A Taste of Two Cities

Ten years ago, on a chilly late August evening, my husband and I were in a car, suitcases and a cat in tow, zipping across the Golden Gate Bridge. Moments earlier, our plane had touched down at SFO, and we were weary yet excited. We had arrived from Chicago, on one-way tickets, eager to start our life together in San Francisco.

At that time, if someone were to ask, “where are you from?” the response would be fairly longwinded. I would find myself saying, “Well, I was born and raised in New York, but just moved from Chicago, where I spent the last two years…”

For a while, I missed a lot of things from my hometown. Mostly family, friends and food. Whenever I would go back home (and this is still the case), my visits would be marked by eating marathons, to get tastes of the things I missed. On the list: pizza and gyros, hot dogs and falafel, crab meat soup dumplings, knishes with mustard, among many other things. I can’t forget bagels. Chewy, gnarly bagels, slathered thick with cream cheese and topped with thin slices of lox.

Somewhere along the way, I began to think of myself as a Californian. I’m not exactly sure when that happened, but now, I can’t imagine life without dungeness crabs, fresh avocados, artichokes, sourdough, wine, and figs. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I find myself with my heart and my stomach attached to two cities.

A few days ago, my daughter begged for some smoked salmon when we were at the market. When I got home, I found myself craving those bagels with lox, but I also could not wait to dig into a handful of fresh black figs.

So I put New York and San Francisco together.

Figs with Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon, drizzled with Avocado Honey symbolizes the happy union of two amazing places, the sweetness of California with the savory bite of New York. This is a dish that requires the freshest figs and the highest quality smoked salmon you can find. If I had the patience, I might have roasted or grilled the figs, but I just couldn’t wait. My sentimental taste buds were calling.

Figs with Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon, Avocado Honey

Make two cross-wise cuts into the top of the figs, about three-quarters of the way through. Place cream cheese into a piping bag or a zip lock bag with one corner tip cut (since I was in a rush, I used the latter method). Pipe about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese in each fig. Curl a slice of smoked salmon over each piece. Serve with a drizzle of a rich flavored honey.

If you choose to roast/grill the figs, make your cuts before grilling, grill the figs, then complete the assembly.

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by Liren Baker on August 22, 2010

53 Responses to “A Taste of Two Cities”

  1. Donna - Dishy Goodness August 22, 2010 @ 10:42 pm (#

    Hi, Liren! This looks so yummy! I have not tried avocado honey, but I love avocado! Does it taste like avocado??

    Thx for this recipe. :)

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:43 am

      Hi Donna! The avocado honey doesn’t quite taste like avocado, but it’s such a unique flavor. It’s rich, it’s almost smokey, it’s quite beautiful, actually! I hope you get to try it soon, it’s irresistible.

  2. Steph (Desserts for Breakfast) August 22, 2010 @ 10:55 pm (#

    yum! i love that you have the sweet and savory in one bite here, and the smoked salmon sounds like an excellent alternative to the more oft-seen prosciutto accompaniment to figs.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:44 am

      Thanks, Steph! I love prosciutto with figs, and this is definitely a nice alternative!

  3. Mdivani August 22, 2010 @ 11:31 pm (#

    Beautiful post that I can so well relate to!! Beautiful writing :)

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:45 am

      Hey, Mdivani! Thank you :) I know you relate well to this – be sure to eat for me when you go back home!

  4. Gitte August 23, 2010 @ 3:41 am (#

    Beautiul pictures and I can totally relate to having your heart in two different places.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:46 am

      It’s easy to fall in love with wonderful cities – I feel lucky to have been able to experience several great places to live and eat!

  5. Carol Egbert August 23, 2010 @ 6:03 am (#

    What a great combo. I do love to grill figs as a first step to nearly any preparation.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:46 am

      It’s true, Carol, grilling the figs is so wonderful. Thankfully, these figs were so perfectly ripe, they did just fine w/o!

  6. Brian @ A Thought For Food August 23, 2010 @ 6:18 am (#

    What a fantastic recipe this is and a great personal story to go along with it. I’ve been to Chicago a couple of times and San Fransisco a bunch. I adore both cities (though I have a greater connection to SF), so I can see how you could be torn.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:48 am

      Hey Brian, yes, Chicago is another foodie town I have tasty memories of…there’s just great food everywhere! Well, almost everywhere :)

  7. Cristina August 23, 2010 @ 7:27 am (#

    What a wonderful combination of flavors, Liren! I’ve used pancetta w/figs and wondered if smoked salmon would be good too, and you’ve confirmed. Elegant little bites. Gorgeously presented!

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:48 am

      Thanks Cristina! Smoked salmon does work, hope you get to try it!

  8. Jean August 23, 2010 @ 8:07 am (#

    I’ve been having a craving for smoked salmon myself but I couldn’t have put together anything quite as lovely as this! Best of both coasts nicely represented. :-)

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:54 am

      Thanks, Jean! Definitely a taste of the two seaboards!

  9. RavieNomNoms August 23, 2010 @ 8:27 am (#

    How pretty!

