For religious scholars and food historians, one of the great questions has been what fruit the serpent offered Eve. Almost everyone agrees now that the apple has had a bad rap. The Garden of Eden must have been somewhere in the Middle East, and at the time this story emerged, there were no apples in that part of the world. Most likely the apple was inserted later by the Catholic Church in an attempt to discredit the religion of the druids, for whom the apple was a sacred fruit. So, if not an apple, then what? Most likely the fruit was a fig or an apricot, a late summer fruit: sexy, juicy and full of sin.
For fruit lovers, these weeks are the best of the year. Decent berries are still plentiful, local peaches seem to get better every day, and the fig--that sensual and versatile fruit--is making its yearly four-to-six-week appearance. This time of year is what pastry chefs look forward to, when local harvests produce enough fruit to fuel half the dessert menu and drag us dessert lovers away from the chocolate cake for once. This is a traditionally slow time of year for restaurants; but for dessert lovers, it's the best time to go out and eat.
Is there any dish more perfect than cobbler? No. Cobbler is one of humanity's great achievements. And as long as it's not too sweet and made with good fruit and simple ingredients, there is no sabayon or spun sugar that will beat it.
There is fantastic cobbler all over the Triangle right now. The one I tasted, at Bloomsbury Bistro in Raleigh, was no exception. Chef John Toler has paired the comfort of peaches and blueberries with a naughtily boozy butter pecan ice cream, which puts a grown-up twist on a nostalgic dish.
For more guaranteed local fruit fun in Raleigh, check out pastry chef Brian O'Hara's desserts at Enoteca Vin, or look up the street at Bistro 607.
At Nana's in Durham, pastry chef Kathy Edwards is making good use of this year's figs with a warm fig and raspberry tart. She also has Georgia peach jam on the menu, layered with gingerbread and finished with a fresh cherry-ginger syrup.
At Elaine's on Franklin in Chapel Hill, pastry chef Anne Everitt has taken local figs and cooked them in port, then rolled them with peaches and pistachios in phyllo pastry to create a beautiful dish that evokes both a decadent French pastry and an exotic Middle Eastern dessert. Peach and fig sauces finish it off, along with a port reduction and creme fraiche. The dessert menu at Elaine's also features peach cobbler and summer fruit sorbets, and on the savory menu you can find fresh figs in the fig newton paired with foie gras.
Chapel Hill diners are also sure to find great, market-driven fruit desserts across the street at Lantern, or up the block at Crook's Corner.
Before you know it, summer will be gone and meats with gravy and stuffing will rule. Late summer is fruit's great hurrah. For these last weeks, it's best to save room for dessert.