Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Quebecois Foie Gras producer, Elevages Perigord, has fired an employee seen mistreating ducks on the farm in an undercover video shot by an activist group, the Montreal Gazette reports. Enforcing what they say is a zero-tolerance policy against animal cruelty at the farm, the company determined this guy had to go after an internal review. They do not plan to take action against any other workers until an official investigation by state authorities is completed.
While FoieBlog things it's a real shame this happened at all, its even worse that it was brought to light by a flunky from Global Action Network. We would hope that a well-regarded company like Elevages Perigord would do a better job policing themselves, but things do happen and we give them the benefit of the doubt. That said, we hope intelligent observers will not lose sight of the fact that this is not in any way an indictment of Foie Gras production or gavage, but merely the case of a Jacques Ass of the highest order.
Still, what exactly do we know about this guy? How long did he work at Elevages Perigord? Who did he know? Could he have been a plant himself?
FoieBlog hates to practice yellow journalism, but, what the heck, we're just a blog. What do you expect?


Being avid world travellers and aspiring bon vivants, it's no surprise that we at FoieBlog are great fans of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations." Sure, the episodes can be a little hit or miss at times, but unlike many TV journeymen, Bourdain consistently "gets it," and he remains head and shoulders above the banal travellers of pretty much every other food centric travel show. $40 a day? We'll gladly pay more.
But wait, what's this? Advertisements for a "No Reservations" movie? Where's Tony? Who's that guy in the toque?
We may never understand how a country with such excellent copyright protections allows this sort of thing, but the folks in Hollywood clearly have no remorse hacking titles from respectable properties on to their made-by-consensus drivel like this formulaic romantic comedy. Still their onslaught of advertising is hard to ignore, and that Catherine Zeta Jones is one spicy meatball, so we thought we'd take a - slightly - closer look.
No, we couldn't bring ourselves to actually go to the theater and plunk down $25 to sit through this heartbreaker about a couple of bickering chefs who fall in love and all that, but we did discover a very interesting plot twist that may earn this one a spot in our Netflix queue six months from now.
It seems those West Coast smutmeisters managed to sneak not one, but two four-letter words into this PG-rated family film. Apparently, there's a scene where Zeta Jones' perfectionist chef, Kate, storms into the restaurant to confront a patron who's complaining that his Foie Gras isn't done properly. We can feel our thumbs starting to point upwards - at least we think those are our thumbs.
Considering that the deals that led to this film were probably made over lunch at some of Wolfgang Puck's LA eateries, having Kate's restaurant serving Foie Gras is like standing outside Buckingham Palace singing the Sex Pistol's God Save the Queen. Maybe we've been a little hard on the liberal Hollywood elite. Nah, we haven't, but we'll take what we can.
Sadly, the film's setting, 22 Bleeker Street, only exists in the imagination of No Reservation's screenwriters, but don't fret. To prepare for her role, Zeta Jones spent an evening working at New York's Fiamma Osteria where you can enjoy a Pan Seared Duck Foie Gras with Roasted Garlic Rhubarb, Vin Santo Zabaglione, Brioche and Marcona Almonds.

Down in front!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


GrasGuy has been to some shady places in his day. Afghanistan, Iran, the Gaza Strip...it's true. But before this weekend, I've never been somewhere that I've felt so out of place in...and I didn't even leave the United States.

Forced against my will by the bonds of marriage and friendship (sometimes I really wish I could go just up and go Ted Kaczynski and live in a cabin in the woods with nothing but a typewriter and a flock of geese to answer to) I was dragged to the one city on earth that I dare not go.


Imagine being stranded in a desert, on a planet with no oxygen, populated by Puritans, and you're wearing a great big scarlet "A" on your lapel. Imagine wishing that was the case.

I know, I know...the identity of GrasGuy is largely unknown and all those thousands of windburned eyes watching my every move surely were unaware they had a fox in their hen house, but the world eventually found out who Deep Throat was, so anything is possible. Then again, perhaps the deficiency of Vitamin A due to a lack of Foie Gras intake was affecting my own eyesight. Combined with an onset of sensory disturbances due to low B12 levels, an advanced state of paranoia was likely. Or am I being paranoid? In any event, a safe haven needed to be found. Thankfully, one was not far away.

