Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Here are the results of the third annual Best of Coachella Valley readers' poll!

An all-time-high number of people voted in both rounds this year—and the slate of winners and finalists represent all parts of the valley.

Come celebrate the winners with us during the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017 Awards Show and Celebration, presented by Renova Solar. It will take place at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Copa Nightclub—this year's Best Nightclub winner.

Thanks to all of you who voted in this year's poll!

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017.

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



Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene


Runners up:


3. Heather James

4. Melissa Morgan


Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre


Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Date Shed


Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. McCallum Theatre

4. La Quinta Arts Foundation

5. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre


Best Local Band

Venus and the Traps


Runners up:

2. The Flusters

3. Brightener

4. The Myx

5. War Drum


Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha


Runners up:

2. DJ Day

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Pwee

5. Tommy Locust


Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika Von Rabbit


Runners up:

2. Nico Flores

3. Keisha D

4. Kal David

5. EeVaan Tre


Best Local Visual Artist

Sofia Enriquez


Runners up:

2. Elena Bulatova

3. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

4. Marconi Calindas


Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD


Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres


Regal Palm Springs Stadium 9

Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

5. Century Theatres at the River


Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Coachella Valley History Museum

4. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

5. La Quinta Museum


Best Outdoor Venue

Empire Polo Club


Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Coyote StageWorks

5. Dezart Performs



Best Alternative Health Center

La Quinta Wellness Center


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Healing Center

3. Desert Hot Springs Health and Wellness Center


Best Farmers’ Market

College of the Desert Street Fair Farmers’ Market


Runners up:

2. Certified Farmers’ Market Old Town La Quinta

3. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Springs

4. Palm Springs VillageFest

5. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Desert


Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Coachella Valley Rescue Mission


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Animal Shelter

3. Desert AIDS Project

4. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

5. Shelter From the Storm


Best Gym

24 Hour Fitness


Runners up:

2. World Gym

3. EOS Fitness

4. In-Shape

5. Planet Fitness


Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans

3. Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon

4. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors


Best Yoga

Urban Yoga


Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Palm Desert-El Paseo

3. TIE

Evolve Yoga

Yoga Central

5. Bikram Yoga University Village


Best Bowling

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes Bowling at Morongo


Best Auto Repair

Palms to Pines Automotive


Runners up:

2. Desert Classic Cars

3. Desert Lexus

4. L&L Automotive

5. Singh’s Automotive Repair


Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Indio Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash


Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center


Runners up:

2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Bob Williams Nursery


Best Pet Supplies



Runners up:

2. Bones ’n’ Scones

3. PetSmart

4. Miriam’s Poochella Grooming

5. Desert Feed Bag


Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars (AIDS Assistance Program)


Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

3. Ramblin’ and Gamblin’ (Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Desert)

4. Dinner in the Canyons (Agua Caliente Cultural Museum)

5. Center Stage (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)


Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29


Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3


Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2


Best Local TV News Personality

Ginger Jeffries, KMIR Channel 6


Runners up:

2. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6


Best Local Radio Station

Mix 100.5


Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin 99.5 FM

4. K-News 94.3

5. La Ponderosa 96.7 FM


Best Local Radio Personality

Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3 FM


Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Mozingo, Mix 100.5

4. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, Sunny 103.1 FM


Best Bookstore

Barnes & Noble


Runners up:

2. Rancho Mirage Public Library Booknook

3. Revivals

4. The Book Rack


Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley


Runners up:

2. Best Buy

3. Barnes and Noble


Best Comics/Games Shop

Game Stop


2. Desert Oasis

3. Interstellar Comic Books and Collectables


Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club


Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. The Riviera

5. The Saguaro


Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty


Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Spencer’s Gifts

4. GayMart



Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s


2. Wil Stiles

3. Glossy


Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Angel View


Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Gypsyland

4. Penny Lane Boutique

5. Plato’s Closet


Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers


Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Ashley Furniture Homestore

4. Mor Furniture for Less


Best Antiques/Collectables Store


The Estate Sale Co

Victoria’s Attic


Runners up:

3. Misty’s Consignments

4. Classic Consignment


Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers


Runners up:

Leeds and Son


Daniel’s Jewelers

Robann’s Jewelers


Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon


Runners up:

2. Salon 119 and Spa

3. Dishwater Blonde Salon

4. Revive Salon and Spa

5. Read Brown


Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Spa La Quinta (La Quinta Resort)


