We’re Moving (the blog)!


After many happy years blogging at sonoma-figgirl.com, we are relocating to the girl & the fig’s website. You’ll now find all the figgy news you’re seeking at www.thegirlandthefig.com/blog.

Check in with us often for seasonal recipes, local happenings, events, news and musings. We appreciate your readership and hope you’ll like the new digs!

And be assured, your favorite recipes and posts can still be found in the archives of www.sonoma-figgirl.com.

Cheers to new beginnings!

from the kitchen: Seasonal Seafood


As if we didn’t already have more than our fair share of incredible bounty, Dungeness Crab season opened this month in Sonoma!

The “dungies'” return draws throngs of hopefully bobbing kayaks to the the coast and captures headlines throughout the region, but there’s ample local seafood to be had year-round in Sonoma – especially if you aren’t afraid to broaden your palate!

Wild Salmon and Dungeness Crab steal a lot of the buzz from less flashy varieties of seafood, such as Black Cod or Anchovies, which are available most of the year. And there’s even more to be said for purchasing locally-harvested (often smaller) species of fish with longer fishing seasons: they are frequently less expensive (and shorter lifespans means lower in contaminants). Perhaps even more significant is the fact that supporting fishing operations responsibly harvesting these populations strengthens those systems seeking to preserve our ocean’s bounty – a cause I think all of us can get behind!

Lastly there’s the flavor – like vegetables, buying seasonally and regionally where possible also means a fish (or shellfish) that will make the farmed, frozen, and imported-from-afar product pale in comparison.

So, today, a few suggestions for enjoying some of the less-glamorous – and frequently underutilized – seafood options from the Northern Coast! ~


These silvery schools of whitefish are typically available year-round in Northern California. Ranging in size from one to fifteen inches, the pungent taste we all remember from childhood has more to do with the curing and canning process than it does with the fresh fish. Prized for their rich, fatty flesh (super-high in healthful fatty acids!), they are delicious fresh or cured. Boquerones are the tangy, less-salty Italian counterpart commonly served in tapas.

Olive Tomato’s Roasted Anchovies


Pacific Black Cod is considered one of the most sustainable fish on the California coast. Despite this, it doesn’t get much love from the home cook. It’s worth getting to know this plentiful local whitefish as it is high in omega 3’s, has a nice moisture content and skin that crisps up well. Be sure to look for “line-caught” when purchasing; the trawler-caught fish are not a friendly choice for the ocean.

From our kitchens: Salt Cod Croquettes


California mussel season is year-round; however, advisories are typically in place from May to October to protect consumers from naturally-occurring bio-toxins which can accumulate in warmer months. That said, you can rest assured that any commercially-available mussel you’re served during this window has been tested for safety. California mussels are characterized by their sweet orange flesh, and take approximately three years to reach maturity. We love the tender, briny bites of ocean flavor, as well as the fact these creatures are constantly filtering the seas of phytoplankton, which keeps our waters clear.

From our kitchens: Pernod-scented mussels


Of course we have mention the superstar salmon. As the pale and watery off-season tomato is to its summer cousin, so is farmed salmon to it’s wild, local counterpart. In the peak of salmon season from May to August, these beauties are line-caught directly off of the Northern California coast (and a better choice than the highly-polluting farmed assortment). Fun fact: the deep red coloring of a healthy Pacific salmon comes from their diet of local krill.

From our kitchens: Apricot-cured salmon 


Sand dabs have been called “the secret of the California seas.” These tiny flatfish are not widely known, nor are they widely available commercially – though that is slowly changing. Sand dabs possess a sweet, buttery flavor, and their delicate skin does not require scaling – making home preparation a breeze. Pacific sand dabs’ fishing season is year round, and they’re listed as one of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Best Choices” for sustainable seafood.

Siren Fish Co.’s Pan fried Sand Dabs


Siren Fish Co.


Local Catch .org

Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association

…or your local farmers’ market!

Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch APP here!

Meet the Maker: Hello Cello Limoncello di Sonoma


We’re always looking for local purveyors that will enhance our restaurants and promote the region, whether they’re winemakers, farmers, or artisans. So, when we met Fred and Amy Groth, our neighbors and founders of HelloCello, a certified organic limoncello made in Sonoma, we were intrigued.

Limoncello, a lemon liqueur originally from Italy, is a difficult spirit because, outside of Italy, it’s often too sweet and syrupy. Fred and Amy’s Limoncello di Sonoma tastes light and fresh—like it actually comes from real lemons (which it does!). It was the perfect fit for ESTATE, where we serve it as a digestivo, or after-dinner drink, and have incorporated it into cocktails.

The story behind HelloCello is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that seems to flourish in Sonoma. Fred and Amy moved to Sonoma from Colorado in 2008 after visiting Sonoma and basically falling in love with the town. “We wanted to do something fun and different and wanted a lifestyle change,” recalls Fred. “Sonoma was perfect because it has a European feel to it and there are so many artisan products here, like cheese and wine.” The Groths packed up their three kids and moved to Sonoma. They had always loved limoncello and made it as a hobby, but they realized there was no one in the U.S. making artisan limoncello. “The limoncello here in the U.S. is pasteurized and shelf stabilized,” says Fred. “We wanted to make a smallbatch, artisan product.”

