If that Southern California institution known as the California roll was especially complicated, this next one is very much the opposite.
Snacking State-by-State: California
Official Name: State of California
State Nickname: The Golden State
Admission to the US: September 9, 1850 (#31)
Capital: Sacramento (7th largest city)
Other Important Cities: Los Angeles (largest, & 2nd largest in the USA), San Diego (2nd largest), San Jose (3rd largest), San Francisco (4th largest)
Region: West, Pacific (small sections of the state can be considered Northwest or Southwest in terms of its food and culture); Pacific (US Census)
RAFT Nations: Acorn, Chile Pepper, Pinyon Nut, Salmon
Bordered by: Baja California, Mexico (south), Arizona & Nevada (east), Oregon (north), Pacific Ocean (west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: golden trout (fish), California Valley quail (bird), grizzly bear (animal)
Some Famous & Typical Foods: Where to begin? "New California cuisine", diversity of ethnic cuisines, especially Asian, Latin American and Mediterranean (Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, Salvadoran, Korean, Italian), citrus (especially in the south), wine (especially in the center and north), seafood, dates, and so much else
The ever-famous date shake is a desert invention, coming from the Coachella Valley and Inland Empire regions which I am more familiar with than any other part of California. I was quite familiar with the Cabazon-based Hadley Fruit Stand and its locally famous take on the shake. I was quite unfamiliar with the seeming rivalry between Hadley and Shields Date Gardens of Indio, who makes its own variety. I ended up using a third recipe, which Saveur.com attributes to Oasis Date Gardens in Thermal, CA.
The recipe: Date Shake
This one is ridiculously simple, almost as much as the quesadilla, and I actually had all the ingredients on hand:
* vanilla ice cream
* dates - preferably pitted ones
All you do is chop the dates - about 1/2 cup or 10 dates for a single serving of milkshake - and throw them in the blender with 1/2 cup of milk.
Blend and make sure the lid is on, because those date pieces will be flying all over the blender container. Then add a cup of ice cream, blend until drinkable, and you're done.
I've never cared for milkshakes that have things floating in them, but I admit this shake could grow on me if it weren't so rich. It is indeed a rich shake, with a honeyed taste (dates will do that). A single serving only yielded about 8 ounces, and I could barely finish that due to its richness. It is a shake that is meant to be drunk slowly and savored.
Stay tuned next week, when there will be no California rolls or date shakes. I'm hitting San Fran, Berkeley, Napa - it's all Northern California, dude, and it's hella awesome!
Mitzewich, John. How to Prepare Perfect Sushi Rice (video). About.com, date unknown.
Saveur. "Date Shake". Saveur.com (http://www.saveur.com). Originally printed in Saveur Issue #70, November 2003.
Yoshii, Ryuichi. Sushi. From the Essential Kitchen series. Periphus Editions (HK) Ltd., Boston, 1998.
Yoshizuka, Setsuko. "Making California Rolls". About.com, date unknown.
Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "California" page and the Food Timeline State Foods webpage link to "California".