  10. Brie August 23, 2010 @ 8:30 am (#

    wow, these look amazing. i could eat the whole batch. i also relate to your story of realizing where you feel like you belong and not knowing when that happened. it’s still peculiar to me to feel like i should be two places at once sometimes.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:57 am

      I’ve moved around a lot in my adult life, and it’s interesting each time how you go through the process of being a stranger in a strange city to calling it your own. Sometimes the process takes months, other times, years…you just never know!

  11. Priscilla - She's Cookin' August 23, 2010 @ 10:08 am (#

    You have so many creative recipes for figs! Like Cristina, I’ve combined pancetta with figs, but will try them with salmon & cream cheese for a taste of New York!

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:58 am

      Thanks Priscilla! Hope you do try it and get that taste of NYC!! Maybe next time I’ll make a fig relish to put on a hot dog, lol!

  12. Monet August 23, 2010 @ 10:47 am (#

    As a recent transplant to Austin, I so related to feeling torn between two cities! I love this fig recipe, and I think that it might be a perfect appetizer to serve at a graduate party I’m hosting next month!

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:58 am

      Monet, how are you getting used to Austin? Great town from what I hear. Let me know if you do make it for your grad school party – I look forward to hearing how people like it!

  13. Jun Belen August 23, 2010 @ 1:11 pm (#

    Liren, this is sooooo lovely! The salmon just pops out. A new quick and beautiful appetizer to try for our dinner parties at home. Thanks for sharing!

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 12:59 am

      Thanks Jun! Yes, so quick and perfect to prepare in advance. I’ll have to remember the next time I entertain, too!

  14. CarolineAdobo August 23, 2010 @ 1:44 pm (#

    It’s not such a bad thing having your “heart & stomach attached to two cities” or we wouldn’t get great combinations like these! I have yet to taste avocado honey so would look out for that.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 1:01 am

      So wise, Caroline :) These experiences definitely are inspiring in the kitchen!

  15. Becky August 23, 2010 @ 5:23 pm (#

    What a beautiful presentation and creative mixture of ingredients. I’m from the Chicago area all my life, but have traveled to San Francisco and miss the dungeness crab,and fresh avocados.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 1:07 am

      Chicago is another incredible foodie town! I have such a soft spot for Chicago, too, and when I was there, all my visitors were treated to Liren’s Eating Tour. I miss Chicago sometimes, too!

  16. citronetvanille August 23, 2010 @ 11:10 pm (#

    I do put NY and SF together too, they’re my two favorite cities in the US (sorry about Chicago), and I love the taste of your two cities, very fresh, summery and fast to prepare.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 1:08 am

      Thanks Silvia! I like to think that NY and SF are such incredible food towns, with amazing and unique culinary influences. Putting them together would be like…Paris!

  17. whatsfordinneracrossstatelines August 24, 2010 @ 9:17 am (#

    Great idea! I have a fig tree and am looking for some new recipes to try, I love salmon and cream cheese! Thanks

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 1:09 am

      So lucky, Gina, a fig tree!? What variety? Enjoy this year’s crop!!

  18. The Rowdy Chowgirl August 24, 2010 @ 11:07 am (#

    Looks wonderful as-is, but I’ll bet it would be awesome with grilled figs!

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 1:09 am

      I agree, it would surely be awesome grilled! (Next time!)

  19. bunkycooks August 25, 2010 @ 8:19 am (#

    Love the photos. These look yummy! I think you are very fortunate to live in CA. I can see that it would be easy to fall in love with the food and wine that you have so close by. I know I would.

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 1:10 am

      Thanks! I am grateful each and every day to live here – I feel like I was made to live here, and yes, it’s very easy to be intoxicated by the food, and of course, the wine :)

  20. Kathryn August 25, 2010 @ 2:26 pm (#

    I LOVE salmon- that looks delish! My absolute favorite salmon dish is linguine with smoked salmon. It’s definitely not healthy, but it tastes amazing!

    • Liren replied: — August 26th, 2010 @ 1:11 am

      Wow, that Linguine recipe looks divine! I will bookmark and try it for sure – actually perhaps sooner rather than later. I still have a lot of smoked salmon left over! Thanks for sharing that with me!

  21. skip to malou August 28, 2010 @ 4:05 pm (#

    Love the way your “heart and stomach attached to two cities”… evidently you have this Figs with Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon, Avocado Honey to testify to that.
    My son stayed with my sister for almost the whole summer in Fl and when he came home, he said “mom Tita Marvie served us some figs, you gotta try it.. Honestly I haven’t tried figs yet… this recipe is a good reason to try…

    • Liren replied: — August 30th, 2010 @ 7:51 am

      Oh yes, Malou, you have to try figs. Your son is right, you will love it!

  22. Yue Edwards September 8, 2010 @ 12:23 pm (#

    how beautiful!!! i like your photographs!

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  25. Cristina, from BA to Paris September 4, 2011 @ 2:56 am (#

    This is a great idea…I would have never occurred to me! Gorgeous photos as always…
    Good job!!

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