Fred went to Italy for a month to learn the techniques of making limoncello. They built a distilled spirits plant in Sonoma, and one year later they started production with 80 cases. Production is now 100 to 150 cases made four to five times a year. “We want it really fresh,” says Fred. Everything is done by hand and the only full-time employees are Fred and Amy. “My wife and I do everything,” says Fred. “We make it, bottle it, and deliver it.”

What makes HelloCello Limoncello di Sonoma different from mass-market limoncello are the ingredients and the freshness. They start with organic Eureka and Sorrento lemons, which grow year-round in California. The Sorrento lemon, grown in the town of Sorrento, Italy, is the original lemon used in Italian limoncello. Instead of cane sugar Fred and Amy decided to use agave, for both taste and health reasons; it gives the limoncello a deeper flavor and doesn’t spike blood glucose levels like other sweeteners do. Instead of a high-proof grain alcohol, HelloCello is made with distilled grapes, or brandy. (Fred and Amy found someone to make brandy to their specifications.) “Everything except for the agave is from within 60 to 80 miles of our plant,” notes Fred. All of the ingredients are 100 percent certified organic.

The Groths use the traditional limoncello process and the most important ingredient is the lemon peel. Each batch requires the peels of 4,000 lemons, though the recipe only uses the yellow peel, not the pith or juice. The Groths turned the time-consuming chore of peeling lemons into a festive occasion by throwing lemon-peeling parties. “Our friends come over, we’ll get a keg or and have wine, and everyone sits at a big table and peels and zests,” says Fred, laughing. There are no machines that could peel the lemons because when working with organic citrus there are imperfections that a machine couldn’t work around, notes Fred. The lemon peels then go into a tank with the brandy, where the liquid is filtered, simple syrup is added, and the limoncello is bottled. The whole process takes about one month from start to finish. “It’s fresh to market,” says Fred. We were so impressed with their product that we asked them to make us a fig liqueur. They agreed and started researching recipes and techniques.

“It was an interesting and fun process,” says Fred. “We made 30 samples with various botanical and flavor elements (such as orange peel, tarragon, and star anise) to decide which would go well with fig and alcohol.” We had an informal tasting panel, and we chose the flavors that worked the best. Production had to start almost immediately to take advantage of the second fig season that was just beginning. Fred and Amy (and their kids!) wild-harvested 400 pounds of fresh figs from around Sonoma Valley. “We chopped them up and threw them in with the alcohol and herbs, let it sit for a month, and then filtered it and added sugar,” Fred remarks. Voilà—our fig liqueur! Fred and Amy produced 55 cases and we serve it in the restaurants. It was so delicious that they plan to make it a seasonal product.

It’s amazing that two Americans could travel to Italy, fall in love with a beverage, and recreate it here in Sonoma. “We’re small producers filling a niche in specialty spirits,” says Fred. They are devoted to making the perfect organic limoncello and in our mind they’ve succeeded.

Find HelloCello (along with their other delicious offerings) at their new craft distillery and tasting room located at Cornerstone, Sonoma.

Open daily: Cornerstone 23570 Arnold Drive

(This article originally published in Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig’s Journey through the Seasons in Wine Country)

from the kitchen: dill pickles



  • 18-20 pickling cucumbers, scrubbed
  • 4 quarts filtered water
  • 6 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoons chili flakes
  • 1 Tbs. whole peppercorns
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 large bunch of dill, preferably going to seed, washed
  • 3 one-quart pickling jars (wide mouth), sterilized



In a large pot bring one quart water to a boil and add salt.  Stir slowly until salt has completely dissolved.  Remove pot from heat and add the remaining water.

Pack cucumbers vertically in jars and evenly distribute garlic, spices, bay leaves and dill among the three jars.

Fill jars with salt brine so that cucumbers are completely covered.  Cover jars with cheesecloth (secure with rubber band) and place in a cool, dark place to ferment.

After three days, taste one!  Pickles can ferment anywhere from three to 6 days, and will continue to become more sour during this time.

Allow them to age to your taste, then lid jars and refrigerate.

from the kitchen: shrubs


Oftentimes in the summer season we find ourselves with a bumper crop of beautiful fruit that is so very ripe it must be put to use that instant.  It’s a wonderful dilemma to have – and one that’s led to the delicious addition of in-house shrubs to our line up at the girl & the fig and fig cafe.

A little history – shrubs originated as a food preservation technique that dates back to the days before refrigeration.  To prolong the life of ripe fruits, adding them to a crock with a good amount of sugar would transform them within a few weeks to vinegar.  This vinegar, though, has the bright, fragrant fruit flavors and could be better described as a vinegar “syrup.”

As Serious Eats better puts it, “a proper shrub has a flavor that’s both tart and sweet, so it stimulates the appetite while quenching thirst.”

Without further ado, the girl & the fig’s take on the traditional shrub:


  • 3 pints fresh blackberries or figs
  • 3 cups red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water


Thoroughly wash fruit and pat dry.

Add to vessel of your choice (glass or plastic, not metal) and pour vinegar over fruit.  Cover and place in refrigerator for two days.

After two days, combine sugar and water in a saucepan and slowly stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

Combine all ingredients in a large blender (or blend in batches) and puree well.  Pour mixture through a sieve and return to the refrigerator for long term storage.