Foie gras ban goes into effect
August 22, 2006 (last updated 3:50 p.m.) (WLS) -- Chicago's ban on foie gras -- considered a food delicacy by some and animal cruelty by others -- went into effect Tuesday. The move, which Mayor Daley called silly, led to a lawsuit and a foie feast where diners might least expect it.
Foie gras is a fattened goose or duck liver created by force feeding the animal. While it's normally served in high-end restaurants, some Chicago restaurants added it to the menu in protest of the law that bans the sale of foie gras.
One example is Connie's Pizza, where foie gras flatbread pizza is on menu. It's a one day addition.
"We're doing this to support our restaurant brethern," said Ivan Matsunaga, Connie's Pizza Exec. VP.
A number of restaurants are following Connie's lead and serving up foie gras, including Harry Caray's, which hasn't had the delicacy on its menu in 20 years.
"We just kind of thought what city council was doing was so ridiculous that we kind of had to make a statement and so did a lot of other restaurants. All our restaurant friends seem to be doing the same thing today, which is really trying to draw awareness that maybe they shouldn't trying to decide what Chicagoans eat for dinner," said Grant DePorter, President, Harry Caray's Restaurant.
According to the Illinois Restaurant Association, the ban will cost the City of Chicago more than $18 million in lost business and tax revenue, which is why Tuesday morning the restaurant association, along with Allen's New American Cafe, a noted Chicago restaurant, filed a lawsuit demanding that the ban be lifted.
"This lawsuit is about the bounds of local governmental power," said Barry Rosen, Il. Restaurant Association Attorney.
The restaurant association contends that since foie gras is not produced in Chicago, the city council has exceeded its home rule authority in banning its sale.
"So people understand. This is about the city sticking their noses in our kitchens," said Michael Tsontos, CopperBlue Chef.
Earlier this year, Chicago became the first municipality in the country to ban the sale of foie gras because of what many contend is the cruel treatment of ducks by force-feeding them cornmeal to fatten their livers many times their normal size.
"I think this is the silliest law that they've ever passed," said Mayor Richard Daley.
The mayor is no fan of the ban and already has made his determination that it's unconstitutional. More significant is his response when asked if city hall will enforce the ban beginning Wednesday.
"I don't know. We'll find out," said Daley. "We have other real issues confronting the people of Chicago."
At Cyrano's Bistro, where foie gras has long been on the menu, chef Didier Durand said he's going to change what its ccalled.
"The ordinance says you can't sell it, so we'll give it away for no charge," said Chef Didier Durand, Cyrano's.
Over the past 12 months, Chicago restaurants have sold approximately $5.5 million worth of foie gras and ordered 1,000 servings a day.
Chef Didier said he will call foie gras 'liver de canard,' or liver of the duck. While it technically would be free, he would charge for seasonal potatoes, for instance -- $16 -- which is what the foie gras costs.
Alderman Joe Moore who sponsored the ban calls the restaurant association's lawsuit "frivolous." While he doesn't expect that the city would send out the foie gras police, he does say that if there are citizen complaints about the delicacy still being sold, the alderman would expect the mayor to dispatch his health department inspectors.
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