IDA Writing Alert: Finding foie gras

August 24th, 2007 5:27 pm by Kelly Garbato

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From: In Defense of Animals – takeaction [at] idausa.org
Date: Aug 23, 2007 4:02 PM
Subject: Writing Alert: Finding foie gras

The Chicago Tribune ran an article about the raging controversy over foie gras in Chicago. Please write a letter to the editor about the suffering ducks and geese endure to produce foie gras in support of their efforts. Send letters via an online feedback form.

Read “Finding foie gras” online.

Finding foie gras

One year after Chicago ban, controversial delicacy isn’t exactly a rarity

By Phil Vettel | Tribune restaurant critic
August 22, 2007

Michael Lachowicz, a chef with a restaurant on the North Shore, dined in Chicago Monday night, and what he remembered most about his main course was the garnish.

“There was a lovely slab of foie gras with my squab,” said the chef at Michael, in north suburban Winnetka. “It wasn’t listed on the menu.”

Small wonder it wasn’t on the menu, or that Lachowicz declined to name the restaurant. Since Aug. 22 of last year, it has been illegal to sell foie gras, a delicacy made from the liver of a force-fed duck or goose, within Chicago’s city limits.

But driving the expensive ingredient from the city’s restaurant menus is not the same as keeping it off the plates. Aficionados can still dine on foie gras, as long as they know where to look.

Bin 36 from time to time offers a menu item of a salad “and the foie gras is on us”; city inspectors dispatched to Bin 36 last year concluded that since the foie gras was complimentary, the ordinance hadn’t been violated.

At Copperblue, chef/owner Michael Tsonton serves a duck liver dish billed “It Ain’t Foie Gras No Moore” (the last word a reference to Ald. Joe Moore, who sponsored Chicago’s foie-gras ordinance) that tastes remarkably like the real thing.

Several restaurateurs acknowledge that they will honor special (and discreetly voiced) requests for foie gras. Others have sent foie gras out as an amuse bouche, an unadvertised, complimentary nibble, or as in Lachowicz’s case, as a surprise garnish. But the words “foie gras” never grace the menu–or the bill.

Some suburban restaurants are thrilled with the ban. “My foie-gras sales have doubled,” said Lachowicz. “Saturday we had a party that came up from Chicago just for the foie gras. I really have to thank the city for that.”

Chicago’s Tru restaurant may have eliminated foie gras from its menu, despite repeated requests (“Many people, even in Chicago, are not aware of the ban,” said general manager Serge Krieger. “Even more so, our repeat guests from out of town oftentimes ask why foie gras is not on the menu.”). But Tru chef/partner Rick Tramonto still features the ingredient at one of his suburban restaurants, Tramonto Steak & Seafood in Wheeling. Currently the restaurant offers a foie gras terrine with peach-basil marmalade.

“It’s a hugely popular dish,” said restaurant spokesman Jeffrey Ward. “And people do make the trip here from the city when they get a hankering for Rick’s foie gras.”

But Doug Sohn, owner of Hot Doug’s in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, no longer makes the “Joe Moore,” a foie-gras and duck sausage sandwich. Sohn served foie gras in defiance of the ban, and eventually was fined $250–to date, the only restaurateur fined under the ordinance.

“I have that going for me,” Sohn joked. “That’s real resume material.”

Sohn’s disobedient days are over, he said.

“It wasn’t worth the hassle and the attention we were getting,” he said. “I made my point. But one of my arguments was the wasted time, energy and resources to pass the law, and it would be hypocritical of me to spend the same time, energy and resources to oppose it.”

Chicago Chefs for Choice, an organization launched in opposition to the ban, continues to lobby aldermen in hopes of persuading them to repeal the ordinance. (There are two pending City Council ordinances that would do just that, but neither has made it out of committee for a vote.)

“Getting away with [offering foie gras] is one thing, but we feel there are bigger ramifications to this law still being on the books,” says Tsonton, one of the group’s founders. “It gives [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] something to hang their hat on, to push their agenda. They want to make this a vegan society, and they’re going to push and take until they get that.”

PETA members, on the other hand, say opposing foie gras is simply an ethical concern. PETA and other animal-rights groups have long maintained that gavage, the force-feeding process that creates foie gras, is inhumanely cruel to ducks and geese, and see the Chicago ordinance as an important victory.

“We all support legislation against cruelty to dogs and cats,” said Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s vice president for campaigns. “There’s no cogent argument why we should put our consciences on hold where dining is concerned.”

For members of the city’s Department of Public Health, which is responsible for enforcing the foie-gras ban, a repeal would be fine with them.

“We wouldn’t shed any tears if that were the case,” said spokesman Tim Haddac. “From the get-go, we’ve said that the law, however noble in its intention, has nothing to do with our core mission, which is to protect the health of the public. And every hour we spend on foie gras is an hour we don’t spend protecting people against food-borne illnesses.”

pvettel [at] tribune.com

You can use the following points to assist you in writing your letter or visit http://www.stopforcefeeding.com for more information:

* Every year nearly 500,000 ducks are confined into warehouses, force-fed with a pipe shoved down their throats, and slaughtered for their diseased livers.

* Recent investigations of the United States’ only three foie gras farms found gross neglect and cruelty. Witnesses found tens of thousands of ducks confined in filthy, overcrowded confinements and others left to suffer in enclosures so small they couldn’t even spread a wing.

* Ducks are force-fed with a long metal pole repeatedly shoved down their throats. The torture begins when they are just three months old and continues until they are sent to slaughter.

* During the investigation of three U.S. foie gras farms, investigators found birds on the verge of death, covered in their own vomit. Other birds were found dead in their cages. They had suffocated and choked to death from being force-fed.

* Many of the ducks who survive become too sick to walk. Those who survive the feedings suffer from a painful illness that causes their livers to swell to ten times their normal size.

Letters should be less than 200 words. Please do not send attachments and please remember to include your full name, address, and phone number (for verification purposes–street names and phone numbers will not be published) and not to use any wording in this alert.

Sincerely,
Kristie Phelps
Communications Director

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In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with more than 85,000 members and supporters dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by protecting their rights and welfare. IDA’s efforts include educational events, cruelty investigations, boycotts, grassroots activism, and hands-on rescue through our sanctuaries in Mississippi and Cameroon, Africa.

In Defense of Animals 3010 Kerner Blvd., San Rafael, California 94901 – P: (415) 388-9641 F: (415) 388-0388

email: idainfo [at] idausa.org

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