CVIndependent

Sat02292020

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

A recent Independent story, which serves as the cover story in our March print edition, examines the mess that Assembly Bill 5 has made for independent musicians.

As the headline says … it’s a shit show.

You can read the specifics in the story—by my friend Kevin Allman, who recently moved to Southern California after a 12-year stint as the editor of the Gambit weekly in New Orleans—but I wanted to point out something I discovered while editing and fact-checking the piece: This AB 5 mess marks the first time that a lot of young adults have had to seriously deal with the consequences of a new state law … and they’re pissed. One tongue-in-cheek comment I saw on a social-media account sums it up: “Yay California. Way to lift people up. Regulations is just what we need!”

Actually … AB 5 was needed. It was just badly executed. In April 2018, in response to a case against a transportation company, the California Supreme Court ruled that a worker could only be considered an independent contractor (rather than an employee) if the worker met three specific criteria. As a result, the Legislature needed to step in and craft new law to clarify things … and that led to AB 5.

Well, AB 5 arguably made a bad situation worse: In an attempt to “protect” Lyft and Uber drivers, as well as drivers for services like Postmates and Grubhub, by making sure they were classified as employees, Rep. Lorena Gonzalez pushed through legislation that, with neither rhyme nor reason, exempted some gigs, while not exempting others. Graphic artists and fine artists were exempted … while musicians were not. Freelance writers were exempted, but only if they write 35 pieces or fewer for a publication/website in a year.

Why 35? I have no idea. Neither does anyone else.

Take the situation Independent music scribe Matt King now faces. Matt, for the most part, decides what he writes about; he suggests story topics, and I say yea or nay while giving him a deadline. He works when he wants, where he wants, and is paid more than a minimum-wage equivalent for his work. Yet barring a change in the law, I’ll soon need to either bring him on as an employee, or let him go, if we want to comply with the law.

Matt is also a musician and a band leader—and according to AB 5, he should be considered both an employee and an employer at his gigs now: He’d be an employee of the venue, and the employer of his band mates.

It’s a shit show.

The state and Democratic lawmakers are making a terrible impression on a whole lot of young residents as a result of AB 5—and who knows what future electoral consequences this may have?

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. Feel free to email me with feedback—and be sure to pick up the March 2020 print edition.

Three Pieces of Unsolicited Advice for Restaurateurs

There’s surprisingly little restaurant news to report at this point during the busy season ... because, well, most everyone is so gosh-darned busy.

Therefore, I’m going to take advantage of this relative news lull to offer up a few pieces of advice to the valley’s restaurateurs. While I’m certainly not a trained chef or a restaurant-management expert, I have been writing about food and restaurants for more than two decades now. And I’ve noticed some things.

Enough with the preamble:

• Be sure to make a good first impression. I’m stunned at how many restaurants put someone at the host/hostess stand who is ... well, less than pleasant. On a recent lunch visit to one of Palm Springs’ most-popular restaurants, we were seated by a young woman who seemed, well, downright morose—to the point that my husband and I, when she was out of hearing range, instantly asked each other if we had noticed her demeanor. We had ... and while I can’t remember off the top of my head what I had for lunch that day, I sure remember that unenthusiastic hostess.

• Be sensitive to people dealing with disabilities or injuries. One example on how NOT to do things: The hubby and I tried to dine at another popular Palm Springs restaurant (that does not take reservations) on one recent, busy weekend night. I walked up and requested a table for two, and explained that because my husband—who was sitting in a chair in full view of the host/hostess area—had just undergone knee surgery to repair a broken kneecap, he couldn’t bend his right leg; therefore, we needed a table rather than a booth.

The woman seating people simply responded, “A table will take longer.” I said OK and was given a pager. We waited for about 20 minutes and saw all sorts of people seated immediately, albeit in booths. As my husband’s discomfort grew, I went up and asked how much longer the table would be.

“A table will take longer,” the woman repeated. I asked if that meant 10 more minutes, or a half hour, or what—and she said she couldn’t tell me, but that it could be a while.