Double-timing it off the beaten path and into the low rise section of River North, I made my way to the one place I knew I would feel at home. Cyrano's Bistrot. Sure, that slim guy in the ripped jeans and Woodstock '99 t-shirt on my tail might have confirmed my identity when I stepped through the door, but at least I was in a safe haven where I could hole up for a few days if things got hot.

Cyrano's is run a real live French chef, Didier Durand. Sadly, he's been distracted from his work in the kitchen by his duties as spokesperson of Chicago Chefs for Choice - the alliance of eateries fighting Alderman Joe Moore's Foie Gras ban. A photo of the esteemed Alderman, with the phrase Tru Du Cul, greets visitors to this otherwise friendly and charming French Bistro, adding a bit of authentic Resistance to the very authentic bistro experience.

Faced with a gaping hole on the menu where Foie Gras should be, the intriguing Country Ostrich Pate immediately caught my eye. I opted instead for the Three Rilletes of Rabbit, Pork and Duck - needing to find at least some gastronomic association with what I truly craved. On the plate they were hard to tell apart by sight - maybe that Vitamin A issue kicking in again - but their flavors were quite distinctive. While the Duck with Olives and Herbs was very light and tasty, and the Pork with Garlic was as good as pork and garlic tend to be, it was actually the Rabbit with Lemon that won the day - the citrus enhancing the surprisingly strong rabbit flavor of the Rillette. Paired with a bottle of Lucien Albrech Pinot Gris Tokay, I was almost able to forget the trials I was facing outside the confines of this charming restaurant. If only I'd been there before the ban to sample Didier's Foie Gras. Perhaps one day. Perhaps one day soon.

You see, while I can't go into detail now, what I learned in this den of Liberté, égalité, fraternité, is that the movement to restore Foie Gras freedom in this city is alive and well, and the days of the ban may be numbered. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you find yourself at Cyrano's for dinner - and I hope that you will - be sure to try the Grilled Country Bread. I can't tell you exactly what's in it, but it's both gluten and carbohydrate free, and like no baguette you've ever had.
Vive la Revolution!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


FoieBlog loves a good fight with anti-Foie Gras activists, especially when it's the activists fighting among themselves.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer (check the second item on the page), at 8am on Saturday July 14th a small group of people from Philadelphia Advocates for the Animals stood outside the home of chef Guillermo Pernot vocally protesting his use of Foie Gras at Pif restaurant. Unfortunately for PAFA Mr. Pernot doesn't work at Pif - which coincidentally went out of business the following day - and the restaurant he does work at, Cuba Libre, does not serve Foie Gras.

How could this happen?

Well, according to the PAFA folks, they got a tip from Nick Cooney at the illustrious Hugs For Puppies that was either meant to intentionally embarrass the competing group, or was just plain wrong. Cooney denies the charge and says PAFA screwed up on their own. In any event, it's amazing either of these groups can organize any kind of event, even in the wrong place.

This is somewhat reminiscent of recent happenings in Austin, TX that we've told you about, where Central Texas Animal Defense has been getting an even worse name because of some renegade anti-Foie Gras vigilante who's been vandalizing restaurants by spray painting offensive statements on their windows and facades.

While it's hard for FoieBlog not to feel a bit of schadenfreude about all of this, we also thank the activists for providing such an important lesson for our readers. To paraphrase Patrick Henry - who was surely stealing someone else's line - 'united we stand, divided they will fall.' We'll continue torturing the catch phrases of America's patriotic past by adding 'remember Chicago.' Many in the Philadelphia culinary community are doing just that and taking it to the activists head on - we'd expect nothing less from Rocky Balboa's hometown.


Farm Sanctuary is going after Amazon.com, calling for a boycott of the popular "we have everything" website for selling Foie Gras from the Elevages Perigord farm in Quebec, Canada. Good luck with that, Jeff Bezos probably loses more money in the laundry each day than a Farm Sanctuary boycott could possibly take away from him.

This all started a few days ago when the group released a video they claim was shot undercover at the farm, one of North America's largest, depicting what they allege is an employee treating the birds under his care in quite a harsh manner. The video is admittedly disturbing, and the company has since suspended at least one worker while investigators from the Canadian government look into the matter. What's unclear is how much of the video was actually shot at the farm, and how much of it that is presented out of context. The narrator makes many "observations" outside of the realm of what's seen on the tape. Farm Sanctuary isn't exactly an unbiased news outlet and has been accused of misrepresenting "evidence" in the past.

