As many of you may have heard, June 30th marked the last day restaurants could legally serve foie gras (starting today, they will be fined $1,000). I’ll spare you my political commentary on the issue and focus on the positive: I used the deadline to embark on a “Farewell to Foie” tour. What can I say, when life hands you geese – make foie gras.
My first top was at Chouquet’s, a French restaurant on Fillmore Street not far from my apartment. To mark foie’s last legal day, Chouquet’s offered an appetizer and a entree featuring the delicacy. Knowing I had another stop ahead of me, I opted for the sliced foie gras appetizer. As I waited for my dish, I looked around and noticed everyone had the stuff in front of them (which must have been the entire .001% of the population who actually eat foie gras). I probably eat foie gras one time each year, and I was reminded why last night. The stuff is rich. I can’t even eat it straight; it’s richer than butter. It melts in your mouth. Chefs know this and always serve it with some sort of accompaniment (usually toast and something sweet). At $16, it seemed a little pricey but I took comfort in knowing it wouldn’t be a budgetary expense any longer.
After I closed up at Chouquet’s I wandered back even closer to home to Florio. Never have I seen this place so crowded. I managed to find a single bar stool toward the middle of the dark bar and waited several minutes before the bartender could take my order. Since I was by myself, I had a chance to listen to other people’s conversations and everyone was buzzing about the ban. It was satisfying to somehow participate in the movement and state my opinion with my order – without disrupting or inconveniencing anyone. Fundamentally, Florio’s foie gras was similar to Chouquet’s: sliced and served with bread and cherry compote. I preferred the consistency (thicker, harder) than Chouquet’s. It was also more generously portioned and slightly cheaper.
Clearly, whether I recommend these restaurant’s foie gras is a moot point. However, I can still speak to their strengths and weaknesses generally. They’re both relatively simple, approachable, and “neighborhoody” spots. While they’re both overtly French, each embraces different aspects of French culture. Florio has a dark, sophisticated, and even brooding mood. Chouquet’s, on the other end of Fillmore, is the antithesis to Florio with its bright orange bar stools, lively atmosphere, and open windows. They’re both key to creating Fillmore Street’s down-to-earth – albeit foie-less – personality.