Charleston's fig trees are bearing rich and luscious fruits these days. Lucky for us, figs are paired with all the best ingredients like cheese, honey, duck, and panna cotta. The perfect excuse for chef's to indulge in the salty, sweet entrees that make you sit back in your chair thanking the flavor gods for bringing dessert into your dinner.
Vespa's head chef Dusty Chorvat just got a shipment of black Turkish figs from Thackeray Farms, and he's putting them on a pizza. "They are smaller, sweeter, and more delicate," he says, "it's important to use this particular fig because we don't have to use sugar." The pizza starts off with mozzarella and figs roasted in the wood fire oven. Once it's taken out of the oven, they add a Wisconsin buttermilk blue cheese, proschuitto, arugula, and a small drizzle of honey, and a salty cured grana padano cheese, which melts on the way to your table.
Peninsula Grill's executive chef Graham Dailey is serving a fig summer salad. It's made with heirloom tomatoes, arugula, and Italian honey figs from Cypress Hill Farm, and served with a house-made Vidalia onion vinaigrette.
Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca is serving cannelloni of duck, house-made tube pasta filled with a sweet duck that has been braised in lambrusco (Italian red wine) for four hours. The game pasta is topped with figs and pistachios, to enhance the sweet and salty savor.
Over at Hominy Grill, Robert Stehling just received a generous batch of figs from his backyard. Like Lucca, they are also pairing them with duck. A slow-roasted duck leg comes with fig lemon jam. The jam is made with thinly sliced lemons, fresh ginger, sugar, and water. "Cook it all down and put a little salt in it," Stehling says, for a flavor that's fresh off the tree.
Across the street at Lana, John Ondo is making what you could call a figgy pudding but that he's calling a panna cotta. The pudding is made with gelatin, cream, sugar, milk, and local honey. After it sets they dress it up with spiced pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and finally, diced figs that have been soaking in honey and lemon juice.