Eateries' ethics debate simmers

Some area restaurateurs got together the other day to talk foie gras. They weren't swapping recipes. They were developing "talking points."

The goose and duck liver lobby has landed in Baltimore, complete with pickets waving pictures of dead birds.


The Baltimore Animal Rights Coalition -- BARC for short, though perhaps they could go by QUACK -- has been sending letters to chefs and demonstrating outside several restaurants since September. Two of its early targets, Timothy Dean Bistro and Ten-0-Six, quickly took the delicacy off their menus, BARC's Erin Marcus said.

Tom Chungsakoon, owner of Ten-0-Six, was turned off by a video BARC sent him. "It's torture, and I just cannot serve it anymore," he said. Dean did not return a call seeking comment. "I don't need the drama," he told the Baltimore Business Journal this month.


But Charleston, Tersiguel's, Salt and other upscale eateries seem determined to keep serving gras-hungry gourmands the world's tastiest slab of cholesterol. Their only question: how to handle diners inquiring if their force-fed feathered friends lead happy lives before giving it all up to become somebody's slider. Which is where the talking points come in.

"I think our goal here is to make sure the restaurants have enough information," said Melvin Thompson, spokesman for the Restaurant Association of Maryland, which hosted the gathering of restaurateurs. Thompson provided me with a "dear guest" letter created last week by Aldo's restaurant and said the talking points are more or less along those lines.

Over two single-spaced pages, the letter makes a case for digging in. It references various studies, including one by a European Union committee that tested blood-hormone levels to measure distress in the animals. The tests suggested they were as happy as any other bird bound for the dinner table.

The Aldo's letter also notes that geese and ducks don't have a gag reflex, so having a tube stuck down their throats so they can be filled with corn slurry isn't as unpleasant as it sounds.

Now there's a word -- "gag" -- you don't often see on menus. But laying all that out on paper at least should spare servers from having to personally argue that the birds' lives were full, but not too full.

The restaurateurs hope waiters can opine instead on something else: What goes with goose liver: red or white?

Gritty documentary coming to the Walters

Lost in Woonsocket, a documentary about addiction that grew out of the Random 1 reality TV series, makes its Baltimore premiere Wednesday night at the Walters Art Museum.


Baltimore filmmaker John Chester and former WBAL-TV fitness trainer Andre Miller created the Random 1 series for A&E; in 2005. The odd but sometimes moving premise: Cruise around in a old pickup truck looking for complete strangers who need help, then try to hook them up with jobs, housing, etc.

While making the now-canceled series, they stumbled onto two men living in a tent in the woods in Woonsocket, R.I. The filmmakers reconnected them with their families -- they'd been lost to relatives for 13 years -- and tried to help get their lives back on track. Without giving anything away, it's no fairy tale.

The film has been screened across the country to benefit organizations that focus on recovery and homelessness. The $10 admission charge will benefit Catholic Charities.

There will be a question-and-answer session after the screening with Chester and some people in the film. Harold Smith, executive director of Catholic Charities, will discuss ways to help the homeless become self-sufficient.

Connect the dots

A Baltimore do-gooder makes the Sicko page on Michael Moore's Web site ( "12-year-old Devon Acting like a Commie!" reads the headline above a big photo of the boy in a bright T-shirt. "Devon Frampton (red shirt!) gives $19,000 to the parents of 1-year-old Maleah Randall to help pay her medical bills. When pressed, the bleeding-heart boy from Baltimore offers this sorry excuse: 'I just don't think it's right for a baby to have brain cancer.' " Fodder for the anti-Moore truth squad: the boy's first name is spelled Devin. ... Some "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Ehrlich" bumper stickers were passed around at the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association's recent bull and oyster roast. So says Don Crockett, the county political activist and companion to precious skateboarding dogs, who attended. Crockett thought they were handed out by Greg Massoni, the Ehrlich spokesman who lately has become 2B's Waldo. Not true, not that there's anything wrong with that, said Massoni, who accompanied the ex-Gov to the event. But Massoni added: "I'll take credit for handing out bumper stickers, but Crockett was pulling around his other dog, 'Gimme more taxes' Jim Smith.' " ...