IN a darkened room one evening this month in Bordeaux, many of the world's most famous chefs and restaurateurs sat with napkins over their heads and faces. The crunching sounds from under the napkins was unmistakable: the guests were eating.
Sworn to secrecy, they were chewing the skin, flesh, bones and entrails of one of France's greatest delicacies, the ortolan, a tiny songbird whose declining numbers led the French Government to forbid its sale anywhere in the country. The napkins are part of the ritual, as is the method of eating the bird: it is held by its head and devoured in a single bite.
The secret did not keep. Though the chef who served the birds denies he served it, five of that evening's 120 diners, some of whom had eaten ortolan before, acknowledged that they had it on this occasion and described in detail the thrill of the gustatory experience -- an experience that, come autumn each year, some French find irresistible.
''You know the French,'' said Maguy Le Coze, a Frenchwoman who owns Le Bernardin in New York and was at the dinner in Bordeaux. ''French people like to break the law.''Or, seek a waiver--like so many unionists with Obamacare--for their dining pleasure;
Four French chefs are requesting a waiver to serve a long-banned delicacy - a small songbird called the ortolan that fans including late President Francois Mitterrand used to devour, bones and all, while wearing a napkin over their heads.
The request for the once-a-year waiver is being lodged among others by Alain Ducasse, the internationally acclaimed chef with a top 3-star rating from the Michelin gourmet dining guide, Le Parisien newspaper reported.
....Said to have been part of Mitterrand's last meal before he died in 1996, one customary French way of preparing ortolan consists of force-feeding it until fat and dousing it in Armagnac alcohol before roasting it whole in the oven.C'est magnifique, what they seek (to eat).