Runners up:

2. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

3. Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Well Spa at Miramonte


Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy


Runners up:

2. Desert Zen

3. Studio M Salon and Spa

4. Revive Wellness Center

5. Bliss Chakra Spa


Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop


Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Palm Springs Florist

5. Lotus Garden Center


Best Tattoo Parlor


Art and Ink Tattoo Studio

The Tattoo Gallery


Runners up:

3. Flagship Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab


Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer



Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Milauskas Eye Institute

4. Walmart

5. Old Town Optometry



Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo


Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Downtown Palm Springs


Best Public Garden

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Sunnylands

4. El Paseo

5. Ruth Hardy Park


Best Place for Bicycling

La Quinta


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs

3. Palm Desert

4. Highway 74

5. Frank Sinatra Drive


Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree


Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon

3. Whitewater Preserve

4. Lake Cahuilla

5. Coachella Valley Preserve


Best Hike

Bump and Grind


Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Tahquitz Canyon

4. Palm Springs Museum Trail

5. South Lykken Trail


Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Runners up:

2. TIE

Freedom Park (Palm Desert)

Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Las Flores (Coachella)

5. Demuth Park (Palm Springs)


Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart


Best Bike Shop

Palm Desert Cyclery


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Cyclery

3. Tri-A-Bike

4. Joel’s Bicycle Shop


Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

5. PGA Tour Superstore


Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort


Runners up:

2. PGA West

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course at Fantasy Springs

4. The Golf Club at Terra Lago

5. The Lights at Indio Golf Course



Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Mirage Community Park

5. Cathedral City Town Square


Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys “R” Us


Runners up:

2. Mr. G’s for Kids

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Big Lots


Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy


Runners up:

2. The Childrens Place

3. Tillys

4. Fallas

5. Revivals


Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s


Runners up:

2. Shakey’s Pizza

3. Red Robin

4. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

5. Old Spaghetti Factory


Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Boomers

4. Chuck E. Cheese

5. Desert Ice Castle


Best Place for a Birthday Party

Chuck E. Cheese’s


Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Boomers

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Desert Ice Castle



Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. In-n-Out Burger

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eureka!

5. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro


2. Lavender Bistro

3. Jennifer’s Kitchen and Catering

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Cello’s Pantry


Best Diner

Keedy’s Fountain Grill


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

3. Elmer’s

4. John’s

5. Rick’s Restaurant


Best Organic Food Store

Trader Joe’s


2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Whole Foods

4. Harvest Health Foods

5. Clark’s Nutrition


Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Real Italian Deli

5. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace


Best Custom Cakes


Over the Rainbow

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Exquisite Desserts


Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. French Corner Café

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Manhattan in the Desert


Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery


Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Ben and Jerry’s

4. Brandini Toffee

5. Creamistry


Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden


Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes


Best Frozen Yogurt



2. Beach House

3. Golden Spoon

4. Jus Chillin

5. Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt


Best Bakery

French Corner Café


Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Over the Rainbow

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries


Best Barbecue

Smoke Tree BBQ Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit


Best Burger

In-n-Out Burger


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Tyler’s Burgers

4. Eureka!

5. Smokin’ Burgers and Lounge


Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Trio

5. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge


Best Sandwich

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills


Best Pizza

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Bill’s Pizza

3. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

4. Piero’s PizzaVino

5. Blaze Pizza


Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings


Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Wingstop

4. Neil’s Lounge

5. Billy Q’s


Best Bagels

Townie Bagels


Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Einstein Bros. Bagels

5. Manhattan in the Desert


Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar


Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Juice It Up

4. Beach House Yogurt


Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo


Best Coffee Shop for Coffee



Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. IW Coffee

4. Vintage Coffee House

5. Ristretto


Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out



Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Old Town Coffee

4. IW Coffee

5. Ernst Coffee


Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf


Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Teavana

4. Koffi

5. Ristretto


Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s Café


Runners up:

2. Elmer’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Sunshine Cafe

5. John’s


Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Cliffhouse

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Spencer’s Restaurant

5. Trio


Best Brunch

Pinocchio in the Desert


Runners up:

2. Wilma and Frieda’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Louise’s Pantry

5. The Tropicale


Best Chinese

PF Chang’s


Runners up:

