Yesterday evening, amid the hubbub of Northeast Alberta Street's Last Thursday gala, six Portland activists setup shop in front of Alberta Street Oyster Bar and Grill
. The mission: to protest foie gras on the restaurant's menu.
The group came prepared, armed with brochures, a wagon with a flat screen—ready to play graphic images of birds being force-fed—and the initiative to cause a peaceful ruckus.
Portland animal-rights activist "Fire Fly" gave a graphic description of how foie gras
(French for “fatty liver”) is produced: “Pipes are repeatedly shoved down the birds' throats, and up to 4 pounds of grain and fat are pumped into their stomachs two or three times every day.”
This force-feeding technique (which the French call gavage
) is designed to cause livers to swell up to 10 times their normal size. The flavor of the delicacy, according to a pair of Northeast Portland food enthusiasts who preferred to remain anonymous, “is rich and buttery–incomparable
to regular goose or duck liver”.
Before the group could unload their little red wagon of what would be a small business's worst publicity nightmare, Bruce Kaad, the restaurant's owner, presented himself bearing good news for the protesters.
The new chef, Laurel Gunderson, had recently taken the foie gras off the menu, and the online menu
, used for information by the activist group, had simply not been changed yet. (The restaurant's former chef, Eric Bechard, is taking a job at Seattle restaurant Opal.)
When asked what had caused the removal of the controversial dish, Kaad responded, “It was an expensive flaw, and we are trying to become more of a neighborhood restaurant. ... Timing has a lot to do with it, we have a lot of new people. Foie gras is also a delicacy only done right in New York; we try to shop at local farmers markets, [and] it does not fit with local.”
“I don't like to be coerced,” Kaad added—though he and the protesters kept their cool.
Upon hearing Kaad's news, the ever-smiling group moved to what activist Matt Rossell described as the group's “victory corner,” an alley near the restaurant. An onlooker, North Portland resident Jill Muhm, wondered if the group was holding a class.
When questioned about the ease of their victory, the group was skeptical. Fire Fly (pictured above holding a banner with fellow activist "Lupo") said Adam Berger, owner of Portland restaurant Ten 01
, pledged on camera to take foie gras off the menu (see video below), yet “we have since successfully ordered it."
As of today, the Ten 01 dinner menu
online still includes "Foie Gras au Torchon," and a call to the restaurant confirmed it is currently on offer. A staffer who asked not to be named said the restaurant had indeed removed the fatty liver from the menu, but diners demanded it be reinstated. Berger was not immediately available for comment.