At that point, I shook my head, handed her the pager and left. If we’d have been told that we could be facing a half-hour wait, minimum, when we’d arrived, we would have understood, thanked her and left. It was a hugely busy night, after all. However, to be told, simply, “A table takes longer,” without clarification .... that’s not good, especially when a regular customer is sitting, clearly suffering, in plain view.

• Make sure your online presence is up to date. I’m a food nerd who likes to research menus before trying new places, and it’s a true bummer whenever I spot an item online I’d like to try—only to be told when ordering that the item I was craving is no longer available after a menu change. It’s not hard, or it shouldn’t be, to keep customers or potential customers informed by making sure websites and social media accounts are accurate.

Thanks for reading … and thanks to all the hard-working restaurant employees and owners who kick ass during these busy months.


In Brief

The biggest food festival of the year is here! Palm Desert Food and Wine will feature events from Wednesday, March 25, through Sunday, March 29. The biggest shindigs are the grand tastings, taking place from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29, at The Gardens on El Paseo, at 73545 El Paseo. Tickets cost $100; you can get in earlier if you want to pay more. For tickets and complete schedule of events, visit www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com. … The four bars and restaurants at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, at 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, have a new boss: Dan Grunbeck was recently appointed the executive chef. He headed south from the Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. “Marrying his French-Italian cooking style with his love of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, Grunbeck aims to elevate desert dining through memorable culinary moments infused with a strong sense of place,” says the press release announcing Grunbeck’s arrival. Welcome, Dan! … Lots of changes have happened recently at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, at 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. As part of a year-long remodel, Morongo opened three new restaurants: Mozen Asian Kitchen, offering an array of traditional delicacies from China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan; Pink Coffee, featuring coffee and house-made treats including gelato and baked goods; and the Good Times Café, a 24-hour gastropub with two-dozen beers on tap. Learn more at www.morongocasinoresort.com. … There’s going to be a new speakeasy inside Bouschet, at 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 22, in Palm Springs. It’s called PS Air, and it's opening sometime in March. Watch www.bouschet.com for updates.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:55

The Indy Endorsement: The Omakase at Taka Shin

What: The omakase

Where: Taka Shin, 641 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $75 to $100; $85 as described

Contact: 760-600-5806; takashin-ps.com

Why: It’s the ultimate splurge/treat.

When Miho Suma tells me something about Japanese food, I listen.

Miho is the owner of Shabu Shabu Zen, the amazing Rancho Mirage restaurant that is, for my money, one of the top places to dine in the valley. A little more than a year ago, she emailed me and urged me to visit Taka Shin, which had just opened in the former Thai Smile space in downtown Palm Springs.

“It is a REAL sushi restaurant,” she wrote, “not mainly serving American style rolls, but nigiri and authentic food. I suggest you to visit and try.”

I told her I would … and a year passed, with her email still highlighted in my inbox.

Then came the last month or so, during which my husband and I both suffered injuries involving broken or dislocated bones. We’re on the mend, fortunately, and we decided that we needed a good restaurant splurge to brighten our moods. Miho’s email came to mind—so I called Taka Shin and made a reservation.

It was time for omakase. It’s a Japanese word that means, more or less, to entrust—the chef would prepare whatever he saw fit. And the eight courses that came to our table ranged from good to fantastic.

First came an appetizer plate with an oyster, monkfish liver and seaweed salad. Second was cucumber salad with crab, followed by an egg custard containing mushrooms, shrimp and edamame. Fourth up was marinated sea bass in miso broth; then we received a tempura plate with shrimp, mushrooms, green beans and lotus root. Our six and seventh courses were sashimi (pictured) and sushi—and every bit of it was fresh and masterfully prepared. The meal concluded with cheese cake—one piece with strawberry, and the other with green tea.

It was $85—worth every penny, and then some. Trust Miho and I when we say that Taka Shin is a gem—whether you’re splurging, or you just want a “normal” authentic Japanese meal.

What: The fish ’n’ chips with Pacific cod

Where: O’Caine’s Irish Pub, 36101 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage

How much: $20 for 9 ounces, as pictured

Contact: 760-202-3311; www.ocainesirishpub.com

Why: It’s crispy, moist and tasty.

