Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are you friend or foe of foie gras? Taste some now before it goes away June 30

Montes rose of syrah has a label drawn by Ralph Steadman!
Like the first time I set foot in Paris, the first time I had foie gras was a sweetly memorable experience. I was 23 and leaving Paris soon, moving back to L.A. for good. My French boyfriend wanted to take me too a really good restaurant, and suggested La Tour d'Argent. I didn't know much about food yet, but I knew that would be the kind of place I would feel uncomfortable and intimidated and they would sneer at us if we didn't order the right wine. So I suggested Hemingway's old haunt, La Closerie de Lilas, a relatively casual restaurant that was nonetheless much more expensive than I was used to. My friend insisted on ordering foie gras when he heard I'd never had it. I think it came with toast points and a glass of Sauternes; it was before we took pictures of our food so I don't recall. I fell in love immediately with the silky, slightly musky foie -- it was a potent reminder of all I was leaving behind in Paris.
Takami has views that don't quit
I don't eat it often in L.A. -- I remember a lovely foie gras done three ways at Grace, the beguiling cotton candy foie at Bazaar -- because I'd like to keep it as special as that last night in Paris.

But the state of California has decided to ban foie -- with a $1000 fine for selling it -- effective July 1. I'm sorry for the ducks and geese, but I'm not sure it's so much worse than battery cages or beef slaughterhouses or pink slime or all the other things we mostly ignore when we agree to eat animals. And there's hundreds of years of tradition behind it, which seems to count for something. So I'm coming out in favor of foie, and like the Artisan Farmers Alliance.
Seared foie gras, caramelized mango, rose reduction

With foie gras set to be banned as of June 30, many restaurants around town are doing Farewell to Foie dinners which are a bit of a devil's bargain -- one really good course of the rich liver is normally preferable to many, which could easily cause a crise de foie (French for upset tummy).
braised daikon, foie gras with shallot butter was our favorite
I was invited to sample one such dinner at Takami, accompanied by wines from Montes winery, and though it included six courses of foie, I'm happy to say the petite portions were not at all overwhelming. Takami, the Wilshire Blvd. sushi restaurant with the killer Downtown views, has always served foie dishes from French-influenced chef Stan Ota, and will be offering the dishes we tasted through the end of June, after which we will have to trek to Las Vegas or beyond for a foie fix.
nigiri of ahi tuna & foie gras with eel sauce
We enjoyed all the foie tastes -- those who like their foie paired with fruit would appreciate the one with caramelized mango, while braised daikon and shallot butter was an ideal non-sweet Franco-Japanese combination.
I wasn't very familiar with Chilean wine, and the Montes wines were excellent accompaniments to the rich dishes. I'd defnintely pick up their rose, Paso Robles syrah, or Late Harvest gewurztraminer dessert wine -- the perfect foil to the foie-gras infused chocolate truffles that ended the meal.


Bun Boy said...

I loved every delicious, controversial bite!

Amanda said...

Always, I said to myself, "One day, I will be able to afford foie at dinner." And one day I will -- outside of California! Sadly, I'm still in the "can't afford" category and won't be making it to any of the "farewell to foie" dinners, though they sound enticing.

Anonymous said...

Love it! :)