CVIndependent

Sun12082019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Owners of Wally’s Desert Turtle to Retire at the End of the Season; Restaurant’s Future ‘To Be Determined

At the very least, management change is coming to Wally’s Desert Turtle, one of the desert’s pre-eminent fine-dining restaurants, located at 71775 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage: Owners Michael and Nicole Botello have announced they’re going to retire at the end of the tourist season.

Wally’s—which was opened by Michael’s father, Wally Botello, in 1978—has been managed by Michael and Nicole since 1982.

What does this mean for the future of Wally’s? We reached out to the restaurant and asked whether it would close or continue on under new management. The response: “That is to be determined. What we know at this time is that the Botellos are retiring.”

Watch this space and www.facebook.com/wallysturtle for more information.


Sanctuary Palm Springs Throws a ‘Holiday Spectacular’ at Spencer’s

One of the valley’s most amazing nonprofits also happens to throw one of the valley’s most festive holiday parties—at one of the valley’s most revered restaurants.

Sanctuary Palm Springs—a transitional home for former LGBTQ foster youth, 18-21, who have aged out of the system—will be throwing its Holiday Spectacular fundraiser from 5 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Bougainvillea Room at Spencer’s Restaurant, at 701 W. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs.

We’ll now quote from the news release, because it explains the goings-on as well, if not better, than we could: “The $95 ticket price includes cocktails, lavish hors d’oeuvres, and a not-so-silent auction co-hosted by the effervescent Dottie and Maude of Les Dames du Soleil, plus a special performance by Broadway’s David Burnham. David is an award-winning actor and singer last seen on Broadway in the mega-hit musical, Wicked. The event will be hosted by actor and comedian Alec Mapa.”

The event was formerly known as Holiday Socks, because it involved filling holiday stockings with presents for the youth living at Sanctuary. “With a goal of raising funds to help support the entire program, the ‘socks’ part of its name seemed less relevant, so we’ve evolved and renamed it Holiday Spectacular, which is more fitting,” said Rob Woronoff, Sanctuary’s executive director, in the aforementioned news release.

For tickets or more information, visit sanctuarypalmsprings.org (click on “Support Us” for tickets), or call 760-766-3500.


In Brief

New to 73850 Highway 111, in Palm Desert: Grindhouse Burgers. The joint’s Facebook page promises a unique, never-frozen burger blend, along with brews and TVs with sports on. And what’s this about sweet-potato tots? And homemade brown sugar maple cake? Call 760-404-0300, or visit facebook.com/grindhouseburgersurge for more details. … Brew in LQ, one of the east valley’s best beer festivals, returns on Saturday, Nov. 2. More than a dozen breweries will be on hand, along with food, live music, games and more. It takes place at the One Eleven La Quinta Center, at 78950 Highway 111, in La Quinta, and advance tickets cost $25, or are two for $30, plus fees; designated drivers get in for $10, and imbibers will pay $10 more at the door. Get tickets to the rain-or-shine, 21-and-older event, as well as more info, at www.playinlaquinta.com/brew. … Even though the big event isn’t until March 27-29, 2020, tickets are now on sale for the annual Palm Desert Food and Wine festival. Admission to the grand tastings starts at $100. Head on over to www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com. … Even though this is a project by friends of the Independent, we don’t know a lot about it—but we’re intrigued. It’s called the Palm Springs Oyster Society, and the description on the Instagram page simply reads: “Oysters and caviar. DM us to RSVP for our next event November 10th.” Wanna know more? Get thee to that Instagram page (www.instagram.com/psoystersociety), and send a DM! … New to the Cathedral Canyon Golf Club, at 68311 Paseo Real, in Cathedral City: Jax Bar + Dining. It’s operated by Jack Srebnik, the owner of The Slice in Rancho Mirage, and Maracas Mexican Cantina in Rancho Mirage and Palm Springs. Expect California cuisine, live music on the weekends, and other fun; visit www.facebook.com/JAXBarDining for more. … Newish at 66121 Pierson Blvd., in Desert Hot Springs: Delicias Mexican Cuisine. The owners promise “authentic Mexican food from Mexico City.” Sounds yummy! Head to www.facebook.com/DeliciasMexicanCuisine for more. … One of our favorite local chefs has landed at one of our favorite special-occasion restaurants. Jennifer Town, formerly of the Purple Room and Melvyn’s, is now the executive chef at the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel, at 572 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Curious about what she’s up to? Watch www.facebook.com/PurplePalmRestaurant.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came

