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Jacksons is open every day, serving American dishes made from scratch

| Friday, April 27, 2012, 6:38 a.m.

Jacksons Restaurant Rotisserie Bar in the Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh Airport is busy 365 days a year.

The 4-year-old restaurant never takes a break, according to Carol Ifft-Darabant, who serves as the general manager for Doubletree Hotel and Jacksons.

Jacksons is open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"We are busy 24/7," she says. "We get a lot of hotel guests for breakfast and dinner, but lunch is mostly the outside business community. Our tag line is, 'We make life taste better.' We use only the freshest ingredients, and everything is made from scratch."

Jacksons is sleekly put together, with interior stone walls, earth-tone decor, and stainless steel tabletops. The curved bar has a stainless steel top. And every booth has a 15-inch flat-screen television.

"We get a lot of business travelers who eat by themselves, so it's nice to have a television to watch," Ifft-Darabant says. "They've always been there."

The first Jacksons, at Hilton Garden Inn/Southpointe in Washington County, debuted in 2001 and received rave reviews from diners and food critics alike.

The Moon Jacksons is following closely behind. Its young chef, 30-year-old Rick Davison, oversees the cavernous kitchen and the 12 cooks who work in it alongside him. He has been at Jacksons ever since it opened, but was the sous chef at Hyeholde for three years before that, and he worked at LeMont.

"You have long hours and a lot of work, but I enjoy what I do," says Davison, who graduated from Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in1998. "I wouldn't do it if I didn't have passion for it."

Davison is traditionally trained, but incorporates new ideas into the menu and his cooking. He likes to put his own spin on the cuisine, which is decidedly American, and lets food speak for itself.

"My family has a bunch of really good cooks," he says. "My grandmother, Lillian Poland, grows her own vegetables, cans them and sells them in Zelienople. I've been interested in cooking since I was little."

With fresh fish flown in every other day from Hawaii and Florida, and produce coming from Chef's Garden in Ohio, Davison has created a menu that is diverse and exciting. The appetizers alone are worth a second look -- he has pumpkin gnocchi with chorizo, sweet potato, mushrooms, arugula and goat cheese; grilled sea scallops with chestnut puree; garlic chicken calzone with red peppers, roasted garlic, spinach and three cheeses; and fried calamari with asiago and tomato basil.

His entrees are adventurous, featuring items such as braised short ribs and cavatelli pasta; roasted chicken and sage trottole pasta with butternut squash; sweet Italian sausage and orecchiette pasta; yellow fin tuna with basmati rice; Florida amberjack pan seared with herbed kasha; grilled Bay of Fundy salmon; and mesquite-grilled sea scallops with roasted fennel and roasted habanero peach salsa.

Jacksons also offers a tasting menu, where diners can choose any first, second and third course and dessert. An in-house pastry chef, John Gillan, creates the mouthwatering desserts, like pecan bourbon creme brulee, five-layered chocolate cake, pumpkin cheesecake and fall fruit crumble.

"I really need to be creative and artistic in the kitchen," says Davison, who lives in Brighton Township with his wife, Allison. "I like the fact that I can do my own menu here and have creative control. We are huge on presentation here. If it doesn't look good before it gets to the table, it's not going to reach you."

Sea Scallops with Roasted Corn and Tomato Compote

• 2 whole cobs of corn, husked and charred on the grill

• 1 large tomato, diced small

• 1 cup peeled cucumber, diced small

• 1 shallot, finely minced

• 1 (12- to 16-ounce) can tomato juice or V8 juice

• 4 tablespoons lemon juice

• 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

• 1 tablespoon finely sliced chives

• 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

• Tabasco sauce to taste

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 9 giant sea scallops (U10-size)

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

To make the compote: After the corn has been charred on the grill, cut the corn off the kernel with a sharp knife and place into a small mixing bowl.

Add the tomato, cucumber, shallot, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, chives, cilantro and Tabasco sauce, and mix thoroughly ( see Photo 1 ).

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and reserve in the refrigerator overnight.

For best flavor and results, make at least one day before cooking the scallops to let the flavors marry properly.

To make the scallops: Pat dry the scallops with a paper towel, and season with ground black pepper and kosher salt ( Photo 2 ). Make sure not to use too much salt, because scallops already are slightly salty.

Place a medium-size saute pan on high heat, add olive oil to the pan and let it get hot. Place the scallops in the pan and sear the first side, for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown ( Photo 3 ).

Turn the scallops and finish in a 375-degree oven for 2 to 4 minutes.

Remove the scallops from the pan and place onto a dry paper towel to remove excess oil.

Spoon 1/2 cup of Roasted Corn and Tomato Compote into bowl, and top with three scallops ( Photo 4 ).

Garnish the dish with chive sprigs, corn shoots or your herb of choice.

Makes 3 servings.

Additional Information:

Jacksons Restaurant Rotisserie Bar

Cuisine : American

Hours : Breakfast, 6 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Mondays-Fridays; 7 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Lunch, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Dinner, 5-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Entree price range : $18-$32

Notes : Major credit cards accepted. Full bar and select wine list. Handicapped accessible. Wine dinners once a month. Jacksons is donating a portion of its dessert sales and pink drinks to the American Cancer Society in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Address : 8402 University Blvd., Moon

Details : 412-329-1405 or Web site

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