Romantic lighting, exotic foods and a glass of fine wine — a perfect setting for a night out for just about any occasion. Magnolia Avenue has some of the most popular restaurants in the Bay Area — all within a short walk of each other.
• Chef Fabrice Marcon at Left Bank features a wonderful magret de canard (roast duck breast).
• Chef Aaron Wright at the Tavern at Lark Creek serves up a famous braised short rib.
• Nearby, Picco offers a succulent wood-grilled quail.
One festive item that might soon disappear from the menu at all California restaurants is foie gras.
When a 2004 California law banning the production and sale of foie gras goes into effect this July, restaurants around the state will be forced to take the delicacy off the menu, and local chefs are none too happy about it.
"It's a matter of freedom of choice. I have nothing against the animal rights people. I love animals. I just believe that people have the right to choose what they want to eat," said Marcon, who was born and raised in the southwest of France. "As a Frenchman, I think foie gras is one of the greatest ingredients to cook with and has been for centuries."
Foie gras, also known as fattened goose or duck liver, is a delicacy that has been served since ancient Egyptian times.
Wright and Marcon stand with more than 60 other prominent chefs from the Bay Area to Los Angeles who believe the new law goes too far, but who hope that it's a reversible mistake.
The group, known as the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS) charges that the law banning foie gras is based on years-old information that is no longer correct and that a total ban on goose liver will only create a black market for the delicacy.
Twice a year, migrating birds such as ducks and geese gorge themselves on food before embarking on their long migratory path. This bi-yearly habit results in a naturally-fattened liver that is sought after by chefs across the world. This natural process has since been replicated by farmers who force feed their geese to fatten the birds' livers for use in foie gras dishes.
"Don't ban it. Let's regulate it," suggested Wright. "Let's analyze the process of creating foie gras and make sure it's done right."
While the sale of goose liver has been banned in other countries, California is currently the only state in the U.S. that has enacted laws banning foie gras and restaurateurs across the Bay Area and the rest of the state are trying to do something about it.
"I'm against the ban, but in Larkspur I do respect that people might be opposed to foie gras, so I don't usually serve it on the menu. I'll add it for holidays if there's a request," Marcon said.
It's hard to imagine Bastille Day, the national holiday to honor the French Revolution, without a taste of foie gras. The holiday falls on Saturday, July 14 this year. Another famous French chef, Jacques Pepin, will visit Left Bank on July 16.
"Foie gras is a part of French food and French celebrations as much as Champagne and oysters," Marcon said.
When the law was passed, proponents of the bill argued that the process of force feeding farm-raised ducks and geese to fatten their livers was both inhumane and unethical.
CHEFS, however, argues that since the law was passed, there has been new research showing the process for fattening the birds' livers is actually humane. "We're just imitating something geese do in nature during their migration," Wright says.
In addition, restaurants joining CHEFS say they only source foie gras from farms with sustainable and humane farming practices.