"It's like driving a bmw," proclaims Scott Campbell, chef-owner at Avenue, as he doles out sautéed foie gras with caramelized figs at Peter Kump's cooking school. "A luxury item that certain people just want to indulge in." Wafer-thin fashion flacks and underpaid reporters are swarming the test kitchen at a feast celebrating Michael Ginor's new book, Foie Gras: A Passion.
In the bull-market gold rush that has New Yorkers uncorking $1,200 bottles of 1970 Château Pétrus and popping white truffles like bonbons, foie gras -- the fattened liver of a duck or goose -- has become the roasted free-range chicken of the fin de siècle. Once the revered specialty of Michelin chefs, the firm beige block of fat is now being hawked in every corner bistro around town. Ginor's Hudson Valley Foie Gras churns out most of the American supply, a fattier version of its French counterpart (farmers here force-feed the birds for 28 days compared with the standard 18 days in France). Ginor, his corpulent figure a testimony to his love for the luxe liver, couldn't be happier about his product's newfound mass appeal: "You can sauté it, poach it, you can make it sweet, savory, even spicy!" Traditionalists, however, like Le Bernardin's four-star chef, Antibes-born Eric Ripert, lament the new liver mania: "If I saw foie gras paired with Indian spices on a menu," he sniffs, "I'd run."
But it may be too late: Customers are stretching their jaws around Anne Rosenzweig's foie gras club sandwich at the Lobster Club, munching on foie gras rolls at Inagiku, slicing into foie gras empanadas at Patria. Wall Street raiders gorge on three different foie gras appetizers at the financial district's Bayard's -- including a whole roasted version carved tableside. Can it be long before we see hungry hordes lining up for their Quarter Pounders?