avec dates (the best appetizer ever)

I usually end up in Chicago a couple times a year for work, but have been there religiously the past six springs for the Housewares Show. Four years ago, I met up with my cousin for dinner who was working as a food writer at the time for metromix.com. She took me to a place called Avec and introduced me to owner/chef, Paul Kahn. He told us we had to try the dates and who were we to disagree. The small plate in question were medjool dates stuffed with chorizo wrapped in bacon with a smoked pepper-tomato sauce. The sweetness of the dates mixed with the smokiness and heat of the sauce and sausage was such a wonderful combination – I was hooked. The next year I took Jamie with me on my annual spring trip and again went to Avec for the dates. It took some convincing for him to try a date, but once he saw it was wrapped in bacon, sold. When we got home, it became our mission to recreate those dates. And thanks to a lead from The Chicago Tribune, we’ve come pretty close. We go back to Avec every year, (Blackbird next door which is the same owner is good, too, but a bit pretentious) not just for the dates, but because it’s such a cool place with the best cheese and tapas menu. And now we make the Avec dates at all our dinner parties and have created date addicts in Cleveland. Locally, Flying Fig makes something similar as does Downtown 140 in Hudson. Both are delicious. Here’s our version of the Avec dates:

Medjool dates (split open and remove pit)
bacon (i like hickory smoked)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
14.5 oz can petite diced or crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt/pepper and brown sugar to taste (the sugar helps if it’s too spicy)

Stuff dates w/ chorizo and wrap with bacon. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Meanwhile, brown diced onion in olive oil and add garlic. Add tomatoes and spices. Cook on low heat for 10 – 15 minutes. Adjust spices, especially brown sugar and salt, as needed.


  1. holly_44109
    Posted July 14, 2007 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine just moved to Chicago so I will be visiting soon. We’ll have to try Avec.

  2. michelle v
    Posted July 14, 2007 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    You definitely have to try it! They don’t take reservations, but if you have to wait, it’s worth it. Also, sushi samba is great, cafe 28 (Cuban), Fronterra Grill/Topolobampo (Rick Bayless’ Mexican place – he was the original chef and lopez and gonzalez in cleveland heights – it’s amazing mexican, two restaurants in one w/ one being more casual, salpicon is another really, really good mexican place and finally bongo room for the best breakfast/lunch. have fun! I love Chicago, it’s a big Cleveland.

  3. holly_44109
    Posted July 16, 2007 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for all the suggestions :) I think we’re going to visit next month.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted February 20, 2008 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    I am so happy to find this recipe. My husband and I were in Chicago recently and had the priviledge of enjoying Avec and their stuffed dates.
    We will give it a go at home.
    Thanks again,
    Melissa K in Ptld, OR

  5. michelle v
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Melissa – you’re welcome! Avec is one of those places I can go to 100 times and never grow tired of it – it’s a must-visit for me everytime I’m in Chicago. Enjoy the dates. When you make them, make sure you opt for really good spices – makes all the difference. One other thing I didn’t include is that I use an emulsion blender to make the sauce smooth.

  6. Regina Loiko
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Avec is one of my favorite Chicago spots. I like to go there as my last stop of a weekend visit. Before taking off on a Sunday evening flight, I stop in for a terrific glass of wine (or 2) the focaccia and other unique treats. They open at 3:30 on Sunday and you won’t have to wait to be served.

    We enjoyed the dates on our last visit. I look forward to trying the date recipe!

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Cleveland Foodie on November 22, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    […] we have company, I usually start off with a nice selection of cheese and salumi, or Avec dates (my staple appetizer). Sides and appetizers are among my favorite dishes to make. But today I cheated. Since I started […]

  2. By Cleveland Foodie on March 16, 2010 at 8:03 am

    […] of the dates, here’s the version we regularly create at home. On this visit, we learned the dates are routinely made by a guy named George (since day 1) and for […]