Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Update on the Chicago foie gras ban

The foie gras ban went into effect last Tuesday. The initial reaction wasn't necessarily what Alderman Joe Moore was looking for:

Chicago's immediate reaction to a city ordinance banning foie gras—the French dish made from the livers of force-fed ducks and geese—was to embrace the gray goo like never before, in flights of culinary imagination.

Rhetoric and pâté abounded on the first day of the City Council's ban, as restaurateurs and gourmands openly flouted the prohibition—cultured, giddy, goose-liver-fueled acts of defiance.

On Tuesday morning the Illinois Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to overturn the ban, accusing the City Council of overstepping its authority.

At the same time, many diners tried the dish for the first time, drawn to the outlaw pâté out of curiosity or desire to chomp on the wild side.
That's right - so far the biggest result of the ban has been to encourage people who've never tried foie gras before to try it so they can see what all the fuss is about! Woo-hoo, Chicago.

The city Public Health Department has been put in charge of enforcement, but purposefully let restaurants have free rein on that first day. There are questions as to whether the department even has the resources to enforce the ban, and they have made it clear that they will only respond to complaints, not seeking out transgressions.
Even after Tuesday, though, the possibility of foie gras raids appears remote. City officials will respond to citizen complaints, Mr. Hadac said, first sending a warning letter to restaurants, then demanding a fine — from $250 to $500 — for second offenses.
One of my favorite responses to the ban comes from Doug Sohn, proprietor of Hot Doug's, and a conniseur of encased meats.
...Sohn offered three variations of a foie gras-laced sausage despite the prohibition. In April he named the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage (with green apple mustard and goat cheese) "The Joe Moore" in honor of the proposal's sponsor.

Sales have been brisk, Sohn said, and he doesn't plan to stop selling it until more clarity about the law arrives.
Unfortunately, today brings news of the first official complaint.
A daily special at a Lincoln Square restaurant has triggered the first -- and only -- official complaint stemming from Chicago's controversial ban on foie gras.

A caller to the city's 311 non-emergency system complained that foie gras was being served over the weekend at Block 44, 4365 N. Lincoln. The restaurant is not refuting the claim.
The restaurant received a warning letter. Only time will tell if this is an isolated report, of the first in a series to be made by masked foie gras crusaders...

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