2. City Wok

3. Wang’s in the Desert

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. New Fortune


Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Miro’s Restaurant

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Athena Gyro


Best French

La Brasserie


Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. Le Vallauris

4. Cuistot

5. Chez Pierre


Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine


Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House


Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Shogun Restaurant


Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Cafe


Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Castelli’s

4. Trilussa

5. Livreri’s Palm Springs


Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar


Runners up:

The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

Shogun Restaurant

Dragon Sushi

Edoko Sushi


Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Spencer’s Restaurant


Best Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House

3. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

4. TIE

Morgan’s in the Desert

Steakhouse at the Spa


Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Thai House

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Le Basil

5. Blue Orchid


Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu


Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

5. Pho Na


Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. Café Jasmin


Best Upscale Cuisine

Spencer’s Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Wally’s Desert Turtle

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s


Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch


Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

4. Lavender Bistro

5. The Tropicale


Best Late-Night Restaurant

Yard House


Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Alicante

4. Smokin’ Burgers

5. Bongo Johnny’s


Best Mexican

La Casita


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill’

5. Casa Mendoza


Best Salsa

Las Casuelas (Original)


Runners up:

2. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Las Casuelas Quinta

5. Felipe’s


Best Burrito

Taqueria Guerrero


Runners up:

2. Castaneda’s Mexican Food

3. Chipotle

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza



Best Beer Selection

Yard House


Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Eureka!

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House


Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House


Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter


Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hunters

4. Bart Lounge

5. Score the Game Bar


Best Cocktail Menu

Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar


Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Eureka!

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Trio


Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club



Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. Hunters

4. The Tropicale

5. Spurline


Best Happy Hour

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Applebee’s

3. The Tropicale

4. La Quinta Cliffhouse

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo


Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza


Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hair of the Dog

4. Red Barn

5. Score


Best Margarita

Las Casuelas (Original)


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza


Best Martini

Sullivan’s Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Mitch’s on El Paseo

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. The Tropicale

5. Trio


Best Nightclub



Runners up:

2. Zelda’s

3. Hunter’s

4. Bart Lounge

5. Chill Bar


Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter


Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Buffalo Wild Wings

4. Alicante

5. Village Pub


Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro


Runners up:

2. Sullivan’s Steakhouse

3. La Rue Wine Bar

4. Vue Grille and Bar

5. Dead or Alive


Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More


Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Costco

4. Trader Joe’s

5. Fame Lounge



Best Bar Ambiance



Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. The Tropicale

4. Matchbox

5. Workshop Kitchen+Bar

Published in Readers' Picks

Pho 533 Expands, Adds a Spring Roll Bar

About a year and a half ago, Chad Gardner—known for his fantastic Dash and a Handful Catering business—purchased longtime old-school Vietnamese restaurant Pho 533, located at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive.

What a difference 18 month makes: On Tuesday, Aug. 30, Pho 533 will emerge from a month-long closure as a completely different place.

First, Gardner has doubled Pho 533’s size while also revamping the menu. Second, he’s added a cocktail bar. Third, he’s added a 10-seat spring roll bar.

Yes, that’s right … a spring roll bar.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Pho 533 offered a sneak preview to the Palm Springs Eating and Living Facebook group—and the new digs are gorgeous.

The food’s pretty amazing, too. The new spring roll menu includes 10 different types of rolls, featuring everything from mango to chicken to lobster to mushrooms. The samples of the spring rolls being created—“hand rolled to order,” thank you very much—at that aforementioned spring roll bar were delicious. I got a bite or two of the spicy tuna roll ($16), which comes with sashimi-grade tuna mixed with pickled ginger, shirataki noodles, cilantro, lettuce, cucumber, sesame seeds and the house sriracha mayo. Let’s just say I am looking forward to enjoying my own spicy tuna roll, and don’t expect me to be in a sharing mood.

As for the drinks coming out of the new bar: The event featured the tequila “buoi”—Pho 533’s version of the paloma—which includes Arette blanco tequila, Bundaberg grapefruit soda, lime and salt. Tasty, indeed.

For more information, visit Pho 533’s Facebook page or website for more information.

Coming Soon: Umami Seoul Korean BBQ and Japanese Cuisine

We have a good-news, bad-news situation here.

First, the bad news: Thai Kitchen 1, which was located at 67555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City, has closed. Thai Kitchen 1 was one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the valley, and I learned the restaurant had closed the hard way: When I called the restaurant to get some takeout, I got that dreaded message: “Beep beep BEEP! We’re sorry. You have reached a number has been disconnected or is no longer in service.”