There are few food things more pleasant to me than biting into a perfectly prepared piece of beer-battered fish.

First, there’s the crunch, the saltiness and the subtle beer flavor from the batter. Then comes the warm, soft fish; there are so many varied tastes and textures in each and every bite.

Of course, “chips”—french fries—are a perfect companion. The mouth-feel starts off similarly—with crunch and saltiness—but then the potato ends up being completely different in terms of flavor and texture.

Is there any wonder fish-and-chips is such a classic bar/pub food? No, it’s no wonder at all.

One of the better versions of this dish I’ve had in the Coachella Valley is at O’Caine’s Irish Pub, which opened a year ago in the same shopping center as Gelson’s in Rancho Mirage. While O’Caine’s also offers both jumbo shrimp (six pieces for $25) and Nova Scotia salmon (8 ounces for $25) under the “fish and chips” banner, during my recent lunch visit, I went the traditional route—and I was hungry, so I got the larger portion (as opposed to the 6-ounce portion for $2 less).

When my food came, I was pleasantly surprised: The pieces of cod were huge, and came with lots of medium-cut fries and a small cup of “minty pea coleslaw.” While I was hungry when I started my meal, I couldn’t even finish it all.

Not only was I impressed by the food at O’Caine’s; I was also impressed by the service, the décor and the vibe. O’Caine’s is a fun place serving up delicious food and drink—and I’ll definitely be back for more of those delicious fish ’n’ chips.

The email arrived in my inbox at 4:17 p.m.

“Valentine’s Day at (restaurant name redacted) is a Sweet Deal!” the subject line said.

The email, from a public-relations rep hired by the restaurant, was seeking news coverage. It included a photo, a copy of the Valentine’s Day menu at (restaurant name redacted), and other info. I sighed, deleted the email—only because we’re not doing any sort of Valentine’s Day-dining coverage—and moved on with my day.

Why, you might ask, did I sigh? Well, we’ve given (restaurant name redacted) coverage before it opened. And we’ve given it ample editorial coverage since it opened. However, that restaurant—which has decided it needs the services of someone whose job it is to obtain media coverage—has not given the Independent a dime since it opened several years ago.

Not for advertising. Not for Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week (which, hey, is coming up again; see the details here). Not for anything. In fact, the management doesn’t even respond to our emails. The Independent is not alone here; I see very little advertising by this restaurant anywhere.

This disconnect is a problem.

In order to give you, our readers, the fairest coverage possible—in order to serve you best—we decide what to cover without considering what’s happening on the advertising side. Had we been doing Valentine’s Day dining coverage, we’d have included the information from (restaurant name redacted) right alongside restaurants that have spent a dime or more with the Independent.

Some restaurants don’t need PR or advertising; they, through word of mouth or reputation, have enough business. However, those restaurants are decidedly in the minority, and (restaurant name redacted) is apparently not one of those restaurants, seeing as I keep getting emails from a PR person on their behalf.

So … what would happen if all restaurants acted like (restaurant name redacted) did, and spent money on a PR person, but no money on advertising with the media sources that hired PR person is emailing? Well, those media sources would die. And the PR person would have nobody to email.

A similar situation is taking place with social media. I’ve had far too many businesses tell me they’re not spending money on “traditional media,” but instead are advertising on Facebook, Instagram, etc. … where they share and promote the coverage given to them, for free, by traditional media.

It’s simple, folks: If you value media—like, say, newspapers such as the Independent—you need to support us. Otherwise, we’ll die. Printing, distribution, restaurant news … that stuff costs money. It ain’t cheap.

On that note … thanks to all the advertisers who support the Independent—and be sure to pick up the February 2020 print edition, hitting streets this week.

Almost Open: AsiaSF/Palm Springs, Taking Reservations for Feb. 8 and Beyond

After visiting the original AsiaSF, I completely get it now.

When it was announced last year that AsiaSF—a 22-year-old San Francisco cabaret and dinner theater featuring transgender women as servers/performers—would be opening its second location in Palm Springs, I was a little confused. Even after PR extraordinaire David Perry introduced me to founders Larry Hashbarger and Skip Young on a trip they made out here, I didn’t fully understand was AsiaSF was all about.

