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Foie-gras/veal -ophobic

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I am an experienced home chef who is just newly entering the world of higher-end dining. My experience is narrow, but I am interested in tasting menus, because they seem like a nice way to get exposed to unfamiliar foods. I had a sublime tasting menu at Bastide in LA before it closed and a HORRIBLE experience at Masa's in San Francisco which featured "crab louie" which tasted like it came off a supermarket salad bar and a gimmicky "truffled" dish which had one single truffle slice with the texture and flavor of rubber. Truly embarrassing. Suffice it to say that I am inexperienced in this realm, but not easily impressed or intimidated by fancy gourmet ingredients which in reality are used to poor effect or not truly of good quality.

Call me irrational, but my intake of animal products does not include veal or foie-gras. Again, the fact that the latter is a fancy gourmet item does not impress me, and I really prefer not to be served it. Can I make this preference known at a snooty restaurant when I am ordering the tasting menu? If so, do I get a substitute? Do I just have to put up with it?

Please help me, so when I work my way up to REAL high-end places I will be prepared.

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  1. generally if you are ordering a tasting menu that is set, it'd be better to let the restaurant know your preferences when you make your reservation. Most places can make adjustments to their tasting menu when changes are requested tableside (yes, you will get a substitute if you don't want a particular item) though it is gracious to give them notice if you are able. it's more than fine not to request no veal or FG (or whatever you don't want to eat).

    btw, you might have a nicer time if you didn't use high-end and snotty as interchangable adjectives

    1. Young man, you will eat everything put in front of you and you'll like it too.

      Just think about all the children starving in China.

      See the post on narcissistic, bossy chefs.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mojoman

        Thanks for the tip; I will try it! Sorry for equating snooty and high-end. This just reflects my inexperience and thus mild discomfort with the world of fancier dining. I love the idea of enjoying a higher level of food artistry than that which I have experienced before, but have still to get over my natural disinclination to indulge in "luxuries," as well as my lack of awareness of the rituals and etiquette involved. Unfortunately I do not have anyone to initiate me, so every pointer helps.

        1. re: jono37

          Honest enthusiasm will get you farther than faking it. Nobody's born knowing this stuff. Being able to laugh at yourself helps too.

      2. I order fois gras because I find it absolutely fabulous, not snooty. I've had it in many a down-home French bistro. In France I'll eat it every day if it's on the menu. Unless I'm getting escargot. Also, if you object to veal because of how it's traditionally been raised, be advised that it is also possible to get humanely raised veal and better restaurants are already seeking it out.

        1. Sort of the same subject-- Will I always be made aware if the meat or fish in a dish is raw? Or am I expected to know? Any words or tips that mean "raw" ?, like some words mean "with cheese", etc.

          6 Replies
          1. re: BangorDin

            Tartare is the only word I know which is equivalent to raw... I've seen applied to beef and fish, especially tuna. I hope there is no such thing as poultry tartare!!

            1. re: jono37

              Poultry tartare-- exactly why I want to be *told* ahead of time!

              1. re: jono37

                Actually, the Japanese serve chicken sashimi.

                1. re: jono37

                  Crudo, carpaccio, ceviche and sashimi all imply raw meat. I love raw meat. Had a dish of lightly seared pork sashimi last year that I can't stop thinking about.

                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    Spot on except some can argue that ceviche or crudo is slightly cooked by the acidity. It certainly still looks raw. And sashimi isn't necessarily raw although most preparation of sashimi are raw and if you see something labeled sashimi in a non-Japanese restaurant it should be a safe assumption that it is raw.

                    If you are scared of raw or practically raw stuff, I would also pay attention to something just labelled seared, i.e., seared tuna will be cooked only on the very outside and the inside will still be practically raw.

                2. re: BangorDin

                  ceviche usually starts with raw fish/seafood -- it's 'cooked' in the citric acids of lemons / limes etc. but if youre super-sensitive about the rawer end of things, it's something to be aware of.

                3. You should express your "preference" to the restaurant in a matter-of-fact way. "I don't eat veal/foie gras. Could you please substitute something else?" Believe me they are well aware that there are those who share your "preference" and explaining isn't necessary. A lecture will fall on deaf ears since they obviously don't agree or they wouldn't be serving it, right?
                  Same thing if there's something to which you are allergic.
                  Personally, I draw the line at doing this for arbitrary "I don't like...." because the point of tasting menus is broadening your horizons.
                  My Daddy always told us that there isn't anything that can't be prepared some kind of way to taste good. My siblings and I spent our lives eating everything trying to find something that would prove him wrong. We did find, on occasion, good food prepared terribly but for the most part Daddy was right.
                  Try everything. Just be polite.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MakingSense

                    I don't eat foie gras or veal either (personal reasons, not taste), and I've dined at many high-end places (most recently at Per Se in NYC) and i've never ever had a problem asking to substitute on a tasting menu. i ask the waiter every time, and i've never had a problem. if the service is good, you shouldn't have an issue. there are other things that i 'don't care for' but do eat them during a tasting menu. i figure that there are many ways for the dish to be prepared, and i like to be as open as possible to new tastes.

