Stop it with the dates already!!!!

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Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Jenise » Sun Mar 30, 2014 2:25 pm

I love dates, have loved them all my life. They are delicious food: sweet and rich. I especially love the ones in the supermarket in the open bins that get a chance to dry out and become chewier. When they're packaged, they're often too soft/sticky/moist. Best I ever had was a small bag purchased at the weekly open market in Santa Barbara--they were small, cashew-sized, local, and wonderfully chewy.

So do understand that I'm truly and deeply a fan.

BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN I WANT THEM CHOPPED UP AND SERVED ON MY RAW OYSTER.

Yeah, I had that. Where? At Nell Thorn's, a gastropub of a restaurant in the small scenic village of La Conner, Washington, which happens to also be the home of writer Tom Robbins which really doesn't mean anything, I just like saying it. It was the first course of a six course dinner in aid of showing off the wines of one geologically-inclined Mullineiux winery from South Africa. The 'geo' reference is about the fact that they name their wines according to the prevailing soil type in that vineyard, so, how do you like your syrah? They make both a Schist and a Granite. (I'd have bet on me being a Granite kind of girl but it turned out the Schist won my heart.) But I digress. Dates. Yes they made a date mignonette and put that on my oyster and it was creepy.

Too sweet period, and not offset by enough vinegar or other acidity to make it work.

Later in the meal, rack of lamb from the best fresh lamb I've ever had in the U.S. Seriously, it was THAT good, and from a local farm I presume who sell only to restaurants. Nell Thorn buys a lot of local stuff and the menu is peppered with names of locals who supply this and that. The lamb came on a plate with three sauces just plopped or squirted to one side. I ignored them and ate my gorgeous rare lamb au naturel, but only after tasting through the sauces and discovering them all too sweet for the wine (too sweet for me too, but that's beside the point). One was a date puree, one a ketchup, and one a harissa that tasted like they'd made it out of pappadew peppers.

Why a gastropub with a British name in a little tiny waterfront town known as "Home of the Tulip Festival!!" has decided to stick dates in all their food has me flummoxed. Sure dates are major au courant, but there are places where trendiness makes sense and places where it doesn't. La Connor is not ready for Ottolenghi. And maybe the problem is really that I'm not ready for a La Connor that thinks it is, but at the same time I didn't just fall off the tulip truck, I eat around a bit, and dates seemed out of context here. Gratuitous even. I got the impression that the chef's palate is a lot like my grandmother's--the only thing that's wrong with sugar is not getting enough of it. Sweet is never out of place.

So two days later I'm in Seattle having lunch at Bar Sajor. We ordered four different tartines. One came topped with a liver pate, pickled red onions and--wait for it--dates. Finely diced, and sparsely applied, so here I didn't mind it so much. But in a restaurant where everything else was decidedly southern French, and where one year ago they'd have never dreamed of putting dates near liver pate, the food of palms still seemed a bit strange. What next, coconut?
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Sun Mar 30, 2014 3:12 pm

On oysters? Bleh.

Welcome to America, where food can't be too sweet. There's sugar in spaghetti sauce and sugar in whole-wheat bread. There's sugar in oat bran cereals and sugar in soy milk. Super-sweet plant varieties have swamped all others.

One lump or two, Jenise?
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Jenise » Sun Mar 30, 2014 3:58 pm

Oh hell, why not join the crowd--TWO! Then I'll keep one and sell the other at a profit Cuz that's also American!
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:35 pm

I hate dates.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Redwinger » Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:07 pm

NJ doesn't let me date.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:18 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:I hate dates.


Sacrilege!

But yet you enjoy BA, TBA and most importantly PX?

I absolutely love dates, although I love most fruits/sweets. But aside from the flavor, I love the silky texture of dates, so luxurious. I was in absolute heaven getting the 'fresher' dried dates when living in CA, but I still find a way to enjoy them on the East Coast!
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:20 pm

Oh, and for the original post, yes, how crazy. It seems like so many restaurants these days play games with how many sweet ingredients they can add to each dish. It's a big turnoff for me and a big sign of low self-confidence in the kitchen. If that's the only way they can move dishes, the cooking is probably not at a very high level.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:34 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:I hate dates.

Stuff fresh medjool dates with goat cheese and you might do a re-think. :mrgreen:
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Christina Georgina » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:37 am

Just returned from a date tasting. A friend went to China Ranch Date Farm in California and brought back 10 different varieties of dates. We tasted the hybrids tonight and had the others one night during the week. Thankfully on their own to be able to discern the different flavors and not as garnish, condiment or ingredient. Amazing difference in taste and texture.
We are planning a large party featuring foods from the far ends of the Mediterranean - Morocco to Georgia and will feature dates in the appetizers and desserts.....that is if there are any left by then !
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Mon Mar 31, 2014 9:51 am

I don't like dates on their own, but there are preparations (such as Robin mentioned) that I'm good with. I could see them as a garnish on some types of food, but putting them on oysters sounds nasty.

