I was so nervous! I had a map of France on my lap and my eyes glued to the road. There I was driving a little red Puegeot by myself from one side of France to the other. Full of foie gras, duck confit and cassoulet, I'd just finished teaching a week of classes at La Combe in the Perigord and planned to stop and see my friend, Frances, who was living for the summer in Provence. This was a good stopping point before heading east to teach my next set of classes at La Foresteria Serego Alghieri outside Verona in Italy. And though I travel all over the world, and a lot of the time alone, I hated driving alone.
Frances was living in this huge winery estate working for Philipe Bieler, the owner of Chateau Routas. After a few wrong turns and lots of direction asking, I finally pulled into the driveway. No sooner had I parked my car when Frances and Philipe came bounding from the door.
"Do you want to taste the absolute best fig you've ever tasted in your life? Philipe asked.
Before I could get the words out of my mouth that a glass of water and loo were more to my liking, I was in the back seat of Philipe's 1950's open-air jeep heading down a dirt road and hanging on to the roll bar for dear life. Up and down hills, over horrendous bumps, I thought I might lose a kidney. Is this worth it for a fig, I thought?
"Here we are!" he said, as he parked the car on what seemed like the edge of a cliff, one of the wheels not even touching the ground.
I felt exactly like that precarious water glass balancing on a waiters tray,- that one person leaving the jeep just might throw the jeep down the ravine.
We scrambled down the hill and up another, over a fence and up another hill steeper than the last. And there on the precipice, was a lone fig tree that teetered over the edge.
“There’s the tree!” Philipe yelled out..
Dear God, how do we get to it, I thought. As I leaned over the cliff hanging onto a tree limb, I spotted three figs, one for each of us. I managed to pick them one by one and carefully pass them back to Frances and Philipe.
These figs were someplace between fresh and starting to shrivel, dry and crack. I took a bite of my fig, all warm from the sun, and realized that it was all worth it. This was the absolute best fig I’d ever eaten in my life.
Stay tuned for what happened that night!Read more about figs:
www.thekitchen.com Grilled Figs with Honeyed Mascarpone
www.chezpim.com The Best Fig Tart, ever
WARM SALAD OF GRILLED FIGS AND GRAPES
12 figs, halved, about 1 1/4 pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups small grapes, if they are large, cut them in half
1 bunch frisee
1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
½ small head radicchio, torn into 2-inch pieces
Heat an outdoor charcoal grill. Brush the cut-side of the figs with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and set aside, cut-side up.
In a bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the frisee, fennel and radicchio in a bowl.
Place the figs a hot grill and grill until warmed and light golden, 3 to 4 minutes.
To serve, toss the salad greens with the dressing and grapes. Place on a large platter and scatter the figs onto the top.