My mom and I are the same when it comes to eating out — we tend to order the vegetables. Put a huge menu in front of us, and we gravitate toward the roasted beet salads and chilled cucumber soups. We love country cooking places that have a big selection of veggie dishes. We'll pick from sides like mac and cheese, collards, limas, and stewed okra to create our own dish. The first time we ever dined at Peninsula Grill, we both ordered a plate of sides! Nothing else appealed to me quite as much as the succotash with crawfish tails and the asparagus with truffled oil. Sometimes when you dine at a high-end joint, you can almost feel silly bypassing the triple-cut pork chops and the beef tenderloin medallions for the salads and such. That's why the current vegetable craze has us so happy. Mom and I both marvel at the bright flavors of Mike Lata's beets at FIG, we've both eaten countless meat-free meals at Sal Parco's various vegetable-friendly restaurants around town, and we both spend a lot of time looking for good sources of veggies, although we've pretty much decided Stono Market out on Johns Island is the best place to find freshly-hulled limas and newly-picked okra, squash, and tomatoes. We also like to spend time at the u-pick farms on Wadmalaw Island. She recently came back with a pouch of perfectly red, ripe, and juicy tomatoes. They beat any hothouse variety at the grocery store, and they were a whole lot cheaper than the heirlooms you'll find at the market.
This issue of Dish is dedicated to that love of vegetables. Sarah O'Kelley has found some of the best veggie plates in the Lowcountry — from Seewee Restaurant out in Awendaw to Martha Lou's right across the street from our offices. We also talked to McCrady's Chef Sean Brock, who has an innate love for growing vegetables. He's currently planning an ambitious farm that will supply his kitchen and get his cooks out in the fields planting and caring for the produce they will eventually prepare. Read about their plans. Jeff Allen writes about the rush among chefs to focus on sustainable and local fare, which is resulting in better flavors and a more eco-conscious marketplace. He's also excited to see the infusion of ethnicity into our local kitchens. He takes a trip among the taco stands of North Charleston with the guys from Red Drum Gastropub, and provides a primer on what to order when you stumble upon one. In recent months, you may also have noticed a new beer craze, with recently-legalized high-gravity brews getting lots of attention at various shops, bars, and restaurants. The new state law removed an arbitrary alcohol-volume cap for beer. Stratton Lawrence profiles brewer David Merritt and his beer-loving wife Jaime Tenney, who worked hard to "pop the cap" and are now planning a craft-brewing company at Noisette. T. Ballard Lesemann pairs up some beer and food , and just because it's summer, we surveyed some of the tastiest iced treats in town. Enjoy. —Stephanie Barna