San Francisco Restaurant Finds Way Around California Foie Gras Ban

DuckAs you may know, a ban on foie gras in California began on July 1st. Now, the Presidio Social Club is claiming it is exempt from the law, because it is on Federally owned land. According to San Francisco PBS station KQED, the restaurant manager told them,

“…the restaurant is not subject to state or local jurisdiction because it is located on the Presidio Trust, a former U.S. Army Base now operated mostly as a national park.

The Social Club (which contrary to its name, has no members and is open to the general public) plans to begin with foie gras sliders on July 14, Bastille Day, which is a kind of French equivalent to Independence Day.”

It should be noted that the restaurant isn’t exactly known for it’s fine food – Zagat gives it a 19 out of 30, Yelp 3.5 out of 5 stars, but for the time being, they will be on foodie tour map. Animal rights activists are up in arms, and foodies are falling all over themselves to take road trips to San Francisco for dinner. This brings up a very interesting question: does the same exemption apply on Indian lands? Will we have foie gras casinos?

I’m not a particular fan of foie gras – it’s fine, but doesn’t rock my world. However after being chased down the street by a gaggle of geese, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for them. PETA is, of course, going to battle against the restaurant. If you aren’t familiar with the issue or want to hear the latest debate point, you can watch an excellent video here.

From the Huffington Post

“If Presidio Social Club keeps going down this road, this will be a battle for the lawyers for certain,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt told HuffPost. PETA has been one of the most vocal advocates of the ban.

“It’s upsetting to see businesses trying to exploit loopholes, and you can bet that protesters will be picketing and showing footage outside their doors,” she vowed.

… In 2006, Chicago became the first U.S. city to ban the sale of foie gras. The move enraged chefs, restaurant-goers and other enthusiasts, and eventually the ban was overturned in 2008 by a vote of 37 to 6. Then-mayor Richard M. Daley called the original ban the “silliest” ordinance ever to have been passed by the city.

In 2006, foie gras was a big issue in the Portland restaurant market. Nancy Rommelmann wrote an article for this site, interviewing the owner of Portland’s Nicky Foods about foie gras, and the possible effect of the Chicago ban on the market. It is interesting to go back and read it almost six years later.

With controversy comes change: while some Portland restaurants, such as Higgins, have agreed to remove foie gras from their menus, others, such as Le Pigeon and Alberta Street Oyster Bar and Grill, are offering the prized duck liver on French toast and scattering it with candied watermelon rind. And if they’re fast with a few hundred dollars, they can now have an even more prized delicacy on with which to work with: fresh goose liver, which until this week has never been available commercially in the United States.

These days foie gras in is still available for purchase in Portland where it gets little attention. I can think of three restaurants off of the top of my head that still serve dishes containing the ingredient.

There is a lot of inhumane raising and processing of animals in this world that deserves more of PETA’s focus. When they start paying attention to bigger issues and not what is going to get them the most press, I will pay attention to them.  Until then, congratulations to the Presidio Social club.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Puerhfan says

    And as a foodie I think foie gras is brutal and nasty. Not your best post–what do your feelings about PETA have to do with this?

    • JandJ says

      Feelings about PETA have everything to do with this, since they’ve decided to make this into a poster child issue for them. There is a ton of misinformation floating around and many people wanting to translate their own personal mission against foie gras into law. Here in PDX, a few years back, it wasn’t enough for the protesters to picket in front of stores and restaurants, but they had to also victimize small businesses (restaurants) by making mass reservations and then not showing up. They also harassed people coming into restaurants and stores. I couldn’t agree with FD more on this… there are so many far more urgent cases of animal abuse that demand attention from organizations like PETA. Their insistence on harping on this non-issue is a shame and a waste of whatever funding they are able to raise IMHO. I’m delighted to see California restaurants actively ignoring and finding ways around this ridiculous piece of legislation.

    • The Wizard Tim says

      I think there should be a ban on the term “foodie”. I’m with Fooddude on this one 100%.

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