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Free foie gras with $55 glass of wine skirts duck liver ban

The sale and purchase of foie gras has been illegal in California since July 1, but a couple of Orange County chefs say they have found a legal way to continue serving the French delicacy.

Noah Blom of Arc in Costa Mesa and Amar Santana of Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach are drawing the ire of the animal rights group PETA for serving fattened duck liver.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has sent letters to the chefs threatening legal action.

Santana was offering customers a glass of wine for $55, with a free side of foie gras.

"The wine is very popular," Santana said.

Last week, Broadway served 50 glasses of wine and went through about 12 pounds of free foie gras, Santana said.

PETA, however, took issue with the efforts to continue serving the dish.

"You should not think that you can skirt the law's prohibition on sales by 'giving away' foie gras to customers or providing it 'for free with the purchase of a $55 glass of Sauternes," PETA attorney Matthew Strugar wrote in an April 8 letter to Santana.

Santana is flouting the law, Strugar said in an interview.

"The ball's in their court. We will seek enforcement in any way we can," Strugar said. "We're not just going to go away."

Blom received a similar letter for using foie gras in some of his off-menu dishes.

He was rendering foie gras into a sauce for a 42-ounce steak dish and said because the ingredient wasn't a focal point of the item it wasn't advertised on the menu.

"People don't even know they're getting it until it's on the plate. That's where PETA and I disagree," Blom said.

As long as foie gras is in a dish that is sold, it is illegal, Strugar said.

"If you order a side salad, and it's listed as a salad, and you get tomatoes, nobody thinks you're getting free tomatoes," Strugar said. "If it's part of a dish which he is charging money for, it's a sale, it's a transaction and it's prohibited."

Opponents are merely driving up demand for foie gras, Blom said.

"PETA has made it more sought-after, creating this cult craze," Blom said.

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annie.kim@latimes.com

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