In 2008, I was in the midst of a major life transition. I was a musician who had retreated from the wasteland that was the Los Angeles music scene a year previous, and was I wondering what my next move would be. Beer had always been a love of mine, so I found myself alongside my cousin Josh, attempting to brew it at home.

Our first beer was an IPA, and while it turned out drinkable, it wasn't great. I needed help, and deep within the recesses of Yahoo! Groups, I found the Coachella Valley Homebrew Club. I contacted the club's founder and was invited to a bar in Palm Desert for the award ceremony of a local homebrew competition run by the bar's proprietor.

That proprietor's name is Brent Schmidman, and his bar was Schmidy's Tavern.

Schmidy (this is, after all, how we refer to the man) hails from Nebraska, and in his words, he was fortunate enough to spend a little time as a Marine stationed in San Diego at Camp Pendleton when not in Asia. It was then he fell in love with Southern California.

"I loved the weather, and coming from the Midwest, this was perfect year-round," he said.

He found himself starting a maintenance business in Orange County, where the stress of the job eventually got to him—so he sold it and moved to the Coachella Valley. Why the desert? "I had been coming out here so I could get back down to earth … being from the Midwest and not used to Orange County craziness."

He decided to take some previous experience with the hospitality and beverage industries into a sales position with a local drinks distributor, where he developed a love for "microbrew." After eight successful years with the distribution company, Schmidy was ready to move on.

"I decided I would open a place that would focus on the locals, and because of my passion, craft beer had to be a part of that," he said.

He emphasized his desire to concentrate on the year-round desert residents. "The premise was to focus on locals. Of course, tourists were welcome, too, but really, (it was) for the community to have a place to go—kind of like a modern-day Cheers," he explained. After some searching, he found a location in Palm Desert that would be the home of Schmidy's Tavern, beginning in 2008.

Then in 2010 came Jonas Wilby, the Stone Brewing Company bartender-turned-local representative for Stone Distributing Company.

"They presented an offer to me to move out there and launch Stone Distributing,” Wilby said. “I would be the everyday distribution rep and work alongside all the customers in all facets: stores, chains, restaurants and bars."

He quickly paid a visit to Stone's only IPA tap handle in the valley—at Schmidy's Tavern—only to find it wasn't on tap anymore. "I was like, ‘God dang! We lost this handle!’" Jonas said. "I eventually got a chance to sit down (with Schmidman) and … we talked about the different brands in our portfolio, about cold storage and cold delivery. And we could guarantee to have super-fresh inventory." This, combined with the amount of driving this would save Schmidman, led to an important partnership.

Shortly thereafter, Schmidy had an idea: "I said to Jonas, 'I want to build the craft-beer scene, and I want you to help me. … I'm going to pay for the beers, and we will give free samples. I just want to educate people.' We started it once a week. The first weeks we did it, we couldn't give it away!"

Added Wilby: “There were people sitting at the bar, drinking a Bud Light, saying, 'No, I'm good. I don't want to try that,' like I was trying to poison them.”

But with persistence, Beer School, as Schmidy dubbed it, started to gain momentum and eventually boomed. The last Wednesday of every month, for $20, you'd get four-ounce pours of four beers, alongside four courses of food—and at the end, a specially made cask that Schmidy acquired for the occasion would be tapped, and everyone would get a pour. Soon enough, Schmidy's had to turn people away.

Before founding Coachella Valley Brewing Co. in 2013, Chris Anderson used his culinary background to help Schmidy with the dinner menus.

"(Schmidman) and I really had an ability to create some unique, innovative and often incredibly well-thought-out beer and food pairings together. They were often beers and foods that you probably wouldn't see normally in the valley," Anderson said.

