Dates freak me out a little.
They remind me of the cockroach exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, where you can pretend to walk amongst them. I have no idea why anyone would want to pursue such an endeavor–don’t most of us want to run in the other direction, throwing shoes at them?–but there you can and it seems to be a hit with some people. One good look and I was cured of that inclination, if I ever were to have it. Still, the similarity remains with me–dates are like cockroaches.
So you can imagine my surprise when I encountered bacon wrapped dates at the Greenwich Wine + Food Festival last October. It was my plan to sample everything (heck, I ate crispy head cheese–head cheese!!!) but I still paused for a moment before grabbing my glass of sherry and the accompanying app. Then I figured What the hell and went for it. And it rocked my world. The sherry served with the bacon wrapped dates was a divine companion. It all just went together perfectly. And ever since, it’s been on my mind.
On Easter, since my family doesn’t celebrate until a week or two after, we found ourselves with nowhere to go.
I had been sick for 2 weeks at that point and was in no mood to cook. Finding somewhere to eat on Easter turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. Not that I had thought about it much. I had never tried to eat out on Easter before, but I guess I kind of assumed that everywhere would be open. I was wrong.
After some searching, we found ourselves at the Republic Restaurant in Bloomfield. They were at A Taste in Simsbury last August and made an impression on me. Unfortunately, they’re a little too far away for me to check them out on my lunch break at work, so this was the perfect opportunity to finally get on over there and see what else they had to offer. The menu turned out to be limited, due to the holiday, but there was no line and the food service was quick. Everyone who helped us was extremely friendly and pleasant–it truly was a wonderful way to spend the holiday. Oh, and by the way, bring your appetite–the food was ample and I just loved the way they styled it. The kids adored the individual ketchup bottles and want us to start that up at home. I think we’ll save it for special occasions.
One of the reasons why I chose Republic was that they have bacon wrapped dates on their menu.
It had been 6 months since the last time I indulged and I wanted to share the joy with my family. In all the excitement, though, I forgot to order an appetizer and we went without. It didn’t matter–there was plenty of food–but I kind of missed them after. And vowed to myself that I would be buying more dates soon so I could make them at home.
Bacon Wrapped Dates aren’t particularly difficult. You pre-cook the bacon a bit before wrapping the dates so they don’t have to spend too long in the oven. Be careful to keep as much of the cheese as possible stuffed inside the dates. I got a little sloppy sometimes and those ones spewed everywhere. Also, do your best to wrap the bacon entirely around your little parcels. I cut some of my pieces too small and those just flattened right out in the oven. Not that they tasted bad–it wasn’t a total loss–but they looked terrible. I wouldn’t serve them to guests, that’s for sure. They look too much like cockroaches without their bacon blankets, after all.
- 8 ounces bacon strips
- 18-20 dates
- 2 ounces +/- crumbled blue cheese
- 1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out the strips of bacon evenly across it, making sure none are overlapping.
- Pop baking sheet in the oven and set to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, split the dates in half (most of mine were already split--just needed to discover where) and stuff with blue cheese. I found a butter knife to be quite useful in smooshing the cheese inside. Squeeze closed and set aside.
- Remove the bacon from the oven. Divide each strip into 2-3 pieces (it'll depend on how long the strips are as to whether or not you can divide in 3 and be able to wrap your dates).
- Starting at one short end, place a date split side down and roll the bacon around it. Secure with a toothpick and set aside.
- Line the baking sheet with a fresh piece of parchment paper. Arrange the bacon-wrapped dates on it, being careful not to crowd them too much.
- Bake for 10 minutes, the remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain some of the fat.
- Arrange on serving platter and drizzle with maple syrup before serving.