New Fig & Olive Spring Menu

(Spring Delights at Fig & Olive - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Spring Delights at Fig & Olive – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

I was invited to try the handsome Executive Chef Wilfrid Hocquet’s new Spring menu at Fig & Olive on the corner of Melrose Place and La Cienega. The night before he was presenting a similar menu to food writers at the upscale Fig & Olive in Newport Beach.

Born in the South of France, Hocquet’s a classically trained chef with over 15 years of international experience in Paris, New York, Monaco, and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. He has worked with some of the most renowned Michelin chefs around the world, such as Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud.

(The talented Executive Chef Wilfrid Hocquet)
(The talented Executive Chef Wilfrid Hocquet)

“Spring is the most beautiful season in the South of France,” Hocquet shared with me. “The vegetables are like newborns; they’re pure and delicate. From peas to asparagus, they require minimal treatment, as the quality of produce speaks for itself. The new dishes channel a sense of culinary nostalgia and inspiration from the markets in the South of France.”

Throughout the evening, Executive Chef Wilfrid Hocquet visited our table to tell us about each dish. They were bright and flavorful with a theme of fresh Spring asparagus and peas and blends of citrus, including Clementines.

Founder Laurent Halasz collaborated with Executive Chef Hocquet, along with eight of FIG & OLIVE’s chefs, to create the following dishes:

Provencal Carrot & Thyme Soup – My new friend Jerone is vegan and throughly enjoyed a bowl of  heirloom baby carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and thyme with an olive oil crouton. This dish was inspired by a recipe from FIG & OLIVE’s new cookbook, “FIG & OLIVE: The Cuisine of the French Riviera” showcasing Francine and Laurent Halasz’ recipes.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

I enjoyed the Burrata & Asparagus with a glass of champagne on ice with sliced strawberries. The creamy burrata was served with tender asparagus, snow peas, hazelnuts, arugula, and micro-basil with a blood orange zest dressing.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Next we received a Crab Salad made with jumbo lump crab, celery, celeriac, snow peas, green apples, lime, cilantro, scallion, horseradish, and pink pepper. It was not my favorite, instead I pushed it aside to try the more comforting Primavera Risotto made with Arborio rice, asparagus (the first vegetable of Spring), green peas, pea shoots, and a green pea puree with parmesan, garlic, and shallots.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Our table had the choice of three entrees. My friend Emilia and Shaena agreed with me that we would each order a different entree and share it with each other. Emilia ordered the seared Sea Scallops with a Moroccan flair offering multi-colored honey heirloom carrots and orange purée, roasted orange segments, poppy seeds and charmoula.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Shaena ordered the Filet Mignon marinated with rosemary, thyme, garlic, beef and barley risotto with hedgehog mushroom, manchego, and mascarpone cheese with a creative and healthier Olive oil Béarnaise. Premium olive oils are used in most dishes, instead of butter or cream.  It was delicious.

(Healthy Salmon - Photo by Jill Weinlein?
(Healthy Salmon – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

I ordered the Riviera Salmon offering a variety of Spring flavors with seared salmon, grilled asparagus, sweet braised fennel, on a bed of pea puree and Arbequina olive oil emulsion and lemon zest.

(A sweet ending - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A sweet ending – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

For dessert, my vegan friend had poached pears, while the rest of us enjoyed the Clementine Vacherin dessert made with blood orange coulis, clementine sorbet, white chocolate mousse, and meringue kisses. It was a balance of sweet and citrus, crunchy and smooth promoting a satisfying ending.

I left the restaurant feeling fortified, because nothing was laden with fat. I didn’t fill  heavy, tired or too full. It’s a menu filled with antioxidants. FIG & OLIVE continues to maintain long relationships with farms and premier purveyors that have been used for many years including D’Artagnan, Premier Meat Company, Baldor, Nature’s Produce, Kenter Canyon Farms, amongst others.

Visit to find a location nearest to you.


