The Curious Case of The Foie & The Fish

This foie gras business just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Last week Hugs for Puppies, the animal advocacy group that protests against restaurants that serve foie gras, posted a statement on its website congratulating seafood-centric BYOB Little Fish for going foie gras-free. As the source of this information, the website cited a letter from Little Fish to Professionals Against Foie Gras, a group supporting Councilman Kelly’s proposed ban on the controversial delicacy.

I called Mike Stollenwerk, chef-owner of seafood-centric Little Fish, to ask him about his decision, and he told me that he never sent a letter to anyone.

[In the half hour it took me to write this post and call the parties involved, Hugs changed the wording on its website to reflect that the information was received via phone rather than by letter.]

Stollenwerk was puzzled as to why he was on Hugs’ website, “We don’t normally serve foie gras. It isn’t on the menu, but I would serve it because what’s next – they’ll come for lobsters?”

Nick Cooney, director of Hugs for Puppies, referred me to Elissa Katz, a lawyer and a board member of Professionals Against Foie Gras. I called Ms. Katz, who explained that she spoke with Stollenwerk on the phone. He called her in response to a letter PAFG had sent him. Katz said “I asked him what he would do if he were asked to sell foie gras in the future [Little Fish participated in the pro-foie gras Freedom for Foie promotion last fall] and he said he wouldn’t sell it. He answered that foie gras does not have a place on his menu.”

Did Stollenwerk perhaps mean that it doesn’t have a place on Little Fish’s menu because the menu consists mostly of seafood items? Did he actually say that he was against foie gras? Katz was very lawyerly in her response:

“He may not have anything against it, but he did say he would not serve it and it does not have a place on his menu. He very clearly expressed that he wouldn’t serve foie gras. He may be backpedaling.”

I called Stollenwerk back to relay this info. He said did call Katz because he got a “nasty letter from some lawyer. I also got something from some other lawyer supporting foie gras. I didn’t realize she was related to Hugs for Puppies. I called her to say I don’t need a letter like this because it’s not on our menu. She twisted stuff around.”

Stollenwerk said in no uncertain terms that although it’s not something that he serves, he supports the rights of restaurants to serve foie gras.

Our question: will Hugs and PAFG now protest restaurants that support the right to serve foie gras, even if it’s not actually on their menu?

Another question: Will they start protesting Stephen Starr’s restaurants again? Although he’s stopped serving foie in his Philadelphia restaurants, his Morimoto NYC location seems to have quite a few foie items on the menu. Which makes both parties seem more than a teensy bit hypocritical.

Little Fish [Official Site]
Hugs for Puppies [Official Site]
Professionals Against Foie Gras [Official Site]