So on a recent trip to San Francisco, I asked Perry if he could get me, my husband and two friends reservations to a Saturday-night AsiaSF show. He obliged (and got our meals and drinks comped, I should disclose)—and now, I understand: At AsiaSF, it’s all about the party … in a very good way.

After a brief wait in the downstairs lounge—where the music was thumping—our party was seated in the dining/cabaret area. Our fantastic server soon came and took our drink order; all the drinks are named after the server/performers, so, of course, I had to order the drink named after her.

Dinner at the San Francisco location is a three-course, prix-fixe deal, that for parties less than six costs $44 to $69, depending on the show day and time. You pick a starter, a main course and a dessert. (Parties of six or more get a family-style meal.) I ordered the seared ahi, the filet mignon and the lime tart, respectively.

After we ordered, the announcer asked the packed house who was celebrating a special occasion. There were a couple of parties celebrating anniversaries; more parties celebrating anniversaries; and a lot of parties celebrating bachelorette parties.

Then the music started; the crowd started cheering; and the first performer came out.

These are not your normal, run-of-the-mill lip-sync performers. These trans women are beautiful; their routines are choreographed by Ronnie Reddick—and they’re wearing gorgeous outfits designed by Julian Mendez Couture and Prime Kreations of Los Angeles.

The food came out after several songs, and it was quite good—rubber chicken, this ain’t—and though the portions weren’t exactly huge, the three courses filled me up.

As dessert arrived (along with another round of cocktails), a second series of performers rocked the bar top/stage. By the time the show was over—a little less than two hours from start to finish—everyone was cheering. It truly was a good time.

Given that Palm Springs has become a destination for people seeking a good time—bachelorette parties especially—I have a feeling AsiaSF/Palm Springs is going to do quite well.

“Palm Springs is rightly known as one of the world’s top destinations for celebrating fun, fashion, food and family,” said Hashbarger in a press release. “AsiaSF is all about all of that. We’re a perfect fit for the desert: an oasis that not only entertains but also educates and enlightens people about the transgender experience and human diversity.”

The AsiaSF/Palm Springs experience will be just a bit different than the San Francisco experience. For one thing, the space here is many times larger than the original South of Market SF space—including a poolside, outdoor event space being branded as the Sonoran, and spacious bar/lounge/nightclub spaces.

The opening preview party for AsiaSF/Palm Springs took place on Jan. 24—and I heard nothing but rave reviews. After a series of invite-only test dinners for nonprofit partners like the Transgender Community Coalition, the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, Dezart Performs and Sanctuary Palm Springs, it will open its doors to paying customers on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Asia SF/Palm Springs is located at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive. For reservations or more information, visit www.asiasf.com.


In Brief

Peabody’s, at 134 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has changed hands. Longtime owner Debby Alexander will be departing the karaoke and Bloody Mary haunt as of Feb. 1. Debby, you’ll be missed! Visit www.facebook.com/PeabodysPalmSprings for more. … Finally! The flagship location of Aspen Mills Bread Co., at 555 S. Sunrise Way, is again open after a lengthy fire-related closure. Get more details at www.facebook.com/AspenMillsBakery. … Now open at 49990 Jefferson St., Suite 110, in Indio: Tu Madres Cantina and Grill. It’s the sister restaurant to Cork and Fork and neighboring Heirloom Craft Kitchen; learn more at www.facebook.com/tumadrescantina. … Now open in the former Domo Sushi location at 13440 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs: Sushi Bella. Call 760-219-1533 for more details. … Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar has a new location: 78480 Highway 111, in the old Las Casuelas Quinta space. Get the 411 at okurasushi.com. … A tip o’ the hat to Bongo Johnny’s Patio Bar and Grill, at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, for efforts to be environmentally conscious. For starters, the restaurant has started using metal straws, and has switched from single-use half-and-half containers to metal pitchers. Learn more at www.facebook.com/bongojohnnys.

