CVIndependent

Mon11232020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

We here at the Independent debated postponing our annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll this year.

Why? Well, COVID-19 has rocked the Coachella Valley—and a fair number of the businesses and organizations that are often winners and finalists in the Best of Coachella Valley are either closed or severely limited due to the pandemic. To put it mildly: It’s been a tough year.

There’s also a financial aspect. To be frank, this issue is normally a money-maker—something that helps fund our operations during the leaner times of the year. This year, we predicted—correctly—that we’d see a marked decrease in revenue for this Best of Coachella Valley issue, and wondered whether it was worth doing, given the amount of time, energy and money we put into it.

However, the more we thought about things, the more it became apparent: Postponing the Best of Coachella Valley poll would be a terrible idea—as there’s never been a more important time to shine a light on the valley’s best businesses, individuals and organizations, precisely because so many of us are struggling right now.

We also feel an obligation to present the Best of Coachella Valley as an antidote, of sorts, to the other publications’ “Best Of” polls—which sometimes have, well, odd results. For our Best of Coachella Valley poll, we ask each reader to vote only once per round, because our goal is to come up with a slate of truly excellent finalists and winners. The other polls have no such prohibition, because the goal of those polls is not to get a great slate of finalists and winners—the goal is for the publications to get as much web traffic as possible from readers visiting their websites over and over again to vote.

To the many, many readers out there who voted this year: Thank you. And to the winners and finalists whose names appear in the following pages: Congratulations, and thank you helping make the Coachella Valley such an amazing place to live.

Welcome, everyone, to the Best of Coachella Valley 2020-2021.

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

TIE

CODA Gallery

Shag

 

Runners up:

3. AutoErotica/Michael Weems Collection

4. Heather James Fine Art

5. Melissa Morgan Gallery

 

Best Indoor Venue

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Purple Room

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

6. The Show at Agua Caliente

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Empire Polo Club

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Rancho Mirage Amphitheatre

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Palm Springs Public Arts Commission

4. CREATE Center for the Arts

5. Old Town Artisan Studios

 

Best Local Band

The Gand Band

 

Runners up:

2. Giselle Woo and the Night Owls

3. Desert Winds Freedom Band

4. The Flusters

5. Avenida Music

 

Best Local DJ

DJ Galaxy

 

Runners up:

2. DJ Baz/Barry Martin

3. Femme A

4. DJ Zephyr

5. Guy Worden

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Keisha D

 

Runners up:

2. Jesika von Rabbit

3. Giselle Woo

4. Chris Lomeli

5. Kal David

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Shag

 

Runners up:

2. Phillip K. Smith III

3. Tysen Knight

4. Adam Enrique Rodriguez

5. Zach Fleming-Boyles

 

Best Local Movie Theater

Mary Pickford Is D’Place

 

Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center

3. Century La Quinta and XD

4. Century at The River and XD

5. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

6. Tristone Palm Desert 10 Cinemas

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Air Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

5. Coachella Valley History Museum

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. CVRep

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Coyote Stageworks

5. Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

6. Dezart Performs


Life in the Valley

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

4. FIND Food Bank

5. Well in the Desert

6. AAP-Food Samaritans

 

Best Gym

World Gym

 

Runners up:

2. EOS Fitness

3. In-Shape

4. Planet Fitness

5. 24 Hour Fitness

 

Best Yoga

Urban Yoga

 

Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Plus

3. Power Yoga Palm Springs

4. Desert Yoga Therapy

5. Hot Yoga Plus Palm Springs

 

Best Bowling Alley

Palm Springs Lanes

 

Runners up:

2. Fantasy Lanes Bowling

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Bear Wear

5. Q Trading Company

 

Best Auto Repair

Exotic Car Service

 

Runners up:

2. Sergio’s Automotive

3. Kennard’s Automotive

4. Starrs Auto Repair

5. Cam Stone’s Automotive

 

Best Car Wash

TIE

Elephant Car Wash

Quick Quack Car Wash

 

Runners up:

3. Airport Quick Car Wash

4. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

5. La Quinta Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Moorten Botanical Garden

3. Desert Hot Springs Florist and Nursery

4. California Desert Nursery

5. Bob Williams Nursery

 

Best Pet Supplies

Bones-N-Scones

 

Runners up:

2. PetSmart

3. Petco

4. EarthWise Pet

5. PoshPetCare

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Faux Fur Ball (Palm Springs Animal Shelter)

 

Runners up:

2. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

3. Desert AIDS Walk

4. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

5. Concert for Autism

6. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

 

Best Place to Gamble

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Augustine Casino

5. Morongo Casino Resort

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runner up:

2. NBC Palm Springs (KMIR Channel 6)

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Patrick Evans, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. Bryan Gallo, formerly of NBC Palm Springs (KMIR Channel 6)

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Gino LaMont, NBC Palm Springs (KMIR Channel 6)

5. Thalia Hayden, NBC Palm Springs (KMIR Channel 6)

 

Best Radio Station

KGAY 106.5

 

Runners up:

2. 107.3 Mod FM

3. 106.9 The Eagle

4. Mix 100.5

5. 93.7 KCLB

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Patrick Evans, CV 104.3

 

Runners up:

2. John Taylor, I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast

3. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

4. Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3

5. TK, 93.7 KCLB

 

Best Retail Music Store

Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

 

Runners up:

2. Record Alley

3. Guitar Center

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Interstellar Comic Books

3. Comic Asylum

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. Kimpton Rowan

3. The Saguaro Palm Springs

4. Renaissance Esmerelda Resort and Spa

5. Renaissance Palm Springs

 

Best Indoor Fun/Activity

Escape Room Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Fantasy Lanes Bowling

3. Get Air Trampoline Park

4. Escape Games at The River

 

Best Marijuana Dispensary

Joy of Life Wellness Center

 

Runners up:

2. PSA Organica

3. West Coast Cannabis Club

4. The Lighthouse

5. The Leaf El Paseo

 


Valley Professionals

 

Best Doctor

Dr. Laura Rush

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Michael Jardula

3. Dr. Amanda Curnock

4. Dr. Tulika Singh

5. Dr. David Morris

 

Best Eye Doctor

Milauskas Eye Institute

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Gregory McMahill (Costco)

3. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision Optometry)

4. Dr. Keith Tokuhara (Desert Vision Center)

5. Dr. Gregory McFarland (Desert Eyecare Center)

 

Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Scott Shepherd (Palm Springs Family and Cosmetic Dentistry)

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Bruce Baumann (Palm Desert Smiles)