Now, the good news: The folks who owned downtown Palm Springs’ Wasabi for many years are opening Umami Seoul Korean BBQ and Japanese Cuisine in that spot.

“How did we come up with the name Umami Seoul?” the restaurant’s website asks. “We wanted to combine both our Japanese and Korean influences into one. Umami means savory in Japanese, using and challenging all of your senses to create a truly ‘umami’ experience. Seoul is our hometown city in Korea and the place that has inspired all of our Korean cuisine.”

The online menu promises various appetizers, sushi rolls and Korean specialties. Yum!

The restaurant should be open any day now; heck, it may be open by the time you read this. Stop by, or visit and for updates and more information.

In Brief

Fans of the Augustine Casino’s restaurants—Café 54 and the Menyikish Bar and Grill—take note: The entire casino will be closed from Monday, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Oct. 16. The Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians is taking that time to do a full-scale remodel of the 14-year-old facility, located at 84001 Avenue 54, in Coachella. Visit for details and updates. … Coming soon: The Big Rock Pub, to 79940 Westward Ho Drive, in Indio. Expect “a blend of classic rock and classic cuisine.” Visit for more info, including details on Big Rock’s job fair, taking place Sept. 6-9. … Congrats to the good folks at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, who on Aug. 28 celebrated the one-year anniversary of the restaurant’s popular Sunday Desert Divas Drag Brunch! For just $14.95, it’s an amazing deal. (Be sure to bring dollars to tip the divas, too!) Visit for more info. … Get ready to enjoy German beers and eats—and support a great cause while doing so! From 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, through Sunday, Oct. 2, Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, at 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be holding an Oktoberfest celebration—and 30 percent of all Oktoberfest proceeds will go to the March to Equality, billed as “the most expansive virtual march in history supporting full LGBT equality.” Visit for more details. … Please extend a hearty Coachella Valley welcome to Andrew Cooper, the new executive chef at the La Quinta Resort and Club, at 49499 Eisenhower Drive, in La Quinta. He’ll oversee the food and beverage program at all of the resort’s bars and restaurants, including Morgan’s in the Desert. Cooper’s 15-year career includes a lot of time at various Four Seasons resorts, most recently the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe, N.M. More info at … Popular build-your-own-pizza joint Pieology Pizzeria has opened its first valley location, at 42500 Bob Hope Drive, Suite D, in Rancho Mirage. Head to for details. … Coming soon to the old Sam’s Sushi location at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage: Fox and Fiddle, a British-style pub. There are a bunch of Canadian locations of Fox and Fiddle; visit for more info. … Keep your eye open for changes at Matchbox, on the second floor at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s under new ownership; a new name and menu should soon follow. … We’ve been hearing nothing but raves about Cie Sichuan Cuisine, which opened a couple of months ago at 45682 Towne St., in Indio. We’ll give a more detailed report after we’ve had a chance to check it out; in the meantime, find menus and more info at

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Lisa Tussing, a Southern California native, got her start in wine while attending college in Arizona. She started out like many of us do—drinking wine from Trader Joe’s, where she worked during college. From there, she moved on to fine dining, at places like John Howie Steak in Bellevue, Wash., and the historic Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. In 2014, Tussing was the youngest woman in Arizona to hold a Level 2 sommelier certification. A chance meeting with La Quinta Resort and Club general manager John Healy at the Biltmore (which is owned by the same company as the La Quinta Resort) brought Tussing to the desert last year.

Tussing and I chatted in the dining room of Morgan’s over a bottle of Los Bermejos Malvasia Seco.

When did you first start getting into wine?

When I worked at Trader Joe’s. I got a job there when I was 22, and worked there for three years while I was going to Arizona State. I’m the biggest Trader Joe’s cheerleader: I had a great work experience. Everyone loves being there; they pay well; they feed you; they encourage you; they let you take ownership and make you feel empowered with your guests. I started working in the wine department a little bit, and my friends and I started to taste our way through the wine selection. By 23, I had drank my way through the wine program! From there, I kind of started taking it over. I started making the orders and became the go-to wine person. People would laugh at me and say, “You’re not even old enough to drink, are you?” After Trader Joe’s I got back into fine dining at luxury hotels.

