Long ago, when California was considered paradisaical, dates were an emblem of its appeal. Grown in the stately palm groves of the Coachella Valley, the luxury fruit inspired a drink that has gone beyond the desert and has been embraced by all of Southern California and beyond: the date shake.
As if an ordinary milk shake weren’t sweet and creamy-rich enough, chopped dates blended in with the ice cream make this beverage more sumptuous than manna. Some of the best date shakes in the area are made just off I-10 at Hadley’s Fruit Orchard. Loaded with bits of fruit, the prodigious drinks are thick and barely suckupable, especially when you get a hunk of date stuck in the straw. They are available in regular, large, and giant sizes, the last as devastating as a pint of superpremium ice cream. For further enrichment, bananas may be included in the shake.
Hadley company history says that Paul Hadley is the man who invented trail mix – “a nutritious snack food to sustain hikers in the neighboring San Jacinto Mountains.” Hadley’s original trail mix includes Ruby raisins, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, and cashews. It is available salted or not, raw or roasted, and in more modern variations that include a spicy/hot combo, an Aztec mix with chocolate dots, and an “Orient meets West” mix that features crispy green peas and sesame sticks.
Hadley’s spiffy location just off the interstate features a small cafe that adjoins a giant provisions store. The cafe menu includes not only date shakes but a repertoire of sandwiches, burgers, soups, and salads. Among the panini is a unique version of the Fluffernutter. In addition to traditional marshmallow Fluff and chunky peanut butter (Hadley’s own), it contains a layer of Nutella. Grilling melds ingredients together and creates a supremely messy sandwich that is indulgence incarnate.