To mark California's foiehibition, which goes into effect July 1, all the Grub Street cities are celebrating the best and most creative uses of the lusciously forbidden offal by chefs in their area. But hey, California, if you're going to look to one of them, look to us in Chicago. Because we've been there. And we can tell you the pain you're putting yourself through.
Here's why: First, because it's a rube move, that blows a big hole right in the middle of your ascendant, French Laundered-culinary scene big enough for Europeans to snicker through. Second, because you may think it's only going to affect snobs and makes for good populist demagoguery, but remember that the only place in Chicago that actually got busted for serving foie was a hot dog stand. And third, because while making foie gras may or may not be all that humane, you're kidding yourself if you think the industrial chicken, pork or beef you eat is any kinder. A ban like this isn't about improving things for animals, it's about the satisfaction that the Cali-ban among you get when they deny somebody else pleasure. And if Goddess wanted California to be against pleasure, she'd have made it North Dakota.
So check out what we've been doing with foie gras since we came to our senses and overturned our own ban in 2008. Our slideshow of great foie gras dishes, compiled with the considerable aid of our man Roger Kamholz, starts below. And see also our colleagues' slideshows for New York, Los Angeles,San Francisco,Philadelphia and Boston.
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Doug Sohn, Hot Doug’s, 2006
Hot Doug’s3324 N. California; 773-279-9550
The irony of Chicago’s foie ban was that while the City Council imagined they would score points with culinary bleacher bums by thumbing their nose at the skyboxes, the only establishment ever busted under the ordinance was a hot dog stand. Doug Sohn’s “encased meats” emporium became famous for gleefully combining high and low, as in his foie gras-sauternes duck sausage with “fwah” mousse, truffle aioli and fleur de sel ($10). Then it was famous for the $250 ticket the same sausage earned him in 2007. Sohn still has the foie dog in his regular rotation, but his true legacy is the way his high-low fusion food turned foie into an average Joe’s indulgence all over town— as our first few slides will show.
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Foie Gras & Fries
Big & Little's860 N. Orleans; 312-943-0000; $14
As the Norway-based blogger who took this picture described the dish, "Over the fries were placed two glistening pieces of seared foie gras. However, the pièce de résistance, the crowning glory, the dénouement comes when the pan juices from the foie gras are gently drizzled over the hot fries. A juxtaposition of the luxurious and the common– hot crisp fries, with an unusually deep potato taste, smothered with ambrosial fatty foie gras goodness. Oh, lordy!"
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The Good, The Bad and the Happy
BadHappy Poutine Shop939 N. Orleans; 312-890-2165; $12.50If poutine (fries, cheese curds and gravy) seems indulgent enough on its own, this presses poutine’s pedal to the metal with pork belly, braised veal cheek, truffle mayo, foie mousse... and foie gravy, quite possibly setting a record for foie overindulgence that will never be broken.
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The Peasantry2723 N. Clark; 773-868-4888; $13
Frank N Dawgs owner Alexander Brunacci keeps the same mix of high and low at this just-opened spot which puts an upscale spin on street food like burgers, wings and gyros— as in the duck burger decorated with foie torchon, dried apricot, orange marmalade and mustard greens.
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Premise5420 N. Clark St.; 773-334-9463; $9
But street-level foie isn't only about ungodly excess. At Andersonville's new Premise, chef Brian Runge turns it into a simple yet decadent bar snack— salty housemade pretzels filled not with cheddar or mustard, but with oozing warm foie mousse inside.
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Kentucky Fried Quail, Foie Gras Enriched Corn Bread, Country Gravy, Red Beans and Hamhock
Longman & Eagle2657 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-276-7110; $17
Like other fat, mesmerizing divas, foie gras isn't accustomed to playing a supporting role. But as a flavoring for Longman chef Jared Wentworth's flaky corn bread, foie gras contributes to this stellar dish without stealing the show. Which would be a challenge, given how tasty those quail legs are.
EPIC 112 W. Hubbard St.; 312-222-4940; $16
Chef Mark Pollard proudly counts his latest foie gras presentation as one of EPIC's "prestige dishes." Firmly American in inspiration and undoubtedly luxurious, this plate is graced by a generous slab of beautifully seared foie gras, crumbly, cornbread-esque waffles, tangy blackberries, and lemon- and olive-oil-dressed watercress.
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Foie Gras Conserva
Tavernita151 W. Erie St.; 312-274-1111; $15
Bread and butter have nothing on this. Finely whipped foie gras mousse, sweet cherry compote, and a stack of crunchy grilled baguette boats make up this rustic, do-it-yourself tapas dish at Tavernita. FG&Js, anyone?
