Napa Valley Resort Sued For Foie Gras In Valentine's Day Menu

Napa Valley, in general, isn't shy about being a luxurious location, full of high-end wineries, world-class restaurants, and a setting that's paradoxically agricultural and fashionable, all at the same time. With destination restaurants like The French Laundry, where dinner alone (before you add any of the amazing wine) starts at $350 per person, there's no shortage of memorable dining opportunities.

Visitors to Napa Valley looking for a romantic Valentine's Day celebration might select one of the newest resorts in the area, Stanly Ranch, part of the prestigious Auberge  Resorts Collection, which opened in April of 2022. Bear, the flagship restaurant at Stanly Ranch, is offering a special Valentine's Day menu — a four-course, $125 prix-fixe dinner with flavors designed to delight discerning gastronomes. There's a problem, though. On January 30, a lawsuit was filed in Napa County Superior Court alleging that the menu violates state law. The lawsuit, which Wine Business explains names the parent companies for Auberge Resorts, hinges on one single menu item.

Serving foie gras is illegal in California

Bear's Valentine's Day menu, according to reservation site, Resy, includes "Shared Snacks for the Table," and there's no problem with the sunchokes with caviar or with kabocha squash with pine nuts. The third shared snack, however, features foie gras mousse and cara cara orange served on pumpernickel, and that, according to the Animal Protection and Rescue League, puts Auberge Resorts afoul of the California law prohibiting the sale of foie gras, according to Wine Business.

It's worth noting that the menu posted on Bear's website differs slightly from the menu on Resy, listing the dish as "quail liver mousse," which may have rectified the matter addressed by the lawsuit, as foie gras specifically refers to livers from birds — usually ducks or geese — that have been force-fed via the controversial practice of gavage. Wine Business said an attorney for the Animal Protection and Rescue League acknowledged that the Napa resort may have agreed to stop using "foie gras from force-fed birds," though the attorney said there are still unspecified problems with other Auberge Resorts.

The lawsuit also alleges that, although the California law prohibiting the sale of foie gras went into effect in 2012, Auberge du Soleil served the offending item as recently as 2022, despite attempts by the Animal Protection and Rescue League to have foie gras removed from the menu. The League continues its campaign against the New York farms that produce it, according to Stop Force Feeding.