Sweet, juicy, and unbelievably refreshing, melons are truly one of the summertime's best natural treats. Whether you're eating a big slice of watermelon and spitting the seeds as far as they'll go, chomping into a juicy piece of cantaloupe, or delighting in the soft freshness of honeydew, it's hard not to enjoy yourself. This summer, many restaurants in the Charleston area are taking advantage of melons' versatility and incorporating various types into their dishes. Here are a few good ones for you melon-lovers out there.
If you're in the mood for a fruity melon cocktail, stop by Coast for their cucumber melon mojito. They put Bacardi rum, melon liqueur, sugar soda, mint, and fresh cucumber together to make a shockingly refreshing drink that won the award for Charleston Best Mojito in 2010. "It's pretty dang good," says Manager Drew Lowe. Another good stop for a melon cocktail is Wild Olive, who serves a watermelon cocktail created by Coast bartender John Aquino, who spends time behind the bar at Wild Olive too. "It's incredible, not too sweet," says general manager Jason Parrish. Aquino uses watermelon from his garden, Patron Silver, basil, and black pepper simple syrup to add some spice.
For something a little more filling but still light and refreshing, head over to McCrady's for their heirloom cantaloupe salad, which features canary melon, sprite melon, and yellow watermelon. "The whole dish is about being fresh in the summertime," says sous chef Jeremiah Langhorne. Cantaloupe purée is dotted with compressed pieces of the different melons in addition to heirloom cucumbers, a cucamelon, and white wonder cucumbers sliced into various shapes and sizes. Seasoned with lime juice and olive oil, the dish is sprinkled with lemon verbena and garnished with red pepper air.
Oak Steakhouse is offering a fresh twist on an Italian classic. They use local cantaloupe from Blackbird Farms, which is wrapped in thinly sliced prosciutto di parma. Four to five pieces of the melon are cascaded on the plate and topped with white truffle oil, fig-infused Vincotto, and chiffonade of mint and basil. "It's a nice summer dish," says Chef de Cuisine Joseph Jacobson. "You have the sweetness of the melon and the saltiness of the prosciutto."
Graze has a few melon-inspired dishes. The cantaloupe gazpacho, chef Derek Lathan's favorite, is on the light spice side, made with roasted poblano sour cream, cucumbers, and cantaloupe. They also offer a cilantro pesto-marinated swordfish with a jalapeño watermelon salsa over a black-eyed pea salad, as well as a chocolate adobo-rubbed pork loin served with Spanish rice, watermelon salsa, and avocado crema.
Circa 1886's blackened loup de mer also gives some sophistication to the summer fruit. They use caramelized onion purée and quinoa with spinach, avocado, lime juice, and cilantro to give the loup de mer dynamic flavor. Cubed watermelon and feta are then tossed with olive oil and fresh herbs and served on side. "It's really well balanced," says sous chef Matt Pleasants. "You get a little acidity from the avocado and some richness and sweetness from the watermelon, which also cools down the blackened fish."