While FoieBlog too is decidedly biased, we have no love for those who would go out of their way to torture animals of any sort. However, we wish Farm Sanctuary would take a breath and give the proper authorities the opportunity to investigate the situation before they get ahead of themselves calling for across the board boycotts. FoieBlog preliminarily applauds Elevages Perigord for taking swift action in this matter and fully cooperating with authorities. We trust this will turn out to be nothing more than one bad egg in an otherwise respectable operation, but will wait for the outcome to the investigation before passing final judgement. Too bad Farm Sanctuary won't do the same.

As usual, the danger here is that Jeff Bezos only hears the story from one side and decides to cut off Elevages Perigord or other Foie Gras products as a public relations stunt. Vote with your wallet, folks, and if you don't feel comfortable buying Elevages Periord products until more is known about the situation, never fear, Amazon also markets products from always above suspicion outfits like Hudson Valley Foie Gras and D'Artagnan.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


If you're a Snapple drinker, you'll be familiar with the little bits of trivia they print inside the bottle caps. There's one that's always caught our eye, stating that there are more French restaurants in New York City than there are in Paris. FoieBlog has never fact-checked this, but, come on, there's no way. Maybe 50 years ago, but today with all of the "ethnicity" in the NYC restaurant scene? Non impossible.

Still, despite challenges from Northern Spain and Asia, the French Method lives strong in Gotham, and the culinary community is one to be reckoned with - both in the kitchen, and with the boule.

Saturday July 14th marked Bastille Day - the French version of Independence Day. To celebrate, a group of French expats and francophiles gathered in Bryant Park for a tournament of that most French game of Pétanque. Sponsored by the good people at D'Artagnan foods, and organized by La Boule New Yorkaise, 16 teams of three gathered to vie for the title of D'Artagnan Pétanque World Champions - a hyperbolic sobriquet to be sure, but New York is still the Capitol of the World, so what the heck.

Played on courts carved out of the gravel walkway surrounding Bryant Park's lawn, once could easily feel as though they've been transported to the Tuileries, what with all the French in the air and cloudy water bottles that look suspiciously like they're spiked with Pastis.

Pétanque is a simple game - get your team's balls closest to a target ball - but one that requires a deft hand and laser-like focus on perfection. So it's no surprise that teams made up of staff members from the kitchens of restaurants like Jubilee and Petrossian were well represented. The team from the Upper West Side's La Mirabelle was particularly intense, decked out in their matching Bastille Day 2007 T-Shirts.

D'Artagnan fielded two teams, and the fix looked like it might be in as the trio led by the company's founder, Ariane Daguin - dressed in an outfit reminiscent of Le Tricolore, disposed of the competition. However, in the end Petrossian prevailed, taking home the cup and all of the glory that goes with it.

Friday, July 13, 2007


The idea of a nation based on the concept of personal freedom was born in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1776. With a little help from our friends in France - we were much closer back then - that dream became a reality, and the shackles of British Imperialism were cast off forever, or at least until the British Invasion of the 1960's. While France was no help in fighting back that onslaught - we're sorry, but French pop music is decidedly non bon - we continue to share a special bond. On July 14th, 1789 a band of Parisians stormed the city's bastille and began a revolution that would mark the beginning of the end of feudalism and initiate the spread of constitutional democracy across Europe. This year, the battle for freedom comes full circle, back to the streets of Philadelphia.

FoieBlog has been following the debate over Foie Gras in the City of Brotherly Love - most notably the trials and tribulations of The London Grill, one of the restaurants targeted by local animal activists that has refused to relent to their demands. In short there's been a series of protests, insults, epithets, and restraining orders that the Philadelphia Inquirer has done a great job of reporting - so we won't try to recount the saga here. Suffice it to say, Terry Berch and her coworkers have taken up the gauntlet of the city's culinary community and has refused to give up an inch to the crowd at Hugs For Puppies.

Although FoieBlog is perplexed as to why a restaurant called The London Grill would celebrate Bastille Day, Ms. Berch has a tradition of dressing up like Marie Antoinette and recreating the events of that day. Perhaps it's the presence of the nearby Eastern State Penitentiary, perhaps it's something better left to a professional to determine. Since we at FoieBlog are rank amateurs, we will forget about trying to figure out this puzzle and merely tip our hats to the folks at The London Grill and wish them our best in Saturday's endeavors. A judge has limited the number of protesters and told them to keep in relatively quiet - we shall see.

