The closest I ever got to a fig before Australia was in a fig Newton (if you don?t know, it?s a cake-like cookie filled with fig jam?not too popular. I always felt like I was getting punished when they appeared in my lunch box).
After my trip to the fig farm, I am convinced of their kick-ass-ness. Now I know you must be thinking, ?ooooo, figs. How exotic and worldly of you, Leena!? But I also know you are thinking that with a sarcastic tone in your voice, and frankly, I don?t appreciate it. If you knew I was drunk the entire time at the farm (10 am-5pm, people) you might hold your tongue a bit. Oh yeah, and I ate a crap ton of good food. What did you do last Saturday? Probably hung out with your mom, because that is how fricking cool you are. It all started when my partner (it?s a p.c. term to refer to your bit on the side here in Oz) found this event being held at a local fig farm, Willabrand Figs in Glen Ewin, located in the hills of Adelaide that surround the city. There would be tours of the farm, a cooking demo, and a five course meal made with figs. His boss just so happened to be friends with the owner, so he was able to get us into the event, which was completely booked up. His boss is a wonderful, wonderful man. As we drove through the grounds, we drove down into the pit of a large hill. There were old fashioned houses, and finally we came to the ?parking lot?, really just the bottom of a hill with lots of grass. At the very top of the hill was the barn where everything would be held, and of course row upon row of fig trees. It was great, sort of like an entire community carved out of this hill.
We showed up a bit late, and the cooking demonstration by Ann Oliver, local food writer, had already begun. As we stood at the back of the small demo kitchen, we were knocked over with amazing smells of garlic and parmesan. Whatever she was cooking smelled like heaven at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning! Then someone handed me a glass of wine?a glass of Moscato D?Asti, that is! Now, I?m still new to wine?I?ll admit I am not a red wine person or a white wine person, but I will drink it none the same. I am sure there is some magic behind the sharp alcoholic taste of reds and the sour tone some whites seem to take on. But pass me a bottle of Moscato D?Asti any day, baby. It?s light, bubbly, and when done right, has the perfect hint of sweetness to it. I served it at my wedding (Bricco Riella Moscato D?Asti, best in the world!), I make sorbet with it?it kicks ass pretty hard. And there I was, at 10 a.m., smelling good food I would eventually eat and drinking my favorite wine, which I had not had since I was in the States. It?s enough to get a girl all hot and bothered! The cooking demo was great, and I learned a lot about using different varieties of figs. Okay, so I also learned that different varieties of fig existed. ?You mean they come in shapes other than whole fig and fig Newton?? It blew my mind. Afterwards, we loaded up on more wine and snacked on char grilled sourdough bread with Anchoyade, a spread made of figs, anchovies and garlic. It was salty and perfect with the wine, not fishy at all. Even Adam thought so, and he?s had more than one experience with bad fish, so he?s super sensitive to the taste. Willa Wauchope, the owner of the property, took everyone on a tour of the farm.
We walked through the different fig trees (although the younger ones looked more like bushes, so we?re back at the tree-bush thing again) as Willa pointed out different varieties, unripe and ripe fruit, and discussed the land they were grown on.
We learned that a ripe fig is slightly soft, and we grabbed good looking ones along the way, eating as we hiked through the farm.
This might sound silly, but it was a really great feeling, seeing where the figs were grown and then eating one right there. They had such a rich, pink interior that I felt like I was looking at paintings of the fruit, not the real thing. The whole situation was picturesque, really. So picturesque, I took a few pictures. They had rows upon rows of fig trees, starting at the bottom of this hill and working all the way up. I loved looking at the uniformity of it all!
The farm also sells dried figs, figs in chocolate, and several other figgy type things. One of my favorite things about the trip was that the farm felt like an old fashioned farm with a modern twist. After the tour, we had more wine, more anchovy toasts of heaven, as I like to call them, and then we were seated at one of two large tables inside the barn. Like right in it. One side was us, the other side tractors. And yet they managed to make the space look like a rustic country restaurant, with vintage advertising posters hung and actual fig branches as decoration on the table.
We met some a few people who owned their own grapes and had a private wine label, and it was great to meet some of the locals. It was clear that most people at the event enjoyed slow food, and it was such a great feeling. Then more wine, this time Cantine Rallo?Marsala Superiore, Secco from Italy. It went with the definite winner of the evening, roasted peeled figs stuffed with gorgonzola piccante wrapped in Marino Butchers pancetta with a gorgonzola sauce. I was not a blue cheese fan until I met this dish. Now, I proudly call myself a blue cheese whore. Not very pretty looking, because it was served family style, but soooooo good!
Next they served a salad of Cavalo Nero (black kale, a type of thin cabbage stems), peeled white beans, weeds, figs and Pecorino crisps with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This was served with a Nepenthe Pinot Gris, which is located in Adelaide Hills, near the fig farm. It was a nice salad. I am usually not a bean fan, but it worked for me in this with the tangy dressing. The crisps were great, but not crisp so much as slightly soft crackers. This may have had something to do with making them ahead of time, but it was still a really good cracker!
Oh, look how cute we are! And this after only 6 glasses of wine.
This is also when we figured out the wine glasses at the lunch didn?t really work with Adam?s nose. I had enough room to tip my nose in and smell before my sip, but Adam? Not so much.
I ran out to give the old legs a stretch and got this self portrait. I call it “Me on a fig farm.” Deep, huh?
The next course was another winner, grilled fig stuffed local garfish with almonds and wild fennel dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This came with a 2003 Reuben blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Shiraz. It was okay, but I stuck to Moscato. It?s not the wine?s fault, its mine! The fish was great. It was a white fish that again was quite mild and nice and it was perfectly crisped on top. I ate it all without even blinking. And then some more of Adam?s.
Next came a cheese and fruit course of sorts, with Willabrand experimental fig sap induced fresh and mature goats cheese, Willabrand fig paste and experimental spicy fig and pistachio log, with fig and date bread. This came with a 2005 Bird in Hand Pinot Noir, again from Adelaide Hills. So I was eating local ingredients with local wine WITH the same producers that made them. I felt like ?Circle of Life? from The Lion King should?ve started playing in the background or something. This course was great, especially the spicy log and the fig paste, but after that many glasses of wine (we had seriously been eating for over three hours at this point), we forgot to snap a picture. Sorry.)
We took another quick stretch and walk around the top of the hill, and then came back for the last course: Willabrand fig and raspberry ice with burnt figs and served with, you guessed, the Moscato.
It was a 2005 Alasia Moscato D?Asti from Italy. This was?just okay. The sorbet was a good idea, but on its own, it had a bitter after taste. When you ate it with the burned fig, it was okay, but nothing to write home about. But it was pretty, and I was stuffed, so I ate my fig and collapsed in my chair. After the meal, Anthony, my partner?s boss, took us on a tour of the other parts of the farm. See, it is more than just a farm. It is also has several areas where you can hold events, including outdoor and indoor areas. There was a wedding going on in the morning when we arrived, all outdoors and next to the little pond on the grounds. And a live band!
Back in the 1840s, the estate was owned by George McEwin, a horticulturist that had a lot of extra fruit. So he turned them into jam, and turned the grounds into a jam factory. As many as 100 people worked on these grounds, and we walked past preserved equipment from those days.
There was also a pond, tons of trees, and just green. Willa?s young son joined us on the trip, and he was so cute, proudly pointing out all that his Dad had made on the grounds. Look at this crazy tree. It is an old tree that died, so all the leaves fell off, but it looks totally like it belongs in a scary movie or something.
And that was our Saturday. It kicked all kinds of ass, and was full of food. Just the way I like it. ~LTG