3. Dr. Carolyn Izu (Desert Dental Excellence)

4. Lake Dental Palm Springs

5. Hospitality Dental and Orthodontics

 

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Mark Sofonio

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Dr. Scott Aaronson

Dr. Suzanne Quardt

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

5. Dr. Maria Lombardo

 

Best Attorney

Walker Clark

 

Runners up:

2. Christopher Heritage

3. Eric Rudolph

4. Renell Burch

5. Thurman Arnold

 

Best Air Conditioning Service

Comfort Air

 

Runners up:

2. General Air Conditioning

3. Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating

4. Blair Heating and Air

5. Hyde’s Air Conditioning

 

Best Personal Trainer

Ted Guice

 

Runners up:

2. Jaime Jimenez

3. Derek Falk

4. Jay Nixon

5. Michael Butler

 

Best Chiropractor

TIE

Dr. Gina Davis

Dr. Stephanie Nazemi

 

Runners up:

3. Dr. Jim Cox

4. Dr. Naota Hashimoto

5. Dr. Terre York

 

Best Real Estate Agent

Shann Carr

 

Runners up:

2. Barbara Carpenter

3. Scott Histed

4. Paul Zapala

5. Gary Pisula

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors

3. Palm Springs Councilmember Lisa Middleton

4. Sheriff Chad Bianco

5. La Quinta Councilmember Steve Sanchez


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Trina Turk

 

Runners up:

2. Wil Stiles

3. R&R Men’s Wear

4. Kimbals

5. Riga Designs

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. The Frippery

4. Plato’s Closet

5. Iconic Atomic

 

Best Furniture Store

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. H3K Home

3. West Elm

4. Mathis Brothers

5. Erik’s Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

Antique Galleries of Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. The Estate Sale Co.

4. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall

5. Consign Design

 

Best Jewelry Store

Leeds and Son Fine Jewelers

 

Runners up:

2. Tiffany and Co.

3. El Paseo Jewelers

4. Hephaestus Jewelry

5. The Fine Jewelry Bar

 

Best Hair Salon

TIE

Brien O’Brien Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

3. Dishwater Blonde Salon

4. Palm Springs Fine Men’s Salon

5. Jake Turner Salon

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Palm Springs Yacht Club at the Parker Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

3. Spa at the Ritz-Carlton

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Omni Rancho Las Palmas

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Palm Springs Fine Men’s Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Massage Envy

3. Studio M Salon and Spa

4. La Quinta Medspa

5. Bliss Chakra Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Florist

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Rancho Mirage Florist

5. Vaso Bello Celebrations

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Cactus Tattoo Parlor

 

Runners up:

2. Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

3. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

4. Heatstroke Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Desert Vision Center

 

Runners up:

2. Ooh La La De Paris Eyewear

3. America’s Best

4. Panache Optical Gallery

5. CV Optometry


Outside!

 

Best Public Garden

Sunnylands

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

3. Moorten Botanical Garden

4. Wellness Park at Ruth Hardy Park

5. Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert

 

Best Place for Bicycling

CV Link

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek Loop

3. La Quinta Cove

4. Joshua Tree

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree National Park

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Whitewater Preserve

4. Mount San Jacinto State Park

5. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area

 

Best Hike

Indian Canyons

 

Runners up:

2. Bump and Grind Trail

3. Cross Trail Loop

4. Museum Trail

5. Art Smith Trail

 

Best Park

Ruth Hardy Park

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Whitewater Park (Rancho Mirage Community Park)

4. La Quinta Civic Center Park

5. Panorama Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Running Wild

3. Dick’s Sporting Goods

4. Yellow Mart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs/Palm Desert Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Bike Palm Springs

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. Tri-A-Bike

5. BikeMan

 

Best Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

4, Yellow Mart

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

3. Indian Wells Golf Resort

4. Classic Club Golf

5. Desert Dunes Golf


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Ruth Hardy Park

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Demuth Park

4. La Quinta Civic Center Park

5. Ironwood Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Target

 

Runners up:

2. The Lumpy Bunny

3. TIE

JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

Walmart

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

TIE

JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

Target

 

Runners up:

3. The Lumpy Bunny

4. The Children’s Place

5. Carter’s

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Jackalope Ranch

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Boomers

4. Escape Room Palm Springs

5. Get Air Trampoline Park

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese’s

3. Boomers

4. Get Air Trampoline Park

5. Shakey’s Pizza


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

Bongo Johnny’s

 

Runners up:

2. Trio Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eureka!

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Best Caterer

Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Lynn Hammond Catering

4. Carousel Catering

5. Fusion Flair

 

Best Diner

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Rick’s Restaurant

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. John’s Restaurant

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Best Organic Food Store

Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods Market

 

Runners up:

2. Nature’s Health Food and Café

3. Whole Foods

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. Sprouts Farmers Market

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. The Real Italian Deli

4. On the Mark

5. TKB Deli and Bakery

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

2. TIE

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Exquisite Desserts

 

Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Over the Rainbow

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Kreem

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Ben and Jerry’s

4. Lappert’s Ice Cream

5. Ice Cream and Shop(pe) at Arrive

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

4. Windmill Market

5. Palm Greens Café

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Jus Chillin’

 

Runners up:

2. Tutti Frutti

3. Beach House

4. TIE

Yogurt Island

Yogurtland

 

Best Bakery

Peninsula Pastries

 

Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

4. French Corner Café

5. Carousel Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

 

Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree BBQ

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

5. Jackalope Ranch

6. CV BBQ

 

Best Burger

Tyler’s Burgers

 

Runners up:

2. Tony’s Burgers

3. Eureka!

4. Grill-A-Burger

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Best Veggie Burger

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

 

Runners up:

2. Native Foods Café

3. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

4. MidMod Café

5. Palm Greens Café

 

Best Sandwich

The Real Italian Deli

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. TKB Deli and Bakery

5. On the Mark

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. Piero’s PizzaVino

5. Norma’s Italian Kitchen

6. Papa Dan’s Pizza and Pasta

 

Best Wings

Smoke Tree BBQ

 

Runners up:

2. Wingstop

3. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

4. TIE

Billy Q’s

The Village Palm Springs

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Panera Bread

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Fruit Wonders

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Three Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Emperor Buffet

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Local Coffee Roaster

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree Coffee Company

3. Coachella Valley Coffee Company

 

Best Coffee Shop

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Ernest Coffee

3. IW Coffee

4. 4 Paws Coffee Co.

