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The wonderful world of pats

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
May 12, 2004
It is very difficult describing French pat de foi gras to someone who has never tasted this amazing delicacy. Invariably there will be a question/comment to the effect that this is really liver, isn't it and how many people like liver?
Yes, foi in French means liver and pate's basic ingredient is liver, goose or duck mostly. But comparing it to the flavor of liver as most people think of liver would be like chewing cacao beans off the tree on which they were grown and then deciding you wouldn't like chocolate.
The pat de foi gras which will be featured at our May 27 wine tasting is one of the most delicious, delicate, unusual and wonderful adventures in taste you will likely ever experience.
One, Mousse Royale, is a combination of duck and goose liver blended with wild mushrooms and sauterne. Mousse Truffles is a luxurious blend of chicken livers, fresh truffles and sherry. Another is seasoned with port wine while yet a third is blended with black peppercorns, cognac and honey.
Pat Canard A'L'orange reflects pistachios, orange peel and grand marnier. There are a number of others.
They are truly impossible to describe in mere words. We have not yet selected the six that will be served at the tasting, but they will certainly include many.
Pat is made in two basic styles. One is the mousse, soft, smooth and easily spreadable on the Bremner wafers we use at our wine and cheese tastings. That style is my personal favorite.
The other is a coarse pat. It is usually cut in this slices for the crackers rather than spread. Normally it is a bit bolder and can be flavored by everything from sundried tomatoes to garlic to black olives, even sometimes with cherries.
But it is all wonderful, a product of skills developed over literally several centuries by the finest French chefs in the world.
Do not confuse this pat with that that which comes in cans in Christmas baskets. The canned is a poor imitation of the flavor and texture found in the fresh imported product we will serve.
Is it pricey? It certainly can be. The best can easily be offered for $20 to $25 per pound. Is it worth it? It certainly is.
My biggest problem is what wines to serve with pat. Our New Orleans consultant leans toward red wines. But without exception, the reference books in my library say champagne, sauturnes and other whites are the only way to go.
From "Wine and Food" by Tom Stevenson: "Foie gras is fabulous with a fine vintage champagne or mature sauturnes and, although diverse in character, Alsace gewurtztraminer and pinot gris are both perfect partners."
Robert Parker's "Wine Buyers Guide" says this about pairing pat with a sweet sauterne: "The extravagantly rich and flavorful foie gras cannot be served with any other type of wine as it would overpower a dry red or white wine. The fact that both the sauternes and the foie gras have intense, concentrated flavors and similar textures is the exact reason why this combination is so decadently delicious."
Frankly, I'm leaning toward the reference book's advice, champagne, sauternes, Johannisberg Riesling, pinot gris and a gewurztraminer. I'll know more when it is time to select the specific pats when wine will be served as we make our choices. We'll work a red wine in at that time and see if the pat and a red possibly marry and if they do we'll offer that, too.
One thing I do know. The majority of the pat will be the mousse. We'll include at least one of the coarse, perhaps two, depending on the flavors available, but I'm a mousse lover and at least four of the six will be that variety.
The same situation we had at the March wine and cheese tasting is developing for this one. Despite the fact the event is still over two weeks away, more than half the available places have already been reserved. We had to disappoint some folks who decided at the last minute they wanted to attend the cheese tasting and that could very well happen again.
Reservations are $40 and payment prior to the tasting is required. That's because we will purchase only enough pat for the number of guests we expect to have and if some holding reservations cannot, for whatever reason, come the night of the event, the pat certainly cannot be returned.
The reservation phone number is 482-0930. The date is May 27 (I made a mistake a column or two ago and listed it as the 29 but the 27 is correct). It will be at Northwood Country Club at 6:30 p.m. and, of course, you do not have to be a club member in order to attend. If you'd care to make your reservation by mail make your check payable to Wines Unlimited, P.O. Box 5223, Meridian, MS 39302.