In a lather over liver

Vandals attack acclaimed Columbia restaurant in apparent rage over foie gras

March 24, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

Jean Poholsky looks forward to dining at Iron Bridge Wine Co. for the upscale ambience as well as for the food.

So when she arrived at the Columbia restaurant for lunch with friends Monday, she was shocked to see glass shards covering a stone walkway that had been spray-painted in red with the words "Get rid of the foie gras."

An admitted lover of the French delicacy made from the livers of ducks and geese, Poholsky concurred with the restaurant's owners that whoever was responsible for the overnight vandalism could have expressed their opinion differently.

"It is like saying, 'It's OK for me to break the law, but it's not OK for you to have foie gras,' " the Columbia resident said as she finished her salad. "I can't come to terms with that."

Owners Steve and Rob Wecker, whose 80-seat roadside restaurant has been named by Baltimore magazine as among the area's best five times in the six years since it opened, were also struggling to grasp why someone would cause such damage, estimated at $3,300. It went beyond the cost of replacing four shattered windows, sandblasting away the graffiti and switching out the front door locks that were ruined by glue.

They were bothered by the apparent degree of anger expressed.

"It's a shame that thousands of people die of cancer and heart attacks and somebody goes after something that is this small," Rob Wecker said as he stood outside the restaurant, just off Route 108, surveying the damage. "There are two foie gras farms in the whole country."

Monday's incident in Howard County is not isolated, said Juliette Rossant, editor of the online culinary magazine Super Chef.

"There are attacks on restaurants all over the country," she said.

The debate centers how foie gras is made. The technique, called gavage, dates to ancient Egypt, when ducks and geese were force-fed grain to fatten them up before slaughter. Modern technology has made the process less invasive, Rossant said, but the controversy remains. Several U.S. cities have enacted bans on selling the dish, and California passed a law banning it as of 2012.

Tersiguel's, a popular upscale French restaurant in Ellicott City, has taken the dish off the menu. Steve Wecker said Iron Bridge patrons complained when he did the same last year.

"We literally had more customers complain that we had taken it off than said 'Thank you for doing that, and we'll now support you,' " Wecker said.

The Weckers said that they have received several e-mail complaints about foie gras over the past couple of years. Howard County police are investigating.

The incident will do nothing to force a menu change, the Weckers said. In fact, they said it might have the opposite effect.

"We're going to have more foie gras," Rob Wecker said. "We're thinking about doing a Foie Gras Night, a progressive foie gras dinner for charity in response."

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