No more foie gras whether hot or cold!
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2019 - 12:00am

One of the things I learned while living in Brussels is how to order foie gras. You just don’t say foie gras because the waiter will look at you as if you do not know what you want. Foie gras? Hot or cold he looks askance at you.

Brussels and Paris compete on which has the more excellent French food. The hot and cold foie gras education I had was in a restaurant called Tri Coleur, one of the best restaurants I had been to in Paris or Brussels.

It’s worth taking the ride out to the “Three Colours” to sample its exquisite and delicate gourmet French creations. It is not only the food but the ambience. The dining area is spacious and uncluttered, with a beautiful terrace garden at the back for al fresco dining in summer. The unobtrusive service is as impeccable as the food, and the wine list a match for almost any in town. I’d recommend if it maintained the quality when I last dined there a decade ago. One critic says it has as near a “Michelin-quality as you’ll find, but with the added bonus that the lack of stars stops the menu prices going through the roof.”

Indeed it is there I’ve learned how to order Foie Gras specifying “cold or hot” in Brussels.

This is not a food review column. But I thought I would give some culinary background about Foie Gras.

It is French for “fat liver,” and this delicacy is made from the livers of specially fattened geese or duck.  It is considered an ultimate culinary delight. You will find a Foie Gras in every house mostly during the holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

It is eaten raw, half-cooked or cooked, eaten alone or as an accompaniment to other dishes like meat. Under French law “Foie Gras” is part of the protected cultural and gastronomic heritage in France.

France is the first world-class Foie Gras producer with 18820 tons. Foie Gras is produced mainly in three distinct regions of Aquitaine, Midi Pyrenees, Pays de Loire (92 percent) Brittany and Poitou Charente for the rest of the production.

Pate may be served molded or unmolded, hot or cold, but tends to develop its best flavor after being chilled.

But as I said this is not a food column. The animal rights lobby raised such a howl the in US Legislature then intervened with a law allowing the farm to continue force feeding until the year 2012. It is now banned in some countries.

The group says the raising of ducks and goose for the purpose of making foie gras is cruelty to animals because it force feeds the duck or goose with more than they naturally consume in the wild.

It has spurred a debate even among world renowned chefs, chef Anthony Bourdain and chef/writer Michael Ruhlmanboth supported foie gras production and say the liver can be fattened humanely  (I don’t know what that means) and not as portrayed in videos circulating around the world that portray the process as cruel.

Other celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, and Albert Roux are against the use of foie gras. Roux has argued that foie gras should come with a warning so that “people know what’s being done to the animals.” He states that “More humane methods should be used that allow the animal to gorge themselves naturally.

Chicago chef Charlie Trotter is on his side and says  production of foie gras is “too cruel to be served.” Still he does not want to be associated with animal rights groups stating “These people are idiots. Understand my position.”

We just had the Christmas holidays in Manila and I am sure that foie gras was served although mostly in posh hotels or gourmet restaurants. So this is really a post holiday column and to observe that Manila is becoming a gourmet place with both the locals and visitors eating foie gras. I ate it with duck confit until I read that I ate something that involved cruelty to animals.

But then what is not cruelty to animals especially if you kill and eat them (after they are cooked) of course. Best to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

I met the famous chef Alain Ducasse recently in a humble French restaurant Croque in Pasay Road. I was invited by the chef’s mother Josie Kho. She said it was a coincidence that he and his friends from Enderun (famous cooking school in BGC) were there.

He says his love for food came from his grandmother who inspired him to be a chef. “It is the liaison between nature and humanity, the artisan whose role is to make happy those he feeds and the people who work in the kitchen.” I wonder where he stands in the foie gras (hot or cold) debate.

“This profession is about sharing,” Ducasse said at the Enderun Colleges in Taguig, which is home to the first Ducasse Education outside of France and its regional hub in Asia.

“Filipino students are very eager to learn,” said Mr. Ducasse. “That’s something that really touches him,” when asked why the Philippines is so lucky to boast of the first Ducasse institution in Asia.

He grew up in a farm and cultivated what I would call his teaching principle on cooking.

“Nature is an inexhaustible source of inspiration: it is nature that dictates the rhythm of the kitchen, of the farmers, breeders, and fishermen. Conscious of his responsibility to the preservation of natural resources, he works only with seasonal produce, produced naturally or fished durably,” it says on his website. “The original taste; the ingredients, they’re closest to the Earth. That’s what influenced him the most,” Mr. Ducasse told a news reporter. “You respect the products, and make it a star.”

The owners of Croque Joseph and Alex Lao are also its chefs. They trained in Enderun in BGC. For lunch Ducasse must have been pleased with the meal of Filipino food with a French twist: Fresh deboned bangus on a bed of small eggplants and wagyu beef on a deliciously mixed mashed potatoes. I didn’t miss foie gras and as Joseph said he bought the baby eggplants in the market nearby.

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