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Everything posted by derricks

  1. Can you tell us what you saw, Carolyn? I'd like to know. ← Specifically? I saw several pens of ducks, running mostly free until their last two weeks of life. Then they are sequested for the gavage. His gavage technique is far different than the "classic" version of a hand-held funnel. His is more automated and quick. When the tube goes down the throat, the feed is inserted in just a few seconds. I saw briefly, but am going to ask Derricks to join in this discussion -- he visited it several times and wrote a piece for The Art of Eating. ← Carolyn's memory of Guillermo's operation (technically Eric Delmas does the ranch management) is still more or less true. The ducks live in a big open room while they're ducklings and then graduate to a field when they're teenagers. For the gavage, they're brought indoors into a low-light building that's climate controlled. Ten to twelve ducks are kept in 25(?) sq. foot pens, more or less the absolute minimum suggested by animal welfare people. For the feeding, the feeder puts a stool in the pen, grabs a duck, holds it between his legs, inserts the tube, presses a button, and four seconds later releases the duck. That's up to a pound of food in four seconds, for those who are counting. Other random comments: Trotter has every right to not serve foie gras, but he seems most upset by battery cages, which none of the U.S. producers use. It's probably safe to assume that Label Rouge foie gras from France is raised sans battery cages; it's explicitly forbidden before gavage, but I assume most producers keep the same path. The "traditional" form of foie gras isn't necessarily better. The ducks are handled for longer periods of time and the lossage is twice that of "modern" forms. That's still one-third of acceptable loss at other poultry farms. Ducks in general don't come running to the feeder. Do some ducks, somewhere? Probably. But the best evidence is anecdotal and even then scant. Any comment along these lines is notably absent from most accounts of visits to farms (at least most of the ones I've read, which is probably on the order of ten to twelve). In a study that tested duck/goose willingness to voluntarily go to a gavage area, geese in general went, ducks in general didn't. (that's a simplification). So maybe geese do (indeed, most of the anecdotal evidence features geese not ducks). But here's something to consider. The ducks haven't dealt much with humans when they first come to the gavage (assuming no battery cages). It takes them several days to just not freak out when humans walk in (ducks are shy). It's hard to believe they go from that to running at the feeder in just two weeks. At any rate, even SFG's ranch manager says they don't come running at his farm. "Fat" ducks are markedly different from "force-fed" ducks. You can fatten a duck or goose and not end up with something consumers accept as foie gras. There's a metabolic threshold that's not reached in this case. Here's the common-sense argument. Gavage is expensive. Really expensive. If you could produce foie gras without force-feeding (i.e., just by having the ducks eat more of their own accord), people would. How much of that is a demanding consumer body that won't accept lesser foie? Who knows. Most animal rights group expend effort on all sorts of campaigns. Gourmet Cruelty is clearly focused on foie gras, but for groups like PETA and Viva!, foie gras is just one of many campaigns they run. But which ones get the press? Not the Viva! investigations of Grimaud, or their campaigns against pork factory farming (for the record, Viva!'s a pretty together group in my mind, as is the Animal Welfare Institute). No, the press only wants to touch foie gras, for probably a number of reasons. (and as Carolyn points out, I'm guilty as well)
  2. Charlie T. seems most upset by battery cages (though the reporter might have slanted it that way). Did he think to visit, say, any of the U.S. producers, none of whom use them?
  3. derricks

