in Vegas was another). Since that night in Manhattan I have had an urge to eat Foie Gras. Living in Milwaukee it has been very easy to resist this urge as there are so few restaurants that serve it (maybe 5) that I haven't even had an opportunity to order it. I have looked at a few stores but the price combined with the fear of cooking something that could completely melt and be lost forever is holding me back.


  • At 10:46 AM, Blogger Steve Wasser said…

    Fwah Grah was described by Patrick O'Connell (of the Inn at Little Washington) as French Cocaine, so your analogy to crack is right on. Check out my response(s) on the CPN website.


Post a Comment

<< Home