Sunday, December 21, 2008

When Figs Fly

For the past few days, we have been looking for Great Lakes Brewery's Christmas Ale at the market. Of course, being 5 days before Christmas, it has been sold out everywhere. Two weeks ago, we saw some but I decided against buying it because it was so expensive. Ha.

Bug looked really depressed after our 4th store and not finding any. So I told him, "I've got an idea. Let's drop these groceries off at home, and I'll take you somewhere that will have it."

Great Lakes Brewery.

We drove there and were taken aback by having to pay $5 for parking at the public lot, but did so anyway. When we walked in to a huge mess of people at the restaurant with everyone standing shoulder to shoulder at the entrance on through the bar. This did not look good. We found out the wait time was 1 hr 45 min. We decided to wait, since we already paid $5 for parking. 45 minutes into waiting, Bug couldn't take the frenetic vibe anymore, so we left. Economic downturn, uhh right.

I mentioned to him that we could eat across the street at the Flying Fig. He asked me what they served. I responded that I didn't know, but it's supposed to be quite good...while standing there in my Nightmare Before Christmas short-sleeved t-shirt, leather jacket, and dirty black jeans. Bug was in his (and my) favorite button-up long-sleeved shirt by Lucky Brand that my parents got for him as a gift and blue jeans.

We walked in and asked the host for a menu. The host explained that everything is organic and, as much as possible, from local farmers. I could read the shock in Bug's eyes at the prices, but he acted intrigued enough to go along for the ride and desperate for a glass of Christmas ale. A couple came in after us in a suit and evening dress. I looked at the way we were dressed and I almost cried. I didn't pay attention to what others were wearing when we walked in.

The host didn't miss a beat and seated us between a couple in a suit and an evening dress, and a table of 6 with people in jeans and sweater or long-sleeved shirts. I didn't feel too bad, but I was still the most casually dressed in the entire restaurant.

We ordered the flatbread ($9) to start. I ordered the seared duck breast and confit of duck leg ($25). Bug ordered the chicken umm special of the day ($21). For dessert, we ordered the pumpkin bread pudding ($7). Of course, Bug got his Christmas ale ($6)!

The bread service was superb. Our waiter refilled our basket 3 times. We were shocked by that. There were two types of bread, one that had cheese baked on top that I felt meh, but Bug liked it. Cheese reminds me of feet -- it was probably asiago. The other bread was a white bread with white and black sesame and fennel sprinkled on the crust. That was fabulous and our favorite. I didn't even want to use the platter of oil to dip. There was just the right amount of fennel to not make it overpowering. Amazing.

The flatbread served here is the most delicious pizza I've ever tasted. This is coming from someone who has an aversion to pizza from being beaten like a dead horse into eating pizza each weekend. In it were layers of locally grown Killbuck Valley mushrooms that were like straw mushrooms, pancetta, spinach, and taleggio cheese. The spinach gave a nice crunch and added green flavor that I need in my dishes, while the pancetta and cheese quelled each others strong presence, melding into a deep, smoky pair. Bug loved the pancetta, of course. By the time I ate my last slice of flatbread, I was sated.

We still had our entree.

My duck was tender and moist with a cranberry reduction. I've never had such meaty duck before. It was like eating a steak cooked medium. The butternut squash spaetzle is the most substantial spaetzle I've ever had. We enjoyed the roasted brussel sprouts so much that it has inspired Bug to create a dish with them in the near future. Individually, the sprouts, duck, and spaetzle stood up very well; however, when I combined them onto my fork with a dabble of the cranberry reduction, it was a step into a different dimension of the dish assembled before me. I was surprised at how balanced the sweet, tart, salty, roasted, and green flavors blended together. The textures didn't balance quite as well as the flavors did, but this was meant to be a hearty dish and should be overlooked. The amount of food on my plate was rather immense.

I don't have a clear recollection of the stuffing Bug had. I think it was because I was enraptured by my platter. His chicken, however, was quite memorable. Lately, I've lost my fondness for all poultry. I'll eat it if I have to, but I try to steer clear of poultry unless something about the preparation captivates me. Upon my initial bite, I tasted pepper and garlic. After several seconds of chewing, this same morsel exuded a trace of citrus. The change in flavor was quite magical. The spinach was done to perfection -- cooked but retained its flavor and still had spring with each bite.

Finally, the pumpkin bread pudding. This was the last piece the restaurant had for the evening. I enjoyed it down to the whipped cream. It came in two halves seated in vanilla creme anglaise and a sprig of mint. The bread pudding must have been previously refrigerated because there was a slightly cooler spot in the center, which I thought was a little goofy. Relative to the perfection in the evening's meal, this was the only blemish, if one were to parse through every second of tonight's experience and nitpick.

The level of service was astounding. From the moment we walked in until we left, Bug was impressed. The waiter was never in our face and ofttimes I found myself wondering when he came by to drop off a refill of my iced tea and take my nearly empty glass. The dedication in wiping down the neighboring glass table top with the server sitting at eye level to the table revealed the pride involved. Even the candle was quickly re-lit when it lost its flame.

The bill, including tip, came out to $100. It's not a place we can even eat at seasonally. Even if we could afford to eat here every night, I'm afraid we'd lose appreciation for the food, and not savor each bite as it deservedly should be experienced. To show off to visiting friends and relatives the best Cleveland has to offer in regional cuisine, Flying Fig ranks #1 on our list.

- Cassaendra

Flying Fig
2523 Market Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 241-4243

1 deep thoughts:

Matt 22 December, 2008 13:05  

thanks for the recommendation! i'll try to track it down!

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