Food and Wine: The Cuisine of the Sun

by Catherine Trifiletti

Fig & Olive owner debuts newly published Mediterranean cookbook.

By Catherine Trifiletti

fig and olive

Fig & Olive’s new cookbook (Photo by Catherine Trifiletti)

Friends and foodies gathered at Fig & Olive on November 10 to celebrate the launch of the restaurant’s first cookbook — The Cuisine of the French Riviera. Owner Laurent Halasz and his mother Francine Halasz were on hand to answer questions, sign copies and celebrate their French heritage as the underlying force behind the book’s Mediterranean-inspired dishes.

The food is reminiscent of the Halasz’s hometown of Mougins, just minutes outside of Cannes in France. The French tradition plays such an important role in the Fig & Olive credo that the Halasz family sends chefs and management to the French Riviera annually to experience the Mediterranean way of life. Besides a sun-kissed glow, team members return with inspiration to put toward new dishes and drinks. Beverage Manager, Mitchell Malnati, described his sponsored France trip from earlier this year as a magical respite.  

“I took a ferry to a small island south of the coast called Île Sainte-Marguerite. It was one of the most peaceful and calm places I had ever visited. Throughout the day exploring the island, I kept getting strong smells of pine and eucalyptus. Now I am working on using the eucalyptus in a bright and summery cocktail to encapsulate the scents and feeling of calm I had that day.”

At the book launch, Malnati’s other signature cocktails were aplenty, pairing well with passed leek crostinis and salmon tartare. The sit-down dinner portion of the evening commenced with a Veuve Clicquot toast to the gracious hosts and a creamy butternut squash puree poured over meaty chestnuts. Next up was citrus and chive-marinated scallops paired with a Vermentino from France, followed by veal filet served over braised endives and matched with a hearty Sangiovese. The feast ended on a high note with spiced-orange juice poached pears covered in mascarpone, served beside a glass of extra-bubbly Cava. 

From the meal it was clear that Halasz prepares his signature light fare in a casual, yet refined, way that is “the antithesis of cooking to impress.” He credits his mother as being the main influencer behind the restaurant’s unadorned philosophy– one that is predicated on simple, local, and fresh ingredients. 

After dinner, as Halasz worked the room meeting and greeting guests, he warded off congratulations directed at him, “we are cheers-ing to mom tonight.”

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