Love for the Desert Date Shake Is No Longer Just a California Secret

When a prominent epicurean magazine picks up a story about Coachella Valley’s famous date shakes, you know you’ve made it.

The date shake didn’t need a trendy following to earn my appreciation and attention. Growing up in Los Angeles, roadside desert pit stops like Hadley and Shields were as much a destination as Palm Springs just up the 10 freeway. And the star attraction of that stopover (next to the giant dinosaurs next door, of course) was the coveted date shake. Cold, creamy, sweet and totally original, this was something you couldn’t get your hands on at McDonald’s or In-n-Out. Nope, this was a singularly desert dessert, and one I’ve savored for many years.

So, when I came across food-forward Saveur’s recent post from Jamie Feldmar on the California date shake, a couple thoughts immediately crossed my mind: 1. How cool! The date shake is getting some well-deserved love. 2. Oh crap! The word is out. They’ll be a line out the door next time.

Ok, maybe I overreacted a little. I just love the date shake so much. I want it to stay special … not become the latest foodie fad and go the oversaturated way of Brussels sprouts or avocado toast. Yet, despite a reported shortage and skyrocketing prices, there’s still no shortage of avocado toast. Go figure.

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Lest some unexpected date crisis, I think we’re good. So I’m down with the date shake enjoying some well-deserved press. And Saveur gave their readers plenty to lust after:

“Date shakes have become something of an unofficial drink of the Coachella Valley, appearing on menus at hotels, restaurants, and other date shops along the road. At Shields, the thick, creamy milkshakes are made using date crystals, another one of Shields’ patented inventions, which are essentially nubbins of dried dates sweetened with date sugar. For the shakes, the crystals are mixed with water to make a thick date paste, which is blended with vanilla ice cream and milk.”

What I found most interesting was the backstory on the precious date’s arrival in Coachella Valley. According to the article, the USDA’s specially commissioned Agriculture Explorers, aka “the Indiana Joneses of the plant world,” brought the fruit from their native Middle East and North Africa to the similarly hot and dry California desert. Outlets like Shields and Hadley took advantage of the date boom as early as the 1920s and the date shake would soon be born … a delicious hybrid of exotic export and pure Americana. And, thankfully, they are still serving them up cold and tasty today.

So, if you’re headed to the desert this summer when it’s 120-degrees in the shade, be sure to take a detour and try one for yourself. You won’t be sorry.

Read Saveur’s complete story here.

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