Thursday, June 28, 2007


One of GrasGuy's earliest introductions to fine cuisine was not a flavor or aroma, but a word.

As seen on TV.

As in, "It slices, dices, and EVEN Juliennes!"

As if slicing tubers into long thin strips is something exotic, a skill one should aspire to when purchasing cutlery from an 800 number. At least they gave you two for the price of one.

One thing those Japanese knives couldn't do was Salsify, and I guess that's because Salsify isn't a verb, but who knew. When I went with a few friends to Brasserie Julien on NYC's Upper East Side to sample their Stuffed Rabbit Loin Medallion Au Foie Gras With Salsify and Braised Endive, the conversation was more about what was "Salsified" rather than the usual dinner blither blather regarding work and derisive comments about people who aren't there.

For those who are interested, Salsify is a white root vegetable that some say reminds them of oyster when steamed or boiled. If a white asparagus had relations with a heart of palm you're probably closer to what it actually tastes like. In any event, it's long and cylindrical and would be the perfect subject for Julienne-ing. Sadly, in this case, it was not. But it was a fitting accompaniment to the dish who's name was also misleading.

Expecting small pieces of rabbit tenderloin that were actually stuffed with Foie Gras, I was surprised to see what looked like an overturned can of tuna with a piece of sauteed Foie Gras on top. I'm still not sure what part of this was stuffed - unless they meant the chips of rabbit were stuffed into a mold. In any case, rabbit and Foie Gras typically work very well together and even this odd mish mash was pretty tasty, despite the run of the mill quality of the Foie Gras.

Brasserie Julien is a casual, sometimes boisterous restaurant that looks like the movie Moulin Rouge run through an Art Deco converter, Palm Trees and live Jazz included. There's a great bar and cafe style seating on the sidewalk. A nice wine list and menu filled with Brasserie staples like Moules, Fondue and Steak Tartare make it a dependable though slightly pricey option in a neighborhood flush with Parisiennesque eateries.

Shame they can't spell Julienne.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


A number of Philadelphia restaurants serving Foie Gras have found themselves under assault from a local activist group called "Hugs for Puppies." Several restaurants have already caved just to get these very vocal and physical protesters away from their premises, but a few are holding firm. Restraining orders have been issued to keep the protesters at a distance from the businesses, and a some pro-active restaurateurs are taking the issue to city hall before a proposed ban becomes law.
This is good.
If there's one thing politicians relate to its votes. Even better when those votes are backed by tax-paying businesses that provide jobs and more votes. Even better when those tax-paying business-backed job-creating votes are also the ones who stuff those politicians' faces on their expense accounts. This is what democracy is all about.
The folks over at the London Grill, led by Terry McNally and Jennifer Holcomb have penned a well-argued letter that's being sent around to the City Council and other civic leaders. FoieBlog readers should lend their support by joining in on the campaign:
"We are writing to you as owners and employees of the hospitality industry to express our concerns about the behavior of the activists who participate in protests by the animal rights group, Hugs for Puppies. They have been campaigning to ban the sale of foie gras in the city of Philadelphia. They have been picketing our restaurants, London Grill, Ansill, Amada, and many more. This group has threatened us and intimidated us at every turn. On Monday, June 11, 2007 the group was at London Grill, they arrived dressed in black with black hoods over their faces shouting with bull horns. They came unannounced, without a civil affairs officer and protested in the entryway of the restaurant which directly interfered with the normal course of business. We have been called terrorists, animal abusers and other things not worth printing. Hugs for Puppies has promised to find out where we live and come to our homes.
We are chefs, managers, waiters, bartenders, bussers and dishwashers. We are students, artists, parents, career professionals and voters. We believe that we have the right to come to work, earn a living and raise our families in peace, without fear of intimidation from unlawful protesters.
We are concerned with the lack of support that our industry is getting from the city. Most of us live within the city limits and pay taxes accordingly. While we are aware that this group has the right to express dissent, we believe that their intent is not to use peaceful methods or honest discourse to make their point. We the undersigned, who earn our livelihood from the restaurant industry whether we are owners, waiters, chefs or bartenders, urge you to enforce the law regarding legitimate protest. We the undersigned, urge you to create a forum where all the scientific evidence can be evaluated to resolve this issue with out detriment to our ability to earn a living.
We sincerely hope that our city government and its elected officials will become involved in this matter before it escalates any further."
FoieBlog would like to remind Hugs for Puppies" that one of the most endearing images in Americana is the trusty hunting dog with a duck in it's mouth. If we weren't feeding them Alpo, they'd be chasing us back into the trees. Don't bring them unwillingly into this debate, it's inhumane.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