5. Just Java

 

Best California Cuisine

Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Trio Restaurant

5. Acqua California Bistro

 

Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

2. Cheeky’s

3. Sunshine Café

4. Louise’s Pantry

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Brunch

Jake’s Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Wilma and Frieda’s

3. The Tropicale

4. Trio Restaurant

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Best Chinese

Roly China Fusion

 

Runners up:

2. City Wok

3. PF Chang’s

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

 

Best Greek

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

3. Santorini Gyro

4. Athena Gyro

5. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

 

Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Pomme Frite

3. L’Atelier Café

4. Cuistot Restaurant

5. Chez Pierre’s Bistro

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Its Taste of India

 

Best Italian

Il Corso

 

Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Castelli’s Palm Desert

4. Mario’s Italian Cafe

5. Il Giardino

 

Best Japanese

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

 

Runners up:

2. Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Joyce’s Sushi

 

Best Korean

Sam’s Korean BBQ and Teriyaki Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Umami Seoul

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. Maru Korean BBQ and Grill

5. K-Tofu House

 

Best Sushi

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

 

Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. Dragon Sushi

4. Kiyosaku Restaurant

5. Joyce’s Sushi

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

3. Ruben and Ozzy’s Oyster Bar and Grill

4. Eddie V’s Prime Seafood Restaurant

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House

3. The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente

4. Kaiser Grille

5. Morton’s The Steakhouse

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

3. Le Basil

4. My Thai

5. Blue Orchid

 

Best Vietnamese

533 Viet Fusion

 

Runners up:

2. Rooster and the Pig

3. Pho Vu

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. Fuzion Five

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

 

Runners up:

2. Native Foods Café

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Luscious Lorraine’s

 

Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Copley’s on Palm Canyon

3. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

4. Le Vallauris Restaurant

5. Jillian’s

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. Jackalope Ranch

4. The Tropicale

5. State Fare Bar and Kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Paul Bar/Food

 

Runners up:

2. Blackbook

3. The Tropicale

4. Revel Public House

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Best Mexican

TIE

El Mirasol

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

3. La Tablita

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Rincon Norteño

 

Best Salsa

El Mirasol

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rincon Norteño

5. Armando’s Dakota Bar and Grill

 

Best Burrito

El Mirasol

 

Runners up:

2. El Ranchito Taco Shop

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Los Pepes Mexican Grill and Bar


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Revel Public House

3. Eureka!

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Burgers and Beer

 

Best Local Brewery

La Quinta Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Las Palmas Brewing

5. Desert Beer Company

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Beer Hunter

4. AMP Sports Lounge

5. Neil’s Lounge

 

Best Cocktail Menu

Seymour’s

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

4. Trio Restaurant

5. Mr. Lyons Steak House

 

Best Craft Cocktails

Paul Bar/Food

 

Runners up:

2. Bootlegger Tiki

3. Seymour’s

4. Truss and Twine

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Hunters Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Blackbook

3. Chill Bar Palm Springs

4. Streetbar

5. The Roost

 

Best Happy Hour

Blackbook

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Trio Restaurant

4. La Quinta Cliffhouse

5. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Tool Shed

3. Fireside Lounge

4. Neil’s Lounge

5. Club 5

 

Best Margarita

Blue Coyote Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. El Mirasol

4. Las Casuelas Terraza

5. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

6. La Tablita

 

Best Martini

Paul Bar/Food

 

Runners up:

2. Melvyn’s Restaurant

3. The Tropicale

4. Spencer’s Restaurant

5. Lulu California Bistro

6. Zin American Bistro

 

Best Nightclub

Purple Room

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Chill Bar Palm Springs

Hunters Palm Springs

4. The Nest

5. Copa Palm Springs

 

Best Sports Bar

Big Rock Pub

 

Runners up:

2. The Beer Hunter

3. The Village Palm Springs

4. AMP Sports Lounge

5. Revel Public House

 

Best Wine Bar

V Wine Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Zin American Bistro

3. Dead or Alive

4. La Fe Wine Bar

5. Counter Reformation

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. On the Mark

4. Bouschet

5. Desert Wine Shop on 111

 

Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Paul Bar/Food

3. Stacy’s Palm Springs

4. Counter Reformation

5. Del Rey at Villa Royale

Published in Readers' Picks

Welcome to June! Things are a mess!

Here’s the latest:

All of Riverside County is under a curfew starting at 6 p.m. today. Yes, all of it—including the Coachella Valley. The curfew lasts through 6 a.m. tomorrow. But you probably already know this because of an alert screamed by your phone earlier this afternoon.

Some of the details, according to the county:

The curfew is in response to several areas of rioting and looting in Southern California over the weekend, as well as planned protests set to occur today in Riverside County.

“We want the community to be able to peacefully assemble and exercise their first amendment rights,” said (County Executive Officer and Director of Emergency Services George) Johnson. “We must also take action to protect our community from threats of rioting and chaos. If you plan to visit a protest today, we urge you to do so peacefully and return home at the time of the curfew.”

The curfew will expire Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. and will not apply to residents who must leave their homes to attend essential work or business after 6 p.m. The curfew is intended to prevent any potential acts of destruction and violence at protest sites. Law enforcement will continue to serve the community by conducting patrols and responding to calls for service.

Three protests motivated by the death of George Floyd were planned for the Coachella Valley today. The first one started at 10 a.m. in downtown Palm Springs, and, by accounts, has been calm and peaceful.

The other two were scheduled for tonight—and there are some key differences.

The first one that was announced was slated for 6 p.m. in Indio, at Miles Park. This was, in every way, a transparent and local effort: The organizers of #NoMoreHashtags said who they were, what their plans were, and emphasized safety—both in terms of being peaceful, and the need for social distancing and masks due to the pandemic.

However, that protest has been cancelled by organizers, in light of the county curfew. Organizer Erin Teran wrote on Facebook:

We the committee of the No More Hashtags Candlelight Vigil regret to inform you of the decision to postpone. The vigil scheduled for this evening, June 1st in Indio will be moved to a future date due to the notification of curfew put in place by Riverside County officials, which currently commenced at 6 p.m. this evening to tomorrow at 6 a.m.

We have made a group decision to postpone the vigil pending further notice in an effort to cooperate with our county and local officials.

We are upset and disappointed to have to postpone the vigil, as we feel it is important for us to assemble together as a community to grieve and express our emotions; however we also acknowledge the concerns of our community.

We ask the public to please respect the curfew. As we had planned a peaceful expression and Vigil, we also do not condone any negativity surrounding this tragedy.

This was and will be a peaceful candlelight vigil and we will see that it will proceed in the coming days.

• The other planned protest is, well, shrouded in mystery.

