Tonight’s Specials: OK, sorry Kitchen Crew, I had too much coffee and want to CRUSH IT TONIGHT at FIGUE

Figue+Desert+Smash+hi+res-106-2399067727-Opictured is my opening Kitchen Crew, some have moved on and some are still with us!

SMALL PLATES

Soupe de Poissons $10

Marseilles’ famous puréed Fish soup, Rouille, Parmesan

Little Flamenco Dancers $12

Pork, Serrano Ham and Fontina Cheese involtini; Tomato, Olive and Caper sauce

Margherita Pizza $14

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella

Amatriciana Pizza $16

house cured Guanciale, San Marzano Tomatoes, Pecorino

Pizza alla Diavolo $16

shaved Salumi, Garlic and Red Chili Flakes

Scallop Crudo with Piquillo Pepper Granite $16

Mint and Citrus cured diver Scallop, organic Sicilian Citrus Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper Moroccan Calamari and Octopus $18

deep fried Calamari and Octopus with Harissa powder, Green Charmoula

AMERICAN BERKSHIRE PROSCIUTTO AND BURRATA $18

Di Stefano Artisan Burrata, Brioche Crostini, Fig Jam

Carpaccio of Octopus $18

Truffle Aioli, Arugula, Asparagus & Truffle Salad, shaved Manchego, Brioche Crostini

New Caledonia Sweet Blue Prawn Crudo $18

Sashimi grade Spot Prawns, Tomato Confite, Artichokes, Basil

Papillon of New Caledonia Blue Prawns and Burgundy Truffles $30

crispy Butterflies of sweet Blue Prawns, Cabbage Salad, Truffle Beurre Blanc

Paleta Iberica de Bellota $42

Cinco Jotas pure bred Iberico shoulder Ham aged two years

Tomato Olive Focaccia, Green Tomato Jam, shaved Idiazabal Cheese

BIG PLATES

Squid Ink Chitarra Pasta in Guazetto $28

Greek Branzino, Mussels and Shrimp in a Saffron Tomato Brodo, hand cut Squid Ink Pasta

BUCKWHEAT PASTA WITH RABBIT RAGU $28

hand rolled Buckwheat Pasta, Rabbit Ragu, Sicilian organic Citrus Olive Oil, aged Pecorino

Crispy John Dory $32

New Zealand St. Pierre, Chorizo Croquette, Saffron Aioli

SPIT ROAST JIDORI CHICKEN $26

Chickpea Fries, Ratatouille, Preserved Lemon Jus

Daube of Slow Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek $36

baked Ricotta galette, Cherry Tomato confite, Pumpkin Seed Crumble, Micro Arugula

Filet of Beef with Artichokes and Truffles $48

Potato Puree, caramelized Onions and Bacon, Artichokes & Burgundy Truffles

SWEETS & TURKISH COFFEE

Moroccan Donuts and Harissa Hot Chocolate $9

house made Donuts, Cinnamon Sugar, spicy Hot Chocolate

Turkish Coffee $10

Honey and Cardamom flavored Coffee prepared and served in a copper Ibrik

When asked by a social-climbing Paris hostess how he liked his truffles, Curnonsky replied,
“In great quantity, Madame. In great quantity.”

 

~ Curnonsky (Maurice Edmond Sailland), French writer (1872-1956)

PBS Filming ” Hello Paradise with Joni Ravenna” at Figue

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Host Joni Ravenna filming at Figue YesterdayPBS Filiming 04

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Diver Scallop, Piquillo pepper granite and Lime Crudo $16

Mexican Diver Scallops drizzled with Kaffir Lime Ginger vinaigrette

Piquillo Pepper Granite, Bautista Creek Finger Limes and Organic Sicilian Hot Pepper Olive Oil

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Squid Ink Chitarra pasta with uni $18

chilled hand rolled Chitarra Pasta with fresh Dungeness Crab

Sea Urchins and Zucchini Blossom Pesto

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Joni’s Daughter enjoying our Halibut Tajine, halibut tagine│ Moroccan spiced Halibut, roasted Summer Vegetable Couscous – 32PBS Filiming 14

