Readers react to Carpe Vino’s handling of foie gras complaint

Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

As we reported a few days back, Carpe Vino in Auburn is serving foie gras, and Cathryn Rakich isn’t exactly happy about it.

She and her husband, both vegetarians, were considering this highly regarded four-star restaurant for his birthday dinner until Rakich spotted foie gras on the menu. She wrote to complain, and Carpe Vino’s owner, Gary Moffat, insisted he was going to continue serving it as long as it’s legal. He did it in his own style. Some might call it charmingly blunt. Others might see it as abrasive.

So we asked readers to give their takes. On The Bee’s Facebook page, most readers’ comments on the story sided with Moffat. Some even said his response would make them even more likely to visit the restaurant.

Those who emailed me were a little more nuanced. The best answers, in my view, made the argument that there is plenty about any menu that could be seen as unpleasant to animals, the environment and more. Here are a few takes:

From Kurt Burris:

“I'm not a fan of foie gras, not because of any production issues; I just don't think it's worth the cost or the calories. But I don't care if someone serves it. If the couple in question is offended by it, fine. But, why single out one particular food stuff? Most meat manufacture is pretty disgusting. I understand the couple are vegetarians, but cheese plants can be pretty gross, too. (And think of all those microbes being sacrificed so I can enjoy my chevre.) I assume you suggested they go to Mother.”

No, I did not give any restaurant suggestions, as I was not asked. But Mother would certainly be a good option. Not only is there no foie gras (or any meat products), the restaurants has developed an entirely vegan pho that is winning raves.

From Dave Robinson:

“Does Ms. Rakich hold the belief that Mr Moffat also should not serve sauce Bolognese because it contains sausage not sourced from free-range mountain-grown herded-by-Pawnee-braves pigs? (OK, stretching a bit here on the pig provenance, but not on the sauce vs. Ms Rakich.) If not, she is not being consistent in her logic. The life of a Farmer John caged pig is not so very different from her beloved goose. And what about those penned cattle at Harris Ranch? Ah, yes, excellent treatment.

“I personally care not to eat foie gras, veal, etc. for reasons possibly related to those of Ms Rakich. HOWEVER. Their presence on a menu will most assuredly not cause me to direct my business elsewhere — if anything, the restauranteur's choice to explore beyond beef/chicken/pork is a motivation to see what other innovative flavors and non-goose liver delights s/he might offer.”

Chef Eric Alexander’s Carpe’s menu is, indeed, a touch daring and it changes often. He also takes pains to source ingredients in an ethical way. He also embraces the farm-to-fork ethos of being as local and seasonal as possible. Some of the produce, for instance, is grown on a small farm where he and his wife reside.

Karen Fairchild writes:

“I have no particular feeling about fois gras, except that it tastes good and I also hate harm to animals. However, I did not have any problem understanding that this individual associated with Carpe Vino has set forth a response which is endearing to no one...Best to these poor people who wrote to him. They have my sympathy.”

Kathi Duran writes:

“Sad thing about the bottom line in this story is that, given the choice, most people will choose money over humanity every time.”

On Twitter, some thought Moffat’s blunt dismissal of Rakich’s concern missed an opportunity to explain why the restaurant decided to serve foie gras and how it believes foie gras production can be done humanely. In this case, it is likely that Rakich and Moffat were not going to work things out or change the other’s mind no matter how warm and fuzzy Moffat tried to be in his reply. Whatever you think about Moffat’s email, his restaurant has a very loyal following, so Carpe Vino is clearly doing plenty right.

Finally, here is what reader Dan Orange has to say on the matter:

“I hesitated over the yes/no vote at the bottom of the article, as it removes all nuance. Foie gras is nothing if not nuance. I love it. I’ve eaten it in Po. I’ve had it prepared fresh for me from freshly harvested livers. There is nothing like it. Particularly with an aged Sauternes.

“Do I wish that the geese were treated more humanely? You bet. Would I give it up no matter what? No. Do I support the California ban? No. It’s too blunt a tool.

“So where does that leave me? I favor Carpe Vino, but I do wish that Moffat had been a tad more circumspect/political. As for Ms. Rakich, I applaud her willingness to take a stand. But I ask her to look elsewhere in the kitchen, and decide where she’ll draw the line. Industrial salt production? Hydrocarbons used to deliver her veggies to the restaurant? GMO-free when a burgeoning world population almost demands GMO (where do you stand on mass starvation vs. genetic manipulation?)?

“I honestly don’t mind where she lands. I wish every consumer / customer thought more about their food and where it came from. We’d all be better off.”

Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.