Columnist Caitlin Weigel reveals how to mold dates, almonds, blue cheese and bacon into one delicious appetizer.
Friendship is one of the many joys of life. I would also venture to say that food could be described in the same manner. But perhaps an even higher form of pleasure comes from the melding of those two beautiful things: food and friendships.
Peanut butter and chocolate are notorious BFFs, and ketchup and mustard have had a thing going as far back as anyone can remember. But I like the underdog food friendships – the equivalent of “The Breakfast Club” ingredients that come together to form a truly beautiful bond.
At Alma De Cuba, I found precisely that. The appetizer description told me it contained “dates stuffed with almonds and blue cheese, wrapped in bacon.” Which in my mind simply read as, “Holy crap. You must have this.”
This appetizer perfectly epitomizes the “Freak Food Friendship.” The bacon is the macho jock guy, while the date plays the exotic hippie girl who wears feather earrings and tribal pants. The blue cheese is the sweaty comic book kid who kind of smells weird, and the almond is the popular girl who just transferred from California. Give them all Saturday detention in your mouth, and you’ve got yourself more than a “Breakfast Club” setup – it’s also a lunch, dinner and midnight munchies club.
Alma de Cuba is way high on the swagger meter, so it’s not exactly a place a lot of college kids hang around. Though the decor is awesome, and the food is off the charts, unless you have someone with a steady income sitting across the table from you, you’re better off sticking to Qdoba.
The Royal Palm Dates run a steep $13, and Alma de Cuba is one of those classy establishments that believes in portion control. I’m more of a buffet lady myself, but to each his or her own. Not too keen on dropping such an insane amount of money on something that wouldn’t keep a toddler full, I decided to attempt my own recreation of the meal.
Supplies weren’t terribly bank breaking. The almonds, bacon and blue cheese can all get pricey, but you really only need a little of each. If you can mooch some ingredients off a fellow foodie roommate, that would be ideal. If not, at least you’ll have ample leftovers for other creative kitchen endeavors.
Fixing these bad boys up is a real hands-on project. From pitting the sticky dates, to stuffing them with crumbly blue cheese, to rolling them around in slimy bacon, it turned out to be a much messier endeavor than I expected.
When the assembly process was finished, I plopped my eight dates in the oven at the hell-ish 400 degrees and set the timer for five minutes. I then proceeded to get sucked into an episode of “Hoarders” and failed to hear my timer go off. But no big deal, right? I have to flip those suckers anyway and cook the other side. So one half was a little burnt.
This ain’t no “Top Chef.” No one’s grading me on presentation.
My roommates, however, may be grading me on Testing-Kitchen-Flammability though. The three minutes I was supposed to leave the dates in quickly turned to seven, and so much smoke poured out of the oven I thought I might be on stage at an ‘80s hair metal concert.
I ate my toasty little replica’s regardless and found myself surprisingly full after the fourth one. There’s a lot of stuff working in those little guys, so plan on sharing with your friends, unless you want to pass out in a total food coma on your couch.
Final verdict: Alma de Cuba does it better, but DIY-ing is way cheaper. Should you start dating a millionaire, get your fix at the actual restaurant, but until then, stick to experimenting at home. Maybe pecans and goat cheese next time? A nice walnut and feta? Definitely less burning next time – that’s for sure.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.