Figue: Opening Menu

 

“The Mediterranean cuisine is one of the most colorful and vibrant in the world, providing sensual dishes flavored with wild herbs gathered from the hillsides; lamb and chicken are often roasted whole over coals; vegetables are abundant and used in a wide variety of soups, bakes and salads.”

The menu of Figue is the story of the Mediterranean.  The history of food and culture is one of conquerors, immigrants and trade.  Each wave brought far off ingredients and cooking techniques and a melding of the peoples.  For example, Provence has a long history of being colonized by foreigners. Early Ligurian and Celt tribes intermarried with the local people.  Phoenician galleys brought Greek traders and eventually founded a trade post in Massalia, the future city of Marseille. The Greeks gave Provence olives and grapes.  The expansion of olive groves and civilization went hand and hand with the expansion of the Greeks and Phoenicians. It has been said that the Mediterranean ends where olives cease to grow.    The Romans came to help protect the besieged Greeks.  Eventually claiming the region as theirs and forming ‘Provincia’, the first Roman Provence outside of Italy.  The Romans built some of their greatest cities, Nîmes, Arles and Orange.  Anchoïade, the sauce made from Anchovies, Garlic and Olive Oil is a close cousin to the famed Roman sauce Garum.  Salt cod came from the Romans.  The Moors at one point controlled 3/4 of the Mediterranean.  Only the Roman Empire reached further.  The invading Moors brought the habit of serving many small vegetable appetizers as well as a preference of saffron flavored rice to potatoes. They introduced lamb, eggplant and almonds.  Many of Marseille’s residents are descendants of immigrants from Italy, Spain, and North Africa. Marseille was also a major resettlement point for former colonists who returned to Europe when Algeria became independent in 1962.

The cuisine and culture of the people continued to be influenced by galleys that sailed to distant outposts in the Far East and North Africa. Marseilles and other Mediterranean ports were major points on the trade route. Trade route brought exotic ingredients like saffron, olives, tomatoes, salt cod, eggplants, peppers and many other staples to Provence.  Immigrants and ship crews brought different techniques and recipes.   Salted codfish from the New World was being eaten in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and other nations. Tomatoes from the Americas became an important part of the diet.  Arab traders brought various fruits and vegetables. Each culture left their own unique imprint on the people, culture and gastronomy of the Mediterranean.

The countries surrounding the Sea share the blue azure waters, temperate climates with hot summers and mild winters.  Each country grows and raises products loyal to the seasons, artichokes, squash, fennel and a bounty of wild mushrooms in the Fall; lemons, oranges and other citrus fruits in the Winter; asparagus, radishes, lettuces in Springs; and the bounty of tomatoes, eggplants, onions, garlic in the Summer.

The menu at Figue will capture the spirit and sensibilities in an American way.  Less locked into the cultural dogmas and more focused on the vibrancy of the experience…

 

Chef Francois de Melogue

 

 

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Below is my charcuterie card that will be on each table and in the bar area…

Figue Dinner Menu December  2012 Charcuterie Card

 

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Loup de Mer: Wood Roasted Sea Bass with Swiss Chard, Slow Cooked Tomatoes, Saffron Jus

loup de mer│Wood Oven Roasted Sea Bass, Swiss Chard, Tomato Confite, Roast Garlic, Saffron Jus

Chef François de Mélogue

Loup de Mer Riviera Style 01 

I uploaded just a quick recipe for a dish coming up at our new restaurant Figue opening in February 2013 in La Quinta, California…  I stole inspiration from Alain Ducasse when I had it several years ago in Monte Carlo.  It is my tribute to a great Chef.

Ingredients for four orders:

2                      Loup de Mer, about one and half pounds each

1 pound           Bread Crumbs

1/2 l                Heavy Cream

200 g              Swiss Chard, chop leaves for filling, use stems for base

2                      Eggs

140 g              Parmesan

2                      Tomatoes, cooked into confit

6 cloves         Garlic, roasted cloves

2 T                   Basil, Chiffonade

2 T                   Chervil Chiffonade

2 T                   Parsley Chiffonade

6 T                   Olive Oil

1/2 c.             White Wine Sauce

pinch             Saffron

Mise en Place:

  1. Soak breadcrumbs in cream, add Swiss chard, egg, parmesan, tomato confite, mashed garlic and herbs.
  2. Bone loup, roll filets, tie.

To Order:

  1. Roast loup de mer, baste in olive oil.
  2. Sauté Swiss Chard stems in butter.
  3. Plate in center of plate with fish on top.  Nap with sauce.

Charcuterie (Char – KOOTer- REE): The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing

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One of the focal points of our new restaurant Figue will be the charcuterie bar.  This has been a hard concept for me to get my brain around.  Not hard in the sense of what to serve but more how to serve and how to approach it.

On the offerings side of the debate I want to feature the absolutely sexy Jamón Ibérico de Bellota.  This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests, called dehesas, along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. Bellota jamones are prized both for their smooth texture and rich, savory taste. A good ibérico ham has regular flecks of intramuscular fat, marbling. Because of the pig’s diet of acorns, much of the fat is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.  Other offerings will include a wide range of locally prepared charcuterie from salumi artisans like the Meat Men in San Diego whose cured meats are absolutely amazing (go to their site here), Paul Bertolli’s incredible handcrafted  Fra Mani line (visit Fra Mani here), Cristiano Creminelli’s amazing salumi (visit Creminelli’s here) to producing some of our own mortadellas, lonzo’s and the like.  So many great cured meats to offer so little time!

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The real debate raging in my head is how to present it in a way the guests will get.  I keep coming back to the point that I want our 10 seat “salumi bar” to be like a sushi bar in spirit.  I want interaction between the cooks manning the hand cranked slicers and the guests enjoying the show.  Meat will be displayed in small glass cases similar to sushi display cases and also hanging on hooks behind.  I hope my staff will work this station with the excitement of a child waking on Christmas morning!