Amuse bouché 1.17.07

by Brian Clarey

Depending on what part of the country you’re in, foie gras, the rich paté made from the livers of force-fed ducks or geese, is either a trendy ingredient or an illegal substance.

While big-time chefs in food-loving towns across the civilized world are rediscovering the classic French delicacy – slicing it, sautéing it, stuffing it into things – restaurants in Chicago are under a foie gras ban delivered by their city council after a successful campaign by animal-rights activists.

Now, paté consumption is not a huge problem around here But can you imagine if our city council tried to impose a ban on, say, ranch dressing? Hog jowls? Cheese sauce?

Not to worry, Tiny – nothing will come between you and the murderous and inhumane treats you crave. Unless it’s raw oysters, which are not illegal but the serving of which is strongly discouraged by most restaurant insurance providers. Over at Bert’s Seafood Grille to celebrate the abundance of the bivalve harvest this winter they’ll steam ’em in the shell for you at half price for the whole month of January.

The noble oyster will also make command performances during the week at Virginia Beach Restaurant Week which runs through Jan. 21 and features the city’s finest restaurants offering prix fixe meals the whole time. Two-course lunches will run $10.07 while a two-course dinner will go for $20.07. No word on what the seven cents is for, but we like to see a region thinking big, and before our city government tried to take away our blood sausage we hope they’d put their efforts into something like this.

The guys at the Press Wine Café have been thinking big from the start – their much-hyped five-course wine dinner goes down Sunday night, and the little café in Southside has generated enough buzz and action to necessitate an additional 20 seats in the dining room.

Meanwhile it was announced in the Greensboro News & Record that Dennis Quaintance is closing the Winston-Salem installation of Lucky 32, the upscale cuisine factory that started, and continues to thrive, on Westover Terrace in Greensboro. The Raleigh branch closed in October, but Quaintance told the paper he plans to keep the Cary place open. He also blamed the huge influx of chain restaurants to the area for the troubles the locally-owned-and-operated eateries have faced this last year or so.

Well, duh.

The newest franchise to raise the bunting and balloons is Jason’s Deli, which opened for business Jan. 5 in the Shoppes at Friendly Center, which due to its volume of brand-name restaurants is starting to become a dining destination location in its own right. Which means we’ll have to name it. The Flatware District?

Room for one more item? Caribou Coffee has released a seven-favor line of sugar-free and low-calorie coffee drinks. Northern Lite Lattes are made with skim milk and have as few as 80 calories per drink.