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California eatery marks fois gras ban with free pate portions

By Madeleine Thomas

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - In a special offer to wistful diners on the two-year anniversary of California’s foie gras ban, a Napa Valley restaurant plans to serve up the culinary delicacy to a select number of its patrons next month – for free.

Production and commercial sales of foie gras, a pate dish made from the enlarged, fatty liver of a force-fed goose or duck, became illegal in California in July 2012 under a law enacted eight years earlier by the state legislature.

Prized for its rich flavor and smooth texture, the gourmet dish is abhorred by animal rights groups that have condemned the centuries-old method by which it is produced as inhumane.

Yet a handful of chefs, including Ken Frank, executive chef and owner of La Toque in Napa Valley, have bypassed the ban by simply giving away plates of foie gras to customers at their restaurants instead of selling it.

On July 5, Frank said he plans to continue his act of culinary civil disobedience by hosting a free foie gras-centric lunch at his restaurant titled, “The State of Foie Gras.”

Frank said California law does not prohibit transportation of foie gras into the state, and it remains readily available from producers elsewhere across the country and in Canada.

To qualify for the free lunch, interested diners can submit a 100-word ode to foie gras on the restaurant’s Facebook page or to ilovefoiegras@latoque.com. The theme for submissions is “Why California’s Foie Gras Ban is Foolish,” though Frank said, the “original idea used much more colorful language.”

Frank himself will choose the 25 best essays, each of which will guarantee two seats at the lunch.

“People are thinking about it and being creative,” Frank said. “One of my favorites so far for brevity was two words: ‘John Burton’” – a reference to the current chairman of the California Democratic Party, who wrote the law while still a member of the legislature.

  “I didn’t want people to forget about this stupid law,” Frank added. “We are still looking forward to the law being struck down in court."

Last August, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the foie gras ban, affirming a lower-court decision. Opponents have vowed to press on with their legal challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

(Reporting by Madeleine Thomas; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Beech)

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