Hank Plante is a familiar name and face to Coachella Valley residents who follow the news. He’s a political analyst for NBC Palm Springs, and recently stepped down from The Desert Sun editorial board after a five-year stint.

Despite that familiarity, most people don’t realize how much of a trailblazer Plante has been throughout his career. The Detroit native has worked in print, radio and TV, and is best known for spending 25 years at KPIX-TV in San Francisco. He retired from the station in 2010 and later moved to the Coachella Valley.

Here’s where the trailblazing part comes in: Not only was Plante one of the first openly gay TV reporters in the country; at KPIX, he helped tell the world about the horror and pain of the burgeoning AIDS epidemic. The station’s “AIDS Lifeline” project, done in the early days of the epidemic, was honored with a Peabody Award in 1996—one of journalism’s highest honors. Plante and his work were featured in the film 5B, a recent documentary about the first-in-the-world AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital in the 1980s.

It’s because of this work that Plante is being honored by the Desert AIDS Project with the Arts and Activism Award at the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, on Saturday, Feb. 8. Plante recently spoke with the Independent about the award, his career and the state of journalism in 2020.

Congratulations on the award from the Desert AIDS Project. What was your response when you found out you were going to be honored at the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards?

I was absolutely thrilled. It’s a big deal to me. The thing about being a reporter, as you know, is that when you do a story—even if it’s a great story that you’re proud of—it’s forgotten, because the news changes the next day or the next week. My AIDS reporting—I’m proud of it, but it was a long time ago, so to have it acknowledged again 30 or 35 years later, it really means the world to me.

Tell me how you first started covering the AIDS epidemic. Did that begin when you started at KPIX?

I did a few stories before then, but at KPIX—that’s where I worked for 25 years. San Francisco was ground zero of the AIDS epidemic, with more cases per capita than any spot in the Western world. I wanted to cover it, because it was more than a story to me. I was one of the first openly gay TV reporters in the country. These were my friends who were affected. Covering AIDS was a way for me to channel my anger and my grief over the disease. I didn’t feel quite so powerless. I felt like I could do something.

I’ve found that it’s difficult to cover something in which you have a personal stake. How did you balance that difficulty—covering a topic that had such personal meaning to you—with the fact that it needed to be covered?

You’re absolutely right. It wasn’t easy. There were many times when I would be at San Francisco General doing a story, and I’d have to go out in the hallway and compose myself, because I started to tear up. Or I’d be in somebody’s apartment who was dying, and I’d have to go out and compose myself—because I’m not there to cry. I’m not there to be an advocate, and I didn’t want to lose any credibility. … I hate the word “objective,” because I don’t think there is such a thing.

Thank you! Me too.

I mean, we see things through our own eyes. So that’s always going to be there, but still, I had to be a professional. I had to be a professional. So, yeah, it was difficult. It was very difficult.

Now, 30-plus years later, being HIV-positive is not a death sentence. Yes, people still die from the disease, but in most cases, it can be managed. Tell me about your perspective after covering this for so long—and how the AIDS world, for lack of a better term, has changed over the years.

I have to tell you, I am really, really thankful that I have lived long enough to see the beginning of the end of the disease. The worst of the epidemic, as you know, went for about 15 years—from 1981, when it was first reported on in the medical journals, through 1996, when protease inhibitors came along.

Since then, it’s been mostly good news medically. Now we have so many wonderful drugs, like Truvada, also known as PrEP, which pretty much prevents people from getting HIV if they take it regularly. Truvada is made by a California company, Gilead Sciences. Merck, another pharmaceutical company, is now developing an implant under the skin that dispenses similar drugs so that people don’t even have to take the pill. You just need the implant changed occasionally. That’ll be especially helpful in Third World countries, where taking medicine on a daily regimen isn’t always possible, for a lot of reasons.

Johnson and Johnson, which financed the film 5B that I’m so proud of, this year is testing a potential AIDS vaccine in the U.S. and in Europe; they’ve already had great results testing it in Africa. So we are seeing the beginning of the end of the epidemic, at least in America. There are serious problems and challenges for communities of color and in the Third World, so we can’t let our guard down. But this has been all good news for the last several years.

