Fig trees flourish in the South Carolina climate with its humidity and moist soil. They provide great shade, beauty from their silvery-grey bark and exposed roots, and require minimal care. But the best thing about them? They yield some pretty delicious fruits, and as fig season has settled upon us here in the Lowcountry, restaurants all around are preparing dishes that incorporate the luscious fruit.
EVO has a dish sure to make anyone's mouth water. They take Black Mission figs, which they get from some friends in Park Circle, and stuff them with goat cheese from Split Creek Farm. Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and raspberry vinaigrette, the figs are topped with julienned speck and a touch of sea salt. "It's a very simple dish," says Owner Rickey Hacker. "The fig itself is very sweet in your mouth, and the tanginess of the goat cheese comes through in each bite. The speck is a salty flavor contrast that really wraps it all together."
Al di La is offering a more traditional Italian twist on the fig appetizer, stuffing them with gorgonzola cheese and wrapping them in prosciutto before sliding them into a hot wood-fired oven, which melts the cheese and crisps up the meat. The figs come served atop fresh arugula. "It's a combination of amazing things," says Owner Mark Kohn, "It's one of those things that you think won't work, but it does. It's a savory dish and a great way to start the evening."
At Bacco, another Italian restaurant on the other side of town, they are serving a savory fig crostata. A light pastry crust is layered with mascarpone cheese and then baked with fresh figs, gorgonzola cheese, and pancetta. "It is a classic combination of sweetness from the figs and saltiness from the cured pancetta and gorgonzola," says chef and owner Michael Scognamiglio.
At Trattoria Lucca, Chef/Owner Ken Vedrinski has two dishes featuring figs. First is the Robiola Due Latte, a soft Italian goat and cow's milk cheese that is served with dried figs and covered in lambrusco syrup. Then there's the veal New York strip. The veal is grilled and topped with ragusano cheese, fresh figs, and toasted walnuts. It's served with a local salad and vincotto. "You have the veal New York strip and a sweet, a salty, a crunchy, and even a bitter from the arugula in the salad," says Vedrinski. "It's a lot of fun, a mild contrast."
For something straightforwardly sweet, head to the Glass Onion. They have a traditional vanilla layer cake with fig buttercream frosting. Fresh, local figs are cooked down with brown sugar and honey and folded into buttercream-meringue frosting and a glaze. "It's really rich but has a lightness to it from the meringue," says co-owner Sarah O'Kelley. "It's great with a scoop of local vanilla ice cream from Wholly Cow."
Tristan also has a fresh dessert made with figs, which are honey-roasted and served with Crater Lake blue cheese from Oregon, Marcona almonds, and lemon curd ice cream, prepared by pasty chef Amanee Neirouz, who tells us both the figs and honey are local.
If you know of anybody else who has fresh figs on the menu, be sure to let us know in the commments below.