Dig the Fig | culture: the word on cheese
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Dig the Fig

A row of five figs stands in front of a blank, minimalist background.

Whether fresh or dried, figs have long been prized for their promise of sweetness. Of all fruits, they contain the most sugar, which may explain why the ancients honored the naturally sweet fig and its seeds as aphrodisiacs and symbols of abundance, understanding, and love. Can we say the same about a raspberry? In reverence for the fig’s history and perennial friendship with cheese, we’ve assembled an array of products that reveal another reason why we’re big on the fig: versatility. Baked, roasted, stewed, dipped, or stuffed, this fruit can take many forms, each one a perfect fit with cheese.

A small glass jar filled with glazed and roasted figs.

Glazed & Roasted Figs

These glossy figs, bathed in dark syrup, have a flavor reminiscent of a great mince pie—moist, sweet, and spicy with clove and citrus. A little of this fig treat goes a long way when pairing with cheese. (It’s also wonderful with ice cream.) Be sure to save the leftover syrup for a little culinary flourish of your own.

Mt. Vikos, 8 ounces, $9.99

A closeup photograph of Daelia's Hazelnut Biscuits with Figs.

Daelia’s Hazelnut Biscuits with Figs

Studded with chewy bits of dried fig and crunchy toasted hazelnut, these ultra-slim baked biscuits are somewhere between a cookie and a cracker. Just sweet enough, with a snappy texture and earthy malted flavor, they’re ideal for serving with most any cheese.

Daelia’s Biscuits for Cheese, 4 ounces, $5.50

A jar of Extra Fig Jam from Quinta Nova in Portugal.

Doce Extra de Figo (Extra Fig Jam)

From the Douro Valley region of Portugal, this amber preserve flecked with tender, crunchy fig seeds is made from hand-harvested fruit, picked at the peak of ripeness. The result is an earthy-sweet jam with bright fruit character and a hint of citrus. It’s a natural to pair with the aged sheep’s milk cheeses that also originate in this fertile Portuguese valley.

Quinta Nova, 280 grams, $15.95

A jar of the girl and the fig's Gravenstein Apple, Raisin, and Fig Mostarda

Nana Mae’s Gravenstein Apple, Raisin, & Fig Mostarda

Sondra Bernstein, chef/owner of the girl & the fig restaurant in Sonoma, Calif., partnered with a neighboring heirloom apple grower (Nana Mae’s Organics) to create this chunky fruit relish. Thick with apples, raisins, figs, and spices, it also includes the essential ingredient in any mostarda—mustard seeds. Delicately spiced, a generous spoonful is ideal for a cheese plate, mixed and matched with aged and fresh wedges.

the girl & the fig, 8.5 ounces, $7.95

A bottle of fig balsamic vinegar from Orchard Choice.

Fig Balsamic Vinegar

Combining red wine vinegar with fig concentrate, this aromatic sweet-tart blend is the perfect drizzle for roasted vegetables, salads, rich fresh cheeses, and grilled meats.

Orchard Choice, 127 fluid ounces, $8.99

Some sliced rounds of fig cake from the girl and the fig.

Fig Cake

A roll of pure dried figs compressed into a dense, dark paste with almonds and pistachios, this flourless fruit “cake” is sublimely tannic, earthy, and sweet all at once. Serve a thick slice of it with any cheese offering as well as charcuterie. If you have any left over, stuff it in your pocket for emergency nibbles—it beats any power bar.

the girl and the fig, 8 ounces, $7.00

A chocolate-fig bonbon from La Higuera is cut in half, revealing its different layers.

Rabitos Royale (fig bonbons)

A little confectionary marvel, each of these Spanish figs is filled with a brandy-infused chocolate truffle filling and then dipped in dark chocolate. The fig shell between the inside and outside chocolate lends a distinct chewy fruit flavor and chewy texture. Sixteen individual foil-wrapped bonbons come nestled in a handsome box, great for gift giving.

La Higuera, 252 grams, $21.95

A photo of Marie Simmons's cookbook, Fig Heaven.

Fig Cookbook!

In Fig Heaven (William Morrow, 2004, $19.95), the only cookbook devoted to this remarkable fruit, author Marie Simmons shares 70 recipes for savoring both fresh and dried figs, as well as a list of the best cheeses to serve with the fruit. Roasted Figs with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto di Parma, Fresh Fig and Asiago Cheese Frittata, and Red Pepper and Dried Fig Sauce over Ricotta Salata are just some of the recipes that highlight the irresistibility of figs with dairy.

Greg Nesbit