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PBS Filiming 16Please visit Joni’s webpage at http://www.raventv.net/helloparadise.html

 

Gazpacho la Quinta

Gazpacho Andaluz: chilled Tomato, Watermelon and Vegetable Soup

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“Del gazpacho nu bay empacho”

“You do not get an upset stomach from gazpacho”

~ Spanish Proverb

The name Gazpacho originated from Latin, ‘caspa’ meaning ‘leftovers’.  Gazpacho originated as an Arab soup made from old bread, water, olive oil and garlic.  Shepherds enjoyed the early version but it was substantially enhanced by farmers working hard in the hot sun and were refreshed with the cold soup that not only quenched hunger and thirst but provided much needed vitamins and salt.  After the discovery of the New World, tomatoes found their way into this classic chilled soup.  At Figue, we have added a granite of Piquillo Peppers and pureed watermelon to further soothe the soul.

Come to Figue to enjoy the perfect antidote to Summer’s heat

Special Menu Items at Figue Restaurant Tonight

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“Find the Shortest, Simplest way between Earth, the Hands and the Mouth”

 

small plates

Saffron Arancine $9

Saffron Risotto Croquettes filled with Fontina Cheese, Tomato Sauce

Crab cake $12

Italian Cauliflower, Chickpea and roasted Pepper Salad, Fennel Caper Aioli

 

Saltata di Cozze all Fiore $9

steamed PEI Mussels with White Wine, Tomato and Basil

 

Polpette al Barese $9

little Veal and Pork Meatballs from Bari, Italy simmered in a Pomodori Sauce

 

Fritto Misto $16

crispy Italian Lantern Fish and Calamari, Spicy Saffron Aioli

 

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota $32

shaved 2 year Iberico Ham served with house made Tomato Olive Focaccia

 

Wild Porcini and Salumi Pizza $19

wood fired Pizza with roasted fresh # 1 Porcinis, shaved Salumi and Mozzarella

 

Shrimp, Calamari and Scallop Pizza $18

wood fired Seafood Pizza, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella

 

Margherita Pizza $16

Tomato Confite, Basil and fresh Mozzarella Pizza

 

big plates

Bucatini all’ Amatriciana $19

classic Italian spicy Pasta with crispy house cured CookPig Pancetta and Pomodori sauce

 

Wild Spanish Turbot and fresh porcinis $38

sautéed Turbot with Potato Puree and Washington State Porcinis, Proseco Sauce

 

Sweets

Blackberry milkshake with Whipped Lemon Curd $10

Unbelievable taste of Summer in a milkshake form!

Eating at your own restaurant is bit like witnessing a slow death…

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Let me clarify that.  I think when we die we get front row seats to a review of our entire lives…  we firsthand relive the proud moments of achievements completed and we watch, eyes fixated to the screen, the disasters of our lives feeling every bit of emotions we did the first time.  We cannot hide from ourselves.  You never can.

In 30 years of cooking I have never eaten where I worked.  It is near impossible to separate myself from being so intimately connected to simply being a guest.  It was voyeuristic to watch firsthand how people react to your soul being laid out on a plate naked for the world to gawk at, criticize, compliment.  It is one thing to get a good/bad review on the internet where people hide behind computer screens and critic your efforts anonymously and it is completely another thing sitting next to them, hearing their comments live, unfiltered.  I wasn’t sure I had the fortitude to do so.

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Last night my wife and I went on a date to Figue in La Quinta, California where I am Executive Chef.  We walked in the massive front door and were promptly greeted by one of our hostesses.  We settled on a few drinks and a charcuterie plate at the bar before going to our table.  We ordered two different bubbly cocktails.  I had the Poinsettia and Lisa tried the Fraises Embrouille.  I really enjoyed mine, it had the perfect balance of flavors, sweetness and tartness.  Lisa fraises embrouille lacked flavor and needed some amping up.  Celeste, our sommelier, had our drinks remade and it was much better the second time.

