I’m delirious over Chef Paul Hancock’s Date Shake served at Miramonte Indian Wells Resort and Spa, Curio Collection by Hilton. You have likely seen date syrup in the health food section of your local market, or perhaps your family got some in one of those dried fruit samplers with the funny two-pronged fork at Holiday time, but not many people in the United States cook with them or create recipes anymore. I remember making oatmeal date squares as a kid and loved their not-too-sweet taste. Recently I stayed at the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort and Spa, Curio Collection by Hilton, a little oasis in the desert with its lush, fragrant gardens, inviting pools, great food, and jewel of a spa. I stopped in for a late breakfast at the hotel’s Citrus & Palm Restaurant and saw the Date Shake on the menu. Curious about it, I had to order one. After a sip, I fell in love with this sublime concoction.
The story of California dates in the Coachella Valley begins in 1769 when some Jesuits and Franciscans planted the dry-heat loving Mediterranean date, man’s oldest cultivated fruit. In the 1800’s commercial crops were planted and today 90% of the dates harvested in the United States grow here. Over 40 million pounds of fruit are harvested from the date farms in the valley which equates to 10% of the yearly yield in the entire world. Dates are healthy. There are many varieties, each with their own characteristics but the Mejool is the most widely known. Dates contain lots of fiber, iron and potassium too.
Oasis Date Gardens
After finishing my date shake, I wanted to know more about them. I hopped an Uber and went out to Thermal, California in the Coachella Valley about 30 minutes from the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa, to the Oasis Date Gardens. Rows and rows of 80 ft. date palms grew along the dusty highway. The Oasis, established in 1912, has 175 acres of dates and there are several other farms out this way. Man, is it hot out here, the perfect place to grow dates. Oasis Date Gardens has tours, a small café and a little date sample tasting space, and shop. But the funniest, quirkiest thing is the endless-loop movie short that looks like it’s circa 1960, in which the love life of a date is explored; a very Griswold family vacation roadside attraction moment for sure.
Burnt out by the heat I headed back to my hotel. The Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa sits at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains and is one of the hotels in the Curio Collection by Hilton. It’s not a mega-resort like many out here but does offer 23 suites and 215 rooms, and 3 swimming pools. I love the feeling here of privacy and contentment. The gardens are filled with blooming citrus trees and roses. My room was spacious and I loved the daily wander on the path through the garden to Citrus & Palm for a meal on-site.
Chef Paul Hancock
Chef Paul Hancock, Citrus & Palm’s Executive Chef works his magic in the kitchen. He buys as much locally grown and produced ingredients as he can via the relationships he has developed with local farmers. Raised on tiny Harker’s Island, North Carolina, chef says, “It was go fish for your dinner or grow it.” With the basic concept of simple, fresh ingredients well ingrained, he embarked on a career that took him to the French Alps under a 3-star Michelin chef, to cooking on mega-yachts, opening five-star dining venues in Florida, and here to Indian Wells to work his magic. After begging chef for his Date Shake recipe, he kindly shared it with Honest Cooking. He uses Deglet Noor Dates for their rounded flavor and texture. If you can’t find them, order some from Oasis Date Gardens.
- 1 ½ cups of vanilla ice cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- 13 Deglet Noor dates, seed removed
- 1 tablespoon Myers rum
- 1 ½ tablespoon shaved coconut, toasted
- Put all ingredients except for the toasted coconut and one date into the blender.
- Blend on high for at least 30 seconds or until all of the dates have been blended.
- Pour into a clean glass of your choice.
- Garnish with toasted coconut and 1 whole date on top.