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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival Grows in Its Second Year

When I talked to David Fraschetti about the inaugural Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival a year ago, he promised me that the fest, taking place at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park, at 71560 San Jacinto Drive, would feature great food—but the primary focus would be on the wine, with no booze, beer or cooking demonstrations.

“This is a marketing event for our wineries,” he told me. “… We’re not trying to be everything to everyone.”

Seeing as Fraschetti, a Coachella Valley resident, is also the organizer of the popular VinDiego Wine and Food Festival, it should come as no surprise that he apparently knew what he was doing—and that an expanded Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival will return this year, taking place Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

A couple of five-course wine dinners at restaurants will happen on Wednesday, Jan. 30, with the Rare and Reserve Tasting happening at the park on Friday, Feb. 1. But the main event is the grand tasting, taking place at the park on Saturday, Feb. 2.

“When we started doing this business seven years ago in San Diego, we had a great business plan: ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Fraschetti told me recently. “Last year really proved to be the same out here in the desert.”

This year’s grand tasting will feature 18 to 20 restaurants—most, but unlike last year, not all based in Rancho Mirage—and about 45 wineries.

Fraschetti said he loves the community aspect of the festival; related to that, a portion of the proceeds will again benefit the Desert AIDS Project.

“I live four minutes from the festival site,” Fraschetti said. “The people who come are neighbors of mine. Everybody seems to know everybody out here.”

Tickets to Saturday afternoon’s grand tasting start at $85. For tickets and more information, including a complete schedule, visit ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.comf.


Enzo’s Bistro and Bar Replaces the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar

So it’s a good-news, bad-news sort of thing.

The bad: The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar, which took over the old Crab Pot digs at 70030 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, has closed its doors. (It had no relation to the Fisherman’s Market and Grill locations in Palm Springs, Palm Desert and La Quinta, for the record.)

The good news: The space is now home to the second Enzo’s Bistro and Bar location.

The first Enzo’s opened at 78121 Avenida La Fonda in La Quinta last spring and has gathered a lot of great buzz. I have not yet had a chance to check out the “elegant and authentic” Italian fare at either location—but you can bet your bottom dollar I will soon.

Get more info at www.enzosbistroandbar.com.


In Brief

One of the culinary centerpieces of downtown Palm Springs’ redevelopment project is open: Il Corso, the much-liked Palm Desert-El Paseo Italian restaurant owned by chef Mario Marfia and, uh, indicted developer John Wessman has opened its second location at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 180; get info at ilcorsocv.com. … Save wildlife “one brew at a time,” according to the news release, at the 10th annual Brew at the Zoo event, happening at and benefiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, 47900 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert, at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9. Tickets start at $60 (for members) and $65 (nonmembers) and will get you access to more than 30 beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverage vendors; 10 food trucks will offer food for purchase. Designated drivers get in for just $20; call 760-346-5694 or visit www.livingdesert.org for tickets or details. … Celebrate the Academy Awards in style and support AAP Food Samaritans at the same time by heading to Trio Restaurant at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, for the annual “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” shindig. The event will sell out, so get your seats, starting at $125, ASAP at aidsassistance.org; you’ll get a six-course dinner and beverages with your reservation, and most of what you’ll pay is tax-deductible. Yay! … The River giveth, and The River taketh away. The Rancho Mirage shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, recently welcomed the second location of the locally owned Apong’s Philly Steak, while the only valley location of MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza Company, which was located at The River, has shut its doors. Learn more about the yumminess at Apong’s at apongsphillysteak.com. … This announcement brings me joy: Mariscocos Culiacan, one of my favorite valley seafood places, has opened a second location: In addition to the original Coachella location, there’s now one at 16760 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs. Yes! More info at www.facebook.com/mariscocosymaristorresculiacan760. … Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has recently made some nice changes—including the opening of 360 Sports, a big, beautiful sports bar and restaurant. Learn more at www.hotwatercasino.com/360-sports-bar.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

I recently asked a reality-TV star about politics.

“I never thought I’d run for president … but if America wanted a bankrupt, second-rate reality star with bad makeup and hair, it could’ve been me!” Bianca Del Rio said. “I can’t watch the fuckery!”