GT Fish & Oyster531 N. Wells St.; 312-929-3501; $13
Do "foie gras" and "surf and turf" belong in the same sentence? Chef Giuseppe Tentori thinks so. His take on the classic land-sea mashup pairs the contrasting textures of seared shrimp and foie gras in a delicate terrine formed with lobster stock and gelatin. Crushed peppercorns and tangy pickled pearl onions add brightness and spice.
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Whole Roasted Foie Gras with Apricot Mostarda and Citrus Salad
Avec615 W. Randolph St.; 312-377-2002; market price
Avec does not mess around when it comes to foie gras. We're talking a beautiful whole liver, pan-browned and roasted, then balanced on the plate with spicy arugula, grapefruit segments, and apricot mostarda. When you're dealing with the Old 96er of organ meats, some roughage is probably a good idea. So is bringing along a few friends with big appetites.
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Foie Gras, Kabocha Squash, Kombu, Honey
Yusho2853 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-904-8558; $18
A twisted swath of dried Pacific seaweed provides the stage for Yusho chef Matthias Merges's ultra artistic handling of the restaurant's prized Canadian foie gras—which is so expertly seared that it eats like crème brûlée. Kombu doesn't just appear as flatware; strands of the mildly briny stuff—braised in sake, mirin and duck stock—mingle with sweet kabocha squash slices and purée.
Nellcôte833 W. Randolph St.; 312-432-0500; $9
The same cherries that make a great Manhattan cocktail also dot this plate of creamy foie gras, airy brioche, and chewy pickled pistachios. If tipsiness ensues, don't be alarmed; it's probably just a cholesterol high from the silky-smooth, buttery foie.
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Whipped Foie Gras, Cassis de Bourgogne, Fresh Herbs, Pink Peppercorns
Telegraph2601 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-292-9463; $12
Journeys through Burgundy inspired Telegraph chef Johnny Anderes to devise this elegant plate of whipped foie gras, wine-sweet cassis gelée, dill, powdered brioche croutons, and whole pink peppercorns. Hey, Burgundy, you've got a thank you card coming your way.
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Foie Gras Bombe
Storefront Company1941 W. North Ave.; 773-661-2609; $9
A chef (Bryan Moscatello) who likes geometric small plates makes three perfect little foie bites— brioche topped with onion-rhubarb jam, then a dome of foie mousse. Bombes away!
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Foie Gras, English Pea, Radish, Herb
RIA1941 W. North Ave.; 773-661-2609; on Chef's Tasting menu ($185)
Current Food & Wine Best New Chef Danny Grant of RIA in the Waldorf-Astoria deliberately downplays the foie in this dish to let spring peas hog the spotlight. Instead he cures and poaches the foie, "almost purees" it, and rolls it in candied orange powder to make an earthy counternote to the simple spring brightness of the vegetables.
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Hudson Valley Foie Gras with a "Tarte Tatin" of Anjou Pears and Rhubarb, Preserved Ararat Valley Walnuts and Eau de Vie de Poire
Naha500 N. Clark St.; 312-321-6242; $26
Fruit and foie: two great tastes that taste great together! Or so thinks Naha chef Carrie Nahabedian. In this between-seasons dish, she combines brooding dark fruit flavors with the lightness of pear two ways, all of which is anchored by a melt-in-your-mouth portion of foie gras. Flavors of baking spice, supple preserved walnuts, and paper-thin rhubarb make for a dizzying rush toward spring.
Tru676 N. St. Clair St.; 312-202-0001; part of three-course, $98 prix-fixe menu
Tru chef Anthony Martin is getting downright experimental with duck consommé, infusing it Chemex-style with black truffle, thyme, celery, and scallion. The Aviary-esque tableside presentation ends with a pour-over of freshly fragrant consommé onto ravioli of foie gras and duck confit, butter lettuce, celery leaf, seared foie gras, and a julienne of black truffle.
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Next953 W. Fulton St.; 312-226-0858; Childhood menu, no longer available
One of the most charming parts of Next's tour through an American childhood (served throughout fall 2011) was this dessert course. Foie was used to make an adult version of cake frosting, which you were invited to lick off the beaters of a hand mixer (or scoop up with the apple cider doughnuts). This kind of creativity has made Chicago a culinary destination— something that is diminished whenever someone decides it's their business to decide what flavors and ingredients should and should not be in the repertoire of our chefs.