The second week of my bacon-themed tour focuses on small plates, for those of you who are just looking for a little bit of bacon. I didn’t receive any suggestions on appetizers or starters to try, so I found a few on my own. Throughout the week, I sampled food from Chovy’s Italian Casual in Meadville, and Jekyll and Hyde’s, 1201 Kitchen, and the Summer House Café in Erie. Finding appetizers containing bacon was tough, but the ones I did find were great.
As you may remember from some of my previous reviews, Chovy’s Italian Casual serves fantastic food for every course of a meal, but this trip was dedicated to one particular dish- bacon wrapped scallops. The appetizer is simple, featuring four small sea scallops, lightly seared and wrapped with bacon. The bacon is fatty and crispy and melts into the scallops. Each scallop sits in a small pool of teriyaki sauce and is garnished with Mandarin oranges and a lemon wedge. I thought the buttery scallops were slightly overpowered by the salty bacon, so I found myself wishing that the scallops were larger in order to stand up to the bacon. The teriyaki sauce and oranges added some welcome sweetness to balance out the saltiness from the bacon. The appetizer was good, but for $10, I thought the portion size could have been bigger.
I have written about the next appetizer before, but Jekyll & Hyde’s deserves another look. For a while, their Devils on Horseback were only available for dinner. Now, you can get an order of six of them for lunch. This dish features dried, sweet dates that are stuffed with goat cheese and pickled pears. Then, they are then wrapped in Smith’s delicious bacon, and topped with balsamic vinaigrette on a bed of mixed greens. The dates are chewy and sweet, the goat cheese adds a level of creaminess and tang, and the bacon wraps it all in a crispy, salty, tasty hug. The sound of dates and goat cheese together might turn some away from trying this dish, but trust me, try it and you’ll be glad you did. I could eat them by the dozen, they really are that amazing.
Chef Dan Kern at 1201 Kitchen just released the restaurant’s new spring menu and it is full of phenomenal plates of food, including the dish I tried, the deviled egg appetizer. I assure you, this is nothing like the traditional, run-of-the-mill deviled eggs you find at picnic after picnic during the summer. This dish starts with three egg halves, filled with smoked blue crab and topped with caviar and micro arugula, served with slices of crispy, maple bacon. The entire plate is sprinkled with crumbled egg yolk, chives, and pickled corn kernels. Each bite of this dish is delicious and perfectly balanced. The flavors don’t overpower each other at all; everything from the saltiness of the bacon, to the light smoky flavor of the crab, has a chance to shine. The crab and caviar add just the right amount of seafood flavor without being too much. The pickled corn kernels add a wonderful, acidic bite that balances out the sweetness of the bacon. I highly recommend this appetizer if you’re looking for a fun twist on a classic favorite. Another dish on the menu at 1201 Kitchen, the pressed pork belly sushi roll, is one that could be eaten as an appetizer. Sushi rice is tightly rolled around hand cured, smoked pork belly, “smoked” pepper jam, bibb lettuce, and basil mayo. The orange-colored cream sauce that is served as an accompaniment to the roll is sriracha mayonnaise, and the other sauce is a white miso cream. The pork belly has amazing flavor and even better texture; it’s salty, rich, and wonderfully decadent. I enjoyed getting to play with different combinations of the sauces and wasabi to make a few great combinations that bring out the flavors of the roll in different ways. I should also mention that this sushi roll not only makes a fantastic appetizer, it can easily be eaten as a meal.
My next stop, The Summer House Café, serves dinner on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday only. One of the appetizers served as part of the dinner menu are bacon macaroni and cheese fritters. Balls of a comfort food favorite, macaroni and cheese (theirs is made with six cheeses), are mixed with chunked bacon, and are then rolled in crunchy Panko breadcrumbs before heading to the fryer. The fritters are served with a Chilean sour cream salsa. Macaroni and cheese is something I already love, so when the large chunks of bacon were added, it got even better; the bacon gave the cheese blend a great smokiness. All too often, a great appetizer can be ruined by improper frying, leaving a greasy, drippy mess that isn’t appetizing at all. This is not the case at The Summer House Café! The outside of each fritter was perfectly crunchy and not greasy in the slightest. I did want to try the salsa dipping sauce, and it was fantastic, but the fritters are so incredible on their own, I found myself eating more of them without it.
Original appetizers that contain bacon were definitely tough to come by in this area, but the ones I sampled were all wonderful. I recommend any of these appetizers if you’ve got a craving for bacon! Thank you to all of the chefs and restaurants for the wonderful food and great service. I’m excited to see (and taste) what next week’s continuation of the bacon tour brings. Don’t forget to send me suggestions of some of your favorite bacon dishes!
Until next time,
Andrew – Beard vs. Food