7 Great Soups in Los Angeles & Beyond

When the temperature cools down, it’s time to be comforted with a bowl of delicious soup. Here are 7 0f my favorite dining destination that offer exceptional soup in Los Angeles.

Flintridge Proper creamy tomato & basil soup with grilled cheese - by Jill Weinlein
Flintridge Proper creamy tomato & basil soup with grilled cheese – by Jill Weinlein

1. Flintridge Proper Restaurant & Bar

This hotspot in La Canada offers a warm and wonderful creamy tomato basil soup and seasonal soup of the day. The day I dined, the seasonal orange butternut squash soup had a touch of cream. Order a bowl of soup with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich made with in-house American cheese. 464 Foothill Blvd. La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011 (818)790-4888 –

(The owners of Canter's - Marc, Jacqueline and Terry)
(The owners of Canter’s – Marc, Jacqueline and Terry)

2. Canter’s Deli

Since 1931, Canter’s has been making great soups that come with a side of crisp bagel chips. Only on Wednesday do they make a delightful Split Pea soup. If I dine on another day, I select the Barley Bean or Vegetarian Vegetable. They offer 1/2 of any classic sandwich with a cup of soup for under $13. The owners Marc Canter, sister Jacqueline and cousin Terri Bloomgarden are really nice people. Parking is free for 90 minutes with a Canter’s validation. Open 24 hours, seven days a week. $-$$ 419 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)651-2030 –

(Photo by Cassia Santa Monica)
(Photo by Cassia Santa Monica)

3. Cassia 
Chef Bryant Ng is offering some of the best Southeast Asian soup to beat the chilly weather or help make you feel better if you get a winter cold.
Two of the must-try soups include a Laksa – A traditional Singaporean rice noodle and seafood dish is a thick and spicy, coconut curry, and the chile oil is great for clearing stuffy sinuses. Ng also makes a Vietnamese Pot Au Feu – a spiced pho broth with Creekstone Farms short rib, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and a side of grilled bread to smear with the bone marrow or sides of housemade Bird’s Eye chile sauce and a walnut mustard. 1314 7th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (310)393-6699 –

(Laurent Halasz with writer)
(Laurent Halasz with writer)

4. FIG & OLIVE – Melrose Place in West Hollywood
Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The key components of the Mediterranean diet include a splash of olive oil, instead of butter, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, legumes and nuts. A glass of red wine is acceptable too. At Laurent Halasz’ Fig & Olive, the soups are ideal, because they don’t have any cream. Try the Butternut Squash & Chestnut Velouté that is silky and accompanied by shaved chestnuts, onions, toasted squash seeds, and a drizzle of Arbequina olive oil. It’s divine. They also serve an antioxidant-rich vegetable cold gazpacho Andalucia. It’s a delightful combination of minced tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion, basil, Sherry vinegar and a splash of basil olive oil. There is a small scoop of Ayala goat cheese to enhance the dish. 8490 Melrose Place (310)360-9100 –

(Photo from Taste)
(Photo from Taste)

5. Taste on Melrose –

West Hollywood Executive Chef Brian Sheard’s comforting Chicken Tortilla Soup features fresh tomatoes, chipotle, jalapeños, corn, cilantro, red bell peppers, crème fraiche, and crispy tortilla strips.  During lunch they offer a soup or salad and sandwich special. Sandwiches include a Classic BLT on Ciabatta Bread, or a chicken salad sandwich with pulled Mary’s organic chicken, tarragon, dried currants, aioli, Gala apple on herb foccacia. Vegetarians like the Caprese sandwich on Ciabatta Bread for $10.75. 8454 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, Ca 90069 (323)852-6888 –