There's a popular new book out titled The Secret. GrasGuy hasn't read it, but the gist of it is that if you wish hard enough for something, you'll get it. Life is as simple as that. It's how Beethoven was able to write great symphonies and how Jimmy got himself a red 10-speed bike for his birthday. I'm not sure if the book is found in the self-help, spiritual, or magic section of bookstores, but there may be a little something to it.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my desire to dine at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at the London Hotel in NYC, but with a 3 month old baby at home it didn't really seem to be in the cards anytime soon. At least I could enjoy watching him whine and scream in the meantime - of course I'm talking about chef Ramsay on his television show, Hell's Kitchen, not my well-behaved son. So you can imagine my surprise on Fathers' Day when wife and baby told me to get in a cab because we were going out to an early dinner at an undisclosed location - and make sure you dress sharp!

Oblivious to where we were headed, visions of Per Se and Masa danced in my head as we approached the Time Warner Center. We did have a baby carriage in the trunk, though, so I wasn't surprised when the cab took a left downtown on 7th Avenue. But then a quick left on 54th street put us smack in front of the London and I couldn't have been happier.

Arriving at an unfashionably early 5pm, we were the only ones in the London Bar's restaurant - which we discovered had just been renamed Maze after his restaurant in the actual City of London. An attempt, I'd guess, to shore up what has been a less than blistering success since it opened a few months ago. All blue-grey upholstery and mirrors - imagine a cross between Cary Grant's suit from North By Northwest and a 1966 Ford Galaxie if you must - the decor is slick enough to catch the eye, but not so outlandish as to distract from the food or company. Of course, behind a pair of mirrored doors in the back, lies the more formal Gordon Ramsay At The London restaurant and the long-desired Pressed Foie Gras and Game with Port Sauce and Pickled Mushrooms that started this adventure. However, whether it be divine providence or that pesky Secret again, the dish is not currently on the menu so I didn't spend the entire meal longing for entry into those gilded confines.

In fact I was more than pleased with the extensive small-plates menu Maze has to offer - including no less, but alas no more, than 3 dishes featuring Foie Gras. In an attempt to outdo my birthday meal at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon, I ordered them all.

The first was a very interesting Apple Cured Duck Breast with Smoked Foie Gras Terrine and Amaranth. The waiter introduced the duck as only cured, not cooked at all. It was moist and looked like four slices of bacon formed into square the size of a slice of mortadella, a small block of amaranth-sprinkled terrine placed in one corner and a bit of Frisée in the other like a golden gloves lightweight facing off with Joe Frazier. If I've had amaranth before, I couldn't tell you, though I'm sure it's been in many a South Asian dish I've enjoyed along the way. On it's own the duck was unexpectedly mild, but when tasted with the impossibly creamy Foie Gras and malty flavor of the amaranth, the acidic flavor of the brine was brought to the front creating quite a stir on the pallet. I just wish it didn't look like a cold cut.

