Fig and Olive

Fig and Olive is now becoming one of the city’s hot spots, but when we started going there almost four years ago, it was relatively unknown. As per its name, the restaurant uses only olive oil in its dishes. The vast variety of olive oils that they utilize serve as the decoration, adorning the walls along with sprigs of rosemary and producing a sense of comfort. This integration of ingredient and space makes you feel as though you were splayed on a blanket in an Italian vineyard, or picnicing along the French Riviera. However, the food is nothing short of exeptional, so while you are lured into a sense of complacent relaxation, your taste buds are stimulated to the point of uncontainable ecstasy.

When you first sit down, you are served pieces of bread with three different olive oils to taste. The bread used to be unbelievably delicious- we went through three loaves once (and it should be stated that we are tiny, skinny, small-boned women) just because it was so addictive. Maybe that’s why they changed it… Now the bread is still good, but it is possible to stop consuming it. Keep note of which olive oils you like- all the oils are for sale, along with some of the best balsamic vinegar you will ever taste in your life. Our favorites are the Picual and Chemali olive oils and the 18 year aged Balsalmic vinegar.

For the main course, we always go with the grilled branzino with snow peas and figs. We order the roasted potatoes and sauteed mushrooms as sides and just revel in the subtle flavors that nonetheless explode in the mouth. Dessert is a must- the warm caramelized apple tart is as beautiful as it is delectable, and it is served with homemade vanilla ice cream. The vanilla beans that they use are so delicately fragrant! We always ordered the same thing, but the last time we were there we tried the warm marzipan tart that was served with olive oil gelato and oranges. The tart was delicious, but the gelato stole the show. We were a little hesitant about olive oil gelato, but we are complete converts. It’s more subtle than vanilla, but it has such a warmth about it… Definitely try it.

Make a trip to one of their three locations: Meatpacking, 5th Avenue, or Lexington Avenue. And please, do comment about any of these restaurants after you visit- we’re curious about what you think!

xx,

F,L,B

Houston’s/Hillstone

Houston’s is one of those places where you are made to feel like family. Located on the bottom floor of the Citigroup Center, one almost misses this gem. The first few (I hate to say it) years that we walked by, we opted not to enter because all we could see was the bar. However, tucked inside the dark grotto are plush, crimson booths where families laugh and relax together. The wait staff is attentive, bright, and welcoming. Plates are brought and taken away so surreptitiously that one doesn’t even realize that the waiters had been to the table at all. We will always regret not trying it sooner.

The food is home food, dressed up only to be pleasing to the eye. It’s food that you think, “oh, yes, this reminds me of the dish my mom made…” but because of their special touches, you choose to return for more rather than make it yourself. Anything- and really anything- is good. The rib eye is thick and juicy with a sweet-spicy marinade that takes well to vegetables and rice (their rice and beans are to die for) alike. The crab cakes are the only crab cakes that we’ve ever had that are all crab with a light crust, rather than all crust with a dusting of crab. The fresh fish is simple, light, and elegant, served with a hint of lemon to awaken the pallet. Their “Famous French Dip” sandwich is tender prime rib on home-baked french bread, and when combined with the horseradish and au jus (for dipping, but we like to drink it as a soup), it’s divine. The french fries are paper thin, crisp, and just salty enough- far and away the best fries ever. The balsamic braised cabbage is balanced with tangy goat cheese, the spaghetti squash is both beautiful and delicate, with notes of maple, and, for dessert, the apple-walnut cobbler is perfect for fall or winter. The tender baked apples are topped with a pie-like crumble, caramelized walnuts, and vanilla bean ice cream for a heartwarming treat. Portion-wise- for us, we share, but we are tiny people. The food is so good, you might have no trouble on your own, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself going back week after week : )

xx,

F,L,B