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Foie Gras Fight Moves Into Southland Kitchens

Area chefs will be serving up the controversial delicacy during a fundraiser tonight.

Some of the Southland's best chefs will vent their outrage over a pending ban on by taking to the kitchen tonight for a one-night "battle'' with their Northern California counterparts, serving up the delicacy and raising funds for the effort to replace the ban with humane farming practices.

The chefs are affiliated with the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards, which recently presented a statement to members of the state Legislature opposing the state's ban on foie gras -- which is scheduled to take effect July 1 -- and advocating standards such as hand feeding of birds, cage- free farms and limits on fattening.

Animal rights activists in the United States and Europe long have argued that force-feeding ducks or geese through a tube to fatten their livers and produce foie gras was inhumane.

The ban is coming on July 1, and it's such a poorly written piece of legislation it would make your hair stand on end,'' Cathy Kennedy, spokeswoman for C.H.E.F.S., or Chef Standards, told City News Service.

Kennedy said the group has been working in Sacramento to get "face time'' with legislators to reconsider the ban by questioning them about what exactly is being banned and the actual impact of the legislation.

"This is the chefs that want to introduce humane standards in lieu of a ban and want to change the farming practices,'' Kennedy said.

To tout their effort and raise funds for the fight, chefs from a variety of restaurants in Southern and Northern California will come together tonight at four Southland eateries and offer ``prix-fixe'' menus featuring the delicacy. The meals will cost $200 per person at Melisse, The Royce at The Langham and Animal, and $150 at Lemon Moon.

At Melisse, for example, chef Josiah Citrin will be joined by chefs such as Raphael Lunetta (Jiraffe), Mark Dommen (One Market in San Francisco) and
Justin Wangler (Kendall Jackson in Sonoma). The Royce chef David Feau will be joined by chefs such as Michael Cimarusti (Providence), Micah Wexler (Mezze), Doug Kean (Cyrus in Sonoma) and Victor Scargle (Lucy at Bardessono in Napa Valley).

The tasting menus at the various restaurants will include dishes such as foie gras tortellini with game jus and forest mushrooms and fennel; Santa Barbara spot prawn with cured and poached foie gras, fava beans and nasturium; and foie gras saute with grilled and partially dyhydrated strawberries.

"I don't want to have a ban on foie gras,'' Citrin, the chef at Melisse in Santa Monica, told CNS. "I don't think it's right.''

Citrin said he respects that there are differing views on the foie gras issue, but said he works to ensure that all of the food purchased for his restaurant comes from "humanely grown and raised animals.''

The state's ban on foie gras was approved in 2004, but its implementation was delayed for more than seven years. Former Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, authored the ban and said the delay was intended to give the industry time to develop more humane methods of creating foie gras.

"Unfortunately, producers have not used those years to develop an alternative production method and instead continue to use the same cruel force-feeding, which means that the wait is over and, come July, the production and sale of foie gras from force-fed animals will be prohibited,'' Burton wrote in
a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece last month. "At least I hope they will be.''

Burton wrote that more than 100 restaurants in the state have dropped foie gras from their menus, and retailers such as Costco and Target will not carry it.

Kennedy said that when the law was passed, Burton said it would include state funding for research into foie gras production, but the funding never materialized.

State legislative leaders have said they have no intention of revisiting the foie gras issue, saying budget concerns and other matters are far more pressing.

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