By Denise Ortuno
The Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival kicks off Friday, February 16th, through Sunday, February 25th in Indio. In honor of the festival, we give homage to one of the tastiest Date creations around, the Date Shake.
The Date Festival’s purpose is to celebrate the harvest of the Date Palm. The fair started out slowly in the 1920’s, and then years later, Riverside County took over the reins and purchased the grounds that the festival takes place on this very day. The fair grew from there. The Coachella Valley is a mammoth producer of dates, providing close to 100% of the sweet fruit to our nation. So a large scale fair to give the little fruit props, is more than appropriate.
There are a variety of recipes that incorporate the superfood, which we know here in the Coachella Valley as our own neighborhood Date. I can think of at least one that I enjoy making myself, especially during the holidays which is the delicious Bacon wrapped Dates, filled with Goat Cheese and a sliver of Serrano Chili. Yum!! But the mainstay Date concoction that tourists and locals love equally is hands down the Date Shake. It’s caramel, ultra-sweet flavor and slightly heavy texture, makes the Date Shake a distinctive food of the Coachella Valley.
The Date is not just a sweet little fruit, it’s a fruit that packs a wallop of nutrition. The Date is high in potassium and fiber, and contains no sodium, cholesterol or fat. Its elevated natural sugar content makes it a powerful producer of energy. This makes the fruit a wonderful companion when doing outdoor activities such as hiking, as it is compact, and an all-encompassing food.
There are a wide variety of Dates, from the meaty Medjool, to the Honey Dates. But it is the Deglet Noor Dates, which are popular in the making of the Date Shake, mostly because of their supple skin and caramel flavor. Pillar Date Shake providers such as the famous Shield’s Date Garden in Indio (www.shieldsdategarden.com), and Hadley Fruit Orchards (www.hadleyfruitorchards.com) retail shop in Cabazon, utilize this Date variety for their shakes.
For Shields Date Garden, which was founded in 1924, they dry the Deglet Noors and crystalize them. Then later, the crystals are rehydrated and made into a paste that is blended with vanilla ice cream and milk. Hadley Fruit Orchards, founded in 1931, chops their Dates, blending them with milk and vanilla ice cream for a lumpier shake. For added shake fun, add banana, nutmeg or cinnamon to your Hadley’s Date Shake.
If you want to enjoy a Date Shake in a more traditional Ice Cream setting, try out Great Shakes (www.greatshakes.com), located on Palm Canyon in Palm Springs. This shake haven has almost 30 shake flavors, such as Key Lime Pie (Key lime juice, crushed graham pie crust, clover honey), Blueberry Hill (blueberries, fresh lemon, touch of lavender), Nutter Butter (peanut butter ice cream and swirl, touch of honey, crushed Nutter-Butter cookies) plus many more. Their Date Shakes are stated to NOT be made with Date crystals and you can even add walnuts for added texture. Their ice cream is house created, made with fresh, simple ingredients and antibiotic/hormone free.
There are many ways to delight in and celebrate our celebrity fruit the Date here in the Coachella Valley. But there is no cooler way than to indulge in the creamy Date Shake creation. Whether it be at Shields, Hadley or Great Shakes, make sure to get your Date Shake on this Date harvest season!