Los Angeles: A Wild Goose Chase On The First Day Of The Foie Gras Ban

Jul 2, 2012 9:01 am

Driving around Los Angeles in search of the illicit

A sad sign at Surfas in Culver City.
A sad sign at Surfas in Culver City.
 
Foie custard served, pre-ban, at Mezze.
Foie custard served, pre-ban, at Mezze.
 

I woke up today with a mission: find foie gras. As you may already know, sales of any force-fed fowl have been halted in California as of July 1st thanks to CA Senate Bill 1520. For months, people have been lamenting the ban and now the foiepocalypse is upon us. Or is it? Law enforcement agencies statewide have said that enforcing the foie ban isn't exactly high on their list of priorities. While the fine for each infraction is $1,000, it seems that the manpower required to quackdown on the scofflaws would just be too expensive. With that knowledge, I set out on my mission. Could I find foie gras for sale in Los Angeles?

My first stop was L'Epicerie, a quaint French cafe and market that sells crepes and terrines and all other kinds of French specialties. They usually offer a homemade duck foie gras terrine that they serve with plum and fig chutney. In the glass case where the mason jars of foie are usually lined up, there was no foie to be had. All the labels said “pork.” I asked if they planned to offer any more foie and the guy behind the counter said “we're just working with what we have right now.” No mention of the ban whatsoever, but no foie either. This was my first stop but one of my best options. I left the store empty-handed yet determined.

Next up was Cafe Laurent, another French cafe, albeit one without a market attached. I checked the menu and didn't see foie. Bad sign. When I asked the manager, he said they're low-key and don't carry it. He suggested I try L'Epicerie. Thanks, mon ami.

Still foie-less, I ventured further for more out-of-the-box possibilities. The Curious Palate on Venice Blvd. is exactly the type of place you'd expect to find foie. They have a great cheese selection, a carefully curated stock of artisanal goods, and the salmon on their menu is billed as “locally cold smoked.” Just the kind of food geek place that might carry France's favorite liver-based delicacy. Nope. No foie here.

I arrived at the same answer for stop number four at Mitsuwa Marketplace – an admittedly odd choice. Mitsuwa is the go-to shop for all things Japanese, so I thought that perhaps they'd randomly have some foie in their cases. They didn't. Chicken livers? Yep. Frozen octopus sashimi? You know it. Good specials on Asahi tall boys? Glug glug glug. But no duck in any form. I felt like an idiot even asking because I'm pretty sure the manager I talked to assumed I lumped all Asians together and was looking for Peking duck. I WAS NOT LOOKING FOR PEKING DUCK, SIR. Although Peking foie sounds pretty good right about now.

Down but not out, I still had a few more ideas to garner some of the gander. Sprouts, a local grocery store that I usually describe as a cross between Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, had no foie. They had a whole frozen duck, so I assume you can make some sort of Frankenfoie out of what you find inside, but  they don't carry anything besides calf liver and beef liver. For the record, if we're so concerned about the well-being of the animals we're eating, let's talk about calves. No, on second thought, let's not open that can of baby cows.

Two stops left and they were both within walking distance of each other. Le Dijonaise is a French restaurant that offers something called “Pâté et Brie” on their menu. My hopes were slowly rising as I walked in. After asking one of the servers what kind of pâté they served, I was told “country.” That doesn't help me much. As far as I know, Noah did not take two countries on the Ark. I pressed further and found out it was made from pork. Merde! I sulked out knowing full well that I only had one more chance on my illicit quest.

Surfas was my Great White Beige Hope. If you're unfamiliar, Surfas is a restaurant supply house in Culver City that offers just about anything you would need to start a restaurant. I'm talking spatulas to Valrhona chocolate to giant pizza ovens. This place has always been fully stocked in duck and duck products for anybody that wanted some. I stepped inside and went immediately to the specialty case where they used to keep their foie. What I found was the saddest sign in the world: “BANNED IN CA” with a list of the myriad products they won't be carrying anymore. Not only was Surfas not selling foie gras anymore, they also stopped sales on ANYTHING duck-related. Apparently their duck was a by-product of foie production and now they can't sell any of it. The employee I spoke with told me they were currently trying to find alternate sources but there was no way they were selling foie gras. Quel dommage.

So my quest was all for naught. There is no foie to be had, at least in my general vicinity. This could be because it's the very first day of the ban and nobody knows how lenient the foie police are going to be. It could also just be that there was such a run on foie before the ban went into effect, that even those stores that plan on selling the beautiful meat butter are merely out of stock (Surfas was completely bought out of all of its duck products in the past week). No matter what the cause, I now live in a foie-less world filled with so few foiessibilities -- unless I hop on a plane and travel to literally any other state in the US. Then I can go nuts on foie and gorge myself like a duck being fattened for-- let's just say winter.


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