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

6. Morgan’s in The Desert

When in the greater Palm Springs area, be sure to stay or visit La Quinta Resort. They offer a fine dining restaurant featuring the talented Executive chef Jimmy Schmidt offering a themed three-course prix fixe with wine pairing. The night I dined at Morgan’s, the soup of the evening was a fennel soup infused with roasted red peppers, cipolini onions and dazzled with chive oil. There was no cream in this elegant soup. A bowl was delivered to my place setting with all the roasted vegetables, my servers Sal and Erik poured the luscious liquid into the bowl. The presentation was beautiful. 49-499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta, Ca 92253 – (760)564-7600

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

7. Bel Air Bar + Grill

Executive Chef Chris Emerling cooked in Michelin 3-star restaurants before arriving in Los Angeles. He prepares locally sourced, seasonally inspired elegant cuisine. His daily Market Soup is fresh and healthy. He also makes a chilled Gazpacho soup enhanced with dill weed and avocado dots. This is the ideal spot to meet friends or family off of the 405 freeway or after visiting The Getty Center. 662 N. Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90049 (310)440-5544 –




FIG & OLIVE – Mediterranean Diet Friendly

DSC_0988Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The key components of the Mediterranean diet include a splash of olive oil, instead of butter, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, legumes and nuts. A glass of red wine is acceptable too.

Fig & Olive’s menu offers dishes that are ideal for the diet, as Executive Chef Pascal Lorange’s prepares his Mediterranean dishes with herbs, spices and some of the finest olive oils from the Mediterranean region to enhance his dishes.

I recently dined with a group of friends at Fig & Olive on Melrose Place to enjoy chef Lorange’s new Spring menu Mediterranean dishes. We sat in the back dining room with elegant limestone stucco walls. The restaurant has live green rosemary and olive trees offering the essence of the Mediterranean. Visually, the open kitchen is illuminated by shelves of colorful olive oil bottles.
Guests receive a plate of rosemary olive oil bread with small dishes of three distinctive extra virgin olive oils from Spain, Greece and Italy.

We each chose a glass of wine or champagne from over 30 varietals from the South of France, Italy, and Spain. I sipped a nice French Rose’ made with Grenache/Syrah from the Château La Coste “Cuvée Bellugue” Côtes de Provence. It was floral, with hints of white fruits.

DSC_0985The wine paired well with a variety of crostinis. My favorite was the savory caramelized onion with goat cheese and chive. I also liked the Manchego with sliced fig and a Marcona almond.

Since the Mediterranean diet traditionally includes antioxidant-rich vegetables, Chef Lorange’s includes on his new menu, a cold gazpacho Andalucia with minced tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion, basil, Sherry vinegar and a splash of basil olive oil. There is a small scoop of Ayala goat cheese to enhance the dish.

Another winning dish is his rainbow heirloom tomato Caprese with luscious burrata and sliced figs to add a delightful sweetness. It’s lightly dressed with 18-year balsamic vinegar and basil green olive oil.

The crab and heirloom tomato appetizer is made with jumbo lump crab. It looked and had the texture of an elegant tuna salad.DSC_0991
To help promote health and prevent disease, fish is approved on the diet. Fig & Olive offers six different pescatarian dishes that include Mediterranean branzino; Chilean sea bass and yellowfin tuna a la Provencale. The Riviera salmon is also an excellent choice with seared salmon served with grilled asparagus and a flavorful braised fennel. The dish is decorated with a pea puree, Koroneiki olive oil emulsion and a spritz of lemon zest.

The most visually spectacular dish of the evening was the rosemary lamb chops served on a plate with a glass dome cover. Once the cover was released, a smokey vapor of Herbs de Provence was released into the air. The chops were accompanied with grilled polenta, braised eggplant, roasted bell peppers and a drizzle of rosemary garlic olive oil.

I’m not sure if the creamy fig and gorgonzola risotto made with Arborio rice qualifies as a Mediterranean dish, because it is so rich, yet it’s so satisfying and worth the splurge. It’s pure comfort food in a bowl.

Grains are important in a Mediterranean diet, so Chef Lorange offers a red quinoa salad with a variety of vegetables and dresses it up with a Arbequina olive oil.

