All the Fat, None of the Guilt

Kinder, gentler foie gras from Minnesota.

Foie gras aficionados prize this luxe delicacy for its rich, silky qualities. Matthew Fogarty, executive chef for both the Napa Valley Grille and California Café at the Mall of America, loves working with foie gras because of the way its flavor profile pairs with so many others: “Sweet, savory, bitter, bold, sour—they all work.”

 

But foie gras, the fattened goose and duck livers that are native to French cuisine, has been mired in controversy of late. Chicago banned its sale two years ago (then repealed that ban in May). California will prohibit production and sales by 2012. At issue is the mechanized force-feeding of corn mash to the birds through tubes inserted into their esophagi, which animal lovers decry as cruel.

So how can Fogarty, in good conscience, serve up two summer specials with foie gras? Simple. He and other local chefs (Vincent Francoual at Vincent, Jack Riebel at the Dakota, Alexander Roberts at Restaurant Alma) are customers of French-born Christian Gasset, who brought foie gras production to the tiny southeastern Minnesota town of Caledonia with his business Au Bon Canard. Gasset makes it in the old style, pasturing his ducks, then during the final weeks of their lives, housing them in a cozy, art-filled barn, where he feeds them by hand on his lap.

The result is a notably rich product that chefs find easier to clean and work with than the usual mass-produced foie gras. Fogarty features it now in a rumaki appetizer and a locally sourced loin of venison topped with seared foie gras and a foie grasРand truffle-based P̩rigourdine sauce.

Napa Valley Grille, 952-858-9934, Mall of America in Bloomington. Dinner entrées, $23-$37; napavalleygrille.com/bloomington.