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Legal Foie Gras Lands on Menus Across San Diego

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Chefs are serving foie gras right out of the gate following Wednesday's ban reversal. Last night, Chef Chad White posted this picture of an impromptu dish integrating the fatty liver on Facebook.

Perhaps no one is as happy in San Diego to serve foie gras again than Bertrand Hug, whose family in made a living in rural France in the 1950s by raising ducks and fattening up their livers for consumption.

On Wednesday a federal judge issued a ruling that reversed California's law banning the sale of the duck or goose organ, causing chefs to flock to vendors to request the delicacy.

"It's awesome news for me," says Hug, who will bring back the menu staple to his two San Diego restaurants Bertrand at Mr. A's and Mille Fleurs starting Friday.

Expect to drop $25 to $35 for the luxurious liver, which could sell twice as well as another high-end neighbor on the menu--caviar. (For every 100 appetizers ordered, one is for caviar, he estimates, compared to one foie gras order for every 50 appetizer orders.)

Hug tried to order 10 lobes but just found out he'll only get five for now. He expects customers to guzzle that whole shipment down over the weekend. He plans to serve foie gras in two forms, terrine and sautéed.

Meat mogul Hanis Cavin, executive chef at Carnitas' Snack Shack, is chomping at the bit to put foie gras into the rotation (his eatery opened just months before the ban went into effect in 2012). He tells Eater he will be using foie gras on a regular basis as one of the daily specials.

"Having been run through the legal system over foie gras, this is very satisfying," he says. "I am excited for the diner to be able to eat this magnificent food item again."

He will be running a foie gras special this Monday at Carnitas' North Park location: pan seared, pistachio dust, burnt orange marmalade, brioche.

Cam Fomby, owner of Golden Hill's Counterpoint, has a Prohibition-esque take on the reversal: "I’m glad it isn’t illegal anymore, though that makes it less fun. But most things that are okay are less fun anyway. I can only speak for my very small, very timid outlaw agenda."

PETA and other animal-welfare advocates that pushed for the initial ban could protest establishments that serve the polarizing dish.

It's perhaps for that reason some high-profile chefs are opting to fly under the radar on the topic. Brian Malarkey was "unfortunately unable to comment on this story," a rep told Eater. He did, however, take to Twitter Wednesday night to promote the comeback of the dish at Searsucker Del Mar. Urban Solace Chef Matt Gordon issued Eater a provocative quote regarding the reversal but later retracted it.

"All of our chefs are remaining pretty tight-lipped about [foie gras]," according to one restaurant PR group, which includes Chef Richard Blais (Juniper & Ivy).

The Humane Society already issued a statement asking the California attorney general to appeal the ruling.

Hug is prepared to endure the backlash, calling the fight "political" and one that "infringes the rights to have good things in life. Interstate commerce can't be stopped."

Methods of force feeding birds have come a long way since his days on the farm in France, he claims, adding that ducks are "equipped" to swallow fish and corn cobs whole.

Wednesday night Chef Rich Sweeney (R Gang Eatery, Florent Restaurant & Lounge) commented on Eater's foie gras post that he has calls out to vendors.

Común Kitchen & Tavern Chef Chad White tells Eater last night's celebration was short lived; he ran out of the four orders he had in his arsenal in six minutes. He put a tostada spin on the liver, which he posted on Facebook (above).

White says it likely won't become a permanent fixture on the menu, but he plans to keep one to two lobes at the ready for "secret" orders from customers.

Some in the industry are simply happy for their own taste buds.

"[I am] honestly even more excited to eat it then I am to cook it," says Rose Peyron, executive chef at Counterpoint.

On Thursday the Grant Grill in the US Grant added the newly-legalized dish on their menu, which includes seared La Bella Farms foie gras, sweet and sour huckleberries, toast royal and candied almonds.

Tim Kolanko, chef at Coronado's Stake, plans to make his Tournedos Rossini super authentic thanks to the addition of foie gras (it's traditionally used in the French steak dish).

Some chefs are torn over the controversial dish, like Victor Jimenez, exec chef at Cowboy Star. He tells Eater he supports the ban reversal, but does he love the liver? Yes and no.

"Yes, I do love working with artisan well crafted products from good farmers," he says. "And, no because in America we still learning and understanding the whole procedure of production and consumption and that is a big headache on its own."

As to when, how, or if it will find its way back to Cowboy Star's menu, he's not sure.

"[But] it's great to have an option," he says.

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