The Girl and the Fig in Glen Ellen
I've just found another restaurant to close out the wine tour. As I have raved about Bouchon before on the site to close out the Napa tour, I just ate at The Girl and The Fig in Glen Ellen which will become a closer for the Sonoma tour.
This restaurant is located in a sleepy little hollow called Glen Ellen where what appears to be the main drag is about 2-3 blocks long. Absolutely charming locale which is quite a foil for this restaurant. I made the reservation Friday night and we were fortunate enough to get a table at 6 for a party of 4 after a cancellation. This is unusual so make sure to book ahead, and it's worth it.
The restaurant bills itself as country cooking with a French twist. As we sat overlooking the menu, all 4 of us had a hard time deciding what we wanted. Thus we opted to share 3 appetizers and each have an entree. We started with steamed mussels, a 3 cheese sampler, and the eponymous fig salad.
The mussels were steamed with fennel which is a veggie I usually hate eating. I like the anise/ licorice flavor in general but for some reason have a very low tolerance for fennel. These mussels were on the whole medium sized and steamed perfectly. No rubberiness at all and the fennel was very subtle, not overpowering. It was delicious and the portion was generous in my opinion. Between the 4 of us, we must have each had 10 of these little guys so it was a good size appetizer. One killer thing to do is to sop up all the mussel juices with bread after you've done off with the shellfish. THe juices were phenomenal.
The salad was a nice combination of mesclun, dried figs (great for texture), pancetta, and a sweet-sour vinaigrette that was very well-balanced. This salad had a great interplay between bitter, sweet, salty, and sour. I think they put goat cheese on it too sometimes. It wasn't on ours and was wonderful the way it came.
Cheese sampler was nice. It came with olives, some sausage ( of which the pepper crusted was awesome), and 3 cheeses: California Redwood Hill goat crottin (tasted like it should), Spanish cabrales, and California cows milk Joe St. Gatos ( the name may be wrong). This cheese was a hard cheese with a gruyere style to it with a mild Parmesan salty/sweet undertone. They had about 6 other cheese offerings as well which were notable, especially the Cypress Grove Bermuda Triangle. This is a KILLER CHEESE, and I was impressed and glad to see it on the menu.
On to entrees, two of the party had a special-the monkfish which came with grilled asparagus and a layered potato side. I wasn't too interested in the fish as I was captivated by either the lamb loin or the duck confit. The lamb loin came with a 3 onion pancake and an onion marmalade which was enticing to me but I decided on the confit, as did my seat mate. We were both in heaven when it arrived.
Atop a bed of green lentils, roasted cippolini onins, and sauteed cabbage were two wonderful legs of duck. The skin was juicy and crispy, although still a little fatty in some places. The meat itself was so flavorful and fall off the bone tender. When this is made poorly, it is so bad but when it is made well, it is just out of this world. I loved their confit and would go back for this alone. Additionally, the lentils were great- not mushy at all and they also had a wonderful salty smoky flavor to them. This smoky/saltiness was paired up with the neutral cabbage and the sweet onions, again for a wonderful blend of elemental tastes. Excellent.
By the end of dinner, we were all stuffed and opted out of dessert. However, the tawny port marinated strawberries tempted some while the lavendar creme brulee tempted me. We all abstained however but know that we'll be going back.
One last point, we had a wine from Joseph Swan, a winemaker none of us had heard of. The restaurant specialized in Rhone style wines and we were not sure what we wanted being so accustomed to either cab or chardonnay. Our waiter recommended the Joseph Swan Mouvedre. This was an excellent recommendation, so much of one that I will go to this vineyard the next time I make a trip to Sonoma. It was a medium bodied red with a lot of fruit, very plummy. It had a slightly acidic finish to it which was very nice, given the richness of my entree. All at the table were very impressed and will seek this wine out again.
If interested, the seasonal menu can be viewed on their website www.thegirlandthefig.com.
Tida, I'm glad you enjoyed the Girl and the Fig. The cheese you had may have been St. George. If so, it is made in small batches in Santa Rosa in the Porteguese style by an older couple. I believe it is the only cheese they make. I really like it. It is great with wine. The way you described it, I think that is what you had. I also find it sort of nutty and manchego like.
You've just reminded me that's it has been more than a year since I've been to The Girl & the Fig ... I also love the duck confit. Also congratulations on uncovering one of the last hidden Calif. wine deals - 1997 Joseph Swan Mourvedre from Russian River Valley. I bought a case ($18/bottle), this wine has the stuffing and balance to improve for 10 years. The natural acidity of cool climate fruit makes it very food friendly, and doesn't it have lovely floral notes mingling with the plummy bouquet?