Let Them Eat Foie

The End of Foie: 25 Foie Gras Dishes to Try in S.F. Before the Ban

Atelier Crenn’s log of foie.

The day of reckoning is upon us: The California ban on foie gras arrives July 1. That last-ditch effort to get the law overturned by a coalition of 100 big-name chefs was met with some serious side-eye by the California legislature, and they have a point — we’ve had seven years to battle this thing, and it’s a little late to be acting now. Sure, there will probably be a black market for the ultimate in offal goodness, and sure, you’ll probably still find some twenty-dollar dishes of “rhubarb compote” (or similar) on certain menus in the future — with the wink-wink understanding that the chef isn’t so much selling you your torchon as giving it to you gratis now. But for those who want to stay within the letter of the law, you have 25 days left to gorge yourselves, gavage-style, on as much foie as you can find. So here are 25 great local dishes you might want to taste before the clock strikes midnight on the last day of June.

Also, our compatriots in L.A. have done a similar slideshow of endangered foie dishes down there, and our Grub Street friends in New York, Chicago, Philly, and Boston have followed suit in solidarity. Enjoy.

Alexander’s Steakhouse 448 Brannan Street; 415-495-1111; $24   This preparation from chef Marc Zimmerman features blades of lemongrass, walnut toasts, yuzu buttermilk foam, and sherry vinegar gastrique. Also on the haute steakhouse menu you can find a cold terrine preparation with lychee miso, rooibos cream, and pickled green strawberries.
Atelier Crenn 3127 Fillmore Street; 415-440-0460; part of a $115 tasting menu (including $20 foie supplement)   One of the inventive highlights at chef Dominique Crenn’s Michelin-starred restaurant is this take on the foie torchon. Crenn first freezes the foie and then shaves it into curls to form these delicate, hollow logs, which she dresses with seasonal fruit, pickled vegetables, and condiments usually including vanilla. This version from the last month features pickled cherries, apricot gel, basil, and vanilla. Chef Crenn has since changed the preparation to include pickled enoki mushrooms and curried apple, but the dish remains fairly consistent.
Acquerello 1722 Sacramento Street; 415-567-5432 as part of a $95 tasting menu   The sauce on this dish, a perennial favorite on the Acquerello menu for most of its 23 years, was created by chef-owner Suzette Gresham-Tognetti using just a few simple, rich ingredients, the combination of which are the savory equivalent of crack pie. Bread will be required for sopping up every drop.
Benu 22 Hawthorne Lane; 415-685-4860; part of a $180 tasting menu   Whatever you do, don’t call it Asian fusion. One of the cornerstones of chef Corey Lee’s dynamic, Asian-inspired but category-defying tasting menu at Michelin-starred Benu are these simple but impactful soup dumplings, which are filled with a combination of pork and melty foie. They’re addictive and are meant to leave you wanting more, and never has San Francisco dim sum had quite so much French cred.
Bistro Jeanty 6510 Washington Street, Yountville, CA; 707-944-0103; $14.50   Philippe Jeanty’s Napa bistro covers all the classics, including the torchon, and foie gras paté, typically served with a port-poached pear and baguette croutons. Here, executive chef Joel Ehrlich rolls a cylindrical torchon in a dish cloth. ‘Torchon,’ you know, means ‘dish cloth.’
Burger Bar 251 Geary Street, inside Macy’s; 415-296-4272; $60   Chef Hubert Keller’s ultimate-indulgence burger is based on the classic Tournados Rossini, named for nineteenth-century Italian composer and gourmande, Gioachino Rossini. It features a Kobe beef patty topped with a half-inch-thick slice of sautéed foie gras, shaved black Perigord truffles, and a Madeira sauce, served on an onion bun. Thankfully, high-rollers can still find the burger after July 1 at Burger Bar in Las Vegas.
Commonwealth 2224 Mission Street; 415-355-1500; part of a $65 tasting menu   Chef Jason Fox’s version of torchon, rolled in oats and served with square-cut spears of brioche, has the added spice of pickled ginger, as well as a variety of sorrel called “Hearts of Fire” for its red veins.
Craftsman & Wolves 746 Valencia (opens on June 16); $7   Pastry chef William Werner’s latest creation — following on his soft-boiled-egg-stuffed savory muffin called The Rebel Within — is this fantastically rich muffin filled with chocolate ganache and a hunk of foie gras. The foie ends up adding a slightly nutty element to the chocolate, and the thing is topped with an excellent, salty nut-and-seed brittle for added texture. Get it while you can — Craftsman & Wolves is set to open on the 16th of June, just two weeks before the ban.
Cyrus 29 North Street, Healdsburg; 707-433-3311; part of a $135 eight-course tasting menu   The Japanese influences on chef Douglas Keane’s menu show in this simple dish on the current tasting menu at Cyrus, featuring a delicate mousse made with chicken stock topped with a cherry blossom gelée, sea beans, puffed barley, micro shiso, and a tiny bit of cherry blossom powder. This is soon to be replaced by a terrine that Chef Keane currently has pressing for foie’s final days.
Fifth Floor 12 4th Street, inside the Palomar Hotel; 415-348-1555; part of a $120 five-course foie gras tasting menu   They’re letting foie gras go out with a bang over at Fifth Floor where chef David Bazirgan, starting this week, is offering a five-course foie-gras menu featuring both of these dishes. In the foreground: oysters that have been topped with a bearnaise sauce made with rendered foie fat in place of butter, then lightly bruléed. In the background, a foie terrine with turmeric-pickled green papaya; coconut-milk green-curry sauce; and shards of “glass” made with green curry powder and Forbidden rice powder. Also, with dessert, there’s an Armagnac-based Champagned cocktail (pictured) with lemon and honey, garnished with a foie-stuffed dried plum. Literally, this menu is not for the faint of heart.
