On July 1, the boom finally drops: The country's first statewide ban on foie gras goes into effect in California, making it illegal to serve or sell. For more on this, check out our critic Besha Rodell's consideration of the Last Days of Foie Gras.
In honor of the work by chefs and kitchen staff done over the past months to create some of the most innovative and sumptuous foie dishes in existence, as well as to provide you with a chance to sample the goods in the scant two weeks before they're snatched off menus, we've highlighted some of our favorite foie gras dishes in Los Angeles.
10. The Royce's Foie gras with rhubarb and leek ash:
Pasadena's Royce is an idyllic place — chef David Feau hails from Le Mans, France, but achieves a hyper-seasonal zen in his food reminiscent of the best kaiseki dinners. The past few months have been the season of foie gras, in many ways, and Feau has been taking note. One of Royce's more spectacular dishes recently has been an arduously constructed duo of foie gras made from one cooking preparation ensconced within another — a sort of foie gras Inception. Imagine a perfectly vertical round of foie gras, standing like a slice of duck liver sushi roll, paired with a bitter dusting of charred leek “ash” and a wide stripe of sweet red rhubarb geleé trailing backward across the plate. The inner section of the roll is a delicate torchon, a supple rich paste, while the outer wrapping is a centimeter or so of seared foie gras, the texture firmed ever so slightly and flavor heightened by the subtle application of a hot pan. (GS) 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.; Pasadena; 626-585-6218.
9. Spice Table's Foie Gras Satay:
If there is one object that defines Bryant Ng's rustic brick-lined restaurant, it's likely the hefty wood-fired grill set in the heart of Spice Table's kitchen. Skewers of pork, chicken or fatty strips of lamb belly sizzle over the coals, crackling and glistening, as their intoxicating scent wafts across a handful of dining room tables. At some point, Ng tosses a skewer of foie gras on the grill — the meat caramelized and charred on its edges, adopting the heady smell of burnt almond wood. Half the kitchens in France would fire on the spot any chef who dared cook a piece of foie gras over open flame, but of course, this is Little Tokyo. Your foie skewer comes with a bit of pineapple pickle, sweet and vinegary enough to cut through the richness while adding a tropical twang. Toast points are replaced by slices of baguette spread with minced ginger and aromatic spices. Foie gras masquerading as Singaporean street food? Why not? Time is fleeting. (GS) 114 S. Central Ave., dwntwn.; (213) 620-1840.
8. The Bazaar's foie gras cotton candy:
El Bulli alum José Andrés' flagship restaurant is probably better known as a playground for molecular cooking than as its self-serious temple. The kitchen has a soft spot for rejiggering familiar foods with Wonka-like flair: miniature cheesesteaks piped into a puffed cracker, a liquid nitrogen mojito ice cream cone stuffed with a dainty scoop of caviar. Foie gras gets the same bizarrist treatment — a velvety cube of torchon is impaled on a long stick and rolled in crushed corn nuts, near identical to the ones you used to snack on at recess, then whisked through a cotton candy machine that adds a pillowy layer of vanilla-scented filaments. The saccharine rush of sugar rounds out the richness while a thousand microtextures play hopscotch on your tongue. It would probably look more fitting at, say, a carnival booth or Little League concession stand, but it's hard to suppress your inner child when a tuft of cotton candy is placed in front of you. (GS) 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 246-5555.
7. Hatfield's foie gras, apple-rosemary butter, caramelized cipollini, molasses toast:
Do Angelenos even know what autumn tastes like? Despite years of September's waning heatwaves yielding directly to the whipping winds of October, Karen and Quinn Hatfield have distilled a pretty convincing approximation. It begins with a lobe of foie gras delicately seared and lacquered, placed on a bed of cipollini onions caramelized until they collapse into dark brown sweetness. There are a few spoonfuls of apple-rosemary “butter,” essentially a condensed cider, infused with a certain piney aroma. There is a wedge of pain d'épices, a kind of French gingerbread made with blackstrap molasses, and a delicate shaving of tart apple. It probably doesn't hurt that the foie gras in question comes from a particular poultry farm in upstate New York not far from where urbanites have been flocking for decades just to see a few leaves turn colors. (GS) 6703 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 935-2977.