It was announced by an Instagram account that has no posts published before the protest announcement. At first, the “Coachella Valley Activists” account announced the protest would be starting in front of California Pizza Kitchen, on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

Then, earlier today, the account announced that due to fears over the location chose for the protest—why pick the ritzy shopping area?!—it was being moved to Palm Desert’s City Hall and Civic Center Park. After the curfew announcement, the account said the protest would start earlier than originally scheduled, and would go from 4 to 6 p.m.

There are several things worth pointing out about this announced protest. First: It’s odd to schedule a protest at the same time as another one just 10 miles down the road. Second: The organizers have refused to identify themselves. The Independent asked the organizers who they were, as did other media sources and all sorts of commenters on the Instagram page—but they have so far refused say.

“It’s been brought to our attention that people believe that the El Paseo protest is a setup,” posted the page. “We can assure you this is not. We’re a group of diverse friends (Black, Latino, White, etc.) who believe that our voices should be heard, and we’re locals but not residents of PD.”

Regardless of who is behind this protest, it scared the living hell out of people, given the violence and destruction that’s taken place over the weekend. At one point on Sunday night, the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce on Facebook announced that “busses are arriving already with people,” but soon after removed the post, because it wasn’t true. Meanwhile, much of El Paseo has been boarded up … just in case.

So … yeah, things are a mess.

Other news:

A Villanova University professor, writing for The Conversation, says research has shown “that officers with extensive complaint histories were disproportionately more likely to be named subjects in civil rights lawsuits with extensive claims and large settlement payouts.” Translation: The nation’s police departments are *BADLY* in need of reform, as these needless acts of violence, often racially tinged, show us over and over and over again.

• Frustratingly related: According to CNN, “under President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice has all but abandoned broad investigations into unconstitutional policing practices, a half-dozen former DOJ lawyers who worked on similar cases told CNN—essentially giving up on one of the federal government's most effective tools to fight police misconduct.”

• A tale of two presidents, presented without comment: Earlier today, former president Barack Obama issued a statement. A key quote: “So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”

• Also earlier today, President Trump lashed out at governors on a phone call with them. Key quote, according to Fox News (yes, Fox News):You have to dominate; if you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you; you're going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.”

• The more things change, the more things stay the same: Today’s the 99th anniversary of one of the most awful chapters in American history. If you don’t know about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, please read up.

• These protests, while necessary, are coming in the middle of a pandemic that’s far from over—and it has medical professionals very worried that these mass gatherings will help the virus spread. Heed the warnings of Atlanta’s mayor: If you’ve been part of a mass protest, please go get tested for the virus.

• Late Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, affirmed California’s right to place restrictions on religious services during the pandemic. Fascinatingly, Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the liberal wing of the court.

• Showing, YET AGAIN, how little we know about this damned virus: There’s evidence that SARS-CoV-2 attacks blood vessels, meaning it’s not merely a respiratory disease.

• And finally, a teeny, tiny sliver of good news among all the chaos: Hey, the Palm Springs Air Museum is (responsibly) open again!

That’s enough for this odd and sad day. Please be safe. If you can afford it, please consider supporting ethical, honest local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back for what we’re hoping is a better day tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

On Dec. 7, the folks with Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services will transform the Pacific Hangar of the Palm Springs Air Museum into a “winter wonderland.” The goals: Raise money for the organization’s vital services—and have one heck of a good time while doing so.

CVSAS’ Inaugural Winter Wonderland Gala will feature hosted drinks from Tito’s Vodka—drinks with other spirits will be available for purchase—and food from the chef at the Arrive Hotel. Entertainment will include music by Lisa and the Gents.

“Our goal is to keep all our services free of charge,” said Winette Brenner, the program director at CVSAS. “We usually do mini-fundraisers and stuff. … We do free events; we just had our Anti Human-Trafficking Conference, and we’ve made that free, because we want to educate the public. But at some point, we had to do something to have a bigger fundraiser, so we can continue to do those free services.”

The event is being held on Dec. 7—which is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, marking the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941—and the event is being held in the Air Museum’s Pacific Hangar, which includes exhibits and items from the war in the Pacific during World War II. Therefore, CVSAS is honoring all veterans during the event, and offering them free admission, as well as $50 guest tickets.

“We reached out to the Riverside County Education Academy, and their students are going to come and do a salute in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. We’re very excited about that,” Brenner said.

While the event is happening in December, it’s also happening in Palm Springs, where we really don’t have “winter.” So I had to ask: How will the Air Museum be transformed into a “winter wonderland” of sorts?

“One of our sponsors is Enchanted Memories, and they are going to be giving us a winter-wonderland feeling with decorations and with balloon displays and snow effects,” Brenner said. “We’ll have a picture booth, and we’re going to have a wonderful dessert table. The hangar is going to be open, and it’ll be in the evening—so hopefully, we can have kind of a winter feeling.”

The larger-scale fundraiser is just the latest move by CVSAS to have more of a public presence. The organization operates the local portion of a national 24-hour hotline (800-656-4673) for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking, and offers counseling, advocacy, referrals and other help to both victims and their families. CVSAS is working hard to spread the word about its services, and raise awareness.

“We are talking to anyone who will listen. It’s just so important,” Brenner said. “We’re trying to really educate our community and spread the word about what’s going on in our backyards and in our surroundings. We want to educate parents. It’s important that parents are educated and know what’s going on, so they can protect their children and look for red-flag warning signs as well.

“That also goes with school educators. …  This affects all ages. Unfortunately, sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence—at this point, it has no color. It has no age. It can affect all of us.”

The Inaugural Winter Wonderland Gala, a fundraiser for Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services, will take place at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $100; veterans are admitted for free, with $50 guest tickets. For tickets or more information, call 760-568-9071, or visit www.eventbrite.com/e/inaugural-winter-wonderland-gala-tickets-76283055673.

Published in Local Fun

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the twice-per-summer Splash House festival for at least five years. While the venues have changed over the years, it’s almost always hot as hell—and a great time for all.

The June festivities kicked off at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Thousands attended the almost-sold-out preparty, allowing visitors to get acclimated to the heat and learn a better understanding of the necessary hydration levels. Sometimes I wonder: Does music drive the party, or is the party a reason for the music? The music was somewhat mellow on Friday night, but the audience is always entertaining. I overheard a couple of large, athletic guys trying to start a chant in the VIP section, yelling, “Twist the knob!” over and over again. Perhaps it was a cynical observation on their part regarding the the EDM genre?

