Fresh figs, worshipped by cultures worldwide since 4000BC, are proof that there’s a higher being. Looks deceive, until rough skin the color of a bruise gives way to a shiny geode-like interior. Figs’ texture is anything but structural though—they quiver when you cut them and their delicate seeds crunch ever so slightly between your teeth. Their flavor—musky, floral, and honeyed—lends them to both sweet and savory preparations, but who’s got that kind of willpower? These restaurants resist the urge to eat them all as is, instead working them into creations so delightful that you’ll dance a figgy jig.
While the fig and raspberry tarts at Albemarle Baking Company look mighty tempting, the focaccia with roasted onion, sliced fresh figs, rosemary, and parmigiano wins for versatility. Pair a generous slice with greens topped with crumbled Caromont chevre and you’ve got a gourmet meal.
At tavola, figs get back to their Italian roots in a salad that serves them, lightly grilled, over baby arugula dressed with a vincotto vinaigrette. A triangle of pleasantly piquant gorgonzola completes the flavor explosion.
After a lovely meal made from all things local at Brookville Restaurant, heed the call of your sweet tooth with warm, sautéed figs topped with fluffy whipped cream and a drizzle of honey.
Cheese and figs make a divine union, so C&O Restaurant adorns an artisanal cheese plate with them, letting you decide how best to get them both in your mouth at the same time.
Since the two fig trees on the property of The Clifton Inn only produce so much, the sap from the leaves gets used too. In an intriguing dessert that plays up the fig’s spicy side, vanilla custard gets infused with fig leaf sap then topped with fresh figs and black pepper.
Fly by fruit
Much of the fig’s appeal is its fleeting season. Snooze through the Saturday markets in September and you’ll miss it. Even if you do make it, only the early birds get the figs, and a perfectly ripe fig waits for no one. The sweetest aren’t always the prettiest though. Look for ones that are slightly wrinkled (but still plump), with a slight bend to the stem. Avoid any that are shrunken, too squishy, moldy, or oozing sap or a milky liquid. If you do discover an inferior fig or two in the pint you’ve brought home, mash them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper for a spread for sandwiches, bruschette, or even pizza.
Get figgy with it
To treat every taste bud on your tongue, head to Feast! for a half pint of Bending Oaks Farm figs, a wedge of your favorite blue cheese, some marcona almonds, and thinly sliced Olli prosciutto.
Cut the stem off the figs, slice an ‘X’ about halfway down, then stuff in a ball of blue cheese studded with a Marcona almond. Wrap the figs in a small slice of prosciutto and then place them in an oven-safe dish under the broiler until the cheese melts slightly and the prosciutto crisps. Devour immediately with your eyes closed.
As if figs could be any more extraordinary, they’re fascinating botanically speaking too. The edible fruit is actually an inverted flower with dozens of unopened blooms lining its inner wall. Some fig varieties are self-pollinating, while others rely on fig wasps to help those miniscule flowers produce the hundreds of seeds that we recognize as the fruit’s flesh.