Au revoir, foie gras


In the two weeks leading up to Chicago's disputed ban on foie gras—the French delicacy made from force-fed duck or goose liver—Hyde Park's La Petite Folie restaurant has never served more orders of the dish. "We've gone through five loaves this week," said La Petite Folie co-owner Mary Mastricola, AB'93, August 9, adding that the restaurant would normally serve two loaves per week.

"We haven't really had 'parties,'" said Mastricola as she prepared that day's foie gras, referring to some downtown eateries' lavish "outlaw dinner" events that drew national media attention. Instead, the Hyde Park restaurant and its patrons commemorated the now-illegal dish in more subtle ways: diners ordered as much foie gras as their stomachs (and wallets) could handle. She referred to an example from the previous weekend, when each person at one table ordered four servings of foie gras.

At the restaurant Tuesday, the day before the ban would be enforced, Alma Lach said she spoke for most of her fellow gourmands in calling the policy "the most stupid thing." "I'm so mad about it," said Lach, a La Petite Folie regular and former Chicago Sun Times food editor. "If we give up goose liver, are we going to give up beef, lobster, or turkey? Thanksgiving's coming up." Author of Hows and Whys of French Cooking (U of C Press, 1974; Castle Books, 1998), Lach said she'll order her family's foie gras supply from the suburbs, Wisconsin, or Indiana.

Officially making Chicago the first U.S. city to outlaw the dish, the ban's first day of enforcement represents a sharp divide between City Hall and the city's higher-end culinary community. Mastricola said she thought the City Council, which passed the ban this April, had "better things to do."

A "memoriam statement" will fill the void left on the menu, Mastricola said. "Foie gras will no longer be served by order of the City of Chicago," the menu will read. "Contact your local alderman."

Hassan S. Ali, '07

Photos: La Petite Folie co-owner Mary Mastricola prepares one of the last legal foie gras servings (top); The dish that has stirred so much controversy (bottom).

August 23, 2006