Where to eat, buy and learn about dates in Southern California

Closeup of a man's hand holding up a date.
Ahmad Fejleh holds a Medjool date from his date farm in Westmorland, Calif.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

This week Christian Reynoso delves deep into the farming and culinary culture around dates in Southern California. He visits the Bautista Family Organic Date Ranch in Mecca, Calif. (and makes a persuasive argument for traveling to the Coachella Valley in general to eat dates, particularly in the fall); considers the Medjool as “the perfect date”; details the differences in taste and textures among must-try date varieties; and names some of his favorite places to shop for and eat dates around Los Angeles.

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There are also recipes, including red cabbage and date salad with preserved lemons and pistachios, pork chops with date butter sauce and lemony date bars with sesame seeds.

As an avid student of cuisines from the Middle East and Western Asia in which dates seem to feature prominently, I’ll throw in a few favorites:

— At Yemeni restaurant House of Mandi in Anaheim, try its dessert version of fatta, a creamy and chewy tumble of minced bread and dates blanketed with cream and honey.

— I loved Fariba Nafissi’s Iranian kolompeh — a soft, patterned, saffron-stained cookie filled with dates, nuts and spices — from the first one I tried in 2019. Her shop, Zozo Baking, is in Simi Valley, but it’s also easy to order her sweets online.


Date-filled maamoul are a year-round treat (including the winter holidays), though Levantine Christians particularly associate the pastry with Easter. Bakeries all over the Los Angeles Metro area make them, though I’m especially fond of the ones from Suzy’s Sweets Boutique, run by Suzan Ohanian and her daughter Hermine Ohanian. Order their maamoul online and pick them up in Pasadena.

A smiling woman in an apron pours ingredients into a blender in an industrial kitchen.
Fariba Nafissi works at her shop, Zozo Baking, in Simi Valley.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

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The big news this week: The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to enter many indoor venues, including restaurants.

Stephanie Breijo reports on the immediate effects that fishermen are feeling from the oil spill along the Orange County coastline.

Stephanie also has details on Japanese sandwich shop Katsu Sando’s second location, as well as other SoCal openings.

Closeup of a sandwich sliced in half.
Next year, Katsu Sando’s sandwiches, konbini goods and curry plates are headed to San Gabriel.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)