As animal rights activists eagerly await the August 22 phase-in of Chicago’s ban on the sale of foie gras, local chefs are providing liver-loving consumers with a last chance to enjoy the delicacy before loony lawmakers snatch it away. Special "farewell to foie gras" dinners have been a hit, attracting a huge number of connoisseurs and novice foodies alike (probably not the result Alderman Edward Burke’s do-gooder squad was expecting). As Todd Stein, executive chef at Cyrano’s Bistrot & Wine Bar — which has seen its foie gras sales triple since the ban’s announcement — explained to the Chicago Tribune, "Not only are customers ordering the [foie gras tasting plate] in its entirety, but we’re also selling the dishes a la carte. The whole thing is causing people to try it for the first time."
Savvy Chicagoans have been quick to point out that the foie gras controversy is about more than the freedom to eat a single dish: One successful consumer restriction will inevitably lead to more, with increasingly emboldened legislatures chipping away at choice. "Now it becomes a political issue and it becomes a constitutional thing," said Rick Tramonto, executive chef and founder of the restaurant TRU. "My biggest concern is where it will stop." Chef Didier Durand, owner of Cyrano’s — which had its windows smashed by pro-ban forces — has a prediction: "Pretty soon we’re going to be eating grass." Fortunately, a group of chefs may have found a loophole in the ban. As Copperblue’s Michael Tsonton explains:
It’s been made clear to us from our lawyers and the Illinois Restaurant Association that the ordinance is poorly written. It has been set up so that we can charge for the garnish and give away the foie gras, and that’s what we intend to do. My guests like it, they expect it to be on my menu and it’s going to continue to be.
According to Durand, in practice, this culinary circumvention might look something like this:
I’m usually serving the foie gras with some potatoes, salad and brioche. If we cannot sell the foie gras, I will be giving it away complimentary, and I will be charging $15.99 for the potatoes and salad and brioche.