Del Rio—best known for winning the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race—will be concluding her current Blame It on Bianca tour on Friday, Nov. 23, in a show benefiting AAP-Food Samaritans at the Riviera Palm Springs. The show will mark the Coachella Valley debut for the New York-based “clown in a dress” (her words, not mine) and her unfiltered, occasionally controversial brand of comedy.

“I have never been to Palm Springs before,” she told me. In other words, she’s a virgin! (Well, in this one sense.)

Drag was a calling for her, said Del Rio (aka Roy Haylock).

“Without sounding insane, I have been doing drag for 23 years,” she said. “It wasn’t a choice. I started in New Orleans, and then (moved to) New York. Then a magical thing happened: I did RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Not only did Del Rio “do” the show; she won the whole thing back in 2014.

“It shifted my entire life,” she said. “It’s been a whirlwind for the past five years now. I have traveled on six continents now. I’m still trying to book Antarctica.”

She has appeared in venues small and large … and they’re getting larger.

“I did three nights in London in a theater that holds 3,300 people on this tour, but next year, I have been bumped up to a large arena,” she said. “I will be the first drag queen to play the Wembley Arena. It will be absolutely insane!”

I asked Del Rio to elaborate on her earlier statement that drag was not a choice.

“It wasn’t a conscious choice. I don’t know anybody who consciously says, ‘I want to be a drag queen,’” she said. “Well, maybe nowadays because of shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. In my day, even (members of the) gay community didn’t want to be drag queens. It was the land of misfits. I mean, we weren’t the butch guys; we weren’t the normal people. We were just a little group of outsiders. Everybody did either song or dance. It really became a showcase, so to speak. In those days, you had to either go to a bar or go underground for a drag show. It wasn’t celebrated. But when you’re an out-of-work actor, or things just aren’t going well, you do a drag show.

“I’ve always worked in theater and in costumes—that was my day job. … You never know if you’re going to be working. It all just reflected on what was happening in my life. I might be doing Mamma Mia! for eight years; then it closes, and then it’s back to drag shows every night. Then Drag Race happened, and it really shook things up for me.”

I asked if she had any advice for a young drag-queen-lette who was just starting out.

“Don’t do it—it’s a trap!” Del Rio said. “You will spend more money than you’ll ever make! It’s quite pricey to be a drag queen. You have to do it because you love it. You have to do it because you’re having a good time—and the minute you aren’t having a good time, then you need to stop. Truly.

“Because of shows such as Drag Race, that has really opened up everything for me. The flip side to it all is you can’t walk outside without a drag queen falling out of a tree. Anywhere! There is so much more to drag than what people see on TV.”

What can we expect to see in Bianca Del Rio’s show?

“Expect the unexpected. I hate everyone!” she said. “Seriously, it’s an honest opinion. I unleash the demons, and I talk about it. No one is safe!

“What really happens in the show depends on the audience. There’s a lot of material that I use in America that I have not used in the U.K. Other countries have their own issues, and they don’t give a shit about Trump. It depends; I cover everything from politics to Drag Race. I cover the experiences I’ve had, which comes to explain why I am the hateful mess that I am today. There’s also a portion of the show that is audience participation. … It’s always amazing the questions people will ask you, or the situations that they will put you in. … I’ve had people ask where I put my dick. The answer is: Under my wig.”

Del Rio explained that it’s really damned hard to be a drag queen on tour.

“I lost my luggage once,” she said. “It’s one of the biggest fears to any drag queen—because what is a drag queen without costumes? A man! It was a challenging moment, and I was in Wisconsin, of all places—not that they expect much glamour there anyway. So, not being known for glamour myself, I thought: What do I do? I just ran to the local Walmart, and I had to do a mini challenge! … So, of course, I told the airline not to forward my luggage to Wisconsin, because I was going to Washington, D.C., the next day. Of course, they forwarded it to Wisconsin, so I had no luggage in D.C. At least you can go shopping there!”

Bianca Del Rio will perform Blame It on Bianca! at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 23, at the Riviera Palm Springs Grand Ballroom, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $45 to $199, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit AAP-Food Samaritans. For tickets or more information, visit blameitonbianca.brownpapertickets.com.

Published in Comedy

Former Dish Chef Lands at Azucar; Alebrijie Lands in Former Dish Space

As the saying goes: When one door closes, another opens—and such is definitely the case in the restaurant industry.

