Chicago restaurants defy ban on foie gras

August 23, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

CHICAGO --Yesterday, this city's lawbreakers were serving foie gras.

The illicit substance could be spotted in places it was rarely seen when it was legal: buried in Chicago's famed deep-dish pizza, in soul food on the South Side, beside beef downtown.

In one of the more unlikely (and opulent) demonstrations of civil disobedience, a handful of restaurants here that never carry foie gras, the fattened livers of ducks and geese, featured it on the very day that Chicago became the first city in the nation to outlaw its sale.

"This ban is embarrassing Chicago," said Grant DePorter of Harry Caray's Restaurant, which dreamed up a pan-seared foie gras and scallops appetizer ($14.95) and a Vesuvio-style entree pairing foie gras and tenderloin ($33.95) just to buck the new law.

"We really don't think the City Council should decide what Chicagoans eat. What's next? Some other city outlaws brussels sprouts? Another outlaws chicken? Another, green beans?"

While Illinois restaurant officials, who say 46,000 pounds of foie gras was sold here last year, filed a lawsuit yesterday over the city's ban, those serving the delicacy yesterday afternoon said they were unsure, and mostly indifferent, about how Chicago's law enforcement might punish them for their one-day protest.

As it turned out, the city did nothing - even in one South Side restaurant where the owner reported seeing a table of Chicago police officers at lunch.

Tim Hadac, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health, which, unlike the Police Department, is responsible for enforcing the ban, said that although the law went into effect yesterday, the city would begin enforcement today.

"The city gave them a day of fun, but tomorrow we'll see what happens," said Joe Moore, the alderman who first proposed the ban, adding that the method by which foie gras is produced - force-feeding ducks and geese through a pipe inserted into their throats - is clearly animal cruelty.

Still, the possibility of foie gras raids appears remote.

City officials will respond to citizen complaints, Hadac said, first sending a warning letter to restaurants, then demanding a fine - from $250 to $500 - for second offenses.

But Jerry Stout, a lunchtime diner at Connie's Pizza, said city leaders should have more pressing matters to worry about than fattened duck liver.

Hardly a foie gras connoisseur - he could not remember whether he had ever tasted it before - Stout, 54, tried it on his pizza and said he would recommend it because of its mild flavor.

"I guess we were rebels today," he said.

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