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Come July 1, production of a most delicious and controversial gourmet ingredient will be banned in California. That tasty taboo-to-be is foie gras-fatted duck or goose liver. When cooked correctly, it's sumptuous, buttery, subtly gamey, and unbelievably scrumptious.

Unfortunately, controversy surrounding production of foie gras - particularly the gavage method of enlarging fowl livers - has led to a great deal of concern from animal rights groups, who have fought, triumphantly (in CA at least), to have the practice of force-feeding ducks outlawed completely.

Sure, we could take sides and debate the issue. Lord knows pretty much everyone who knows what foie gras is pretty much has. In the end, if you like it, you'd best get it while you can. A prime opportunity to enjoy it in many preparations is a "no-holds-barred" foie gras challenge happening at Bice Ristorante downtown on Wednesday, February 29.

Two chefs, Bice's Mario Cassineri and consulting toque Fabrice Poigin (formerly of Bertrand's at Mister A's and Urban Kitchen Group), will put up four courses each, all of which will highlight the night's central ingredient.

It should be interesting to see chefs of Italian and French training and descent put their stamps on foie gras cookery. Those are two nations which are well known for their affinity and use of this ingredient. The menu will remain mostly under wraps until the event itself.

But dishes that have been leaked ahead of time are Cassineri's cotton candy with raw foie and pink Himalayan sea salt, and home-made roasted foie gras ravioli in a reduced duck consomme; and Poigin's foie gras fritters with watercress puree and duck fat-laced fondant potatoes, plus a dried cherry, apple, duck fat crumble and granita combo made using two varieties of Julian Hard Cider.

This certainly has the makings of a worthwhile combination melee and farewell to foie as we know it and, considering this delicacy is one of the most expensive ingredients around, the meal seems quite the steal at $65 per person ($20 to $40 with wine pairings). Bice is located at 425 Island Avenue.

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