The final Jean-Talon fruit vendor test was dates. Medjool, not dinner and drinks. In fact, I’ve had worse dinners than these dates before. I won’t get into it, but trust me, sometimes you’re better off with medjools.
Now, I’ve gotten picky with my dates recently (lets focus on fruit, please…); there are Iranian ones that taste like candy, with a richness and fruitiness to the cough syrup taste. Kind of like they’re on the edge of fermentation.
Then there are Tunisians. They taste like honey when they’re perfectly ripe, and biting into the bottom of them should cause their syrup to stream into your mouth. Then you chew the soft, baklava-like flesh up to the harder top. But this is between my fruit guys, Leopoldo and Tania.
But the Tunisians are just better! They’re the ones that I’m not sure where they come from (probably somewhere in the Middle East) and they come in those big red boxes with a plastic window in the front, and you can pick out a few when you want them. I’m sure that the three places I favour when buying these dates all get them from the exact same place. It just all depends on the turnover of the bulk store and the freshness of the dates. Oh, and how they’re stored. They dry up easily, but they can get kind of over-ripe in humidity. So keeping them at their optimal juiciness for more than a few days in a Montreal winter is tricky.
Leopoldo and Tania at Jean-Talon market (my competing fruit vendors who don’t know it) both sell their dates for 8.99/kg (I think it’s kg. I always forget). It’s pretty expensive, but these dates are huge. Where I could eat a lot of the smaller honey-filled Tunisians, I can eat significantly fewer of the enormous medjools. I don’t want to know what they’re sprayed with, but that’s probably what sucks the flavour out of them. That’s the thing, see, they’re not actually that delicious, just sweet. But the texture! When they’re soft they’re just chewy enough to feel sticky and smooth, but one day in a fridge or in the cold and you’re working too hard to chew or adding liquid to make it fresh. They’re the perfect thing to eat when you need a boost of energy that won’t result in a crash 20 minutes later.
Back to my men: Leopoldo’s looked good one day and I bought a few to try. They were okay. A bit dry. I figured most date-buyers wouldn’t purchase their dates here at Leopoldo’s since he’s generally not a Middle East specialist. Italian, South African, American – yes. Then when I was at Tania’s buying fennel I saw the dates at the cash register. They were obviously juicy and perfect and I bought some and oh…so good. Except, as usual, no real flavour. No honey, no fruit – just sugar. and sugar’s not bad. So they’re perfect for baking without refined sugar, but not so perfect for snacking if you’re looking for flavour.
That’s why I have to go with the Tunisians and toss my men to the wayside. Overrated, men. They all tasted a little different from each other (the dates, not the men, not that I’ve tried them all or anything, the dates…geez, complicated) – like 5 or so different kinds of honey – strong buckwheat, mild clover, a little bit of blueberry maybe – in one $5 box (did I mention you get 1 kg for $5 at the Tunisian place next to Leopoldo’s?). Not that I’m a cheap date…I’m hilarious, I know.
My point is, maybe I’m imagining things, but some just taste different.
My other point is that if fennel, persimmons, and grapes all came from Tunisia and were sold at the Tunisian place next to Leopoldo’s, that’s where I’d buy them. He’d be my fruit guy, but for now I’m pretty happy with straight sugar and Tania. Sorry Leopoldo. When I want a bit of sarcasm and I’m sick of being treated too well, I’ll come crawling back.