Celebrity chef, part-time hunk and all-round nice guy Gary Rhodes takes the Time Out test and reveals his favourite dates.
Kingdom Dates – Almonds Dhs22.50 2/7 I’ve never liked a date that has any kind of filling, or anything else. The date is such a fantastic natural product that it doesn’t need the help. A way of rating dates is to break them open – but there’s so much dryness in the centre of these. For me, the best dates are sticky and toffee-like. The medjool date is the very best, I believe. It’s like eating the best natural toffee you can imagine. This is too dry on the palate, although the flavour is richer than you think. It’s got a slight bitterness behind it, which I quite like. But I’m not impressed. There’s a dry patch inside and the skin is too tough, almost leathery. I won’t be buying a box.
Emirates Dates – Khodhri (Khadrawy) premium almond Dhs16.95 3/7 They do feel quite sticky, so the date’s not too bad. I quite like the presentation – it’s like a book – a nice present to give away. The date’s OK, but the skin is a little bit tough. It has the double texture of moisture and dryness instead of being the same all the way through. But although I was totally against the almond, it works quite nicely.
The nicest thing about this is that the almond really is inside the date, you can close the date around it and bite into it. I just wish the skin didn’t have the slightly tough edge to it because it’s not bad – nice with a double espresso.
Arabian Delights – Chocolate Dhs11.50 0/7 You can smell it straight away – it’s like a tacky gift. You’ll pay extra for the unnecessary packaging – it’s gimmicky. I don’t like them. You ideally need at least 70 per cent cocoa solids, but no – this is very cheap milk chocolate around the outside.
It’s far too sweet; you need something quite bitter because you already get the sweetness from the date itself – it doesn’t need any help, and certainly not from the chocolate used here. I think if they had a really good-quality chocolate – plain chocolate with a real bitter edge to it – you’d get the sweetness and the nutty edge underneath from the almond. Then it would be quite pleasurable. But as it stands, these don’t even get one out of seven – they get zero. They get absolutely nothing because I don’t want to eat them.
Emirates Dates – Shibibi skinless almond Dhs15.75 4/7 Emirates? I love anything Emirates. Great company. Fantastic… but I don’t like the way these are packaged. They’re packed as tight as cattle. The almonds look flavourless – but what are they like to taste? Well, well, well… they’re quite toffee-like. Very, very moist. I like the depth – these deserve better packaging. They deserve to be looked after. There’s plenty going on, but the packaging doesn’t tell the right story. They’re rich and pleasurable to eat. Much better than the other Emirates dates in this selection.
Omara Premium Dates Dhs21.90 6/7 These are pretty close to the medjool dates – they’re very toffee-like. They automatically appeal because they’re kept in their natural form, and because they’re withered and wrinkled – that tells you what good dates they are. They’re much softer and they have that extra chew in them. I’d prefer them to be richer, older and more developed. But I taste natural sugars, some richness, a slightly bitter-sweet flavour. I like them.