Char Bar

Our Italian American charcuterie plate was amazing.  On the plate was slices of charcuterie from various salumi producers in America who make Italian charcuterie, olive and mostarda.  The absolute best was the lardo made from Spanish Bellota pigs by la Quercia in Iowa.  Lardo is completely decadent and rich and amazing. We enjoyed the perfect bit with the richness playing off the saltiness of our house made focaccia.  The varzi salumi with it’s distinct cloves and nutmeg flavors from Creminelli in Utah was the perfect foil for the sweet, mustardy mostarda.  Javier, our waiter, brought the complimentary bread service which tonight was Turkish flatbread served with Labne, a house made yogurt cheese dusted with Aleppo pepper.  Mistakenly he called the bread Syrian mountain bread but I wasn’t here to correct while eating.  The bread was doughy and undercooked and felt like a dagger being stuck into my heart.  I live and breathe my food and it hurts to see it served incorrectly.  I pushed it aside and continued with the amazing focaccia.

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The hostess returned and took us to our table.  On the table are beautiful, hand made pottery diamond shaped plates made by the Wheel in San Diego that we use as share plates.  They are incredible plates.

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Normally when I eat out I scan the menu for dishes I really am excited to try.  Any belly, pork belly, hamachi belly, usually gets my vote.  Tonight I picked dishes I normally would never pick. I love scallops but I never order them.  Part of the problem is they usually suck.  It is more normal to get water added, or wet scallops, than it is to get diver picked dry scallops.  We also ordered the charred tuna crudo with Moroccan Charmoula.  The whole tuna served raw thing is so over played now that it is easy for me to look past that on any menu.  Tonight I ordered both and was reminded of how gorgeous and delicious they can be.

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The thin slices of charred tuna marinated in Moroccan spices served with orange segments and deep fried garlic chips sang in my mouth.  Every bite was an explosion of exotic flavors.  The scallops were perfectly seared by my sous chef Alejandro Hernandez and served with a pile of zucchini spaghetti and a carrot juice and saffron emulsion.  Like a bad infection, the underdone flatbread reappeared at our table.  I returned it, hoping never to see it again.  Celeste our unbelievable sommelier picked a Pic Poul that went spot on with both dishes.

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We moved onto two newer dishes, a Piquillo Pepper roasted and stuffed with Cypress Grove Sgt. Pepper’s Goat Cheese served over a Mache Salad dressed in a shallot vinaigrette that to me was jaw dropping in it’s flavors, richness and creaminess.  We also had the Spring Sweet Pea and Mascarpone Ravioli in a Lemon Vegetable Brodo with Truffled Pesto.  It was outstanding.  I had eaten my fair share of these raviolis in the kitchen but to get them table-side was orgasmic.  We decided to let Celeste go and surprise us with wine choices.  She knows my palate well enough.  She picked a Cinsault Rose that sang to the gods.

We moved onto probably my favorite dish on the current menu, a whole Daurade Royale served with Artichoke and Fennel Barigoule with Olive Tapenado.  Celeste served two wines, a Domaine Coulerette Chablis that sang and an effervescent Getariako.  Both were great in their own way.  One thing I always wonder is why more guests coming to a restaurant do not leave the experience in the hands of the Chef and sommelier.  It is a far more interesting way to eat and you will probably try things you are unfamiliar with.  Part of the problem is we fear letting go of control.  We think we are open minded and ready for spontaneous things.  When in reality we want to be firmly in control fearing the unexplored and the new and different.

While eating the Daurade the table next to us returned the Porchetta, a spit roasted acorn fed pig slow cooked over a wood fire on our custom made Italian rotisserie.  I ordered some to try it myself.  Another dish I love in the kitchen but would never order.  The customer felt it was too fatty.  I felt it was perfectly cooked and would not change a thing.  Sometimes dear friends the customer is NOT right.  The Pigue Newton, a fig and bacon compote we serve with it went extremely well.  Celeste had picked a Burgundy to match the pork.  Another great choice.

