Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

What: The tower of avocado and tuna tartare

Where: Lulu California Bistro, 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; also at Acqua California Bistro, 71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

How much: $14.99; $9.99 at the bar (all-day happy hour)

Contact: Lulu: 760-327-5858,; Acqua: 760-862-9800;

Why: It is a delicious deal!

Barbara and Jerry Keller have created an undeniably successful restaurant formula: Take a large space; make that space gorgeous (including great patio seating); offer a variety of consistent, decently priced food; also offer some great prix-fixe and happy hour deals; and be fantastic members of the community.

It worked for a decade at Acqua Pazza California Bistro in Rancho Mirage. It’s been working for six years at Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs. And now it’s working again at the slightly renamed and renovated Acqua California Bistro in Rancho Mirage.

I live a short walk from Lulu. I eat there regularly, and I am going to let you in on a secret: The bar is the place to sit. Not only is there often seating available in the bar area when there’s a wait for a regular table; the “happy hour” prices at the bar, offered every day from 11 a.m. to close, are drastically lower for many items than they are in the rest of the place.

This means that I can almost always walk in to Lulu (and now, Acqua)—weekday or weekend, season or off-season—and get one of my favorite items at a steep discount: The tower of avocado and tuna tartare is just $9.99 at the bar, while it’s $14.99 elsewhere in the restaurant.

Whatever the price, the dish is delicious: A nice helping of high-grade, seasoned ahi is shaped into a cylindrical “tower”—with some fresh avocado added to the middle. On the side are some wonton chips, sprouts, a small mound of wasabi, some pickled ginger slices, and a little bit of seaweed salad.

It’s cool, refreshing and a delight to the taste buds. And of course, the atmosphere can’t be beat.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Happy Hour Mussels/Clams Steamer Combo in White Wine Broth

Where: Trilussa Ristorante, 68718 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $10

Contact: 760-328-2300;

Why: It’s all about the broth.

When I ordered from the bartender while sitting at the bar at Trilussa, I said: “I’d like the mussels and clams combo steamers in the white-wine broth, please.”

However, if I were being completely honest and accurate, I would have said: “I’d like the white-wine broth, and a whole bunch of bread so I can sop it all up, please. You can bring mussels and clams, too, but they’re incidental.”

I mean no disrespect to the bivalves in this dish; they’re perfectly acceptable, and in fact, I’ll acknowledge that their presence adds a bit of seafood flavor to the broth. But, really, this dish is about the wine, the butter, the garlic and the seasonings that constitute the yummy, yummy liquid.

This broth is just one of many reasons you should check out the happy hour at Trilussa, which is available at the bar every day between 4 and 7 p.m. (FYI: Sister-restaurant Sammy G’s, in downtown Palm Springs, also offers a similar happy hour menu—including steamers with delicious broth—through the day until 8 p.m.) Add in glasses of house wine for $4, beer for $3 (domestic) or $4 (imported), well drinks for $5, and all sorts of other food bargains ranging from New Zealand lamb chops ($12) to personal pizzas ($8-$10), and the result is one the valley’s top happy hours.

It’s also worth noting that Trilussa is nice. Ample windows offer the space a lot of natural lighting, and the décor is classy without being pretentious.

In summary … Trilussa’s happy hour is scrumptious, inexpensive and comfortably lovely. You really should check it out.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre has added yet another feather to its impressive artistic cap with its first world premiere, Happy Hour, by George Eastman. The play tells the story of Harry Townsend, a wise-cracking, 80-something widower, and his son, Alan, as both come to grips with the reality that Harry can no longer live on his own.

When Alan (John Hawkinson) comes to Vermont for the weekend to visit Harry (Gavin MacLeod), Alan’s goal is to convince his father to move into an assisted-living community. Since his wife’s death, Harry’s physical health and mental health have been slowly declining. He tends to put the coffee filters in the freezer and the coffee pot in the oven … and his falls after tripping over the rug are becoming more and more frequent. Alan’s twin sister, Sara, lives close by and takes good care of their father—but her husband has landed a job in New York, and the couple is planning to relocate. Sara cannot bring herself to break the news to Harry, so Alan decides to take on the task.

Father and son have always had an amicable, if not particularly close, relationship. They have never really had a fight, but they don’t seem to have really gotten to know each other, either. They never had the father-son talk about “the birds and the bees” … Alan got that information from his sister. Harry attempts to make up for that with a bit too much information about his sex life with Alan’s mother. While recalling a tryst they once had in a pottery store, Harry quips, “Risk always hardens a boner, my son.” Turns out the green carpeting on the boat dock (about which Alan was teased by his friends as a youngster) was installed to make romance for his parents more comfortable.