The highlight of Saturday was definitely Englishman Pete Tong, one of the elder statesmen of EDM music. “Hey, Splash House. How are you doing out there?” he said in his greeting, followed up by a guy directly behind me yelling: “I love you, Pete!” Tong fans were all ears as he melded different decades of music together effortlessly—even impressing old-timers like me.

Justice was up next on Saturday, and the French duo played dance classics, starting with a “Welcome to the Jungle” sample. “Do the Hustle” blended with “YMCA,” which was perfect.

The afterhours festivities returned to the Palm Springs Air Museum. Lee Wells went into the wayback machine and plucked out “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. Wells got plenty of love from the audience members, who gobbled up every beat.

For those of you unfamiliar with Splash House: The promoter has a shuttle system with The Renaissance as the hub; attendees can pick up a shuttle from there to The Saguaro or The Riviera, and vice versa. On Sunday, a typical 105-degree June day, the driver announced as I got on that the air conditioning was out. Eek.

Five minutes and 59 seconds later, I arrived at the Saguaro, to check out the balconies and the party scene (since most of the top-tier acts were playing at the Renaissance). I have a tradition where I try to capture a dive into the pool—which is quite a challenge, since the pool is usually filled with too many people. However, I got lucky and saw a woman diving in—with a perfect 10 for effort, and quite a bit less than that for form. She introduced herself on the shuttle back to The Renaissance. The shuttle is always an interesting place to talk to fans and get tips on who to see. I was told to catch Pluko’s set at Riviera—and he really pleased the fans on Sunday. He is signed to Odesza’s label, and he played on the same stage the group did a few years ago.

Last up on Sunday at The Renaissance was DJ Armand van Helden and Canadian DJ A-Trak. They had their own sets scheduled, but attendees went crazy when they played as Duck Sauce, their collaboration, best known for the hit—which, of course, they performed—“Barbra Streisand.” This led to probably the only sing-along of the weekend.

Splash House keeps getting bigger and better. The August edition can’t come soon enough.

Published in Reviews

The holidays are here again—and that means there are a whole lot of Christmas-themed events going on.

While we could fill pages upon pages of this newspaper with lists of things to do in December, we’ve selected seven of the most intriguing events for your consideration.

Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade: This is definitely the biggest Christmas-themed event in the Coachella Valley. The parade got its start in the early ’90s and has seemingly grown a little larger every year, with more and more illuminated floats—and participants walking whilst wearing lights! The celebrity grand marshal for this year’s event is Lorna Luft, while the community grand marshals are architect Hugh Kaptor and news anchor Gino Lamont. 5:45 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, along Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs; free; psfestivaloflights.com.

Dave Koz Christmas Tour: It’s become a holiday tradition of sorts for the McCallum Theatre to host jazz saxophonist Dave Koz during the Christmas season. Last year, Koz celebrated his 20-year anniversary of holiday touring—and this year, Koz promises some special guests during his musical celebration of Christmas. When I interviewed Koz last year, he explained how much he enjoys performing holiday shows, in part because Christmas music takes him and others back to innocent times in their lives—therefore bringing out the holiday spirit. This is just one of a handful of great holiday shows happening at the McCallum; check the website for a complete schedule. 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert; $62 to $102; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa Sleigh Ride Toy Run: This event is a fundraiser for the JJ Johnson Foundation and will feature a performance by the Charlie Daniels Band. The Southern rock and country star is a lot of fun to experience live—and, of course, he does perform some Christmas music this time of the year. Also on the bill: Steel Wool, Second Sight and Gethen Jenkins. Go on out to Morongo Casino and support a great cause for the holiday season! 1 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon; $30 to $40, or $25 with a toy donation at the door; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Brian Setzer Orchestra’s 15th Anniversary Christmas Rocks! Tour: In each of the last 15 years, rockabilly/swing guitarist Brian Setzer (below) has embarked upon a holiday tour—often with a stop at Fantasy Springs. This is one best musical events of the holiday season, as Setzer puts on a marvelous, high-energy, holiday-themed show, featuring Christmas tunes as well as hits from both his orchestra and the Stray Cats. I’ve attended this show a couple of times, and I promise you’ll have a great time. 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio; $49 to $79; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus’ Men in Tights—A Holiday SpectacularThis show kicks off the 20th anniversary season of the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus, and will take holiday-themed music … back to the Renaissance? Yep! After the intermission, prepare to hear holiday songs in a more-modern format, including a country-Western-style performance of “Dreydl Dreydl.” OK then! 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14 and 15; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs; $25 to $50; www.psgmc.com.

Santa Fly-In and Winter Fun Land: This is a fun annual family event thrown by the Palm Springs Air Museum that features a very special guest—Santa Claus! Santa will meet with children and pose for photographs in a specialty created Winter Fun Land, including snow he’ll bring with him from the North Pole! 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 9, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs; free with museum admission; 760-778-6262; www.psam.org.

WildLights: The Living Desert hosts this annual event every year on selected evenings from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. The park is transformed into an illuminated winter wonderland, complete with entertainment. This is the most festive way to experience The Living Desert for sure! 6 to 9 p.m. on selected evenings through Monday, Dec. 24, at the Living Desert, 47900 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert; $12 for adults; $10 military and children 3-12; free for children 3 and younger; 760-346-5694; www.livingdesert.org.

Published in Local Fun

The second of this summer’s two Splash House parties landed Aug. 10 at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

By now, Splash House is running like a fine vintage watch: Shuttles running from the three main pool-party venues—the Renaissance, the Riviera and the Saguaro—delivered Splashers to the pre-party at the Air Museum on Gene Autry Trail. I’m sure most of the young fans understood the deep connection Autry had to music, baseball and Palm Springs.

I am kidding: These EDM fans were here to party and listen to the best electronic music, in an effort to warm up for the pool parties that followed the next two days.

The Black Madonna headlined the pre-party. I had no idea who she was, which allowed me to listen with no biases or preconceived notions. It turns out she is a native of Kentucky who began her career as many do, by selling mix tapes in warehouses and—in her case—farm fields that became underground music venues. She magically melds different genres of music into tracks that fit well together, helping her stand out in the bro-dominated EDM scene. Her original mix of “He Is the Voice I Hear” was absolutely enchanting.

British DJ Hannah Wants brought her house beats to the Saguaro on a very hot Saturday afternoon. The Saguaro is the über-party place of Splash House; the proximity of the room’s balconies to the elevated DJ stage makes it a faultless spot if attendees do not want to leave their rooms.