    Rhone Rangers

    Both ZAP and the Rhone Rangers tasting provided spit cups (big, red, and plastic), in addition to spit buckets distributed liberally about. Even with adequate spit buckets, I like the cups because it allows me to not fight my way to the spit bucket (because of course you can't say "excuse me" to the person yammering away in front of the spit bucket). Lots of people even at the trade tasting seem to think that "spitting" means you take one sip and swallow, but then pour the rest. At least the alcohol here was a _little_ more restrained than at ZAP, where everything clocks in at 14.5 or more. To add to Carolyn's comments, I'm a fan of Edmunds St. John in general, and I was happy to see him doing more whites from Paso (when they told me the name of Shells and Bones, I asked if it was from that part of the world). I found it interesting that he was bottling leftover Rousanne from Tablas Creek. He said they offered him the grapes, so he jumped on it. It'd be nice to see that partnership continue. (I asked him if he'd consider bottling grapes from Glenrose, but he says he's trying). But Steve Edmunds tipped me off to the Eaglepoint rose a few booths down. That was great, my favorite of the 20 or so wines I tasted.
  4. Reading the manual... That's a clever idea. I'll have to see. Great suggestion. You do a pretty phenomenal amount of canning, though I'm not sure my wife is ready for me to start filling our one-bedroom apartment with canned goods. I have a few, but we don't have the space for that kind of endeavor. Thanks for that. Mine is a stove top, so clearly I'll have to practice a bit to get the right setting.
  5. Ah, interesting. I will try that. It never boils, eh? Clearly I need some brushing up on the various P T V equations. Hmmm. Thanks for the tip.
  6. I thought I'd report back on the stock thing. I decided to give it a try when I made dinner on Christmas Eve (so it took me a while). I made risotto, figuring that if the stock wasn't clear, well, no big deal. More about the dinner, if you're interested. As we all guessed, the pressure cooker didn't create a nice clear stock. I don't know how much turbulence there is in the pressure cooker, but it's probably more than "one bubble should break the surface every few seconds". On the other hand, it had a great depth of chickeny flavor, and was more gelatinous than a base stock, without losing volume from reducing. And it took two hours to make. I'd probably do it again if I knew the stock wasn't going to go into a sauce or soup, as I did in this case. I haven't used it for anything else, though, so I'll get back to you. I do have a dinner party tomorrow where I'm planning on serving risotto, but I don't think a dinner party is the time to experiment with something on those lines.
  7. Sorry. It's the French term for the force-feeding. Twice a day for two weeks (this is the norm; different producers have different schedules), a feeder enters the pen (or walks up to the small cage, but none of the U.S. producers use battery cages), inserts a tube down the duck's throat, pushes a button and dispenses up to a pound of food in about four seconds. The feeder removes the tube, and moves on to the next duck (at SFG, they keep about ten to twelve ducks in a pen, so the feeder grabs the next one). They don't get any other food in this period. That qualifies as force-feeding to me (that, and they're fed more than they would eat on their own in the same time period, though occasionally ducks/geese will eat more in one seating than they'd get in one feeding). Whether it's cruel is, of course, much of the discussion. The birds don't have gag reflexes, and they have hardened esophagi because in the wild a duck or goose will eat any number of oddball things, including the typical bird thing of small rocks and pebbles. Still, the feeder does have to be careful not to puncture the esophagus; it's not _so_ sturdy. But it is a lot of labor, hence the high cost of the ingredient.
  8. Oh, and I forgot. Every current producer force-feeds the birds. At the moment you always have to stick a tube in and push the food through. People are researching other methods, but there hasn't been much in the way of progress on that front (the tube has been around for two millenia; people are just now scrambling to find alternate methods, so it's probably not impossible, but it's a short period of time).
  9. The whole ducks coming willingly thing is, well, not well documented from reliable sources. You can find anecdotal evidence that says it, but the ducks don't come running at Sonoma Foie Gras (my observations + New York Times observations + the ranch manager) and in fact one study has demonstrated that ducks are _much_ less likely than geese to voluntarily go to an area for gavage. Michael Ginor (Hudson Valley Foie Gras) has been quoted as saying the ducks come running. 'Cause you know, there's a reliable source. Still, I find it surprising he never mentions it in his foie gras book that details his production methods _and_ addresses animal rights activists. I can think of a number of reasons for that. Most objective descriptions (not people in the industry) of visits to foie gras farms never mention it, though in all honesty some do. On the other hand, nor do the ducks shy away. The EU report on the welfare of birds raised for foie gras has them actively avoiding the feeder, but this isn't borne out by other observations. Few reports mention the ducks running to the feeder, but fewer still (just that one, if you only count people who have visited foie gras farms) have them freaking out. Here's the thing. Gavage is expensive. If you could get the ducks to willingly come running to the tube on a regular basis, you could probably figure out a way to skip gavage and charge a lot less (and incur less risk for yourself). You'd also have the killer app for foie gras, because no one bans foie gras, they all ban force-feeding. So I'm dubious of this opinion that ducks come swarming at the feeder in most facilities. Some ducks, sometimes, sure. But most ducks? In most facilities? I remain dubious.
  10. This is a big annoyance of mine, mostly for practical reasons. I don't even think about swirling my wine in a glass; I pick up the glass, I swirl, I sniff. Doesn't matter if it's my first glass or my fifth, or even if there's wine or water in the glass. Try doing that with a full glass of wine. But it's easy enough to see how overpouring causes you to go through a bottle faster, and even without a restaurant background, I'd have a hard time believing it's an urban legend. I usually try and stop waiters from overpouring from the bottle (and they will, even if you motion to stop), but I can't think of any way to successfully convince a restaurant that my "wine by the glass" should be served in two portions.
  11. Duck confit ravioli? That...that sounds really good. Ha, I was just thinking the same thing about making more duck confit after reading all these ideas (the leftover duck breasts don't hurt either). But onto the Brussels Sprouts. Let's see. Pull off the tough outer leaves, cut a small slice in the stem, chill in ice water briefly, drop into boiling water, cook until just tender, shock in ice water, slice in half and reheat/finish cooking in a sauce of chicken stock, mustard and chives that's been thickened with a cornstarch slurry. More or less.
  12. A while back, I made a variant of the Duck Confit with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce you'll find in Bouchon. For a recent dinner party, I made a salad of shredded duck confit, garlic confit, watercress and fried orange slices, all dressed with a star anise vinaigrette. My wife says it was one of the best salads I've ever made. edit: replaced HTML italics with eG italics
  13. 7 years by the way. Well, I think SFG would prefer that no ban go into effect, but by the time the bill was in its final revisions, SFG supported the bill (and some animal rights groups opposed it). The first change pushed the ban to 2012, but all the animal rights groups basically said they'd just start filing lawsuits against SFG. In the assembly, they added a clause to prevent any lawsuits in the interim. So they're protected for the time being. And while I don't think the bill is targeted at Guillermo but instead at the concept of foie gras (otherwise, I think they'd just ban production), I'm sure the motives were very muddled because he is the sole producer in the state. Much of the debate of necessity involved him specifically. So did John Burton have it out for SFG explicitly? Probably not. Did In Defense of Animals, one of the proponents of the original bill and the people who attached Sonoma Saveurs in the first place? Probably. Viva! USA, who helped draft the bill? Probably not. But who knows what everyone's motivation was. I think it's a fine distinction, but that did clarify your point. Just because no one in California will be able to sell me foie gras doesn't mean that I won't be able to get any. I can presumably order online from Hudson Valley or La Belle or, as you mention, French or Canadian producers (rather their importers). I wouldn't be arrested for possession.
  14. Hm. Funny. I said something similar recently. I haven't seen many people make that observation. As a general rule, that's probably true, but I would argue that the press from the attacks on Sonoma Saveurs helped generate public support for the CA ban. I don't have any proof, but that was the impression I got. I would guess that Viva! USA (they helped draft the bill) saw an opportunity with the press and convinced John Burton to introduce it. It's worth noting that the bill never went to the voting public; it _only_ went through the legislature. This is obviously not uncommon, but it's also different than putting the matter to the state's populace (which they did with the ban on horse meat). I didn't understand this. How does it not interfere with the dining preferences of the individual? As of 2012, no one will be able to produce _or sell_ the products of a force-fed bird. So I couldn't get it in a restaurant if I wanted it and I couldn't buy it from my local butcher.
  15. Well, that's very sweet. But it should have a star
  16. Todd Wernstrom observed in The Wine News last year (as did others, I'm sure, but his piece was the one I read) that CA SB producers are beginning to learn that you can't handle SB the same way you would Chardonnay (i.e., aging on oak, as Carolyn mentioned). Just as you don't manhandle Pinot Noir the way you would Cabernet. The result is, hopefully, SBs that are more classic, traditional, and I would argue appropriate to the grape. It sounds like you're seeing some of the first results of this. I'm with Carolyn on appreciating this style over the typical CA version.
  17. Way back when I did an all chocolate dinner party. It may provide some ideas. I made up most of it as I went along.
  18. I can't speak to their professional program, but I've taken a number of weekend classes there. My success rate has varied (not surprisingly) with the teacher. Linda Sullivan's a great teacher, Mary Risley not so much so (at least not from the one class I took with her, but it was bad enough that I swore not to sign up for one of her classes); her greatest strength seems to be a very well-indexed internal database of recipes. I'm taking a class there this weekend, as it happens, the first in a year and a half (I've exhausted all their technique-oriented weekend classes). I've also taken classes at the CCA, again just technique classes. They can't make you a star knife wielder in 4 or 5 hours, but they will give you the basics you can go home and practice with.
  19. derricks

