Yes, Chef!

Have you met Chef Jeremy?

Chef Jeremy just had his one year anniversary at the girl & the fig last month. He and John have been collaborating on some really wonderful menu items, including the chicken livers on toast, soft shell crabs served with pancetta aioli and his personal favorite of the moment, the Pork Belly Sandwich. (Yes, it is almost possible to gain weight just by reading this!) However, it is the seasonal ingredients and the farm that are still the driving the inspiration for the menu.

Here is a sneak peek behind the Chef — When he is not cooking for himself, he is a sucker for a cheap BUT GOOD burger (we’re not talking about fast food here): a thin patty, seared and topped with 1000 Island Dressing, Tabasco Sauce, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and (of course) BACON! However lowbrow his burger cravings may be, his beverages of choice are varied from dark beers to smooth rye whiskies and red Rhone blends. When he is not working, you can find Jeremy riding his motorcycle or snowboarding while listening to Pink Floyd and Bad Religion.We are lucky to have such a talented Chef on our team. The smile you see in the picture above is something I get to see all of the time!  Say hi to Chef Jeremy the next time you visit us!

Notes from Durae

With the first day of summer and the last day of school quickly approaching, my thoughts have been a bit less on the present and more on the months ahead, and I’m finding it takes
just a little more effort to pin them to the tasks at hand.  Summer has that effect sometimes.  It’s a busy time of year for most people in our little part of the world; whether summer to you means the heaviest of workloads or freedom and adventure, it’s certain that the coming season is filled with activity.The most interesting and challenging of my activities here at the fig head-quarters this month has been in exploring our smartphone app. (Did you know we have one?) If you’re like me and have been dragged kicking and screaming into the world of constant technological contact, then plumbing the inner workings of a smartphone application sounds slightly less-than-appealing.  Not so!
One particularly fun and useful feature I found is this: Say your summer plans include enjoying a lovely glass of wine at the fig. Those from this area and afar might be interested in finding which of our wines were cultivated, tended, and brought to be within moments of where you’re sitting.  If you wanted to know just how quickly you’d be able jaunt up the road to its source to acquire the most delicious of souvenirs, nestled within the wine list app is a map to (nearly) all of the local wineries as well as a link to their tasting room pages.  Very handy!
For me, it can be at times overwhelming to consider the amount of information technology makes available to us at every second, and I often wonder whether this is adding or taking from our ability to enjoy or be in the present moment. But then I think of the ways that this information can be used to enhance your enjoyment of the time at hand, and am amazed. And if it can be used to prolong those fleeting summer moments, so much the better.Cheers!

Karaoke & Motorbike Adventures in Vietnam and Other Stories

In the photographs below are images of my adventurous shipmates who sailed with me from Hong Kong to Singapore. We spent nine wonderful days aboard the Silverseas Silver Shadow. I could fill pages of at least a dozen newsletters with our experiences, but I will just give you a glimpse of our trip.
Early on in the journey and getting to know each other, dinner conversation was generally about food.  Where do you like to eat, what was your favorite meal, what was the weirdest thing you ever ate …We all were in agreement, especially by the end of the trip, that The BEST MEALS are the ones you eat with friends you enjoy!  That being said, we did our best to dine on traditional Vietnamese dishes whenever possible during the day and at night we dined on the Relais & Chateaux food at sea. I had my first taste of mangosteens, dragonfruit, (refused the Durian – though enjoyed by some of my shipmates), Longan fruit and more exotic looking specimens. On the ship, I had my fill of ripe papaya, melon and berries everyday.
On our first drive to Hanoi, (what should have taken 3 1/2 hours took closer to 5), we gazed out of the van windows and had our first glance of Vietnam.During the the five hours of changing scenery, we watched the population go by us on motorbikes, we saw rice fields and water buffalo, palm trees, food stands – carts every few feet and many, many people.Gail started pointing out the Karaoke Clubs, which there were many, seem-ingly deserted but with big welcoming signs beckoning for singers to come in. Karaoke in imagin-ation stayed with us for the week, but not once were we able to partake – and that was not without trying.
Prior to leaving for Asia, I discovered HanoiKids Club, a student-run organization that recruits university students to offer voluntary city tours of Hanoi while practicing their English. I made arrangements for two students to meet us for a “Food, Photo and Fun Tour”.


Excited to guide an American group, our lovely docents Lien and Huong took command and first off taught us how to cross the street in Hanoi – BE FEARLESS!  When asked where to? what would you like to see? – the only obvious choice was FOOD!  Take us to your favorite places. And they did, starting with their GO TO  spot for noodles. Later in the day, they luckily saved us from taking some risky tastes at some questionable street food stands. The tour continued to the big food market, their college hangout for chè (a traditional Vietnamese dessert soup or pudding) and a very long walk around the lake. This day was one of the highlights of the week and the only downside was that we did not have enough time to spend with them!

Our next adventure was a road trip to Hoi An, a few hours west of our port in Chan May/Hue. The old section of Hoi An still maintains its character of a quaint, ancient historical town preserved from centuries ago. This was the destination for our next food adventure. Morning Glory Cooking School  came highly recommended and was well worth the ride to get there.  We started out with a visit to the market, where we were introduced to a wide assortment of exotic fruits, vegetables and herbs. Back at the school, our class was taught by Lulu, one Ms Vy’s assistants, who did an excellent job. Here we learned how to make rice paper rolls with pork, prawns and noodles as well as a lovely salad with mango and marinated BBQ chicken. After class we indulged in our efforts as well as tasting some other traditional Hoi An preparations.
Not sure about the rest of the gang, but our motorbike tour of Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon will never be forgotten!  XO Tours is an innovative company that offers various themed motorbike tours of the city. I selected the “Foodie Tour” at night hoping that we would be able to see and taste the most unique street food with a reliable expert. The all-women drivers arrived dressed in their traditional Ao Dai  and they whisked us through the heavily populated streets stopping at one amazing street vendor after another.All in all, it was a great trip – certainly a change in my normal routine. Are you tempted to come on a trip with me?  If so – where would you consider going?? Shoot me an email and let me know!A special thanks to Michael and his team at Millennium Travel!  I am grateful to have such a wonderful travel partner.

Notes from Durae

It seems that summer has arrived early this year, and with the gorgeous weather comes the bustle of the season in Sonoma County. After many years of heat infused and lackadaisical summers spent in Texas, the heightened activity in these parts still catches me by surprise.

This month, I was able to assist with the revamping and re-launching of our CATERS! website.  In case you’re wondering what fun offerings our talented chefs and catering staff have hatched for the summer, take a look here. (Spoiler: picnics, pizza parties, a brand new venue!). There are so many possibilities for enjoying all this lovely region offers this time of year, and celebrating the flavors of the season with food and wine is (I think) one of the best!

While working on the site, looking over new menus, studying beautiful wedding venues, and reading up on possible party ideas, I was inspired to take better advantage of all that surrounds us in wine country this summer. But with the excitement of the season coming on, events to plan and prepare for, visitors to anticipate, planting, gard-ening, and harvesting to attend to, there’s a certain feeling that it might all fly by too quickly—so amidst all the activity, I’ll have to slow down to a southern-summer pace once in a while…or, at least, try.

Happy almost-summer, everyone!