California is a date mecca, especially in the southern half near Palm Springs. The prune-resembling pellets are packed with natural sugars, which makes them a great—yet shocking to outsiders—ingredient for milkshakes. The goal is to achieve a paste-like texture with minimal chunks and top it with a shake of nutmeg.
When I recently mentioned this to a New Yorker friend, she responded, "Wait, milkshakes you drink on a date?" I mean, that's possible. But in the Coachella Valley and Inland Empire regions of California, where date farms are abundant, it's the default shake flavor over vanilla or chocolate. Here are some favorite date shake spots.
Hadley Fruit Orchards
Address: 48980 Seminole Drive, Cabazon CA 92230
A California institution, but some drinkers get pissy because they use date "crystals" instead of fresh dates. Since 1931, this stop off Interstate-10 has tempted Palm Spring vacationers en route to the Cabazon shopping outlets just across the road. Inside, they show off an impressive display of Medjool, Barhi, Khadrawi, Deglet Noor, and Empress dates. They're famous for giving skeptics a free sample.
Palm Springs Fudge & Chocolates
Address: 211 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262
A husband-and-wife-owned fudge shop that also makes date shakes. The recipe is simple—just milk, date puree and ice cream they make in-house.
Shields Date Gardens
Address: 80225 US Highway 111, Indio CA 92201
For some reason, this legendary date farm is always rumored to be on the verge of a downfall. A call yesterday proved they're still blending up date shakes, and have no intention of closing. Phew. It's a vintage roadside attraction that has preserved the exotic Out-West feel of the dusty, slow-paced California desert. At the counter, order date ice cream (a vanilla base with date shreds) or a date shake (a creamier version served with a straw).
Ruby's Shake Shack
Address: 7408 Coast Highway, Newport Coast CA 92657
Originally called the "Crystal Cove Shake Shack" first founded in 1945, this roadstop shed off Pacific Coast Highway is big with local Orange County beachgoers and hikers from nearby trails. In the late 1980s, the old, yellow-painted shack was saved from demolition by a local petition, but the state put it up for bid when the lease expired in the early 2000s, and the burger diner franchise Ruby's snatched it. Now the official name is "Ruby's Shake Shack," and date shakes must share the menu with mango smoothies and Ruby's hot dogs. Locals are still bitter about the corporate turn-around, and demonstrate this by calling it purely the "shake shack." Ruby? Who's that?