I think the strongest association I have with dates is the scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with the poisoned monkey. Other than that I don’t think about dates too often. Occasionally they show up in a platter of dried fruit, but even that is not a regular occurrence. Unfortunately my food-obsessed mind works in mysterious ways, and on a lackluster episode of No ReservationsAnthony Bourdain visited Indio, CA, the biggest producer of dates in the US. Of course I immediately started craving dates. I grabbed a container of dried dates from a local market and figured that was that.
Not two days later, however, I was in my favorite local Korean grocery when I saw branches covered in small yellow orbs among the other fruits, with a sign reading “Date Nuts” above it. I had never seen such a thing, and regular readers may know that I have trouble walking past unknown fruit without buying some, just to check it out. I asked the lady behind the counter what they were, and as usually happens in these cases, the reply was, “They’re good!” So I bought a branch.
Fresh dates have an amazingly complex flavor. They hard but juicy, with a serious astringent quality but an unmistakable sweet date flavor. Once again, it paid off to try a new fruit.