Calif. restaurants duck weak state foie gras banSAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California ban on the sale of foie gras did not stop Karlene Bley from ordering the duck liver delicacy as she lunched Tuesday at the posh Presidio Social Club.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California ban on the sale of foie gras did not stop Karlene Bley from ordering the duck liver delicacy as she lunched Tuesday at the posh Presidio Social Club.
Bley, visiting from Los Angeles and sitting with her son, speaks excitedly.
“I've been waiting three weeks for this,” she says, as a waiter wearing a red tie and blue striped apron presents the forbidden pate on a wooden plank. She smears some of the foie gras on bread and takes a bite.
“Fabulous,” she pronounces. “Absolutely fabulous. It's creamy, it's lovely. It's liver so of course it's very good for you.”
Since the ban went into effect July 1, hundreds of people have continued to enjoy foie gras.
Presidio Social Club management contends the law doesn't apply to them because the restaurant is on federal land owned by the National Park Service. And across the state, other restaurateurs and chefs are using loopholes and clever wordplay to keep the dish on the market, a sign that passions run high on both sides of the issue.
Animal rights’ activists, meanwhile, say foie gras is the product of cruelty: ducks or geese are force-fed with funnel-like tubes until their livers become engorged. California's ban makes it illegal to sell food derived from force-fed birds.
Bley is not impressed by the state's reasoning.
“I'd never think of telling a vegetarian not to eat a carrot yanked from the ground with its friends the worms around it,” she says.
Chefs at Hot's Kitchen in Los Angeles County and Chez TJ restaurant in Mountain View, Calif., are serving foie gras as free side dishes, arguing that the ban does not explicitly prohibit distribution.
Other establishments, like San Francisco's Palio d'Asti, are offering to have their chefs prepare any foie gras brought in by customers. Bley says she's stockpiled livers in her freezer that a restaurant in Los Angeles cooks for her.
Rob Black, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said these actions reflect how the law created an “environment where you don't know what's legal. It creates confusion what restaurants or distributers can or can't do.”
The attempts to get around the ban have angered the man who introduced it in 2004, former state Sen. John Burton.
“Shame on them, it's the law,” Burton said.
Animal control officers have investigated one restaurant in San Francisco and plan to investigate another for selling foie gras. An agency representative said the restaurants exploiting the law have put enforcement in a bind.
“I think the law has some major loopholes, and we cannot extend the law,” said Animal Care and Control Deputy Director Kat Brown.
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