You’ve done a little bit of everything, working early in your career at The Washington Post, and doing both TV and radio. What are your thoughts on the state of journalism today, given the fact there have been so many job losses?

You caught me on the right day to ask that question, because I just learned that the chain of weeklies where I started as a reporter is shutting down. … They were around the beltway in D.C., and in Maryland and Virginia. This was a great chain of weekly publishing. Bob Woodward began there. I worked there. Ron Nessen, who became a White House press secretary, worked there. They turned out a lot of very successful people—but you know, this is the age we live in. It breaks my heart, and I don’t think that the readers understand what it’s costing them.

When it comes to the public arena, reporters are the only friends you’ve got. These politicians are not always looking out for your interests. … You think about the stories not getting covered. I had a political consultant in Sacramento tell me, “We love to see fewer reporters here in the state capital.” He said, this is a quote: “It’s like driving down Interstate 5, and there’s no California Highway Patrol.” The reader and the viewer—they are the ultimate losers in this.

What is going to save journalism?

I don’t know. So far, what seems to be working best is when these private, rich people buy newspapers. We’re seeing this in Los Angeles. Jeff Bezos of course, bought The Washington Post. We need angel investors to really step in. It’s not something that the government’s going to do, nor should they. I don’t know.

I do think that the tech companies have an obligation to help in some way. They’ve got to start paying somehow for the news that they, as they call it, “aggregate.” I call it plagiarize. You know, Google and Facebook—they call themselves tech companies, which is B.S. They’re not tech companies; they’re media companies. They’re in the advertising business, and they’re not paying for the content that they’re getting rich on. So that’s got to be fixed.

Is there anything that you’d like to add that I haven’t asked about?

I just believe in supporting local journalism. I’m really happy to talk to you. I like the work that you’re doing, and it’s not easy. I love community journalism. I think that local journalism, like what the CV Independent is doing, can be more impactful than national journalism. I saw this at The Desert Sun. We did editorials on issues that changed things. If we had done the same type of editorial in a bigger paper in L.A. or San Francisco, it wouldn’t have had any impact. When you get closer to the stories that are right here, you can make a big, big difference.

The 26th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards take place at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $500. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertaidsproject.org/steve-chase-humanitarian-awards-2020.

What: The carne asada tacos

Where: Baja Springs, 1800 N. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs

How much: $1.69 separately; $8.99 combo plate (as shown)

Contact: 760-322-9988

Why: They’re packed with yummy meat.

Tacos … is there a more popular food in the United States today? When you have the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James, making “Taco Tuesday” a social-media sensation—to the point where he actually tried to trademark the term, but the application was denied because the phrase is too ubiquitous—that says something.

Did you know, however, that tacos were not the first Mexican food to become popular in the United States? Friend of the Independent Gustavo Arellano, now a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, literally wrote the book on the subject: Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. In 2012, he spoke with KCRW about how tacos became popular thanks largely to the food scene in Los Angeles—especially the birth of the taquito at Cielito Lindo on Olvera Street in 1934. This happened, however, well after chili became huge in San Antonio, and tamales were a craze in San Francisco.

While the Coachella Valley’s restaurant scene has its pluses and minuses, we’re blessed with a lot of good Mexican food—especially tacos. It’s often said that the best tacos can be found in unexpected, hole-in-the-wall places, and while this is not always correct, it is in the case of Baja Springs: This small market, tucked away on Sunrise Way just north of Vista Chino in Palm Springs, has been churning out great tacos (and other Mexican fare) for years—but I only recently discovered it when the place came up on a food-delivery app.

Pretty much every imaginable meat is stuffed into corn tortillas at Baja Springs, from chicken to fish to tripe to cabeza. While I haven’t been able to try all 12 of the tacos on offer, I can vouch for the fantastic carne asada tacos. They’re delicious—and only $1.69 each.

All hail the great taco!

What: The Taca tacos

Where: The Sandbox Kitchen, 72301 Country Club Drive, No. 110, Rancho Mirage

How much: $3.50 each

Contact: 760-565-6044; www.facebook.com/TheSandboxKitchen

Why: Perfect meats.