It's rare that two of the world's top chef's have a dish so similar on their menus, but when I saw Maze was offering a Honey and Soy Roasted Quail with Sautéed Foie Gras and Spiced Pear Chutney I couldn't wait to see how it stacked up against Rubochon's Foie Gras-Stuffed Carmelized Quail. Very different in execution, Ramsay's dish consists of two seared quail legs, one served atop the chutney, the other under a slice of seared Foie Gras, in contrast to the mouse-stuffed breast at L'Atelier. The quail itself is a bit tastier at Maze and the chutney - which I usually have no great love for - was savory enough to make me into a believer, but it was the Foie Gras that closed the deal. While Robuchon's stuffing tasted almost like an aged cheese, the Foie Gras at Maze was pure. Cooked perfectly, it was silky smooth while maintaining all of it's natural consistencies - exactly what one dreams about when they dream about the epitome of Foie Gras - if that one is me. With such different presentations, to compare the two would be apples and oranges, or perhaps apples and prunes - which leads us to #trois of the trio. Twice Cooked Poussin, Roast - Coq au Vin with Prune Purée and Foie Gras Velouté.

I have no idea what goes into making a Foie Gras velouté, but the result is a broth that bears no resemblence to it's treasured ingredient, and it's almost a bit sad to see. But there you have it, two pieces of poussin set a top the prunes, floating in a watery opaque yellow liquid that almost looks like Campbell's Chicken Soup before you add the water. Sadly, this isn't available in a can - yet. Rather than having much flavor of it's own, the velouté lends an essence of Foie Gras to the Coq a Vin which exists as an almost sweet BBQ glaze on one piece of the chicken. The combination is unique in my experience and worthy of merit, though the unglazed roast breast probably worked better with the broth. All in all a nice finish to a poultry-heavy meal that made me feel as if I'd just eaten the haute cuisine version of a Turducken.
Accompanied by my wife's order of curry dusted scallops, the most asparagus intense-flavored risotto ever encountered, and some excellent but surprisingly ordinary lamb chops, my only complaint about the meal was the absence of an amuse bouche. I know, very snobby of me, and a just a few years ago I thought an amuse bouche was something you found on the videotapes under your college roommate's bed. But I've been programmed in a Pavlovian fashion to expect such things these days, and expect I do. This oversight was partially made up for by the peanut brittle and four caramel-filled chocolate balls - of which I had three - served after our dessert of chocolate fondant and almond ice cream.
With all of the dishes ranging from $12-$18 and a relatively reasonably priced wine by the glass list to offset a four-figure heavy collection of bottle$, a meal here can be quite a bargain to boot. Unfortunately the competition for this type of dining has gone from nil to a crowd in NYC recently, and Maze is no better than the best. But while that Pressed Foie Gras is gone for now, I know there are a couple of other Foie Gras dishes waiting behind those mirrored doors, so I guess I'll start my wishing for my next birthday right away. By then my son should be able to talk. I wonder if he'll be able to keep a secret then.


FoieBlog apologizes for it's recent hiatus. We have bills to pay, and sometimes our day jobs get in the way of this labor of the liver. Keep clicking on those ads, though, and perhaps we can one day loosen the shackles of corporate servitude - and answer to our corporate advertisers instead!

While we were gone, GrasGuy had a few eating adventures and will be posting on them in the next few days. There's also a lot of anti-Foie Gras activity to catch up on as Bro-Town, also known as Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, quickly becomes the new hot spot in the battle for Foie Gras freedom.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Growing up everyone knew someone who wanted to be a veterinarian. While FoieBlog is sure only a slight fraction of these people actually followed through on their dream, we encourage all of our readers to track down these people, and soon.
The reason? At the July meeting of the American Veterinary Medical Association, members will be voting on a resolution that would put the AVMA on record as opposed to the "inhumane practice." This is the fourth time in a row the group has taken up the issue. Last year a large majority of members voted against similar wording. That being the case, FoieBlog wonders who is responsible for reintroducing it every year. This session, it is one of only two resolutions being voted on - the other involving privacy issues raised by the use of microchip registration databases for pets. Clearly a minority of members in position to introduce this type of resolution are doing so of their own devices and not the feelings of the general membership.
Forget dogs, level-headed veterinarians can be our best friends in the fight for Foie Gras if they take a first hand, scientific look at the issue themselves. Clearly, they are predisposed to be skeptical about how "inhumane" Foie Gras production is, but if they keep hearing about it at these meetings without getting a look from the other side, eventually they will mimic the Chicago City Council and vote in favor of it without careful consideration of their action.