Desperately Seeking Date Shakes (in Palm Springs, CA)

by Christina Saratsis (Madewell)

Pretty meta: me, drinking a date shake in front of a date palm.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a serious sweet tooth—and not for chocolate. I’m talking about yummy, gummy, sugary goodness. So when I discovered an amazing new food craze on my recent getaway to Palm Springs, California, that involved nature’s best candy—dates—you can imagine how happy I was. After hearing a lot of talk about this mysterious treat, the Date Shake, I did some research and uncovered a buzzing online community devoted solely to the art of making them. Which of the 300+ date varieties should you use? What tastes better, date crystals or date puree? Should the base flavor be plain or vanilla? Needless to say, I got sucked in (and dragged my poor unassuming travel companion along for the ride). Below, my foray into date-shake tasting.

Palm Springs is truly the best place stateside for extra-soft and tasty dates.

DAY 1: Palm Springs Fudge & Chocolate

After a deliciously indulgent breakfast at Norma’s and some leisurely sightseeing, we made our first pit stop downtown at Palm Springs Fudge & Chocolate, a sweets shop known for its date shakes as much as for its abundance of old-fashioned American candy. Despite all the Swedish Fish and gummy snakes calling my name, I had to stay focused on the task at hand. So we promptly ordered two date shakes (but quickly realized we should’ve ordered one for the both of us). Even though we got insanely full, this first experience was a pleasant surprise: its milkshake consistency, French vanilla ice cream base and subtle date flavor were perfectly balanced.

DAY 2: Shields Date Gardens

After visiting the Air Museum and Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House, we headed down south to Shields Date Gardens for what bloggers claim is the most innovative date shake out there. I went for the original with mango juice, which sounded a bit weird at the time but turned out to be my favorite by far! It was surprisingly light and not as milky as the ice-cream version. Before we left, we were also invited to watch a short film on the “romance and sex life of the date,” but we decided the pun was too much for us. (After leaving, we went farther down the road toward the Salton Sea to peek into Oasis Date, but the idea of another shake so soon was also too much for us.)

DAY 3: Hadley’s Fruit Orchards

After walking off some of our food at Joshua Tree National Park, we hit up Hadley’s Fruit Orchards by the outlets in Cabazon, CA. (Yes, I may have done a little drive-by shopping too). The date shake there is made with crystals (which are essentially dried fruit pieces) and, therefore, ended up being much chunkier and grainier than the others we’d tried. Alas, it was a no-go—but I couldn’t resist buying a few dried plums and nectarines for the plane ride home.

And for all you readers interested in Palm Springs for things other than sweets, here are the non-candied highlights of our trip.

Ace Hotel: Hipsters abound, but the all-night dessert stand and great live music from ex-Village People members are worth it.

Cheeky’s: Brunch is delicious—be sure to order the acai and kale smoothie.

Hope Springs Resort: A great mid-century modern motel redone with thoughtful accents.

Le Parker Meridien: A Jonathan Adler-designed oasis on the outskirts of Palm Springs. Who could ask for more?

Melvyn’s: Great for dancing, music and hanging out with a sharp older crowd. The tuxedoed staff is a nice touch too.

Norma’s: Words cannot describe their pancakes (thankfully there’s one in NYC).

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown: One of my favorite stops the whole trip—a great bar and restaurant in the middle of nowhere on a hill near Joshua Tree. You feel like you’re in the Wild West!