A few weeks I had lunch with The Attorney and he mentioned to me that he missed my posts (from a former life blog) about dining out. I told him that there was only so much I could say about chicken wings (the main extent of my dining out experiences these days) but that I would see what I could do.  Fortunately for both of us I was in Charleston, SC this week and I had a notable dinner that is totally worth sharing.  

Don't get me wrong. Even though I don't go out to dinner near as much as I used to, I still love fine dining. I still love exquisite cuisine. I still love discovering really amazing, occasionally off-the-beaten-path restaurants.  It's just, going out to eat is traditionally a couple's activity and seeing as I am half of a couple these days, I suppose I've avoided it. Also? I live in the middle of nowhere.  A big night out in these parts is Chili's - not exactly blog worthy.

But you know what is blog worthy? FIG. FIG is blog worthy, swoon worthy, and just about everything else worthy. 

Friday night was my third time dining at FIG. Each and every time I have gone to FIG I have sat at the bar and dined solo. And each and every time I have loved it which is making me rethink this whole "dining out is a couple's activity" philosophy. Solo dining at the bar is actually one of my favorite things to do.

Knowing that it would be crowded, I got to FIG a little bit on the early side to secure a seat at the bar,  I opted for the end seat in the corner - mainly so I'd have a place to park my exceptionally large shopping bag.  I had already perused the menu online so I knew exactly what I wanted to start: An Elder Paloma.  Made with Herradura reposado tequila, grapefruit, Belvoir sparkling elderflower, and lime this cocktail is the grown-up, sophisticated version of the margarita. It's also delicious and after several hours of heavy shopping on King Street, it hit the spot.

I was in no rush and it was lovely to sit at the still quiet bar, sipping my cocktail and flipping through Garden & Gun, which is seriously the best magazine ever and totally worth a post in its own right.

Although the bartender, Andrew, had handed me a menu with my cocktail, I didn't spend too much time looking at it. Mainly because 1) like I said, I had already studied everything extensively online and 2) I was more interested in what he recommended. FIG is one of those places where everyone lives, breathes, sleeps and worships food and wine and while I knew that everything on the menu was probably delicious, I also knew that Andrew would have some definite views on which of the many delicious things were extra delicious and that's what I wanted to know.

On Andrew's recommendation, I started with the lacinato kale gnocchi with spicy pork ragout. The gnocchi were made from ricotta (instead of the traditional potato) which made them exceptionally pillowy and fluffy.  The spicy pork ragout had a nice kick, but wasn't too powering. And the dollop of mascarpone cheese on top was the perfect balance, especially once I swirled it into the dish and it got all melty and creamy and delicious. I trusted Andrew with the wine as well as the food and he paired the gnocchi with a Bordeaux blend from Saint-Emilion, the 2007 Chateau Fleur de Rigaud. I won't go into a lot of bullshit winespeak, but I will say that wine had a really nice heft to it and stood up to the dish well.

By the time I got to my last little dumpling, I was sad because holy hell the dish was amazing, and I seriously contemplated licking my plate spotless. As it was, I did near inappropriate things with the bread trying to lap up every last drop of spicy pork tastiness. And you know what's awesome? When Andrew cleared my plate and asked me how I had enjoyed my appetizer and I made a comment about wanting to lick the plate clean, he told me it would have totally been acceptable. For realz. These people WORSHIP food - I am telling you.

For dinner, I went with the chicken. And before y'all give one big, collective sigh and say "You were at FIG and you ordered chicken?" I say: they could probably serve boiled water at FIG and it would be incredible.  The chicken came from Keegan-Filion Farms, a local farm that pasture feeds its livestock and focuses on sustainability i.e. it was really good chicken.  A breast was pounded thin, breaded, fried up and served schnitzle style atop a mound of farro piccolo (an heirloom grain) which had been prepared like a risotto. A chicken leg had been confited (Confit! OMG I ADORE confit!) and large chunks of the tender meat were mixed in with the farro piccolo.  The whole thing was topped with a fresh herb salad.

It was scrumptious and somewhere around the second or third bite I had the revelation that I was in the throes of a full-on culinary orgasm.  Although the chicken was complex enough to pair well with the Bordeaux, Andrew switched me over to the 2007 Pascal Granger Le Bouteau Beaujolais-Villages which was lighter, fruitier, and a more suitable match. 

Overall, the combination of delectable food, paired perfectly with the appropriate wines, attentive & knowledgeable service, a leisurely pace, and highly entertaining reading material made for an evening that was truly, truly divine. The only thing that would have made it even more perfect would have been if I hadn't been such a model of virtuous self-restraint and passed up their homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream.

And even better than the meal, I got a much needed reminder that being only half of a couple doesn't mean I need to deprive myself of the occasional nice dinner out. 

3 Comments

When I traveled for work I actually relished my dinners alone. With something interesting to read or a more interesting crowd of diners to watch and good service (very important when you are alone and too often ignored as a result) it can be wonderful. I learned to avoid any place that was too quiet or not relatively crowded and I always treated myself to the nicest places that my fairly generous expense account would afford. At one time I used Forbes magazine of best restaurants in each city and checked then off as I visited. Never a bad one in the bunch. Now, I go to chowhound for new ideas. Come to think of it I sort of miss the occasional solo dinner.

On Saturday night I decided to get takeout. I also decided that I would sit at the bar and have a drink while waiting for it. Not quite dining alone, but maybe a quarter of the way there. :)

fwiw I find the restaurant/food talk engaging; even if it's a passing mention of what you had for lunch or whatnot it helps put together a venues-of-note sort of list.

FIG sounds fantastic, now if only I could arrange a photoshoot in Charleston or something so I've an excuse to go

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