We’re Moving (the blog)!

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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

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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! ~


ANCHOVY

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

COD

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

MUSSELS

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

SALMON

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 DAB

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


COMMUNITY SUPPORTED FISHING:

Siren Fish Co.

SHOPPING:

Local Catch .org

Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association

…or your local farmers’ market!

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

from the kitchen: Warm California Fig and Thyme Crisp with Fig Syrup

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This is one of the girl & the fig restaurant’s signature desserts. Because fig season is so limited, we make the jam for the filling with dried figs. In season, we use fresh figs.


Warm California Fig and Thyme Crisp with Fig Syrup

Makes one 9 x 12-inch crisp. 

Pastry

  • 2 cups walnut halves
  • 6 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, thinly sliced
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, grind the walnuts (until medium-fine) with the 6 tablespoons granulated sugar and set aside. In an electric mixer, mix the 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and flour until well combine. Add the butter and mix until the mixture clumps, about 1 1/2-2 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg yolks to the mixture and mix for 40 seconds. Pack two-thirds of the dough into the bottom of a 9 by 12-inch ungreased pan and bake until the dough is light brown, 25-30 minutes.

Jam

To make the jam, in a heavy-bottomed pot, combine the figs, sugar, lemon zest, thyme, and lemon juice and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and summer until the figs are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the thyme. Puree the mixture in a food processor until smooth.

To assemble the crisp, spread the jam evenly over the baked dough. In a bowl, crumble together the remaining third of the dough and the walnut and sugar mixture. Sprinkle the mixture over the fig jam and bake for 50 minutes.

Fig Syrup:

  • 5 Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice California Mission Figs, stems removed, figs sliced
  • 4 cups (750 ml bottle) ruby port
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Heat the figs, port, cinnamon stick, and clove in a saucepan over medium heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Strain the sauce, pressing on the figs to get as much juice as possible. Whisk in the sugar and cool.

To serve

Drizzle with Fig Syrup. Add a scoop of your favorite gelato and serve while still warm.

Wine Wednesday: Saxum 2014 Red Blend, James Berry, Paso Robles

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As you may know, since the very beginning the girl & the fig has boasted an exclusively Rhône-alone” wine list.

We’ve always loved that featuring unique Rhône wines gives us an opportunity to begin a conversation with our guests, perhaps introduce them to something new, as well as to present talented and innovative producers we believe in.


In honor of “Wine Wednesday,” a little about one of our beloved Rhône producers –

This week: Saxum 2014 Red Blend, James Berry, Paso Robles

The Story of Saxum Wines

Saxum Vineyards is focused on producing Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre based blends from the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles. We let our rocky calcareous soils, steep hillsides, sunny days, and cooling ocean breezes speak through our wines by keeping our yields low, picking the fruit at the peak of ripeness, and using a minimalist approach in the cellar. We respect our land and farm everything sustainably without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Because our vine’s roots penetrate deep through the fissures in the calcareous soil irrigation is rarely needed. Production is kept at 4000-5000 cases a year divided between seven different cuvees, Broken Stones, James Berry Vineyard, Bone Rock, Booker Vineyard, Paderewski Vineyard, Heart Stone Vineyard, and Terry Hoage Vineyard.

Tasting notes:

It is a wine that has a ton of richness along with an amazing spine to hold it all together. There’s an abundance of ripe red and black fruit, but it’s balanced by notes of leather and cardamon, maybe a pinch of cinnamon and sassafras.

Pairings:

At the girl & the fig we’d recommend pairing Saxum 2014 Red Blend, James Berry, Paso Robles with steak frites (6-ounce flat iron steak, frites, roasted garlic & herb butter) and hard cheeses.

At home enjoy with sautéed truffles, beef stew and pot roast with roasted potatoes. 

Cheers!


(Thirsty? Book your next reservation at the girl & the fig!)

Meet the Maker: Hello Cello Limoncello di Sonoma

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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)