Saint Jean de Luz: ‘Silence of the Ducks’

I now know where ducks go to die and give up their livers.*

Well, ostensibly die. You (or a duck, for that matter) can’t live without a liver. BUT you (or a duck, presumably) can get by with as little as 25 percent of a liver. Oh, and? It regenerates, growing back to its full size eventually. Freaking science, man.

I digress.

Saint Jean de Luz

Saint Jean de Luz is an adorable little Basque beach resort in the very South of France, about three miles from the Spanish border. It’s got a lovely old church that hosted a royal wedding back in 1660, a quaint little lighthouse, and a little cobblestoned pedestrian area lined with shops selling espadrilles and bakeries brimming with delicious gateau basque.

It’s also apparently populated by duck organ snatchers.

I have never seen so much foie gras in my entire life. Notice I didn’t say, “I’ve never seen so much foie gras in one place.” That’s significant because in no way do I want to downplay or minimize the complete foie gras orgy we were privy to during our visit. I mean to say “I’ve never seen so much foie gras in my CUMULATIVE life of 43 years.”

And Saint Jean de Luz is not even the foie gras capital of the world. That distinct honor belongs to Perigord, in the southwest part of France.

In store after store, we saw it. We saw it in sweaty, whitish-yellow lobes and in beautifully packaged tins. We saw it vacuum packed, layered in terrines, crammed into jars, whipped into mousses, and ground into pates. We saw it served in every iteration and as a topping on any bastardized pseudo-American delicacy, be it a hamburger or a pizza (this place has both and delivers).

It’s called a “margret royal” and is has mushrooms, foie gras and duck breast. Because I was wondering what they did with the rest of the bird after performing a liver resection. 

When it comes to foie gras, I feel the same way about the controversial delicacy as I feel about Maroon 5 or “Keeping Up With the Kardashians:” a guilty pleasure that I can only take in small doses. It’s too gamey and meaty for me. I tend to like just a smidge, maybe pan seared and spread on some sort of bread, then topped with some type of sickening sweet fruit, like fig or apple.

However, when one is vacationing in a veritable Wounded Knee for ducks, you do as the killers/imbibers/natives do.

Sidenote: My favorite duck fact is that male ducks are called “drakes.” Really give new meaning to “Hotline Bling.” “You used to call me on my cell phone. Late night when you need my liver.” 

We had it two ways (pressed and poached) during a very fancy lunch at this place. We had it in a pigeon entrée (and possible in an amuse bouche) during an unforgettable dinner at this wonderful place. We even had it melted into a risotto, but that was in Pamplona, not Saint Jean de Luz. I’m fairly sure it was snuck into some innocent-looking French fries somewhere as well, but I can’t say definitively.

Foie gras

What I can say is if you even think you might like foie gras, visit Saint Jean de Luz. Just don’t expect to see or hear any ducks singing “Hotline Bling” while you’re walking along the beach or port.

*This joke was completely ripped off from my schmoopies, XFE. He came up with it and I laugh like a liver-less mallard every time he repeats it.