Alan’s busy real estate career in California has cost him his marriage and kept him from visiting his father very often, which Harry resents. Following an argument, Harry storms out and vanishes for several hours. When a worried Alan shouts, “You’ve been gone since breakfast!” Harry shoots back: “You’ve been gone since December!” The play’s title refers to the shots of Scotch consumed during each father-son debate.

It’s a classic case of a senior citizen desperately fighting against the ravages of age and the inevitable loss of independence. Harry absolutely refuses to consider leaving the home he shared with his wife for decades. His solution is for Alan to move to Vermont with his girlfriend, and to replace Sara as his caretaker. That, his son says, is just not feasible. The elder Townsend “feels violated” at the suggestion he move into a senior community. He still feels his wife’s presence in the house, and tells his son, “This is all I have, and you want to take it away from me.”

Harry is played to perfection by Gavin MacLeod, best known for his Golden Globe-nominated work as Captain Stubing on The Love Boat and as acerbic newswriter Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. MacLeod, 84 himself, is just right for the part. At times, I wondered how much of the slow shuffling with the cane and difficulty getting up from a chair was Gavin, and how much was the character.

A mutual friend of MacLeod and playwright George Eastman sent MacLeod the script for Happy Hour five years ago. He kept hoping to bring it to the stage, and eventually brought it to CV Rep’s artistic director, Ron Celona, after seeing the quality of work at the theater. (The theater held a couple successful staged readings of the play before mounting this full production.)

MacLeod says he considers the play to be a gift. I’d say his performance is truly the gift. When he’s onstage, it’s difficult to take your eyes off him. His Harry is funny, bawdy, sometimes gruff, sometimes angry and occasionally heartbreaking. You want to go up onstage and throw your arms around him and tell him it’s all going to be OK. There’s not one false note in MacLeod’s performance.

L.A.-based actor John Hawkinson holds his own as Alan. In the opening scene, he seemed a tiny bit stiff, but once he got rolling, it was smooth sailing. He captures the conflict of a son who needs to live his own life, but also wants the best for his father. The audience is with Hawkinson all the way as he walks on eggshells, trying to treat his dad with respect and love while forcing him to face the realities of his age. The rapport between the two actors is excellent.

As always, director Ron Celona does an excellent job. Kudos also go to set designer Jimmy Cuomo, costume designer Aalsa Lee, stage manager Louise Ross and the entire production crew.

Go see CV Rep’s production of Happy Hour; it officially opens tonight. (I arranged to review the second preview performance, with CV Rep’s blessing, due to schedule conflicts.) It’s nearly impossible not to be moved by this play, especially if you—like many of us—are dealing with aging parents. I went with my significant other, who recently spent two weeks in Indiana packing up the family home (and 50 years of memories) following the death of his father. My own 87-year-old dad is looking into assisted-living facilities, having realized he just can’t do it on his own any longer.

Happy Hour will make you laugh … and cry … and think. If your parents are still living, it might just inspire you to give them a call.

Happy Hour is performed at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 22. (There is not a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Oct. 31.) Coachella Valley Repertory is located at 69930 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $48; opening-night tickets are $58. Running time is just more than two hours, with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit

Published in Theater and Dance

What: The Happy Hour New York Steak

Where: Sammy G’s Tuscan Grill, 265 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $15

Contact: 760-320-8041;

Why: It’s a fantastic deal.

There are so many things we like about the happy hour New York steak deal at Sammy G’s Tuscan Grill that we feel the need to make a list:

1. It’s inexpensive. For just $15—the cost of a cocktail at some wayward “upscale” bars—you can get an 8-ounce New York steak. And fries. And a mixed-greens salad. In other words, you can enjoy a whole meal for just three Lincolns. Spiffy, eh?

2. It’s high-quality. You’re probably wondering about the quality of the steak: Is this one of those nasty hunks of meat like the stuff you’d get on special at a low-end Las Vegas casino? Absolutely not: We’ve enjoyed Sammy G’s happy hour steaks several times now, and every one we’ve received has been tender, with little gristle and fat. Oh, and the folks in the kitchen have successfully grilled the steak to order (medium rare, thank you) each and every time.

3. Happy hour is more like happy 8 1/2 hours. You know how some restaurant happy hours are, well, shortish in duration? Or only on certain days of the week? Not so here: Sammy G’s happy hour runs from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day in the lounge/bar area.