At first, there was Taca Tacos, run by a young couple named Daniel and Aimie.

Taca Tacos catered various parties and events—and began earning rave reviews. “Our food quality is something that we pay close attention to, and we serve nothing but the best!” Daniel wrote on Facebook. “Even our meats are cut by hand (by me!) to reduce as much fat as possible and ensure top quality. Our salsas are made with the freshest ingredients, and our tortillas are made the day of the event.”

Then, in mid-2019, came The Sandbox Kitchen, a brick-and-mortar restaurant owned by Daniel and Aimee, in the strangest of spots—at the back of a medical/office building near the Eisenhower Medical Center campus. The Sandbox Kitchen offers breakfast items, salads, sandwiches—and those acclaimed tacos.

I love a good taco, so I decided I needed to check out The Sandbox Kitchen. After one failed attempt (I tried to go on a day the restaurant was closed for a private party), I finally managed to make it for a post-holidays lunch.

I ordered three tacos, Taca-style (which means they come with minced cabbage, crema fresca and chipotle aioli, and quesito)—one each with carne asada, chicken and al pastor. (Cauliflower tacos are available, too.)

After a 20-minute wait—I arrived just after several other parties had ordered, apparently—I had my tacos … and I instantly understood what the Taca Tacos buzz was all about: The chicken was juicy and delicious; the carne asada was flavorful with a variety of textures; and the al pastor was fantastic—with a hint of a spicy kick.

In summary … all three meats were perfectly prepared—and The Sandbox Kitchen has a new fan.

A few notes as we kick off Volume 8 here at the Independent:

• Am I the only one having a hard time grasping the fact that it’s almost 2020? When I first saw Beth Allen’s design for the new print-issue cover, and I saw the date “January 2020,” I just stopped and stared at it for a while.

Yeah, I know I’ll get used to it soon enough. But for now, it really seems weird.

• We’ve recently published pieces by two new-to-the-Independent scribes: You’ll find Carlynne McDonnell’s inaugural pets column here, and here, you’ll find Andrea Gomez’s first piece for us—an interview with the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s new artistic director, Coachella Valley native Liliana Rodriguez.

Welcome, Carlynne and Andrea! If you want to join them in the pages of the Independent, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’re still looking for people to write (paid!) freelance pieces focused on marijuana, hiking/the outdoors, event previews, and more.

• Our signature event, Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, is back for its fourth year! The week starts Friday, Jan. 31, and goes through Saturday, Feb. 8. During those nine days, bars and restaurants valley-wide will highlight special craft cocktails—and give a portion of the proceeds from the sales of those cocktails to our beneficiaries, the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

The highlight of the week is the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, taking place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Moxie Palm Springs. Up to 10 of the valley’s best bartenders will battle for the coveted Audience Choice Award and the Craft Cocktail Championship—and, yes, attendees get to taste all of the competing cocktails! Presale tickets, through Jan. 10, are $35; they’ll be $40 after that, and $45 at the door if we don’t sell out (and we probably will).

Pick up next month’s issue for our special Cocktail Week program—and head to PSCraftCocktails.com for updates and/or to buy championship tickets!

• Finally, I’d like to kick off 2020 by offering my sincere appreciation to everyone who has supported the Independent—readers, advertisers and members of our Supporters program—as we enter our eighth full year.

This is not a great time for most newspapers, as you know. In fact, one of my favorite alternative publications, the OC Weekly, was shuttered by its (lazy, non-innovative) owners just before Thanksgiving.

That same week, we were putting the finishing touches on our December issue—which, revenue-wise, was our best ever.

Do we still need to do better here at the Independent, in terms of bringing in revenue? Yes, we do; I am dying to add more writers/reporters so we can better tell the valley’s stories—and we have some things in the works that will hopefully help us do just that. (And I’d like, one day, to be able to pay myself a living wage … but that’s a discussion for another time.) Watch this space for details in the upcoming months … and again, thank you for your support. Please, please keep it up.

As always, thank you for reading. Happy New Year, and be sure to pick up a copy of the January 2020—yep, still seems weird—print edition, hitting the streets this week.

Page 1 of 54