Louis the Child was excited to be headlining the Renaissance on Saturday night. Robby Hauldren asked the crowd if they wanted a standard set, or a one-of-a-kind set. The crowd was mum on the subject, so the duo went with an incredible new set. “It’s Strange” was a pleasing tune. Aware of the long, hot day, Hauldren inquired as to the mood of the audience: “Are you still all right out there? Are you feeling the love? Are you feeling amazing?” This garnered a cheer from the sun-baked crowd.

Hauldren announced with excitement: “This is our first time headlining a festival.” He then announced the last song, a recorded track, “Better Not” (featuring Wafia), which played as they waved to fans.

One of the highlights of the Splash House after-hours party, once again held at the Air Museum, was Mija—a post-modern harlequin-like tech-house dream. Her “Notice Me”—with the words “I want you so badly in this weather, If only we could be together”—was joyful.

I was excited to see DJ Alex Harrington, whom I first met several years ago at Splash House when Gorgon City played in front of a few hundred fans at the now-defunct Hard Rock Hotel. Alex got the nod to open on the same stage where Gorgon City was the headliner last Sunday at the Renaissance. Harrington, a local and a former Independent contributor, has a new record coming out, Stargazer, and this was a great opportunity to show case his talent to a noon crowd who got to listen to his original material.

Splash House is like any music festival, in the sense that one can find gems while wandering around early in the day—like Silva, a DJ/producer playing a 1 p.m. set at the Riviera.

On a shuttle ride back the Saguaro, I met Kaley from Los Angeles, and Tina from Portland. Both ladies had floaties that were partially inflated. As Kaley was inflating her floatie, she said the air valve tasted like salad—and that she hates salad. She later explained that the night before, after the Louis the Child set, they’d acquired the floaties after they were abandoned by their previous owners; presumably, the person who previously inflated the floatie liked salads. Later that day, they waved happily when they spotted me at the Riviera. The best thing about Splash House is that everyone is in good spirits; it is easily the most laid-back music scene I cover all year.

Early Sunday evening, Grammy-nominated Camelphat packed the Renaissance during their nearly 90-minute set, keeping the bass strong, which re-energized the dancers.

Gorgon City returned to Splash House to close out the night. Fans adored new track “Love Me.” I am sure that while standing on the massive stage, they reflected upon the first time they played this event—in a room that was smaller than that stage.

As Splash House concluded for another year, I wondered: Is this a music festival, or just a well-planned pool party? Frankly, I don’t think it matters, because attendees are getting exactly what they paid for—a fun weekend under the sun with thousands of like-minded fun-seekers.

Published in Reviews

A sold-out Splash House officially got the summer season started in Palm Springs June 8-10. The celebration started at the Palm Springs Air Museum on a pleasant if windy summer night, before the daytime fun began at The Renaissance, The Riviera and The Saguaro.

I’ve been coming to Splash House for a few years now, so I fully understand how this hip counterpart to Coachella is an excellent excuse to party—and show off the results of your CrossFit training. Cole Porter said it best: “And that’s why birds do it, bees do it—even educated fleas do it; let’s do it.” And so some of the best DJs around created the soundtrack as the young and the young at heart looked for love—or at least a dance partner for the night.

The VIP section at the Palm Springs Air Museum allowed attendees to spread their figurative wings and relax on comfortable couches—and even offered access to the side of the stage, allowing attendees to be next to the talent, yet away from the crowded masses.

Touch Sensitive was the standout in the early evening at the museum, thanks in part to the disco song about positive affirmation, “Veronica”: “Hey baby, am I the only one that makes you lose your mind? Yes baby, hey baby, am I the one you want to fuck all the time? Yes baby.”

On Saturday afternoon at the Riviera, SMLE was a blast, spinning the original track “With Me” featuring Mary Ellen and Hyper Turner: “I’m waiting for my phone to ring; I’m wondering where you could be, and I’m waiting for that knock on my door, feeling restless; I can’t take any more.” The Riviera pool was crammed with so much splashing I was surprised there was any water left after the SMLE set.

The Dusky DJ set highlighted an awesome fun mashup featuring “Oh Yeah” by the Swiss band Yellow, highlighted on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—which came out decades before most of the audience was born.

The Grammy-nominated Duke Dumont closed out the Renaissance on Saturday, pleasing sunbathers and dancers loving the cool ambiance of “Ocean Drive”: “Don’t say a word while we danced with the devil.”

Security was over-the-top Sunday for attendees trying to get into the Riviera. People wearing just bikinis and banana hammocks were being patted down in search of contraband … which was odd. However, the line was worth it to see Chet Porter, who greeted the crowd: “Hello, Splash House; my name is Chet Porter. Are you having a good time?” Fans grooved to “Sad Machine X I love Kayne Mashup,” a fantastic improvement to the self-love tune, “I Love Kanye” by Kayne West.

After three days in the heat, another enjoyable Splash House was in the can. I’ll see you in August for Splash House Part II.

Published in Reviews

Cliff Young has been a well-known face in the Southern California food scene for more than two decades.

He’s owned coffee carts and coffee houses. He’s done restaurant reviews. He’s organized food festivals. He’s hosted popular radio and TV shows, including a local PBS show, Out to Eat, for more than five years. Through it all, however, his true passion has always been coffee—specifically, roasting coffee.

About six months ago, he put aside his media efforts to focus on his passion full-time via his brand-new Coachella Valley Coffee Co. The “small-batch artisanal coffee roasting” company today makes coffees specifically tailored to individual restaurants, while also roasting coffee that’s great to brew up at home—and Young always makes sure that a chunk of the proceeds go toward philanthropy. Young’s coffee can be purchased online or at retailers including Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace and the Palm Springs Air Museum.

To order coffee or learn more, visit coachellavalleycoffee.com. We recently sat down with Young at—where else?—a coffee house for a chat.

What possessed you to go ahead and start Coachella Valley Coffee Company?

I’ve been roasting since 1994. I started my first coffee business at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana—a little coffee cart. If you go to any Kaiser … those coffee carts were started by me. So I’ve been in the coffee business a long time. I wanted more control over my product, so I started going to Seattle, and hanging out with the roasters in San Francisco. I love taking this raw green coffee bean, which is about 12 to 15 percent moisture, and turning it into this gorgeous brown bean. Done rightly, the sugars come out.

