When American chefs start serving lion even the animal-rights activists give foie gras a reprieve. If only momentarily.
Taste & See, a Latin-fusion restaurant in Wichita, Kans., expected to serve the king of beasts tonight as part of an exotic-game tasting.
Responding to protests from animal-rights groups, chef Jason Febres removed the big cat from the menu — he 86ed it, in restaurant lingo.
“We wish to note that the small percentage of people who genuinely and intelligently pleaded their case was what persuaded us to reconsider,” Taste & See said in a release.
As of Tuesday morning, a petition on Change.org to cancel the dinner listed nearly 11,000 electronic signatures.
Kangaroo is on the bill of fare, along with Scottish hare, crocodile, alpaca, water buffalo, antelope and foie gras. The Change.org petition is still calling for the meal’s cancellation because of the presence of those “exotic animals.”
Here’s the thing: It’s legal to eat African lion in the U.S.
It’s the sale of foie gras that’s illegal, at least in the state of California.
The law has a few loopholes that some chefs like to exploit.
Restaurant Thir13en in Sacramento has served “$21 brioche” with a “complimentary” side of duck liver as part of a semantic effort to subvert the ban, as the New York Times reported earlier this week.
Activists were the force behind California’s foie ban, which went into effect in July. But there aren’t any petitions against Thir13en on Change.org just yet.
One prominent Texas chef defended Taste & See’s initial plans to serve big cat.
“As long as it’s responsibly sourced, I have no problem with what Chef Febres wants to serve,” said Tim Love of the game-centric Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth. Love, in an e-mail, said he tried lion years ago.
“I liked it. It was pretty thrilling,” he said.
No lion on Love’s menu just yet. But there are elk sliders, among other southwestern delicacies.
“My job is to create a memorable experience for my guests, and if it’s serving kangaroo nachos or rabbit rattlesnake sausage, so be it.”
Chef Brad Farmerie, of the Michelin-starred Public in New York, wasn’t too happy with his big-cat experience.
“It was memorably unmemorable, fairly neutral, like the other-other white meat,” he said of lion, adding that he probably wouldn’t serve it.
Farmerie, like Love, does cook kangaroo.
“We have fielded calls from ‘reactionists’ who were angry that we were serving these cute, cuddly creatures, and then got ‘raided’ by some government agents a few years back because kangaroo was accidentally included in a New York list of endangered animals.”
Taste & See declined to name the source or supplier of the lion meat.
“Due to the extreme response and threatening nature of some, I do not wish to subject anyone else to the barrage of anger that we have endured,” a spokesperson for the restaurant wrote in an e-mail.
Exotic Meats, an online purveyor, currently lists its lion meat supplies as “out of stock.”
The website for Czimer’s Game & Seafood, an Illinois-based butcher, advertises African lion legs, loins, steaks, ribs and burgers, ranging in price from $9.95 to $24.95 a pound.
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