A door closed, literally, for Joane Garcia-Colson last fall, when she shut down Dish Creative Cuisine, her well-regarded restaurant at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs; she cited conflicts with others involved with the business as the reason. I don’t use the phrase “well-regarded” lightly: Dish, which originally opened more than five years ago in Cathedral City, made many “Best Of” lists thanks to Garcia-Colson’s amazing blend of classic technique and whimsy.

Given Garcia-Colson’s talent, it was inevitable that another door would open for her—and it did at Azucar, the restaurant at the La Serena Villas, at 339 S. Belardo Road, in downtown Palm Springs. She’s taken her former Dish sous chef with her, and we can’t wait to see what she does at Azucar; watch laserenavillas.com/azucar-restaurant-and-bar for updates.

Meanwhile, at the old Dish location, a door opened for Alebrije Bistro Mexico. The restaurant debuted on Valentine’s Day, featuring upscale Mexico City-style cuisine. That Valentine’s Day menu featured tasty treats like lamb stew, rib eye with mole de cadera, and—as an appetizer—a bone marrow thyme emulsion and shaved Parmesan.

Wow. We can’t wait to check out Alebrije ourselves. Watch the Alebrije Facebook page for updates.


New: The Craft Rancho Mirage Comes to The S at Rancho Mirage

The Desert Island Country Club, located at 71777 Frank Sinatra Drive, in Rancho Mirage, is now called The S at Rancho Mirage—and the restaurant inside the country club has been revamped and is now open to the public.

The restaurant is now The Craft Rancho Mirage. It’s being run by executive chef/partner Erick Hernandez, formerly of Escena and the Indian Canyons Golf Resort; and veteran food/beverage director John Trad.

“We are excited to invite folks into The S at Rancho Mirage Country Club to be able to have a ‘taste’ of the club life without the membership,” said John Trad in a press-release quote. “While there are so many fabulous restaurants in the valley, this specific area of Rancho Mirage is lacking in options, and we are thrilled to be able to open our doors to the general public to join us in an incredible setting.”

The menu features “fresh, high quality and locally sourced ingredients,” and includes entrées like shrimp scampi, sugar-and-spice salmon, and “The Gatsby”—blackened ahi tuna, zucchini pasta, heirloom tomatoes and wasabi beurre blanc. You’ll pay between $24 and $36 for your main course—or you can enjoy happy hour every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the bar.

For more information, call 760-328-2111, or visit www.thesresort.com/dining.


In Brief

Help a new nonprofit organization get up and running, from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 23, at Pirch, 71905 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Not only can you learn about Alzheimer’s Coachella Valley’s mission, programs and services; you can enjoy hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine and Pirch signature cocktails. Admission is $50; RSVP by March 9 at 760-776-3100 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. … Every year, TRIO Restaurant throws its much-anticipated “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” party during the Academy Awards, to benefit AAP-Food Samaritans. This year’s event starts at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 4; for $125 (bar seating) to $175 (VIP/premium seating), you’ll get a prix-fixe six-course dinner, well drinks, wine, champagne and the satisfaction that comes from helping out a great cause. Get tickets at aapfoodsamaritans.org or by calling 760-325-8481. … Coming soon to 170 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in the curve area of Palm Springs: Kreem Artisanal Ice Cream and Coffee. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening date here soon; watch www.facebook.com/ilovekreem for updates. … Newish to Indio: La Michoacana Real, serving up ice cream, raspados, juices and more at 81673 Highway 111; call 760-347-3939 to learn more. … Support the kids in Rancho Mirage High School’s CAFÉ Culinary Arts Department while trying their delicious creations from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 15. Admission is $10, and attendance is limited to 250 people—and these popular fundraisers often sell out. The school is located at 31001 Rattler Road; call the Thousand Palms Chamber of Commerce at 760-343-1988 to RSVP. Awesome! … And now for something else that’s awesome, albeit quite a bit more expensive: Citi Taste of Tennis takes place at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells from 7 to 10 p.m., Monday, March 5. For $200, you can enjoy cocktails and great cuisine while mingling with tennis greats and culinary giants, including Top Chef Richard Blais and Iron Chef Jose Garces, and local luminaries including Andrew Copley (Copley’s, AC3) and Engin Onural (The Venue, Sandfish). Get tickets at www.tasteoftennis.com/iw.

Published in Restaurant & Food News