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While eating I noticed a gentleman I had spoken with a few days before sitting at the table next to me.  The attempt of dining incognito ended.  I bought two desserts for the porchetta table and introduced myself when they received it.  I said hello and talked with the gentlemen I met before and started a great conversation with the folks next to me who happened to be from my hometown of Chicago.  I also met the owner of a few area restaurants and discussed our concept with him.  Celeste is pictured above with the doctor who owns three area restaurants.

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We finished the night off with a dessert me and former pastry Chef Sarah Smith had come up with while working at Copper Beech Inn in Connecticut a few years back.  It has been re purposed and modified with current pastry chef Carla Rojas.  It is a Strawberry Soup with a Vacherin of Mara de Bois Strawberries and Frozen Lavender Yogurt.

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All in all it was a great night and everyone made me proud.  I am so happy with my sous chef Alex and my entire kitchen staff.  Javier and the front of the house did really really well minus a few mistakes on menu knowledge.  Micheal my charcuterie bar Chef did an amazing job with the cold food.  I forgot to mention he served us a delectable parmesan shortbread with tomato confit and Bulgarian feta…  I slept very easily knowing we are on the straight and narrow road.  I may eat here again before thirty years pass…  If you come to visit ask for me!

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49 Years Old… Damn, how did I get here?

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Another one of these short posts…  49?  How the hell did I get here?  I still feel 18 years old till (a) I try to get out of bed and (b) I look in the mirror.  Tonight could not have been better than it was.  Our opening party and we (that is my kitchen staff), totally fucking crushed it.  We had so many obstacles, first a kitchen that was supposed to be done and ready to roll, then a one day approval that failed on the day of the event…  three menu rewrites…  Through that my entire kitchen staff held the faith and towed the line.  To each and every one of them I am beyond thankful.  To my sous chef Alex Hernandez and to guest chef John Villalba, undying love and affection and big thanks.  A chef can never claim to stand on his own two feet without the support of their sous chefs.  They truly are the unsung heroes of the kitchen world.  Tonight we did an amazing opening party for a children’s benefit with tennis superstars, Hollywood stars and the good natured customers who support these events.  I came home to a beautiful wifey with an amazing cocktail in hand…  I should mention Debbie Wolvos, photographer goddess supreme gave me an amazing Chateau Margaux 1989 as a birthday gift… Wow, age 49, has my life finally peaked?

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Asparagus Puree, Crunchy Brioche, 1,000 Year Old Olive Oil

Where the Olives End…

It is said, the Mediterranean Ends

Where the Greeks stopped planting Olive Trees…

From the gracious reception welcoming you to Figue through the last, lingering bite of a seductive dessert, ‘sharing’ is the thread that unites the Figue experience. The sofa we enjoy unique cocktails on, the shared quartinos of wine to complement the array of enticing aromas served with loving detail on colorful small plates, to the long sharing tables where we can make new friends and taste the cuisine of the azure waters of the Mediterranean.  Figue is the place for sharing.

The menu of Figue is the story of the Mediterranean. It is the shared history of conquest, immigration and exploration, each wave bringing far off ingredients, cooking techniques and a cultural melding of the peoples. Savor sensations inspired by the ancient Romans who shared the art of salting and curing meats and fish, to the Moors who spread the habit of sharing many small dishes to the modern cuisines of France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Greece and the Middle East. Each culture shared their knowledge, wisdom and cultural preferences to create the world’s first fusion cuisine.

Figue: Where the Olive Trees end and the Tradition lives on!

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DJ REDFOO , DESERT SMASH and the OPENING OF FIGUE

WOW!

