Chicago Chef Offers 'Faux Gras' Chicago's city council famously barred foie gras from the city's tables last summer, on the grounds that it is cruel to force feed geese or ducks. As several other states consider banning the fatty delicacy, Chicago chef Tony Mantuano and others have come up with an alternative.
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Chicago Chef Offers 'Faux Gras'

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Chicago Chef Offers 'Faux Gras'

Chicago Chef Offers 'Faux Gras'

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You might have heard about the culinary storm that swept over Chicago last year. The city council decided that force-feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras was just too cruel and so they banned it, infuriating the city chefs. Well, nothing like a chef spurned, or burned, to spur on ingenuity.

Several have developed what's now called faux gras. Some chefs (unintelligible) of chicken livers, Tony Mantuano, who runs the Italian restaurant Spiaggia, uses only vegetables.

Buon giorno, Tony.

Mr. TONY MANTUANO (Chef, Spiagga): Buon giorno.

LYDEN: So I had heard about this ban, and New York and New Jersey and Illinois are all considering statewide bans so there might be a lot of chefs listening to this. Tony, could you please give us an idea of what's in your faux foie gras?

Mr. MANTUANO: I wish I could give you the recipe, but I'll tell you some of the basic ingredients. It's made up primarily of garbanzo beans or cece(ph) beans as the Italians call them. And there's onions and there's capers and there's lots of butter.

LYDEN: How does it taste? How close is it to the real thing?

Mr. MANTUANO: Well, you know, it's - I think the mouth feel is there. I think you're eating something really rich and because we put a little bit of insanto(ph) wine in it, you're sort of getting that richness factor. It's pretty close I think.

LYDEN: When you were developing this, did you do anything of that sort of, you know, chef's kitchen taste test kind of thing where you were trying to see if two people could tell the difference between the faux and the foie gras?

Mr. MANTUANO: Yeah, actually we did. And, you know, I first had something like this in a vegetarian restaurant in Milano. But it was like 15 years ago. And I had remembered it and when this ban came down, it's sort of disturbed the cobwebs a little bit. And I said to one of my sous chefs, I said, you know, I had this dish and I think this was what was in the dish at the time. And I just gave him a basic outline of ingredients and he came up with something based on those ingredients. And he actually had a lot of people taste it next to foie gras mousse and a lot of people, you could tell the difference, but they thought it was a great substitute.

LYDEN: So chickpeas are important.

Mr. MANTUANO: And lots of butter.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: My mouth is watering. I'll have to say arrivederci now.

Mr. MANTUANO: Arrivederci.

LYDEN: Chef Tony Mantuano runs Spiaggia in Chicago. He joined us from our Chicago bureau and thanks a lot, really. Grazie.

Mr. MANTUANO: You're welcome.

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