Fig & Olive Tartlet in the Meatpacking District, New York

Sunday “morning” and you’re in brunch mode in N.Y.? If you prefer crisp Mediterranean flavors and light, airy bites to buttery béchamel, Fig & Olive is the place for you. I recently stumbled into N.Y. to visit some long-lost lovers and slipped right into a brunch with some friendly strangers at the scenic Meatpacking District location of the place.

Warm lighting, crisp white linen tables, a boastful collection of olive oils and boutique wines lining stucco walls, wrought iron olive oil branches dramatically under-lit with candles, live olive and rosemary trees providing a lush green contrast to the olive yellow theme. The lunch and brunch menus are highly varied, including a great selection of salads (each drizzled with the olive oil selected to best match it), soups, paninis, mains, sweet/savory breakfast items. A large, marble communal tasting table in the center of the dining room allows guests to try some of Executive Chef Pascal Lorange’s shareable plates such as the cappacio, crostinis, olives, charcuterie and cheeses. The cocktail list is also great and matches the brunch menu very nicely, with stuff like Cucumber Cosmos and Blood Orange Rossellinis, which are sure to send you along into a nice Sunday morning buzz.

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As I was craving something savory and egg-free, I ordered the Fig and Gorgonzola Tartlet, a simple but wonderful little signature of the place. A fluffy, flaky puff pastry sprinkled with finely chopped and caramelized shallots, the center oozing forth melted, tangy gorgonzola cheese with a few crunchy toasted walnuts embedded to offset its creamy texture. Juicy, sweet figs with a seedy, chewy and thick fig paste interior and some slightly dehydrated tomatoes were roasted onto the thing as well, their natural sweetness contrasting wonderfully with the acidity of the melting cheese. On top of the thing was a nest of peppery baby arugula, drizzled lightly with mild and fruity Arbequina Olive Oil and a sprig of rosemary for aesthetics and height. And to top it all off, paper-thin, buttery soft folds of Jamon Iberico de Bellota, which melted in the mouth within seconds, leaving only its rich, cured and earthy acorn-feeding piggy flavor behind as an echo against the rest of the ingredients topping the tartlet. It was busy as a tartlet should be, with the pastry just thick enough to hold everything together and maintain a firm texture against the moisture of the cheese. A well executed blend of flavors and textures that left me feeling light as a feather in the end.

As I glanced around the table at what my brunch companions had in front of them, I noted that there wasn’t a single dish that I didn’t want to try. One particularly good-looking one was the South of France Poached Eggs with Salmon, which featured a round, toasted, house-baked olive oil bread which was de-fleshed and filled with a citrus-marinated salmon filet and topped with two trembling, delicate poached eggs which oozed forth silky yolk when forked into. I’ll be back for that one soon…

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