The perfect date shake

A search from California's Coachella Valley to an L.A. mall

Recipe: Date Shake Supreme

A few years back, a friend from California told me about the sweet, creamy date shakes her family stopped for on their way from Los Angeles to Palm Springs. Dates and the desert ― together. To some, the date shake is as quintessentially Southern California as Malibu surf. So when I first moved to this part of the world, I set out in search of the perfect date shake.

Palm Springs was calling. It was summer, but I got into my car, and east to the blazing desert I went. Between San Bernardino and Palm Springs, I stopped at a pharmacy. Even though this isn't the place you'd expect to get the skinny on date shakes, I began asking questions. A round-faced man piped up, "Hadley's. Can't miss it. There's a big sign."

So I went. And at Hadley's Fruit Orchard in Cabazon ― just off Interstate 10 on a flat valley floor next to an outlet mall, I experienced my first date shake. It was as thick and smooth as I'd anticipated, with chewy bits of date skin and an intense honey flavor. I realized that Hadley's was just the pearly gate to the date heaven I was seeking. I bought some dates and continued on.

Most of the domestic date industry is in the Coachella Valley east of Indio, but many companies sell shakes at their stores in Palm Springs and Indio (visitor centers can help you locate stores). I had creamy shakes, nutty ones, and others so sweet they were sappy. I gathered tips and recipes, saw a movie on the sex life of date palms (at Shields Date Gardens in Indio), and amassed dates with which to concoct shakes at home.

By the end of my trek in 104° heat, I wondered if this was enlightenment or punishment. Then in the least expected place ― L.A.'s Brentwood district ― at another mall, my search bore fruit. At Humphrey Yogart, dates shake with frozen yogurt, balancing the divinely rich, the cloyingly sweet. With frozen yogurt in one hand, and soft, fat Medjool dates in the other, I found date heaven.

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