The week before California’s ban on foie gras went into effect, on July 1, the state’s residents seemed to turn into one giant collective bird, throat open, force-feeding itself as many fatty lobes as it could swallow. Chef Roland Passot, who’s featured in the latest Immigrant’s Table column, described the final days before the ban at La Folie in San Francisco as “foie gras madness.”
“There was literally a line around the corner, coming into the lounge,” says the 56-year-old chef, a native of Lyon, France.
For the week, Passot created a special six-course tasting menu dedicated to the duck liver: foie gras soup (with seared pieces of foie gras), a foie gras torchon (with barbecue-glazed squab), day boat scallops and foie gras, foie gras-stuffed quail, tournedos Rossini and bittersweet chocolate-and-foie-gras mousse. The dinner sold for $175 per person.
Passot says he burned through 220 lobes of foie gras during that week, each one weighing about 2.3 pounds. For the mathematically challenged, that comes to just over 500 pounds of duck livers. (La Folie used to run through about 50 lobes during a regular week, the chef says.) Passot’s 65-seat restaurant served about 150 customers a night during the week, which is nearly three turns of the house -- obscene when you’re talking about a six-course tasting menu for $175 per person.
“We’ve never been that busy,” the chef says. “We’ve never had that much demand. . . . It was crazy.
“People were coming at 10:30 to eat foie gras,” he adds. “I would never had anticipated that.”
Passot says he cooked all the foie gras himself, almost as if he were personally saying goodbye to each lobe before sending it off to war. The chef and his team were wiped out by the end of the week. La Folie is usually open on Mondays, but Passot decided to shutter the place because of sheer exhaustion.
“I tell you, my eyes were popping,” he says.
La Folie wasn’t the only restaurant in California that experienced a rush in the last days before the ban.The Wall Street Journal wrote that chefs “around the state are counting down their foie gras days by putting it anywhere they can.” Fox News, in typical fashion, noted in a headline that the “[foie] gras feeding frenzy grows as California ban nears.” And the Los Angeles Times collected Tweets from diners who squeezed in one final bite.
All of which just goes to show that the more a product is prohibited, the more some people want it.
“It was probably the best advertising for foie gras,” Passot says about the ban.