A lot of people think, “Oh, I’ll just buy a roaster. I’m going to put this in, and it comes out.” No, it doesn’t. I learned from the old guys up in San Francisco, when Alfred Peet was still alive. It was nose and ears—it was olfactory and your ears. I can smell what’s going on with that coffee bean during the roasting process, and I can listen to it. I love standing next to my roaster, and just closing my eyes, and going, “That bean’s at 386 degrees,” and I’ll be within a degree or two, because you can hear what’s going on with that coffee. Even though we all have computers now telling us what to do, a computer can’t smell; a computer doesn’t taste.

I sold all of my other roasting businesses in ’08, before I started my PBS television show, because I was going to get rich on PBS. (Laughs.) Out to Eat was a fun show; I was No. 2 in ratings behind Huell Howser. Even after Huell died, he was still beating me in the ratings.

After moving back out here from Los Angeles, I said, “I’ve got to do something besides PBS, because I’m not paying the bills.” I’ve always been very, very good at roasting. Everybody has something they’re good at, and that was my thing. I built my own restaurants, opened my own restaurants—but this coffee thing, it got me. It’s my thing. I travel to the farms and meet the farmers …

Let me ask you about that. I just finished a bag of fantastic Nicaraguan coffee from you at home. How do these beans get from Nicaragua or Sumatra, or wherever it is, to your roaster?

Cliff Young, the roastmaster general, goes to Nicaragua, or Guatemala, or Costa Rica, or Colombia—I go to every country except for the African countries. I might buy from brokers who’ve been in the business for 30 years. I go visit farms. I learned years ago that just because it’s from, you know, Columbia, it doesn’t mean it’s good coffee. Columbia grows a lot of bad coffee, and so does Guatemala. The key is finding the farmers who take care of their crops, who are making sure they have the right fertilizers, natural, and that they’re feeding (their crops). Then you pay them properly … so they’re making money, and I get a great product.

I just got back from Nicaragua, where I’ve been going since ’03—(with) some of the best coffees ever. Luckily, I took one of my roasting friends with me, a kid who used to work for me, who now owns my very first coffeehouses in Redlands, and is roasting and doing a good job. We bought the entire crop. He said, “This is the best coffee we’ve ever had,” and thank god he has a bigger credit card than me. Then we book shipping containers and get it up here. It takes us a couple of weeks. Then I hold it … in a controlled environment. Even though we’re out in the desert, I have a controlled warehouse, because I want to keep that moisture content at 12 percent in that raw bean, so I have something to work with when it’s time to roast.

I think that’s what sets me apart: I travel. I know the farmers, and I make sure the farmers are taken care of. I enjoy traveling to these countries and making sure that not just the farm, but the local community, is taken care of.

Since you started doing this full-time again, how’s the reception been?

I thought it would be better, because I thought, “OK, I know so many of the shops and the restaurateurs in the valley; they’ve been on my television show, and on my radio shows,” so I thought they would just crawl all over me. It’s tough, and I know part of it is that I’m new. There are a couple other roasters out here that have been doing it for three years, or five years. I’ve got 25 years under my belt, and there’s a world of difference. I think I just have to put my product in front of them and let them try it, and compare it to anybody else’s, and they’ll notice the difference.

Where can your coffee be found right now?

A couple of the places in the Coachella Valley are Heirloom Craft Kitchen in La Quinta … and Wabi Sabi (Japan Living) and Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace in downtown Palm Springs; Oscar’s just picked us up, and Alebrije Bistro Mexico. … It took me about three tries to get a roast level that they were happy with. Theirs is really a half dark and half city roast.

You’re actually customizing your coffee for your different clients?

Yeah, I try to customize it for each restaurant, because … different coffees go with different foods. For Alebrije and the Mexican food with a little more fat in it, I wanted to get a darker roast in there that cleanses the palate. If I was going into more of a strictly breakfast restaurant, I’m going to stick with a little bit of a lighter roast.

What’s the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had?

It was on one of my first trips to Nicaragua in 2004. We didn’t want to stay in the city with the farm owner at their nice house, so we stayed at the farm with the workers, because I thought, “Oh, how cute, I want to pick coffee.” Well, that lasted about a half-hour, because it’s hard, and it was raining, and I’m falling down. … We stayed there at the farm in their new building, which just meant it was a one-room building with a concrete floor. Every day, we had black beans and rice and tortillas. You could hear the cook when she got to work at 5 a.m., because you could just hear slap, slap, slap as she’s making tortillas in the morning.

What made it good was … we figured out everything: We got a great coffee; we brewed it correctly. Roasted correctly, coffee has natural sugars in it, and you know you’ve done it right when people are putting less and less flavored syrups or sweeteners in their coffee. We take that liquid, that 12 percent moisture, and we caramelize (the bean) correctly at the right heat, and we have about 5 seconds while we can turn that into sugar, or we can destroy it. … (It’s not) full of sugar; it’s not that kind of sweet. It’s smooth. It’s almost velvety.

Most of us drink our coffee at home. When you’re making coffee for the general public, you can’t really customize it to a food, like you are for a restaurant. What do you do to make sure that coffee is great?

What am I doing? I’m packing it into a plastic bag with a valve that releases the carbon dioxide, because as coffee ages, it’s letting out (carbon dioxide). After a couple of weeks, all the gas is gone; all the CO2 is gone. CO2 is good, because it also moves flavors around in your mouth, so once all the CO2 is gone, it’s stale, old coffee.

When you get coffee, grind it right before you brew it, because within a few minutes of grinding coffee, 50 percent of those oils and the flavor disappear. So grind it fresh, and then use good water. If you drink your water from the tap, and it tastes good, then it’s good. We don’t have to over-complicate this. Buy a decent grinder—you can get one for $30. So you have good, fresh-ground coffee, good water and hot water—water’s got to be right off of the boil, about 202 degrees. That’s the issue with a lot of home coffee makers—they don’t get hot enough, and if you don’t get hot enough, you’re not extracting everything you want to.

Published in Features & Profiles

Thanks to the exploding popularity of craft beer, large-scale beer events these days are becoming ever-more common.

But it’s safe to say that the Palm Springs Air Museum’s annual Props and Hops Craft Beer Fest is the only large-scale beer event around these parts where you can sample fantastic brews and go for a ride in a vintage airplane.

The Sixth Annual Props and Hops Craft Beer Fest will take place from noon to 5 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18. Air Museum spokesperson Ann Greer pointed out how great of a venue the Air Museum is for events; the Air Museum now hosts everything from Palm Springs Leather Pride to Splash House after-parties.

“The Air Museum in general is a very unique facility, with 86,000 square feet inside, and 40,000 square feet outside,” Greer said. “It’s near the airport, so there are no sound issues or concerns about the volume of the music, and there’s plenty of parking.”