 

Just 11 days till our first HUGE party and I am beyond excited!  Cue up 24 hours to go by the Ramones, though maybe something from DJ Redfoo might be more appropriate since he’ll be there playing music.  Talk about an adrenaline rush. I am humbled and  honored that Figue will be the host of the After Party of Desert Smash, a star-studded affair where pro tennis and Hollywood collides with players such as Novak DjokovicMaria SharapovaAndre Agassi, and stars including Gavin RossdaleGwen StefaniChristian Slater and Joe Pesci to raise money for Children’s charities. What a way to kick off our Restaurant opening!!

I am absolutely honored and floored that Celebrity Chef Beau Macmillan may make an appearance and cook for the event as well!  Beau Mac has been a friend for a long time and it always is an honor to cook with him.

 

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Here is where the menu stands as of tonight….

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Seek and You Shall Find…

Fear?  I am not sure if fear is the right word.  I do have a certain nervousness with butterflies that usually accompanies anything exciting and worthwhile in life.  The nervousness of when you push off from familiar shores losing sight of land with the full expectation that what I am searching for is only a horizon away.  Fear implies being scared, and that just isn’t what I mean.  From the first moment I saw the ad I knew fate once again had landed me where I belonged.

The ad started with ” Authentic and Diverse Mediterranean Culinary Vision… Progressive with Authentic Traditional Roots… French, Spanish, Italian, Sicilian, Greek, Middle Eastern and Moroccan Culinary components.  Premium Ingredients.  Period.  Food — Fresh Authentic, Bright, Clean Simplicity, Flavors Typical of Food and Life in the Mediterranean.  ”  How could I not respond, the ad had almost seemed like a challenge written personally for me.  All that lacked was my name being mentioned.

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Zinc Bar Top just installed today

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View across the Bar and out to the Dining Area

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My Universo Tuscany 180 Wood Burning Rotisserie and Grill

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Reclaimed Wood and Onyx Wall in rear of restaurant

If you have ever lived through a restaurant opening you know it is fraught with  roller coaster ups and and fantastic free falls down.  One moment you are putting in 20 hour days expecting to open next week, than a moment later some unforeseen delay has delayed that for a month.  Every single time I have gone through this there is that aspect of hurry up and wait.  Pili Pili was scheduled to open in August of 2002 and it was April 1st, 2003 when the doors finally opened.  Figue is no different in that aspect.  The  huge difference is myself and my approach to the job at hand.

Chicago Social 03 Chicago Tribune June 6 2003 01

A lot of why I am here is because of a scratch left unitched in Chicago back in 2004.  Pili Pili in a lot of ways was my dream job where that 15 minutes the world seemed to be listening to my heart existed.  A place where for a while it seemed all my dreams of authoring cook books, food histories, possible travel programs and most importantly cooking the food I was made to cook was possible.  The creation and concept flowed from my heart.  Pili Pili, as Pat Bruno so kindly wrote in his review for the Chicago Sun Times, “is also all about the Mediterranean, literally.  The menu roams up and down the coastline like a luxury yacht.  France, Italy and Spain are the main ports of call, but even that is not enough for this ship of cools.”  For whatever reason it just wasn’t meant to be.  I would say the main problem was a lack of the proper chemistry between the principles.  In retrospect,  I had some more living to do and life experiences to learn.  It is amazing what ten years, an incredibly happy life with my wife Lisa and a young son to care for can do for your thinking.

Let me be clear Figue is not Pili part deux.  I have a newer wider approach encompassing far more than I even knew existed back then.  I am super excited to pair up with Lee Morcus and our new director of operations, Phil Roberson.  There is a chemistry there that I haven’t experienced with other owners and managers I have worked with in the past.  Two weeks and we begin kitchen training.  The butterflies and nervousness is here, in a good way. I wake up at two am thinking about how menu items will play out or the missing drain under the pasta cooker and how we can work around it rather than fearing some demon lurking in the dark recesses of my mind.

Lee’s final words in his ad read “No Compromise of Excellence”… Words that inspire me to achieve what I am capable of and to push me to my destiny!