Craving Wednesday’s Special

I came for Bottega’s veggie plate.

By Jan Walsh

Summer brings Bottega’s Vegetable Plate each Wednesday.

As I make reservations for Wednesday, I can taste the vegetable plates of my childhood. I spent most of the first eight years of my life on my grandparents’ farm, a self-sustaining farm with a cash crop of cotton. My grandfather grew enough food to feed this household all year, as my grandmother canned and froze vegetables, and made jams and jellies from the fruit of the trees. There were Pink Eye Purple Hull Peas, Big Boy and Better Boy Tomatoes, Silver Queen Corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, okra, squash, collards, turnips, cucumber, figs, apples, peaches, and strawberries. Lunch was called dinner. Dinner was called supper. And both meals boasted a table filled with bowls of fruits and vegetables. There was no meat or poultry served except for special occasions when my grandmother would fry a chicken or the annual pig roast. And I never outgrew my craving for a Southern vegetable plate.

Today at Bottega, we start with two other loves of mine, seafood: Gnocchi with Gulf Crab and Gulf Shrimp Crostini. And we pair them with a glass of Sancerre and Strawberry Lemonade. The Stitts’ staff are not only professionally trained in food and service, they also know their “regulars.” Our server offers to have the gnocchi prepared without the truffles, given my allergy, before I can even ask. The gnocchi is a delectable duo of hearty comfort in each bite of potato gnocchi crowned with light and delicate crab. And the crostini at Bottega is always a must. The toasts hold up well to succulent shrimp, aplenty, slathered in aioli, and precisely cut to fit and not fall off the toast. A tasty scoop of cherry tomatoes and basil add a lovely bite of juicy, acidity to this dish.

As his entrée, Kev opts for the Pork Chop, and I the veggie plate, of course. His flavorful, juicy, and tender to the bone in chop is served sliced, topped with salsa verde, along with a scrumptious array of roasted potatoes and onion, collards, and creamed corn. Consistently tried and true… as he often orders the chop if it is on the menu.

My vegetable plate exceeds expectations! Dol’s cornbread is encircled with pink eye purple hull peas, stewed okra, cabbage and greens, zucchini casserole, fried green tomatoes, cucumber salad, and creamed corn. I am back home on the farm with the first bite of this garden full of textures and flavors. I could eat this every day… How do the Stitts achieve this? In addition to the best of local farms, they have their own, Paradise Farm. They are farmers too.

For dessert, I order another take me back dish, peach cobbler. And Kev opts for the gorgeous trio of gelatos. As I sink my teeth into my dessert, pastry chef, Miles wows me with the best peach cobbler I have ever tasted, and better than my grandmother’s. It is packed full of fresh yellow peaches, covered with a golden (crunchy on outside and doughy on inside) crust, and topped with vanilla ice cream that melts down into the cobbler melding the peaches and doughy deliciousness.

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