DSC_0999All of the pasta and risotto dishes are vegetarian, however guests may add a grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp for some protein.
On the diet, poultry can be consumed twice a week. A good choice is the Provence roasted free range chicken from Mary’s farm marinated with Herbs de Provence and garlic. It arrives with a side of ratatouille and roasted potatoes.

My favorite is the colorful Fig & Olive Tajine with Moroccan spiced chicken cooked with figs, carrots, olives, apricots, zucchini, cipolini onions, tomatoes, toasted almonds and a couscous blended with cilantro and harissa. The olive oil enhancing this dish is Arbequina, an aromatic, buttery oil from Melgarejo in Andalucía, Spain.

Since red meat should be consumed no more than a few times a month, the filet mignon is an excellent choice. The 8 oz. Creekstone farm filet is marinated with thyme, garlic and rosemary before its grilled and served with farro risotto accented with black trumpet mushrooms, and two cheeses – manchego and mascarpone. The Béarnaise sauce for the steak is made with Arbequina olive oil.

For those seeking a romantic dinner, Fig & Olive offers a few tableside-for-two entrees that include a whole two-pound Branzino; 16 oz. Creekstone farm Black Angus Chateaubriand; and a 36 oz. Cote de Boeuf Creekstone farm bone-in Ribeye.

Save room for the light panna cotta a l’ orange with a cookie crumble. There is also a lavender creme brûlée with lovely lavender ice cream and a crunchy thyme shortbread cookie.

While at Fig & Olive, you can bring Mediterranean ingredients home with you to maintain the diet. The restaurant offers a retail collection of over 30 different types of extra virgin olive oil ranging from a fruity and delicate varietal from Provence to a peppery Tuscan olive oil from Villa Lucia. The restaurant also sells infused olive oils with truffle; basil, and lemon.

Open for lunch starting at 12 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch at 11 a.m. Dinner service begins Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m. on Friday through Sunday, dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m. $$$ 8490 Melrose Place (310)360-9100.

Fig & Olive Melrose Place

Fig & Olive 011Halle Berry and I have something in common, we both enjoy dining at Fig & Olive Melrose Place. Almost every item on the menu is topped, sautéed or dressed with various olive oils. No butter is used at this restaurant.

After a trip to the South of France last summer, Chef Pascal Lorange returned to Los Angeles inspired by the produce he sampled in Mougins and Cannes. With the produce he purchases locally from Kenter Canyon Farms in Sun Valley, Lorange marries these fresh items with an assortment of signature olive oils and spices that duplicates the aroma and character of dishes from the South of France, Italy and Spain.

Chef Lorange’s Fall harvest menu offers some exciting dishes that I longed to try. I joined two friends for lunch to experience some of his new appetizers, entrées and desserts.

The restaurant is attractively decorated with a flourishing olive tree dominating the center. Planters of fresh rosemary bushes are sprinkled throughout the room.

We started with a pretty pink flute of Bellenda Rose sparkling wine with notes of strawberry and raspberry.

First, we received slices of Housemade rosemary bread with three small dishes of olive oil for dipping. The mildest olive oil was buttery with fruity notes and a hint of artichoke. The medium flavored oil from Greece was greener tasting. The most assertive tasting oil was from Portugal and offered a slight bitter finish. The restaurant sells nine different oils and infused olive oils too. There are orange, basil, lemon and white truffle oIive oils available to sample and purchase.

The assistant general manager Chris Gonzalez shared a witty description of the bread with oils. “The rosemary bread dipped into one of the olive oils is a culinary equivalent of a hot bath.”

An appetizer of six crostinis that included shrimp, avocado, cilantro and tomato that looked enticing was deliverd to a table near us . We opted to order the 3-course lunch menu offering selections of wonderful soups, salads and appetizers for the first course.

To read the rest of my review, click on this link, courtesy of the Beverly Press Published on Nov. 28, 2012.

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