Said Schmidman: "We got real creative about it and thought outside the box and did crazy stuff. That was what it was about: to create an experience with beer that would be memorable. Then people realize beer is not just something you guzzle down while you're mowing the lawn."

Beer School became a "tent pole" event, even bringing in industry people to help out on occasion. 

"Because we had a set time, and it was an event,” Wilby said, “I was able to go out when I was talking to other accounts, even if it was a new account, and I'd be like, 'Hey, you gotta come out to Beer School to see what the desert beer scene is really like.'"

A group of beer-lovers were working at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club at the time, including chef Jennifer Town, who would later be the guest chef at multiple Beer Schools.

In 2013, Schmidman sold the tavern, and Beer School eventually fizzled out. Schmidy’s Tavern itself closed in 2016, after the landlord significantly raised the rent on the space.

"I don’t think you will find another person as passionate, driven and hungry as … Brent,” Anderson said. “He put in the time and effort to make that place a beer destination. He knew that it was going to be a big effort, and it worked. I often would see him in the morning, and he would still be there in the office working well into the night.”

There has not been a local craft-beer bar like Schmidy's Tavern since.

"What was in my head throughout this whole time was spreading the love for craft beer and spreading the culture, one beer at a time," Schmidy said. "I'm proud of what we did … I don't know if it would be the same now or not."

I'd like to raise a toast to Schmidy's Tavern. Here's to hoping we get something as good back here in the desert soon.

Brett Newton is a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and homebrewer who has mostly lived in the Coachella Valley since 1988. He currently works at the Coachella Valley Brewing Co. taproom in Thousand Palms. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Beer

At Long Last: O’Caine’s Irish Pub Is Finally Open in Rancho Mirage

It seems like as long as there’s been a city called Rancho Mirage, O’Caine’s Irish Pub has been under construction.

OK, I am exaggerating here, but I do so to make a point: The bar and restaurant at 36101 Bob Hope Drive—that’s the shopping center Gelson’s is in—has been “coming soon” for a really long time. But finally, the wait is over: O’Caine’s opened in March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

You’ll find the beer and cocktails one would expect to find at an Irish pub, and O’Caine’s menu offers tasty-sounding fare like sausage rolls, king salmon, bangers with mashed potatoes, fish and chips—and, of course, corned beef and cabbage (with bacon, too!) and shepherd’s pie.

“Chef Gavin’s menu offers high-quality, freshly crafted dishes, which reflect the authentic flavors of Ireland. We work with local vendors to procure the freshest ingredients and to source organic, non-GMO, sustainable items for the menu,” the website says.

We’ll be in soon to check things out with our own eyes. For more information, call 760-202-3311, or visit ocainesirishpub.com.


Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta Opens in La Quinta, Boosting the Local Craft-Beer Scene

In 2013, the valley’s nascent craft-beer scene got a boost when the number of local breweries tripled—that is, went from one to three—with the openings of Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and La Quinta Brewing Co. The future of craft beer in the Coachella Valley was looking bright and promising.

Today, in 2019, the number of local breweries is … still three.

Yeah, there have been endless rumors about other breweries popping up, and La Quinta Brewing has expanded its footprint by opening two taprooms in addition to its flagship Palm Desert location. Revel Public House has started the Palm Springs Brewing Company—although the handful of beers with that moniker are actually as of now brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works. In other words, there has been some progress in the local beer world—but the fact, is the number of companies actually making beer locally has stayed the same for almost six years.

However, that number will finally be increasing. Desert Beer Company will be opening this year in Palm Desert, according to its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/desertbeerco). And then there’s Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta.

The restaurant and brewery recently opened at 78772 Highway 111, in La Quinta—a site that has some local beer history, as it was once the site of Lamppost Pizza and Backstreet Brewery. It’s a project of two Yucaipa-based businesses: Tuscano’s Pizza and Pasta, and Brewcaipa.

As of now, Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta aren’t brewing any beer onsite. However, according to the Coachella Valley Beer Scene (CVBeerscene.com), that will soon change.

“In the early days, they’ll be bringing beer in from Yucaipa, brewed by none other than our local valley friend and beer writer, Aaron Ramson,” writes CVBeerscene.com. “Aaron has been the head brewer at Brewcaipa for a little over a year, and was formerly the assistant brewer at Babe’s. They plan to put a brewery in the La Quinta location within six months.”

