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August Road Trip

August is the perfect time of year for a road trip and that’s exactly what we found ourselves doing on a recent Saturday morning. We headed out early to southeastern Minnesota and to the duck farm of Liz and Christian Gasset. Upon our arrival we were greeted by a couple of family dogs and a metal tree with leaves made of blue Riesling bottles. Okay you have to use your imagination but there’s a reason the bottles are from Rieslings; it’s the perfect wine to accompany foie gras!

Gasset, having grown up in the southwestern part of France, always dreamed of raising ducks for foie gras. He and Liz met while they were both in the Peace Corps and since she had gone to college in Minnesota, Caledonia was they place they decided to call home.

Over the course of a year, Gasset raises about 2400 male Muscovy ducks for Au Bon Canard [1] foie gras. About 300 ducklings at a time arrive when they are just a day old. They spend their first week in the warmth and coziness of one of the barns. Beginning the second week they’re allowed to roam in a pasture reserved just for them. At week six they are moved to yet another grassy pasture where they spend about four months feasting on a specially designed corn and soybean mixture, plus all the grass, grubs and insects they have the pleasure of eat. In the summer, they laze under the trees and Gasset plows the snow around the barn so they have a place to catch the snow flakes in the winter.

It’s all about the love, says Gasset. This tender loving care is demonstrated as he gently talks to the ducks while he feeds them or moves them around the pasture. It is also evident in that; even the barn walls are lined with paintings depicting pastoral settings that Liz finds at flea markets. No stress means a better product which he supplies to some of the finest restaurants in the Twin Cities with tasty duck breasts, legs for confit and of course foie gras. Gasset is only one of four producers of foie gras in the United States.

After walking around the farm, we ended our tour on the deck of their farmhouse with a glass of Riesling (another bottle to add to their tree) and of course foie gras with nothing other than fresh bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day [2].

Our leisurely visit came to an end and we bid our adieus; with Christian inviting us back anytime. From the farm, we drove to a friend’s home where we immediately headed to their wild blackberry patch. I should have remembered from my days of picking wild blackberries in Florida that it’s best to wear something other than shorts. Regardless, a few thorns didn’t detour us from gathering enough to make a batch of blackberry scones.

As the sun set behind the hills, we sat beside our friend’s vegetable garden, listening to the sounds of late summer. A lovely dinner was shared which included a Chicken and Pistachio Terrine; Maple and Soy Marinated Roasted Salmon with Black Peppercorn Crust; Seared Beef Tenderloin glazed with Pumpkin Oil and stuffed with Foie Gras; Roasted Fresh Green Beans with a Chili, Lime Aoili; Dry Rub Carolina BBQ Ribs; a Fresh Garden Salad with Roasted Beets, Beet Greens, Dinosaur Kale, Basil, Italian Parsley and Squash Blossoms; and for dessert, a Chocolate Mousse featuring a local Fromage Blanc.

After dinner, it was more good-byes before heading north back to the Twin Cities. We were reluctant leave, but the next day I was demonstrating butter cookies at the Minnesota State Fair.