6. Mezze's foie terrine with pistachio, grapefruit and saffron:
As is the case with much on chef Micah Wexler's menu, the foie gras terrine is a mashup of cultures and craft. The foie itself is pure French technique, a gorgeously smooth, decadent disk of rich, buttery foie. From there the flavors head east — to the Middle East to be exact. Dried mint, saffron, coriander, sesame seed, pistachio and grapefruit make subtle plays for your attention in squiggles of sauce and dollops of gel and a smattering of crumbles on the plate. Each flavor has its moment to shine, then yields once again to the centerpiece — that silky foie. Served with warm and impossibly fluffy pita bread, the dish is a light but decadent meal on its own. (BR) 401 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 657-4103.
5. ink.'s Foie gras, waffle, smoked maple, hot sauce:
What's a self-consciously hip restaurant these days without some kind of riff on chicken and waffles? A thin strip of pale foie gras terrine (the chicken) arrives buttressed by a support structure of thin wafer cookies, accompanied by a smear of smoked maple marshmallow — charred to the extent you always aimed for during campfire s'mores-making sessions. The red beads dotting the plate taste like a kind of like Sriracha by way of Shreveport. Has Michael Voltaggio condensed a Scoe's plate into a few bites? Pretty much, and he's even managed to fit in a couple creamy forkfuls of foie. (GS) 8360 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd.; (323) 651-5866.
4. Red Medicine's foie mousse, tete de cochon, beets, green strawberries, chicory, croissant:
Chef Jordan Kahn doesn't shy from color; his intricate plates often contain enough brilliantly colored leaves and petals to put the flower girl from your aunt's wedding to shame. More importantly, though, Kahn understands layers, or at least how to assemble them in ways that matter. A dark gray slab of stone is spread with tiled mosaics of head cheese, then a few dollops of whipped foie gras mousse. There are bits of roasted beet, radishes, mouth-puckering green strawberries, a handful of bitter greens, and a dusting of an earthy chicory “soil.” Interspersed are sliced rounds of croissant, each patterned into a swirling thumbprint of buttery bread. You work your way through the layers of tartness and bitterness until the richness of foie washes your palate into fatty bliss. You made sure to save some of that croissant, didn't you? (GS) 8400 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; (323) 651-5500.
3. Providence's foie gras ravioli:
Michael Cimarusti's fish-and-Michelin-stars Melrose Avenue restaurant is an occasion place anyway, the sort of restaurant you go to impress people or yourself, where the operatic flourish of a domed plate or the tableside preparation of an ornate dish is no more out of place than the expensive shoes you unearthed from your closet to wear here. So it's fitting to pilgrimage to these tables for foie gras, in this case dainty raviolis embedded with the stuff like the down pillows occasioned from the rest of the bird. The pasta is lapped with sauce, with shavings of preserved Italian summer truffles, with a short sea of Parmesan foam. The tiny bubbles subside like the tide, a temporal reminder of how little any of this lasts. It does not. (AS) 5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 460-4170.
2. Bäco Mercat's chicken liver and foie gras mousse:
There have been other foie dishes at Bäco Mercat, but the mousse in a Mason jar is maybe the most suited to Josef Centeno's ethos. A silky mixture of chicken liver and foie (a nice democracy) fills the jar, which is then topped with a thin fat cap, then a layer of spiced kumquat preserves — as if maybe the jam had been preserved in the jar first, washed out by capable hands, then restored for reasons of amused symmetry. Clove, cumin, and allspice inform the fruit, and from there, the mousse, like a faint but clearly delineated spice route. Instead of dainty bits of toast, there's a huge wedge of crisped brioche, as if somebody trusts you to know what to do with it. As the foie warms, it spreads like butter on your bread, the kumquats providing the perfect juxtaposition of sweet, sour and spice, the whole thing reminding you oddly of some Proustian PB&J. Fortunately, you can lick the jar around here. (AS) 408 S. Main St., dwntwn.; (213) 687-8808.
1. Animal's foie gras loco moco:
The dish that launched a thousand Instagrams. Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo's amped-up short stack of seared foie, Spam, fried quail egg and gravy-leaden hamburger patty was a landmark dish in L.A.'s restaurant scene when it first debuted on Animal's menu, forever altering opinions on the marrying of high and low cusine — sure, it didn't hurt that there was a large dose of heavy metal Hawaiian soul food, either. Somewhere between sopping up the oil slick of sweet spicy teriyaki sauce with a mound of white rice, you'll remind yourself you're actually eating foie and Spam together, and loving every minute. (What is Spam, really, except a poor man's foie gras?) (GS) 435 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 782-9225.
Editor's note: Besha Rodell and Amy Scattergood also contributed to this piece; the writers' initials designate authorship of each entry.