    Smoked Turkey stock

    I used some smoked turkey stock for a mole sauce earlier this year. I thought it worked very nicely.
  20. Personal politics and nothing more. I don't buy from chain bookstores here in the U.S., and while I'm not informed about non-chain French bookstores (or, really, if the chain vs. independent thing is an issue in French bookstore culture), I feel like I should at least buy from a French chain (fnac, perhaps). As you point out, though, Virgin has the books we need, and it's centrally located.
  21. I think the folks here have the right of it: not all Merlot is bad, but too often it is. That said, my wife and I really like the Rock River Merlot. It's flavorful and rich and a counterexample to all the uninteresting Merlots out there. And it's $8 or so. Not sure how wide its distribution is: I believe it's an East Coast producer, but I've only ever seen it at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. When they featured it in their wine club, they had a hard time keeping it in stock, because people (including us) were buying it by the caseload. They seem to have reached equilibrium, though, as we normally see some when we're in there. And I've really got to see this movie.
  22. My wife and I are fond of the Lebey guides, but they are in French, which of course means they're not for everyone. Any good general bookstore in Paris should have them (I'm horrified to say we bought ours at the Virgin Megastore on the Champs-Elysees).
  23. Planning, followed by cooking, followed by eating. In the planning stage, the meal is as perfect as I can imagine. Everything's garnished beautifully and there are no mis-steps or flaws. Cooking is a lot of fun for a different reason; I like the process. While eating, I usually spend too much time thinking about what I could do differently or better next time.
  24. derricks

    Pasa Robles

    In addition to the ones mentioned, I'd add Saxum. Justin Smith's Broken Stones is somewhat easier to find than his Bone Rock. Both are good though I prefer the Bone Rock. BS goes for around $40 (though I saw a recent write-up list it at $70), BR goes for $70-$75.
  25. Yes, La Belle Poultry has a foie gras chunk (they do other stuff). Their production methods mimic Hudson Valley's. I think I've heard they used to be called Bobo, but I don't know the details on that.
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