Unlike Splash House and Leather Pride, Props and Hops is the museum’s own event—and that means it has a definite airplane vibe. This year, pilots of three different airplanes will be offering attendees rides for an extra fee: a P-51 Mustang; a DC-3; and the B-25 “Executive Sweet.” Rides on the DC-3 can be purchased in advance via the Air Museum for $195 (which includes festival admission); rides on the other two planes must be purchased at the event, or by calling the plane owners directly. (See the Props and Hops website for more information.)

If you have no interest in a plane ride, but you love craft beer, no worries: Props and Hops will be featuring beer from 20-plus breweries, including our valley’s very own La Quinta Brewing Co. and Coachella Valley Brewing Co. Food from In-n-Out Burger, G’s Taco Spot and Knights of Columbus Pizza will be available for sale.

“It’s very laid back,” Greer said. “You can be outside or inside, whatever your preference. If you want, you can just hang out, listen to music and watch planes take off.”

As for that music: Alex Harrington will be providing the day’s entertainment, along with singer David Macias. Harrington—the former Coachella Valley Independent resident DJ—is one of the valley’s most in-demand DJs, and he said he’s a fan of Props and Hops.

“Opportunities to play venues like this don’t come along too often,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to vibe off of airplanes taking off, but the energy at the event is really good.”

This will be the first Props and Hops to include the Palm Springs Air Museum’s brand-new hangar, which focuses on the Cold War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Greer mentioned that Props and Hops is a useful event for the Air Museum, because it gives the facility exposure to a younger crowd.

In a similar vein, Harrington said he’s excited about the fact that Props and Hops will introduce his brand of electronic dance music to people who have never heard him perform before.

“I love to bring my sound and the idea of DJing to new crowds,” Harrington said.

The Sixth Annual Props and Hops Craft Beer Fest takes place from noon to 5 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs. General admission is $40 in advance, or $45 at the door, and includes a commemorative tasting mug and eight 4-ounce beer-tastings. Designated drivers pay $5 at the door. Props and Hops is a 21-and-older event, although well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome; attendees are encouraged to bring folding chairs. For tickets or more information, visit pspropshops.com.

Published in Local Fun

The three-day party that it is Splash House returned for the second and final time this summer, running Aug. 11-13.

The Friday night pre-party, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, featured the best performances of the entire weekend, in my book—but I must admit I’m biased toward performers who use instruments.

Klatch, hailing from the West Coast dance scene, kicked things off on Friday with a traditional DJ set, igniting the early evening crowd. Edlerbrook took things in a different direction with smoldering vocals merging with ambient digitized electronic sampling. The track “Difficult to Love” is an agreeable tune about how we see early experiences optimistically, compared to the actual eventual reality of the experience: “I’m difficult to love at the best of times; oh, at the best of times, I’m high again (high, high, high); and maybe that was mistake (my mistake, my mistake, uhm); you said I waste time, and I never get why you’re in love with me.”

Elderbrook wowed fans with the song “How Many Times,” ending with the tune and saying, “Peace,” before walking off the stage. After his performance, a happy devotee grabbed me by the shoulder and proclaimed, “That’s Elderbrook. He is going to be big; write it down.”

I just want to say I completely fell in love with Sofi Tukker, a New York-based duo featuring Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. The cheerful Halpern mentioned, “The last time we were out here was for Coachella.” Sofi Tukker’s music was very danceable, with electronic beats and strong guitar riffs from Hawley-Weld, and lots running around the stage. The song “Greed” took on POTUS directly with full electronic goodness: “Your ego, your crashing, your greed, keeping you up all night.”

Bob Moses ended the night with a fantastic song, “Like It or Not,” with some words of wisdom: “It’s gotta mean something; it’s gotta mean something to you; it’s gotta keep pushing; you gotta keep pushing through.”

The Saguaro, the Riviera, and the Renaissance accommodated crowds once again on Saturday and Sunday. I started Saturday off at the Saguaro, the most intimate of the three venues, where the balconies were covered up more than the attendees. As I walked in, a guy stopped me, seeing my camera gear, and had his friends clear a path in front of the DJ so he could do a summersault … just because. The atmosphere at the Saguaro is all about being there and having fun; most of the crowd was away from the DJ booth, instead enjoying the pool and/or looking for a future mate.

Over at the Riviera on Saturday, the pool was packed and overflowing; there always seem to be pools of water on the sides, caused by the crowded conditions. Manila Killa spun pure joy, enthralling listeners with indie-pop electronica.

On Saturday, Gigamesh, aka Matthew Thomas Masurka, performed on the Renaissance stage. His set was slated to be an hour long, but his time onstage was cut short due to his equipment heating up; the west-facing stage unfortunately lacked protection from the heat.

Splash House ran like a Swiss watch when it came to set times, but security was very strict, even checking wallets for contraband. It was hot as heck, which may have explained the more-subdued crowd on the between-venue shuttles, as compared to the June Splash House: I did not witness any dancing or singing this time around.

Hoping for another great time at the Air Museum, I headed back on Saturday night for former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy’s DJ set, which was competent but lacked the punch of the performances the night before. Only the diehards could dance in the sweltering heat that night, and the VIP lounge was packed with seated guests observing instead of engaging in the music.

On Sunday at the Renaissance, Sango sampled some amazing tracks, including Young Thug’s rap verse which doubles as sage advice from a gunslinger: “Don’t try to take it; I got guns; I’m talkin’ guns, not pellets.” Sango kept the thumping loud, with plenty of hooks that excited the evening admirers.

Closing out Splash House at the Renaissance was Kaytranada. Unfortunately, the scorching set by Sango may have heated things up too much, because technical difficulties hampered the beginning of his show. He took the problems with a smile: “My shit is not set up yet. I am going to play whatever! ... This is a god damn disaster,” he said as a large skipping sound flowed through the massive speakers. Later, the sampling of Suede’s “NxWorries” was the perfect way for him to express frustration for this minor glitch in his headlining gig: “If I call you a bitch, it’s ’cause you’re my bitch, and as long as no one else call you a bitch, then there won’t be no problems. Now, If I call you a trick, it’s ’cause you paid the rent.” We can only speculate whether this track was dropped to express frustration with the production staff. At the end, Kaytranada had everyone dancing, with smiles on the faces of the die-hard partygoers.

Splash House once again was a joyful event. Everyone chills out and gets along, no matter their background, ethnicity or sexual orientation. If we could infuse the inclusiveness of this event into the rest of the country, we would all be better for it.

Published in Reviews

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