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The debate on foie gras

Several local restaurants serve foie gras, including Pauli’s Bar and Grill, Cotton Row Restaurant and Watercress.

BY ANNA DURRETT / REPORTER

A ban on foie gras, which is French for “fatty liver” and is specifically that of a force-fed duck or goose, went into effect in California at the beginning of July. The debate in California on the acceptability of foie gras is ongoing, and people in North Alabama disagree on it as well.

Dr. Rodney Soto of the Holistic Medical Center of Alabama in Madison said, “I don’t think it’s a desirable product due to the gavage [force feeding] procedure for its production. Unfortunately animals are forced to feeding procedures that can be harmful and cruel.”

Soto said regarding the health effects of consuming foie gras, “Benefits are attributed to the mono unsaturated fat content, similar to olive oil, of the duck liver. There are concerns though about its association with amyloid plaque production in Alzheimer’s and prion diseases of the nervous system.”

Madison resident Lucy Roberts ordered foie gras not knowing what it was while at a five-star restaurant on vacation in 2006.

“I guess you could say I was feeling adventurous, and I wanted to step out of my box a little and try things I hadn’t before tried,” Roberts said. “It was an exciting experience for me. Had I known what foie gras was initially, even though I wasn’t vegan then, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it.”

After having one bite, Roberts decided she disliked the taste and did not finish the dish. “Why I didn’t ask the waiter or waitress what it was is a mystery, but I didn’t, and they didn’t offer that info to me,” Roberts said.

Several local restaurants serve foie gras, including Pauli’s Bar and Grill, Cotton Row Restaurant and Watercress.

Pauli’s Executive Chef Matt Martin said of the ban in California, “I think it’s ludicrous.”

Foie gras is not currently on the menu at Pauli’s, but Martin said he has had it on the menu in the past, and he currently serves it on special occasions. He said a dish with foie gras may appear on the regular menu in the future.

“Primarily I’ll tend to just sear a slice of the liver and serve it with appropriate sides,” Martin said.

Martin said due to the flavor and texture of foie gras, it is a “very unique food.” He said it has a “rich, buttery texture with just a subtle hint of that organ meat kind of flavor.”

When using foie gras in a dish, Martin said he uses about 2 to 2 1/2 ounces. He said the current market value of foie gras is between $45 and $50 a pound.

Cotton Row has a foie gras dish on its menu called “pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras.”

“Our dishes are prepared from pan searing the raw liver to a medium cooked temperature and served with an assortment of stone fruits that are cooked in vinegar and always accompanied with a piece of crispy French bread,” said Chef James Joyce of Cotton Row. “We also recommend a glass of sweeter style wine, which is a classic French accompaniment.”

Watercress does not have foie gras on its regular menu, but a person who answered the phone at the restaurant and declined being identified said it is sometimes served. The unidentified person said when served it is “most likely just a daily special.”

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