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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Jenise » Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:04 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:I hate dates.

Stuff fresh medjool dates with goat cheese and you might do a re-think. :mrgreen:


Doesn't taste bad, I have to admit that the cheese stuffings don't wow me. I get the contrast of salty-sweet, but I'd rather eat the date and cheeses separate. The bacon or procuitto wrapped versions don't wow me, either.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Hoke » Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:15 pm

Not to decry your lament on dates----I agree they can be over-used and abused without a doubt---but dates have for some time been a part of French cuisine. More in the south, yes, but since France was deeply involved with its colonies in North Africa, Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian and Middle Eastern foods have made their way into French cuisine. And that involves dates.

Spanish food, more so.

I like dates, but not that often, and a few go a long way. My favorite is Spanish/Basque, when the dates are played off against other spicy and savory and non-sweet things (heavy, smoky bacon wrapped around dates with pungent goat cheese stuffing, say).

When I go to Spanish tapas bars (especially great restaurants like Jaleo) I often order dates.

Oysters? Uh uh, no way. Can't go with that. Even sounds disgusting.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:50 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:I hate dates.

Stuff fresh medjool dates with goat cheese and you might do a re-think. :mrgreen:



Had 'em. Hate 'em.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:59 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:I hate dates.


Sacrilege!

But yet you enjoy BA, TBA and most importantly PX?



PX very rarely. I drink maybe one bottle per year. I actually drink very, very little BA and TBA. I am more an Eiswein guy. I am not a big fan of heavy botrytis.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Tom Troiano » Mon Mar 31, 2014 5:03 pm

The only time I ever eat dates is with vintage port. I generally do some combo of dates, figs, candied apricots, nuts and cheese with the port.

I don't think I've ever made a recipe that called for dates.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Mar 31, 2014 5:10 pm

Not a fan of figs either.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Jenise » Mon Mar 31, 2014 5:21 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:The only time I ever eat dates is with vintage port. I generally do some combo of dates, figs, candied apricots, nuts and cheese with the port.

I don't think I've ever made a recipe that called for dates.


They're gaining fans of no-white-stuff cooking, used as a sweetener in place of sugar in stuff like shakes and some baking. Never thought of serving them with port--interesting idea, will have to try.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Jenise » Mon Mar 31, 2014 5:23 pm

Hoke wrote:Oysters? Uh uh, no way. Can't go with that. Even sounds disgusting.


And yet fruit-based mignonettes can be so good, especially in a sweet-heat kind of combo, like watermelon & habanero. But the dates didn't work at all.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Lou Kessler » Mon Mar 31, 2014 9:11 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:I hate dates.

Stuff fresh medjool dates with goat cheese and you might do a re-think. :mrgreen:



Had 'em. Hate 'em.

Try dates with sauvignon blanc, it's a combination I know you'll love. :roll:
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Mar 31, 2014 9:35 pm

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Ted Richards » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:06 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:The only time I ever eat dates is with vintage port.


You might like my recipe of dates soaked in port and wrapped in bacon, then. I'll post it soon.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Ted Richards » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:05 pm

Ted Richards wrote:
Tom Troiano wrote:The only time I ever eat dates is with vintage port.


You might like my recipe of dates soaked in port and wrapped in bacon, then. I'll post it soon.

Oops! It's prunes, not dates in my recipe :oops:. Shouldn't post before my brain's awake.
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Jo Ann Henderson » Fri Apr 04, 2014 11:56 am

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:On oysters? Bleh.

Welcome to America, where food can't be too sweet. There's sugar in spaghetti sauce and sugar in whole-wheat bread. There's sugar in oat bran cereals and sugar in soy milk. Super-sweet plant varieties have swamped all others.

One lump or two, Jenise?

I am so sick of this trend. I am almost put off by any carrots and every variety of corn and most barbecue sauces because of the sugar content. :evil:
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Re: Stop it with the dates already!!!!

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Apr 04, 2014 12:17 pm

Jo Ann Henderson wrote:I am so sick of this trend. I am almost put off by any carrots and every variety of corn and most barbecue sauces because of the sugar content. :evil:

Oooh! Oooh! I get to hear Mary rant about this all summer long! :lol: Her father was a dairy farmer who also raised corn, and she has watched this evolution (in corn) since the very start. I thought her head was going to explode at a farmers' market where this guy was extolling the virtues of modern hybrids with names like Honey & Pearl, Super Sweet and, I swear, something like Candy Corn. :mrgreen:
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