The Taste: Figg’s Ordinary in Chestertown
Nov 20, 2017 01:00PM
Ingrid Hansen, a former D.C. art gallery owner, made a dramatic switch on her career path by “following her bliss.” After seeing how popular her gluten-free and refined sugar-free products were at the Chestertown Farmers’ Market with the public, she decided to take the plunge, move to Chestertown and open a small restaurant-bakery on the edge of the heart of the historic district. It was a pleasure to meet her—and learn the backstory of Figg’s Ordinary.
Q. Tell us about the unusual name of your restaurant.A. Figg was one of my beloved miniature dachshunds and his happy and spunky spirit was the inspiration for the name. Although Figg passed on too soon to the great kennel in the sky, her memory lives on and always makes me smile. And back in the days of Colonial America, “Ordinaries” provided a communal table around which travelers, politicians, and townspeople could share a meal and conversation. We hope that Figg’s Ordinary will provide the space for the same type of gatherings here in Chestertown.
Q. Are you the primary owner of the restaurant?A. I am primary owner, CEO, and “Head Creative Force” behind Figg’s Ordinary. I have a silent partner with ownership interests. I wear many hats, not all of them as grand as these titles suggest! For example, I manage the day-to-day operations of the shop, develop new recipes and culinary creations, recruit and train new employees, plan events, populate our Facebook entries, assist with design of our website, draft content for the website, satisfy orders…shall I go on? I have a very talented team of employees who share the burden and are helping to make Figg’s as successful as it has been since we opened our doors in March, 2017.
By way of personal background, I hold an undergraduate degree in art history and a graduate Master’s in Art History and a Master’s in Business Administration from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I owned and managed an art gallery in Washington, D.C. before deciding to close it in 2010. My goal in designing Figg’s space was to import a sophisticated elegance to the shop to enhance the dining experience.
Q. Did you have previous experience in the food business? If so, where?A. Aside from doing a stint as a waitress while in grad school and many cooking classes, no. You may be asking how I came to create Figg’s, and why. Well, I love baking, and have enjoyed the art and science of baking for as long as I can remember. Over the years, I have mastered the art and science of working with gluten-free flours and baking with the best and most nutritious ingredients possible. I have a deep knowledge of gluten-free flours, food, and nutrition generally, all of which is being put to excellent use at Figg’s. Part of my motivation in mastering gluten-free baking is that my children both navigate around food allergies of one form or another and preparing food for people with food allergies is both challenging and energizing. Addressing the issues faced by my family and now other individuals with food allergies has prepared me for many aspects of opening and managing Figg’s.
My passion for gluten-free and refined sugar-free products led to the formation of Figg’s Ordinary and a stand at the Chestertown Farmers’ market one summer. The overwhelming success confirmed my belief that Chestertown desperately needed a food outlet for people with food allergies and intolerances as well as an outlet for the growing population of people who may not suffer from food allergies, but appreciate and value the significant health benefits of gluten and refined sugar-free foods.
A healthy diet consists of more than baked goods and back at the farmers’ market I was often asked if I offered items other than baked breakfast and dessert items. I knew that when I opened a retail shop and café, the menu would feature fresh salads, soups, and other items prepared using local produce. We are proud to offer La Colombe in our coffee, espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos. Herbal Alchemy, a locally owned business, supplies a selection of our teas. All food and drinks are available for takeout.
Q. How did you decide on Chestertown as the location for Figg’s?A. I have been looking for a while. I wanted it to be located in the central business district, within walking distance of the town center. The Old Mill space seemed perfect—light, airy, and used previously as a deli. Parking is available, always a plus, and we get plenty of foot traffic.
If you are asking more broadly, why Chestertown as opposed to Chevy Chase, where I also reside, the answer is more complicated. I first came to Chestertown 35 years ago to visit and, as the expression goes, it had me at hello. Since then, my wife and I have purchased two homes here, and we have been coming to Chestertown every weekend since. Our children love the area, love Chestertown, and love Figg’s. Our oldest is a Washington College graduate (2014); both daughters and we are avid equestrians.
Q. Tell me about your breakfast menu—most popular items?A. Our breakfast menu is available all day, and we have found that our pan-scrambled eggs served on focaccia with avocado mayo is our best-seller. Everything is house-made and assembled to order, and that sandwich is one that sells well all-day long. Dairy-free yogurt topped with our house-made granola is also a consistent seller. We offered fresh fruit salad with local, seasonal fruits all summer long, which has also been popular. We offer a variety of baked goods daily, from quiches made with seasonal, local produce, to our fig and anise scones, to a variety of muffins and seasonal fruit pies.