This is all very exciting news for the local beer scene—and we’ll keep you updated as it develops.

For more information on Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta, call 760-625-1129, or visit www.facebook.com/TuscanosBrewQuinta.


In Brief

The Ingleside Inn, at 200 W. Ramon Road, in Palm Springs, has changed management—and that means so, too, has Melvyn’s Restaurant. Out is the PlumpJack Group, owned by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s family; in is the team that also runs the nearby Avalon Hotel. Executive Chef Jennifer Town has departed, and Melvyn’s is now being run by Jason Moffitt, the executive chef at the Avalon. … Congrats to Chelsi Bishop, the manager of the Ben and Jerry’s store at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage: She has been named by the corporate office as the nationwide Manager of the Year. Congrats! … The Steakhouse at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has a new executive chef. Kenneth Williams’ resumé includes a stint at Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas, where he helped open the Bellagio; most recently, he worked as the executive chef of theme park operations at Universal Studios Hollywood. Get more information at www.hotwatercasino.com/steakhouse. … New to 73130 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Kitchen 86 + Bar, a “modern eclectic small plate restaurant.” The menu includes all sorts of “sharables” including various dumplings, rosemary lamb chops and boom-boom shrimp, while “mains” include a cowboy rib eye and a house curry. View the menu and more at www.kitchen-86.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

When I heard that the San Francisco-based PlumpJack Group had purchased the legendary Ingleside Inn and its Melvyn’s restaurant following the death last year of longtime owner Mel Haber, my feelings were decidedly mixed.

On one hand, Melvyn’s is an institution. The old-school recipes, the tableside prep, the … uh, past-normal-retirement-age maître d’s—these things make Melvyn’s a Palm Springs classic, unlike any other restaurant in the valley.

On the other hand … Melvyn’s, located at 200 W. Ramon Road, has a lot of room to improve. Both the food and service in recent years have been wildly inconsistent, and it seemed management was doing little to reach new customers.

Turns out that Melvyn’s new executive chef, Jennifer Town, shares a lot of the same opinions.

Town, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, has an impressive resume, to say the least. She was the head chef for the Italian Olympic Team (!) and worked at The Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas, before coming to the desert to help open the Ace Hotel and Swim Club. Before starting at Melvyn’s, she spent the last several years wowing customers at Michael Holmes’ Purple Room.

As the PlumpJack Group works on a property-wide renovation, Town has spent the last couple of months working on Melvyn’s menu—not renovating it, but making little changes here and there. She said she’s very cognizant of how beloved Melvyn’s is in certain circles.

“My first month or so here, I did not change the menus at all,” she said. “I looked at the recipes of all of the old favorites, and worked on making sure they’re made consistently.”

While she didn’t change the menus, she did start making little improvements. Examples: She updated the mushrooms in the steak Diane. She removed the sherry from the veal Ingleside. She bumped up the quality of the blue cheese used in salad dressings. She started ordering higher-quality beef, from Creekstone Farms.

“I am making tweaks and adding extra flavors,” she said. “My goal is for customers to notice that the food is better, but they can’t pinpoint the changes.”

She said customers should also not expect any wholesale changes to the items on the main menu; about 90 to 95 percent of it will remain the same. She does plan on adding a few things that weren’t offered before at Melvyn’s, such as a scallop dish, a Chilean sea bass and perhaps a halibut entrée.

Fans of Melvyn’s tableside prep have nothing to worry about, either: It’s not going anywhere.

“It’s such a spectacular show,” Town said.

Having said that, she did say she’s working on making sure the food cooked tableside, like the food made in the kitchen, is more consistent.

“No matter who you order from, you should get the same product,” she said.

The one area in which she’s making big changes, she said, is the bar. Don’t worry; the martinis and the old-school piano vibe will still be present, and the full menu will still be offered. However, sometime in October, she’s planning on introducing a brand-new bar menu, featuring a dozen or so appetizers and lighter dishes, including deviled eggs ($7), a grilled flatbread ($12), crab cakes ($15), a burger ($15) and steak and pom frites ($20). Yum.