As for us, we hope to be spending the afternoon in New York City's Bryant Park at the Bastille Day Pétanque Tournament at Bryant Park, hosted by our friends at D'Artagnan. If you don't know what Petanque is, think lawn bowling with berets and striped shirts and you get the idea. Many of the teams competing are made up of staff members from some of New York's finest restaurants like Petrosian and Le Mirabelle, so it should be a lot of fun. Look for a full report after the Bastille has been stormed - and by Bastille, we mean wine cellar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


A group by the name of Central Texas Animal Defense has begun targeting restaurants in the otherwise fun town of Austin, Texas. Fox 7 reports that the group is protesting outside restaurants serving Foie Gras and shopping around PETA's "undercover" video of the operations at Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Unfortunately for CTAD, someone named "V-Gangster"has begun vandalizing some of the same restaurants, spray-painting vulgarities on 7 eateries serving Foie Gras or Veal, making all the activists look bad - as if they needed any help.
None of this has deterred one owner, Parind Vora of Jezebel, who's made the pilgrimage to Hudson Valley himself and says the activists and vandals have it all wrong and are presenting their video way out of context. FoieBlog is shocked by the accusation!
What also shocks us is the sound of Vora's Pan Seared Lapsang Tea Crusted Ahi, with a Honey - Shoyu Gastrique and Seared Foie Gras. Quite the combination, and at $49.95 in a town where $5 BBQ dinners are the norm, we'll hope it's as good as it sounds.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


The Associated Press reports that Bird Flu has once again reared it's ugly head - this time in France. So far it's been confined to just 3 swans found in a pond in the town of Assenoncourt. However, the Agriculture Ministry is taking no chances and wants to nip the problem in the bud, avoiding a repeat of the scare they experienced in 2006, when poultry exports - including Foie Gras! - were affected by the discovery of the disease.
Typically, bird flu is not a food borne illness and requires contact with a live infected bird or its - oh joy - feces. The virus usually doesn't make its way out of the intestinal tract, and is easily killed by cooking. That said, nothing is impossible, particularly if food has been handled properly, but as far as Foie Gras is concerned - there probably is no concern at this point.
Nevertheless, until this blows over, maybe now is a good time for you Foie Gras Francophiles out there to give one of the American producers a try.
Freedom Foie Gras anyone?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


A friend of mine is on her way to Hungary this week for a family affair of some sort. While not everyone who knows me is aware of my dedication to Foie Gras, they are well aware that GrasGuy plans most of his vacations around eating, and they'll usually check in before they head out. Having travelled to Budapest last year, I was more than happy to oblige when she asked for recommendations, and one restaurant was at the top of that list.

Muveszinas on MuvenBajcsy-Zsilinszky ut is about as classic a Budapest haunt as you can get - the interior looking so old and filled with so much memorabilia that there's a good chance it is haunted - all the better. Serving up an extensive menu that is pretty much an encyclopedia of Hungarian cuisine, it's the place to go if you're only going to one place. Even better, you can go there every day and run the gamut of local dishes, many of which feature Goose in it's various forms.

I'd heard the legends about the good old days in communist Hungary - good for visitors at least - when Foie Gras was available for a pittance. $5 a pound? Hard to believe, but it was cheap, nonetheless. Unfortunately, this was in part due to the more industrial nature of the business back then, and GrasGuy is more than happy to pay a bit more for Foie Gras raised in a more proper fashion. Still, Hungary remains an affordable destination for the American dollar, and while Muveszinas isn't exactly cheap, for what you get, it won't break the bank.

What I got I'm afraid I don't exactly remember as I've lost my notes and some brain cells since I was there. What is seared in my memory though, is a plate with two slices of seared Foie Gras the size of tenderloin steaks - not the kind of thing you'll likely see outside of Eastern Europe these days. It was so substantial and so decadent that I hardly needed my entree, a very large pile of sausage and peppers and lots of paprika who's name also escapes me.

If you find yourself in Budapest anytime soon I hope you'll see through this rather pathetic account of my experience at Muveszinas and recognize the true enthusiasm behind the clouded picture.

Truly the most memorable meal I can't remember.

UPDATE: Just received a text message from said friend who was enjoying a Foie Gras en Papillote w/Mushrooms and couldn't get enough. Foie Gras in parchment sounds very interesting, and is definitely not what I had - but there's always a next time.