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Who took the vegetables out of Charleston?

Last weekend, Garry and I visited Charleston, South Carolina. It is a beautiful place and we were fortunate to stay at our dear friends’ townhouse on Kiawah Island.

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

As can be expected, I was on the hunt for some fabulous places to eat. One of my new favorite newsletters, John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet, had just featured some great looking restaurants in Charleston. During our trip, we chose to eat at The Grocery, one of the featured restaurants.

I knew to expect some fantastic tasting meats – and the beef and pork dishes we ordered were to “die for.” But there was something missing. Who stole the veggies? The appetizers and first courses were sparse on fresh vegetables, so I thought maybe this was an aberration. After all, John had written that it was primarily a charcuterie.

The Kiawah Sanctuary Hotel

So, the next night, we dined at the Ocean Room at the Sanctuary Hotel, a large, Southern-inspired estate that reminds me of the Grand Floridian at Disney World in Orlando. It is magnificent to walk through. But, again, when looking at the menu, I was surprised that most of the vegetable choices were potatoes. Don’t get me wrong — I do like potatoes, and have many friends who are potato growers, but I was looking for broccoli, beets, green beans, asparagus, carrots…or something crunchy and not starchy.

As it turns out, I had a couple of revelations during this trip to the South. We have a long way to go to change the eating habits of Southerners. Almost everything I ordered was greasy or oily. Too much butter or oil in the pan. When I asked them to hold the sauce, cook things lightly, or not use butter – I would get a strange look, as if I was un-American!

Although the top chefs from this region are famous for their high-flavor foods, I hope they will consider the health of their clientele and provide some leadership by featuring more fresh fruits and vegetables on their menus. It’s no wonder that we continue to have a serious obesity problem with many of our fellow Americans… And we aren’t getting any help when we go out to eat.

After Southern food celebrity Paula Deen announced that she had diabetes and planned to make some serious lifestyle changes, I thought we would start to see some changes in the South.

Not yet.

For fear that my Southern friends think I may be singling them out – I do need to share that earlier this week I had a dinner meeting at Wolfgang Puck’s famous SPAGO Restaurant in Beverly Hills. I was a bit disappointed that there were few vegetables served at our dinner. My friends who had steak had a few baby Brussels sprouts on their plates and I counted four baby carrots under my salmon.

I hope this is not a trend with cutting edge chefs. They seem to be cutting back on fresh vegetables instead of adding them. If you want to see more fresh veggies when you go out to eat, please join me and let chefs, restaurant owners and servers know that you want them!


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