                  2. You love food, and you're new to high end dining, so consider embracing it with closed eyes and an open mouth. Some high end places are all pomp and circumstance, but the best ones (and if you use Chowhound, you will find the best) are about delicious, amazing, life-altering food. Leave your preconceived notions at home, and place yourself in the hands of the chef.

                    Foie gras is unquestionably one of the most delicious foods on the planet. I will never forget my first foie experience, and I would give anything to be a foie "virgin." Ethical issues aside, you're depriving yourself of something really special if you don't try a good preparation of foie just once.

                    Before you come to any concrete decisions of what you will or will not eat, do some deeper investigation. Discussion of the ethical issues behind foie gras are strictly verbotin on Chowhound, but if you do some searching on the internet, you can find the "other" side of the foie gras debate. A great place to start is this article by the always delicious Jeffrey Steingarten:

                    http://www.mensvogue.com/food/article...

                    Discussion of the contents of this link are entirely off topic.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      Eating veal or foie gras is all subjective....and no one should be made to think they are somehow lacking if they choose not to eat it. One of the most delicious food on the planet?? Hardly....to some, foie gras is nothing short of disgusting, but given that lack of desire for it shouldn't mean anything. It's subjective, like having to choose one favorite wine. You may choose something totally different than I would, but that doesn't mean one bit that it isn't right.

                      1. re: cooknKate

                        I never judged anyone, or said that one type of dietary preference is somehow lacking. I have a lot of empathy for ethics based dietary restrictions as I don't eat meat raised in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). I simply questioned the OP's decision to dismiss foie gras and veal without tasting them, and without learning about the details of production, or the arguments on both sides of the ethical debate. There is a lot of false propaganda circulated about foie gras and veal, and people tend to have knee jerk reactions about these contentious foods without being fully informed.

                        I believe that foie gras is one of the most delicious foods on the planet, and many great chefs and experienced gourmands share that belief (if people didn't adore foie, it would never command the high price tag). Ultimately, it's up to the OP. But (s)he will never know if (s)he loves it or finds it disgusting if (s)he never tries it. Similarly, I can't make any qualitative taste comparisons between my favorite wine and your favorite wine if I refuse to taste your wine or learn anything about it.

                        I'm glad to hear that the OP read my link and is reconsidering her stance. Open mindedness and education are never a bad thing.

                    2. jono37, this stuff isn't worth the anguish. No one is going to care or think that you are an unsophisticated rube if you prefer not to eat foie gras or veal. Too many other people feel as you do and the people who give you grief are the rude ones.
                      I eat both of those although I find veal generally pretty blah. I don't like it when people make remarks about that or my other choices that they don't agree with. And that's all it amounts to - they don't agree. So we should all leave each other alone. Chances are we won't change many minds.

                      I remember the first time I was served foie gras about 30 years ago in France. I really liked it but it was part of a meal with a bunch of French people and nobody made a big deal out of it. I had no idea that it was so expensive until we went to buy some for a picnic a few days later! Silly us!
                      I do enjoy it a lot but I also enjoy veal brains and sweetbreads and calves liver, too. Foie gras is a wonderful extravagence that I can't afford very often. It's $55 a pound at my butcher. More than that at restaurants.

                      Michel Richard, owner and chef of the 4-star Citronelle in Washington, DC, makes Faux Gras, using 1/2 pound of butter to a pound of chicken livers, producing an amazing facsimile to foie gras, which he serves in his restaurants. Purists will exclaim that it simply isn't the same and we all know it isn't, but perhaps you might try this to see how you like it. You might not even want to pursue the entire foie gras debate any further.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Some of the above posts make me reconsider a little bit. I was not aware of free-range veal, and I read the link on foie gras and understand that there are variations in the practice of force-feeding that inflict less discomfort. I probably will continue not to pursue these foods avidly, but I suppose an occasional appearance on a tasting menu might be OK.

                        1. re: jono37

                          Just remember, there's a lot of controversy on all sides of the issue and you're going to have to take everything with a grain of salt. I adore both veal and foie gras, but that said I'll never look down on anyone who doesn't wish to partake, but I think it's worth trying at least once.