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Chef Style: Lost and Foied

Ralph Palumbo

The battle is over. California’s controversial foie gras ban has been lifted, and Orange County’s top chefs are racing to get it back on their menus.
In the media, the debate was often portrayed as a war between animal rights activists and heavily tattooed, renegade chefs – the bleeding hearts versus the heartless. But the reality was less cut and dry.
Greg Daniels, executive chef of Haven Gastropub, was a leader in the “fight for foie” and also has a genuine commitment to sustainability. His point – one which he traveled all the way to the state capital to make – was never “I don’t care about the animals, I want my duck and goose liver!” It was more. “I do care and I believe that once you consider the physiological differences between geese and humans, the gavage (force feeding) of free range animals still affords them a better life than practices like factory farming.”
“It’s an ethical and humane choice that we make,” Daniels wrote on his restaurant’s website shortly after the ban, “right alongside the other choices of sustainable seafood and humanely raised beef and pork.”
With the ban lifted, Daniels is free to put foie gras back on the specials board – such as this interpretation with celery root puree, port-thyme onion jam, pickled apples, and cider demi. The taste is dizzying. Foie gras is so rich, so savory, and so impossibly velvety that it has the most rare of qualities amongst things we eat: it tastes like nothing but itself.
Comparisons are worthless. Texturally and flavor-wise, the celery root puree is a good match; it’s smooth and subtle, like a rock-solid studio drummer: not flashy but a great support for the star. The port-thyme onion jam, pickled apples, and cider demi add sweetness and hints of acidity – two vital notes to hit in such a decadent dish. With his nuanced balance of flavors and deft plating, Daniels proves that he knows exactly how to handle the state’s most hotly debated product.
The battle is over. Let the feast begin.

:: havengastropub.com

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