With all the double-entendres associated with the name of one of my favorite fruits, I’m just going to come right out and ask it: Who doesn’t love a nice, sweet, juicy date?! Growing up in the Palm Springs Valley, I got spoiled knowing that dates were always around and that since the area produces 95% of the dates sold in the USA, I would never have a problem finding them.
Although dates are readily available in just about every supermarket from Palm Springs to Coachella, I prefer to take a short drive down the 111 from my Rancho Mirage abode to one of the desert’s most famous retail outlets, Shields Date Garden. Open since 1924, and surrounded by stately fruit-bearing palms, this store sells a variety of items, with the most famous, of course, being locally grown dates. Medjool have always been my favorites (about as big and juicy as you can get), but I’m also partial to the smaller and dryer blonde dates—especially for cooking. Thankfully, with almost a dozen varieties, there’s something for everyone. You’ll also find a full selection of dried fruits, all kinds of fun and interesting snacks, books, and some cool gift items. Not to be missed is the snack bar, which prepares one of the most delectable taste treats in all of California, the famous Shields Date Shake. It’s big and rich, so you might want to share with a fellow date-lover.
Shields is a quirky place—which is one of the reasons I love going there!—and its continuously running video of “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date” is a kick (and kid-friendly) sight to see. Looking for a place for a special event? There’s a lovely garden out back and great catering to be had onsite. I adore this place, I really do. But not as much as I adore its delectable dates. www.shieldsdategarden.com