4. The atmosphere is lovely. Sammy G’s lounge is nice and huge. You can sit at a table, at the bar, or even on the patio. You’ll be comfortable no matter where you dine.

5. There are other great deals available during happy hour, too. Like $5 well drinks and $6 martinis.

Do both your wallet and your palate a favor, and check out this amazing happy hour deal!

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Annenberg Theater Events

CK Dance Presents: The Nutcracker takes place at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5; and 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6. $20 to $30. The Dance With Miss Lindsay Holiday Showcase, including dancers from age 3 to adult performing holiday classics, is at 2 and 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $15 to $20. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490;

Cinderella—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The Rodgers and Hammerstein version of the classic fairytale takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 5, through Sunday, Dec. 21. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123;

Happy Hour—a Staged Reading From CV Rep

This in-development play by George Eastman stars Michael Shaw and Gavin MacLeod, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $20; a dessert reception follows both shows. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

Holiday on Broadway

The CV Rep cabaret show of holiday stage favorites stars Julie Garnyé and Ashley Fox Linton, with accompanist James May, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14. $25. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

The Madcap Underground—From COD Theatre

The annual sketch-comedy offering from the College of the Desert Dramatic Arts Company returns with holiday bells, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13. $15. At Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565;

McCallum Theatre

Oh What a Night, a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is performed in concert with the Desert Symphony at 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11; $45 to $95. Colors of Christmas stars Peabo Bryson, Taylor Dayne, Jennifer Holliday and Ruben Studdard in an evening of pop hits and holiday favorites  backed by a 12-piece band and a choir, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14; $55 to $95. Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jóse Hernández presents Merri-Achi Christmas at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20; $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787;

Scrooge in Rouge—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The play has a cast of 20—but 17 of the actors get food poisoning. Of course, the show must go on, so the three remaining actors do the best they can; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 21. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000;

Shakespeare in Hollywood—From Theatre 29

It’s 1934, and famous Shakespeare fairies Oberon and Puck have suddenly materialized on the Warner Bros. set of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; a hilarious farce ensues, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Dec. 20, with 2:30 p.m., Sunday, matinees on Nov. 30 and Dec. 14. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151;

A Starry Christmas Concert

This benefit show for a Layne family star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars features 13 singers performing Christmas music, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $15. At the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123;

Published in Theater and Dance

2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Set in New York City in 1987, 2 Boys explores the sexual etiquette of one-night stands and is peppered with poignant, humorous and sly observations. The play contains nudity and sexual situations; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Sept 7. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000;

The 39 Steps—From Theatre 29

Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, then add a dash of Monty Python, and you have The 39 Steps, a fast-paced whodunit. At 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Aug. 15, through Saturday, Sept. 13, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, Aug. 24 and Sept. 7. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151;

Happy Hour: A Staged Reading—From CV Rep

Gavin MacLeod and Michael Shaw star in the staged reading of George Eastman’s play; at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 2; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 3. A dessert reception follows. $20. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

He Loves and She Loves—From CV Rep’s Summer Cabaret Series

Erika and Brent Schindele star in this evening of love songs from “boy meets girl” to “happily ever after”; at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 9; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 10. $25. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

Mixed Plate, an Un-Gala Fundraiser for Desert Rose Playhouse

An evening of song and dance by favorite performers, as well as fun, friends and fabulous food from LuLu/Acqua Pazza and iPastries is a money-raiser for the theater company, with a reception at 7 p.m., and a performance at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 16. $40. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000;

The Stops—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Three women (played by men) embark on a mission after their friend and mentor, an Evangelical Christian composer and organist, is ousted from his music-minister position—because he’s gay; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, extended through Sunday, Aug. 3. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000;

Sundays in Summer Series

Actor, singer, playwright and director Jack Betts performs his one-man mini-musical, On My Way Here, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 3. Accompanied by the Derrik Lewis Trio, Jaci Davis debuts her new show, Liza and Ella and Babs, Oh My! at 2 p.m., thSunday, Aug. 10. Ron Cohn celebrates his birthday with Live and Let Live, a cabaret show about his favorite composer, Cole Porter, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 17. Each show is $11; cash only at the box office. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-325-2731.

The Vagina Monologues

The series of monologues by Eve Ensler is presented by the Smiley Face, the Frown Entertainment Co. and Georgie’s Alibi Azul Patio; 7:30 p.m., Saturday; and 3:30 p.m., Sunday, from Saturday, Aug. 2, through Sunday, Aug. 31. $15; special three-course prix-fixe dinner for $45. At Georgie’s Alibi Azul Patio, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-5533;

Published in Theater and Dance