100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 13, Foie Gras au Torchon at Étoile

Photo by Troy Fields
The best foie gras in Houston is at Étoile Cuisine et Bar.
This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.

Meat butter. That's the way I've often heard foie gras described. It's almost gamey, but delicate at the same time, and when rolled into a torchon and cooked in a double boiler, the fatty duck or goose liver can be spread onto toast much like butter.

Unlike a hunk of pan-seared foie gras, which sort of melts and oozes onto a plate, a torchon is served cold and is therefore much more solid. At Étoile, chef Philippe Verpiand makes the torchon himself, trimming, seasoning, wrapping, simmering then compressing and chilling the fatty liver into an incredible dish using techniques he learned in France.

Photo by Troy Fields
Chef Verpiand carefully slices the torchon.
And oh, is Étoile's foie like soft butter on your tongue! Pink, smooth, creamy, ringed with a thin layer of light-yellow fat, not a hint of grit or vein, no sour flavor, no crumbly texture. The attention Verpiand pays to the preparation of this small but important dish is impeccable.

Foie gras au torchon literally means foie gras in a dish towel, as that's what the liver is wrapped in to get it compact and to help the fat mold together into one luscious log. At Étoile, Verpiand serves this simple dish -- simple in ingredients, not in preparation -- with a mousse made of prunes, Port and I believe mascarpone or some other similar creamy element, plus several slices of toasted brioche.

While the bittersweet dried fruit mousseline and brioche are good, it's the foie gras that has made me sit back in my seat and sigh contentedly during every visit to Étoile (because yes, I order it every time I'm there). It's rich, but cool and refreshing. Heavy but crisp in its flavor profile. Fatty, but still oh so delicate. Let it linger on your tongue for a mere several seconds and it starts to melt away, leaving just the flavor of wild game and salt in your mouth.

And though the round of foie is small, it is mighty. The first time I tried it, I was concerned, after one bite, that a single serving wouldn't be enough. But by the time I reach the end, I'm inevitably overcome by the richness of the chilled liver and ready for an acidic bite of prune mousse to reset my palate for the next wonderful thing Verpiand has to offer.

See the full list of favorites on the next page.

Location Info

Etoile Cuisine et Bar

1101 Uptown Park Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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I am ashamed in the HP for endorsing extreme torture of animals.  This is the ultimate form of animal torture.  Foie Gras has been banned in many countries of the world because it is so extreme.  I understand that it is legal here in Houston, but why promote it?  Please include a story with live video of the ducks being confined and force fed for their entire life so that people understand what they are "indulging" in when they select this cruel dish.

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