Polito Farms Figs
1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
We visited Rustic Canyon Thursday @ 8:30 pm
Dish we will try to cook – Polito Farms Figs $12
For this week’s restaurant, we stayed close to home. In fact, we walked the two blocks to the restaurant. Nothing beats the California culinary scene when you factor in being able to walk to the restaurant as a “must have.” Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen is located on Wilshire Blvd. about 12 blocks from the ocean. Josh Loeb opened Rustic Canyon in 2006 and with his wife, Zoe Nathan, opened Huckleberry practically across the street in 2009. Both were born and raised in Santa Monica. Huckleberry is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day except Monday, while Rustic Canyon is open for dinner only, seven nights a week. Evan Funke is the executive chef and Zoe Nathan is the pastry chef.
Our friends Eben, Melissa and Naomi joined us for dinner. While we knew Melissa loved Rustic Canyon we weren’t quite expecting her to stuff the ballot box for the poll with as much enthusiasm as she showed. And then when she realized Rustic Canyon would be the winner, she asked if they could join us for dinner. We, of course were more than excited to have such great friends and loyal followers of the blog share in the evening with us. Since this was our first experience dining at Rustic Canyon, it was nice to have a few seasoned veterans with us.
For instance, Eben and Melissa let us in on their little secret of ordering several small plates from the appetizer menu and sharing them for dinner, which meant there would be plenty of room left over for dessert. The small plate/appetizer dishes also switch out almost daily so if something sounds good, don’t wait to order it because it probably won’t be on the menu next time you visit. The main course dishes vary only slightly from night to night. Since this was our first visit to the restaurant, we decided on the more traditional route of ordering an appetizer to share and two dishes from the main course menu. We started with the Polito Farms Figs (roasted fennel, honey, goat cheese, black pepper) $12, followed by the Niman Ranch Pork Chops (tenerelli orchard peaches, carmelized corn, basil) $32, and Half Jidori Chicken (black mission figs, chanterelle mushrooms, confit bacon, cippolini onions) $28.
The fig plate really represented the restaurants pride in using quality organic ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. There isn’t a lot of fuss going on with the dish, but there is a whole lot of natural flavor to awaken your taste buds for the evening ahead. Three types of figs are used on the plate – black mission, brown turkey and celeste, which were then sliced either in half, quartered or sliced cylindrically. Roasted fennel is mixed in along with mint, arugula, creamy goat cheese, black pepper and a little bit of honey. The combination of such strong flavors could be risky, but in the end, they were clean and refreshing.
We were equally happy with our pork chops and jidori chicken. The pork chops were cut thick and left juicy. Overall, the plate was a wonderful combination of creamy, sweet and savory flavors. The jidori chicken seemed a little on the salty side (and we point out that it is very rare we feel food has too much salt) but overall a satisfying dish. The mushrooms alone are reason enough to order this for your main course.
When it came time for dessert, we simply couldn’t pass up the sugar and cinnamon doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce. And we weren’t the only ones, our table ended up ordering three of these desserts so that no one really had to share. We can see why this dish is credited as the reason they decided to open Huckleberry.
While the noise level in the restaurant is a little loud and the prices are slightly high, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen is a shining example of quality organic foods served in a way that lets the flavors represent the best they have to offer. The owners and Chef Evan are very active in the community and they’ve created a place where locals can share a pleasant evening together over wonderful plates of food, or simply enjoy a glass of fine wine at the extensive wine bar. Even if you don’t live in Santa Monica, drive on over and see for yourself what all the talk is about. And if you’re in the area for the day, enjoy breakfast or lunch at Huckleberry and dinner at Rustic Canyon.
(prices reflect the cost of the package, not the portion we used.) The rest of the ingredients we already had in the kitchen.
Santa Monica Farmers Market
Black Mission figs, 1 basket $4
Brown Turkey figs, 2 $1
Chevre Goat Cheese $5
Below is our take on figs. While we have no idea exactly how they prepare theirs, we were able to discern the fresh flavors we tasted in the original dish and went from there.
Rustic Canyon Figs-
2 Black Mission figs, cut into rings
2 Brown Turkey figs, halved lengthwise
2 Celeste figs, quartered lengthwise
1 loose cup arugula, rinsed and dried
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced lengthwise about 1/8” thick
1/8 loose cup mint, roughly chopped
1/8 cup crumbled chevre
1/2 TBSP honey (for dressing)
1/4 cup olive oil (for dressing)
1 tsp honey (for fennel)
2 tsp olive oil (for fennel)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Start by adding 2 tsp oil and 1 tsp honey to a pan over medium-high heat and coat entire cooking surface. Add fennel, salt and pepper and cook until fennel is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Next, make a dressing by combining the honey with olive oil. Stir with a fork until both liquids are emulsified and texture coats the fork without being too runny.
Place each half of one of the Brown Turkey figs toward either end of a long platter. Place the rings from one Black Mission fig around the center of the platter. Place the quarters from 1 Celeste fig around the Black Mission figs, skin-side down. Next, lay about half of the cooked fennel around the plate, then the mint, arugula, and finally the chevre. Lightly drizzle the dressing over the ingredients and around the plate. Finish with a few dashes of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Repeat steps for second plate.
Rating- We give our dish 4.5 out of 5 stars.
This has to be the easiest recipe we’ve tried to replicate. If you’ve been intimidated in the past by some of the dishes, we highly recommend making this one for yourself at home. But don’t wait, figs are going out of season and won’t be around for too much longer.
In fact, the real key to this dish is simply buying quality ingredients. We’re fortunate enough to be able to walk to the Santa Monica Farmer’s market but you should be able to find a few different varieties of figs at your local super market. If you can buy them when they are perfectly ripe, all you need to do is slice them. While shopping at the SMFM, we just so happened to run into Chef Evan himself and told him how much we enjoyed the fig plate. He pointed out for us which farmers stands he visits for figs, so he really made our job easy for us. We would have given ourselves 5 out of 5 stars except we were only able to find two of the three varieties of figs Chef Evan used, so technically, we did not perfectly replicate the dish from Rustic Canyon.
How would you rate our recipe? We look forward to hearing feedback from you guys. Were you able to locate all the varieties of figs? Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to create a plate of food simply using the flavors from ripe fruit? Feel free to email us if you have any questions on the recipe and don’t forget to vote for next week’s restaurant!