Finding flavor with figs
July/Aug. 2010 California Country magazine
Story by Barbara Arciero
Photos by Paolo Vescia
Experience figs in a truly spectacular way.
Locally grown figs are featured year-round on the menu at Trelio, a restaurant in Clovis owned by brothers Chris and Mike Shackleford.
Overlooked. Underappreciated. From chef Mike Shackleford's perspective, those are two of the labels that accurately describe figs—not that he agrees with such a lackluster response.
"I love figs and I use them throughout the year," said Shackleford, who with his brother Chris owns Trelio, an upscale-casual restaurant in Clovis known for its farm-fresh cuisine. "They have an interesting and unique texture, and they offer a flavor that can be used either for sweet or savory. So whether you're doing an appetizer or an entrée or a dessert, there's always a place to put figs."
The problem, Shackleford says, is that most people "haven't experienced figs at all or they haven't experienced them in a truly spectacular way."
Trelio's location in the Central Valley, an agriculture-rich area that has long produced most of America's fig crop, gives Shackleford an advantage in providing a memorable fig experience.
"Since figs are such a big part of Central Valley history and culture, I think they should be a big, integrated part of the cuisine," he said.
Shackleford shops at the farmers markets in Clovis and neighboring Fresno and works with other local purveyors to find everything from figs to grapes, stone fruit, berries, citrus fruit, tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, mushrooms, baby vegetables and a variety of meats and cheeses. He then reprints—and dates—his menu each night to reflect the freshness of the choices.
As the fig harvest reaches its peak, Shackleford said he looks forward to more opportunities to introduce—or reintroduce—his customers to this Central Valley crop.
"When people revisit figs prepared in an interesting way, I think they can fall in love with them again."