California's state-wide ban on the sale of foie gras went into effect on July 1, but some restaurants and chefs are still finding ways to put it on the menu.
Foie gras, the French delicacy made from the fatty liver of a goose or duck that usually has been force-fed, has long been a target of animal activists, who call it cruel. California's ban specifically makes it illegal to raise or sell birds that have been force-fed through the method known as gavage, in which a tube is placed into a bird's mouth to send food directly into the stomach.
California restaurants are already finding ways around the ban, or are defying it altogether. Chez TJ in Mountain View is still serving foie gras, although it's not officially on the menu. Instead, they're giving it away as part of their $130 "tasting menu."
Head chef Joey Elenterio told CBS News that it's a legal way around the ban. "The law clearly states that selling and producing foie gras in the state of California is illegal. I don't see any ducks on our property. It's not on the menu. I'm not selling it. I'm not getting any profit from the foie gras. I'm simply giving it away as a gift from me." Protestors have been standing in front of the restaurant showing off photographs of ducks being force-fed. The local police have received complaints but they have handed them over to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, saying the current law is too confusing to immediately enforce.
Another restaurant, the Presidio Social Club, says California can't legislate what they serve since they are located on Federal land within a national park. The restaurant held a big event on July 14 — complete with press release — and served foie gras in celebration of Bastille Day. "There are a lot of people who are upset about not being able to do something they have a right to do, so we just decided to go ahead and do it," general manager Maureen Donegan told Reuters. "The next step was to celebrate independence." That event, too, was greeted by protestors.
Still other chefs are turning to private, underground events — "Duckeasy" dinners — where the now-illegal delicacy is served. Guests pay $100 each for tickets to the 10-course meal, not the meal itself. A recent "Duckeasy" attended by writers for Bloomberg Businessweek started with a first-course meal of foie gras mousse and grape jelly on Wonder bread.
Meanwhile, one French politician who represents the Gers region, which is known for its foie gras, has responded to the California ban by asking for a boycott of California wines. Philippe Martin, president of the Gers region general council, told the San Francisco Chronicle that "we had to send a strong message," even though very little Ger-bred foie gras is shipped to California and relatively little California wine is imported into France.