The French Laundry 6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA; 707-944-2380; part of a $300 tasting menu, including $30 foie supplement   Foie gras has long appeared on the menu, in one form or another, at Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley flagship. Chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth is currently doing a “parfait” of foie with white peach, raspberries, wild ramps, celery, and pecans. The preparation shown here is typical too, featuring shaved torchon with cherries, celery, and nasturtium. Photo: ?2009 Deborah Jones. All Rights Reserved.
Gary Danko 800 North Point Street; 415-749-2060; part of a tasting menu starting at $71   Chef Gary Danko has dealt with intermittent foie gras protesters over the years, and he’s said he’s resigned to removing the luxury staple from the menu at the end of the month. Until then, you can enjoy a standard seared preparation, as well as this foie-stuffed quail with mushrooms, nettle panisse, spring onions, peas, and artichokes.
Humphry Slocombe 2790A Harrison Street; 415-550-6971; $5   Foie gras ice cream is not new, but here it comes in a perfect portion, sandwiched between two small ginger snap cookies. Find this and more quirky flavors (Government Cheese anyone?) in The Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, just out last month.
Jardinière 300 Grove Street; 415-861-5555; $23   Traci Des Jardins’s classic and clean take on a torchon, served with a tart rhubarb conserva, pistachios, and a small salad, appeared on the Food Chain last year, and with good reason. It’s a version that could never be impugned, with the right portion, an expertly prepared bit of liver, and the balance of acid to cut through the fat.
La Folie 2316 Polk Street; 415-776-5577; part of a $90 prix fixe, including $10 foie supplement   Sometimes a piece of foie gras deserves to stand on its own, without much adornment. Chef Roland Passot prepares his with a warm consommé of apple, as well as pieces of spiced poached apple. Simple and elegant.
Keiko à Nob Hill 1250 Jones Street; 415-829-7141; part of an $88 prix fixe menu   A signature since her days at El Paseo in Mill Valley (now owned by Tyler Florence and more of an upscale steakhouse), this dish from chef Keiko Takahashi combines a small piece of seared foie with a syrupy, super-dark espresso sauce, as well as artichoke purée and Japanese sweet potato purée.
Michael Mina 252 California Street; 415-397-9222; part of an hors d’oeuvre selection that is $6 per person   This semi-molecular preparation features cherry and amarone-scented foie gras that’s been scooped in a sphere and then coated in a cherry gelée in order to resemble the fruit itself.
Parallel 37 600 Stockton Street, inside the Ritz-Carlton; 415-773-6178; $18 each   At the new, casual restaurant that replaced the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, chef Ron Siegel is doing two foie preparations until time runs out. One is a seared piece served with a warm huckleberry compote and Jonah Gold apples. The other, a classic mousse topped with a raspberry gelée and served with grilled toast points.
Prospect 300 Spear Street; 415-247-7770; $25   Newly installed chef Chris L’Hommedieu is also doing foie two ways, but on the same plate: a terrine with local strawberry gelée and Sicilian pistachios; and a seared lobe with aged balsamic, and a pisatchio ‘biscotti.’
Quince 470 Pacific Avenue; 415-775-8500; part of a $115 prix fixe, including foie supplement   Chef Michael Tusk’s Calfornian take on the classic terrine adds radish, Medjool date, and Lambrusco, and a bright garnish of peppery nasturtium blossoms. Photo: Brian Smeets/Brian Smeets 2012
Saison 2124 Folsom Street; 415-828-7990; part of a tasting menu starting at $198   You don’t want to use the word “light” when it comes to foie gras, but this is one of the lighter dishes in this bunch, and chef Joshua Skenes isn’t known for piling on the richness. It’s a small quenelle of mousse with a sprinkling of foie-gras toffee, served with a rich olive oil, grapefruit to cut the fat, and a bit of olive — it tastes pretty close to dessert.
Sons & Daughters 708 Bush Street; 415-391-8311; part of a $92 tasting menu   One of our favorite foie dishes of recent months was a deceptively simple mousse dish at Sons & Daughters with pickled celery, celery sorbet, blood-orange gelée, granola, and calendula.
SPQR 1911 Fillmore Street; 415-771-7779; part of a $50 pasta tasting menu   For those who get overwhelmed with big lobes of foie and who are satisfied with just a taste of the stuff, this flavorful but relatively light dish is probably the way to go. Chef Matthew Accarrino stuffs a couple of delicate ravioli with confit duck and a bit of foie, and serves them with stewed cherries, a light butter sauce, parmesan, and hazelnuts. It’s pretty great.
Txoko 504 Broadway; 415-500-2744; $21   Chef Ian Begg has been living it up before the ban, doing all-foie menus and such. This dish, currently a starter on the regular menu, is a seared lobe atop a soubise sauce, braised cipollini onions, chive oil, and topped with crispy shallots and chives.
Adesso 4395 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland; 510-601-0305; $14   We cheated a little on this last one: It’s actually not foie gras that makes this light and lovely mousse, it’s humble old duck liver. But that’s why it’s your bonus — you can scoop this stuff onto croutons and wash it down with a lovely Adesso cocktail long after July 1 because, fortunately, duck liver itself won’t be illegal. Now go to it, omnivores. Get your fill of the good stuff until the prohibition starts.
The End of Foie: 25 Foie Gras Dishes to Try in S.F. Before the Ban