We’re talking about the ones you eat, not the kind you ask to dinner (or that you have to pay for by the hour). Date palms have been cultivated for their fruit in the Middle East and North Africa for thousands of years, and there are 600 varieties grown around the world. But it’s the big, fat Medjool dates from California that caught our attention as chefs began stuffing, wrapping and saucing them. My initial local sighting was at Downtown 140 (140 N. Main St., Hudson, 330- 655-2940), where chef-owner Shawn Monday fills his dates with house-made sausage, wraps each one in a thin slice of applewood-smoked bacon, roasts them and serves with a smoked tomato ragu ($3.50 apiece). The combination of sugary fruit, spicy chorizo and salty bacon is a perfect match. At Muse (1515 W. Third St., Cleveland, 216-902-5255), Chad Ellis uses nitrate-free bacon and presents his version in a miniature skillet with a zesty piquillo pepper sauce on the side ($12). Karen Small dresses up her chorizopacked dates with a sauce she makes from a blend of smoked Hungarian hot and sweet peppers ($8.50). The tapas-sized portion pairs nicely with one of the great Spanish reds on her wine list at The Flying Fig (2523 Market Ave., Cleveland, 216-241-4243).
We can make a run for Siam. If I find myself hungry between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight, my favorite place to fill up is Siam Café. A bowl of tom kha gai (coconut chicken soup with lemongrass) and an order of pan-fried dumplings is my ultimate snack. If the evening’s activities have left me truly ravenous — too many drinks, too few hors d’oeuvres — then I throw in a plate of pad thai. 3951 St. Clair, Cleveland, (216) 361-2323