In advance of an anticipated ban in California on the production and sale of foie gras, foodies and an established local chef gathered in San Mateo on Friday to dine on a foie-centric menu.
"I just hate being told I can't do something," said Preston Dishman, executive chef at Viogner Restaurant in San Mateo.
Dishman was talking about the California statewide ban on foie gras which goes into effect on July 1, 2012, while preparing to serve a five-course foie gras dinner.
A group of about 30 diners were watching Dishman's preperations in the classroom kitchen adjacent to Viogner restaurant, which was set-up as a private dining area for the evening.
This group was gathered by a Silicon Valley start-up called Dishcrawl, which put together this event, among others, in a foie gras dinner series dubbed "Foie Battle."
Jennifer Doan, the hostess of the evening and a spokesperson for Dishcrawl, said these dinners don't have a political aim. Five percent of the proceeds will go toward CHEFS, the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming.
CHEFS is a non-profit group which has been advocating for a repeal of the foie gras ban.
The Foie Battle is simply "meant to educate and create a unique experience to enjoy foie gras and demistify how it is used in all our food," said Doan.
The California ban on foie gras initially stepped into the legislative spotlight when Senate Bill 1520 was signed into law by then-Governor Schwarzenegger in 2004 to, "prohibit a person from force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size."
The bill also contains provisions to "prohibit a product from being sold in the state" which would use this described process.
This essentially prohibits the production process of creating foie gras from duck liver, and the sale of this product within the state of California.
The meal started with a first-course of foie gras torchon, and the meal closed with a foie gras panna cotta.
Dishman displayed a range of technique in choosing a different preperation of foie gras for each of the meal's five courses.
Foie gras was incorporated into a sauce for an agnolotti (a silver-dollar sized stuffed pasta) in the third course. It was even given a sweet twist in a foie gras panna cotta, topped with compressed fruits and a brown sugar tulle.
From the sweet and tangy notes in a honey, miso and foie gras infused sauce served with the Foie Gras Bao second course, to smokey and gamey notes in a pan-seared foie gras served with roasted squab, the dinner's flavor profile was robust.
Dishman even incorporated personal elements, like an interpretation of his grandmother's family recipe of Southern Apple Butter in the first-course of Foie Gras Torchon.
A quick-scan around the room by the end of the meal, and I spotted Dishman wiping his brow, a gentleman sitting on his hands, and a woman leaning far back into her chair, hands laying right a-top her abdomen. Not that I polled every diner in the room, but I think it would be suffice to say no appetite went unsatisfied that evening.
About the author: Anastasia is a contributor to San Mateo Patch, a freelance writer living in San Francisco, and she keeps a personal blog of her musings on food and fashion at infoodiefashion.com