Town said the staff has so far been very welcoming to her and her vision for Melvyn’s.

“Generally speaking, most are excited,” she said. “Change is hard, but they can see where they needed to make little changes for the better.”

Published in Features & Profiles

The weather is starting to cool down in the Coachella Valley—so it’s a perfect time to explore what the craft-beer industry has to offer at local beer festivals. They are the perfect place to experiment, meet fellow craft-beer enthusiasts and even get involved in the community!

For the third year, the Palm Springs Air Museum is combining two things that you may not normally think go together: flying and beer. The Props and Hops Craft Beer Festival commences on Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Air Museum, a picturesque venue with gorgeous views. General admission costs $35.

I am on the festival’s board, and this year, the beers on offer will range from one-off seasonals to perennial favorites.

All three local breweries will be pouring their award-winning beers. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse will be pouring its Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale, which just took home a silver medal from the granddaddy of all beer events, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. will likely be pouring its newest seasonal offering, Condition Black. It’s an imperial black IPA offered every Veterans Day. Another possible offering is the new Saison L'Automne, a fall farmhouse ale with yams, pumpkins and spices.

La Quinta Brewing Co. will have on hand the popular Indian Canyon IPA, the Poolside Blonde and the brewery’s fall/early winter seasonal, the Tan Line Brown. The brewery will also bring either its new barrel-aged porter, or the Sand Storm Double IPA.

Of course, other breweries from Southern California will be on hand, including Lost Abbey/Port Brewing, Stone Brewing, Hangar 24, Lagunitas, Ballast Point, Firestone Walker, Black Market, Refuge Brewery and Golden Road Brewing.

Homebrewers are making an ever-increasing mark on the industry, and the festival will highlight these beer-making champions with the third annual homebrewers' competition. Led by local Coachella Valley Homebrew Club president Brett Newton, the Beer Judge Certification Program-certified competition will only be limited by imagination. Bring your tasty concoction, and get some expert feedback from certified beer judges! Entries must be received at either Coachella Valley Brewing in Thousand Palms, or MoreBeer in Riverside, by Nov. 8. Brewers must bring three unmarked, unlabeled 12-ounce bottles, and the winners will be announced at the festival. Prizes include gift cards, a 70-liter Speidel fermenter from MoreBeer, and, of course, mad respect from fellow craft-beer drinkers.

This year, the festival is offering beer-lovers a chance to literally combine flying and beer: For an extra $175, experience a Cicerone-guided tour of beers while in the sky above the Coachella Valley. This rare beer-tasting will be held aboard a vintage DC3!

The festival will include more live music than last year, with performances by The Anonymous Five, the Independent´s own All Night Shoes, and Long Duk Dong.

The big brain behind the event is an ale-loving, craft beer advocate, Brent Schmidman. He’s the man responsible for making Schmidy’s Tavern into the loved craft-beer spot that it is today.

“We’re always trying to push the envelope with the event and to bring something new,” he said.

Schmidman said he’s excited about some breweries who are new to the festival this year.

“The first two that come to mind are Avery and Three Weavers. Avery is an amazing brewery and makes some insane beers—crazy wild sours and barrel-aged beers that are hard to get. I'm also excited about Three Weavers Brewing, a new brewery from Inglewood. They’re already making a big buzz in the beer scene.”

Yours truly will be hosting a special beer dinner on the night before the festival at the Purple Room in Palm Springs. Join me on Friday, Nov. 21, at 6:30 p.m. for an intimate dinner featuring several Southern California beers. Executive chef Jen Town will be preparing the menu, and together, we’ll pair the food with the perfect beers. Tickets are $55, and capacity is limited to 100 people. Don’t miss out!

Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated if you’re a beer novice. Volunteers, brewers and other festival attendees will be happy to guide you toward amazing beers with which you may not be familiar.

The craft-beer revolution continues to gain momentum, and festivals like Props and Hops are a perfect way to experiment with new and trending California beers. Who knows? You may just find a new favorite.

Get tickets and more information at www.PropsandHopsFestival.com.

Published in Beer