Q. How about your lunch menu?A. Our cheddar and mozzarella sandwiches are very popular, but our salads are probably our bestsellers at lunch. Among our salads, our taco salad and protein powerhouse salads are our most popular options. Each salad is made-to-order with hydroponic lettuce from Red Acres Farm in Worton and hydroponic tomatoes from Hummingbird Farm until local tomatoes are available from Colchester Farm, where we have shares in its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. We add plant-based protein and seeds to our protein powerhouse and other salads to provide an additional protein boost for customers with nut allergies.
Q. Are your suppliers local?A. Almost all of our suppliers are local producers, which we list and promote on our website. Every item at Figg’s is vegetarian, with the exception of the eggs, which we obtain from Runner Duck Farm and Cedar Run Farm. Our cheese is sourced locally from Trickling Springs and Eve’s Cheese. Our lettuce comes from Red Acres Farm in Worton, produce from Colchester Farm in Galena, tomatoes from Hummingbird Farm, and berries from Lockbriar Farm in Worton. We are able to source milk and most cheese locally from Trickling Springs Farm and Eve’s Cheese. Currently we source our flours, grains, and nuts from companies that satisfy our requirements for assuring a gluten-free product.
Q. Does your menu change with the seasons? Contrast your spring/summer menu with your fall/winter menu?A. Yes absolutely! We optimize the incredible variety of locally grown items and change our menu frequently to offer seasonal variation in our offerings. This is a core tenant of the Figg’s philosophy and a promise to our local community and customers! Our spring menu features seasonal products such as certain lettuces, baby kale, and other such items. The fall menu features squashes, apples, tomatoes, and autumn produce. Frequent variation challenges our creativity, keeps our loyal customers in suspense, and enables us to engage the community. For example, in light of the over-abundance of squash last summer, we solicited zucchini recipes from our customers, asking for suggestions to incorporate into our menu. It was a good way to engage our customers and proved very popular.
Q. Tell me about the bakery side of your business.A. Well, as noted, I love to bake. Over the years, I have mastered working with gluten-free flours and baking with the best and most nutritious ingredients possible. I have a deep knowledge of gluten-free flours, food, and nutrition generally, and the bakery is one side of the business. We are fortunate to have David Johnson, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, lending his considerable talent to our kitchen. We make a great team: my pie dough, his quiche!
Q. Do you think the local community has embraced Figg’s?A. Absolutely! One of my greatest joys is when customers say “Thank you—my husband (or other family member) needs to be gluten-free and until now, I have had no options.” Honestly, it gives me so much joy to make people happy and give them the satisfaction of having dietary choices. Local business owners and restaurant owners have been very supportive of Figg’s by offering advice and sending customers our way. It is a wonderful community to start a business.
Q. Does the Washington College community have an impact on your business?A. Yes! As you know well, many students have gluten-free diets, either by choice or by necessity. Washington College people are a source of business and the students are my work force! As an aside, I am a terrific boss. I pay well, and offer tasty treats through the day— applications accepted, apply within!
Pear + Fig Tart(based on Martha Stewart’s Pear Tart) Serves 8
For the crust:
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- Ice water
For the filling:
- 1 cup blanched slivered almonds
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 stick chopped, cold unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup fig or apricot jam
- 3-4 fresh pears* depending on size
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
To make the crust: Using a stand mixer, on low speed combine salt with all-purpose flour. Again, with mixer on low, add chopped butter gradually until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Add egg and water and mix on low to medium speed until dough comes together in a ball.
Flatten ball of dough into a disk shape and wrap with film. Refrigerate until ready to use.
When rolling out dough, dust work surface with white rice flour. Sprinkle rice flour on disk of dough and roll out to fit a 9-inch pie or tart pan. Place rolled dough in pan and press evenly on bottom and sides of pan. Chill until ready to assemble the tart.
To make the almond filling: Use a food processor to prepare almond layer. Combine almonds and maple syrup and pulse until almonds are evenly ground. Add butter and egg to nut mixture and process until combined. Remove tart shell from refrigerator and spread half of the jam evenly over the bottom of the tart. Top the jam layer with the processed nut mixture.
Prepare the pears by poaching them in boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute depending on size and ripeness. Poaching will soften the skin and make pears easier to peel. Also, the softer pears will require less baking time in the oven.
Slice the pears lengthwise and arrange the thinly sliced pears in a fan pattern over the nut mixture.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and place tart on lined sheet and bake 40-45 minutes.
Remove from oven and let tart cool before removing from tart pan.
Glaze the cooled tart by warming the remaining jam. Use a pastry brush to coat pears with jam.
Refrigerate tart until ready to serve.
*In our opinion, Bosc pears are best as they are the sweetest and juiciest. You can also use Anjou pears or Asian pears. Of the three, Asian pears will provide the crispest texture.