What’s the best part of your job?

At Morgan’s, we do these “festivals” menus. Every two weeks, depending on what is in season and what’s local, we do a different three-course menu. We do this all summer. … We do wine pairings with the menus, too! It is really fun to work with my chef (Jimmy Schmidt); he gives me an idea of where to start, then we’ll sit down together and bring new wines in and make the perfect little pairing.

I also love it when guests bring in wine and share some with me. Some of the best wines I’ve ever had are wines guests bring in.

What are you loving on your list right now?

The Bonny Doon “(I Am Not Drinking Any) $%&*#!” Merlot is a fun, inexpensive wine. I love the name, and it has a really fun story behind it. Another of my favorites on the list is Trefethen Dragon’s Tooth. The Dragon’s Tooth is a malbec blend out of Napa Valley which Janet Trefethen makes that is a winery- and wine-club-only wine, but I managed to convince them to let me put it on the list. … I also like the Tamarack Cellars rosé that I pour by the glass. Last summer, I went wine-tasting in Walla Walla, and after a week of tasting syrahs and merlots and these giant cabs and Washington reds, my palate was blown, but we went to Tamarack last-minute because my chef’s friends said how amazing it was. I drank this rosé there, and it was like the wine gods were shining a light on me.

What’s your sommelier strategy?

It’s all about your guest and knowing what they’re looking for. My strategy is to approach a table and get a feel for them and what they’re trying to accomplish with their meal. I ask what they’re having for dinner, what they normally like to drink, and how much they want to spend. I also ask if they want to go more traditional or do something fun. With all that info, I can pick out the perfect bottle on my list for their occasion. My strategy is not limited to wine: I have no ego once service starts. I’ll bus your table; I’ll run food and seat people. Once service starts, it’s all about the guest and what they need to have the best experience possible.

How often do people want fun versus traditional?

A lot more than you’d think, actually! A lot of guests will come in here with their minds made up. They might say, “I really like The Prisoner,” and I’ll ask why, and they’ll say, “I really like the fruit and texture, and it is really mellow.” I’ll say, “If you really like that wine, definitely get it! But if you want to try something a little different tonight, go with this B Cellars Sangiovese out of Napa Valley.” It’s all about reading the table.

What are you drinking right now?

Vodka. (Laughs.) When I go out, I drink cosmos and beer, like hefeweizen and lager. When I’m at home, I drink bubbles. I also love any white that doesn’t touch oak: torrontés, vinho verde, albariño and New Zealand sauv blanc.

Your desert island wine?

Just one wine?

I’m not a monster. (Laughs.)

Well, I’d do a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner wine: Bollinger (Champagne) for breakfast, torrontés for lunch, and Jones Family Vineyards Cabernet for dinner. I remember the first time I had that wine. A guest brought it in, and I thought, “Why don’t all red wines taste like this?”

Favorite food pairing?

I love a good oyster/champagne combo, or oyster/rosé. I love our oysters here; they are one of the most refreshing things I’ve ever tasted—a raw oyster topped with tangerine and Eroica Riesling granita; poached ginger; and tangerine salsa. It’s one of the chef’s signature dishes.

Favorite wine book?

All the study books are good, like Windows on the World and The World Atlas of Wine, but I read a book one time that really inspired me: Cheryl Ladd’s Token Chick: A Woman's Guide to Golfing With the Boys. It’s about golf, but (I) kind of tied wine into it. She was the first woman on the celebrity pro-am. It’s not technically about wine, but it’s about being a woman in a man’s world, so I relate to her. 

Where do you like to go out in the desert?

I stay in La Quinta a lot. There is a restaurant up the street called Casa Mendoza; I try to stop in there on my days off. (The restaurant has) killer margaritas, and the owner is always there; he’s really friendly. The food and service are great. I send a lot of people there.

Your favorite thing to do in the desert?

Golf at the Arnold Palmer Private Course at PGA West. Right now, the bighorn (sheep) are out on the course! It’s a sight to see. During the summer, I can golf about once a week. During the season, I don’t get to play at all. I don’t mind the heat. I don’t drink on the course—just water and Gatorade, so I sweat it out. It’s cleansing.

Palm Springs native Christine Soto is a co-owner of Dead or Alive wine bar in Palm Springs. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Wine

The 11th Annual Desert Smash delivered a day full of expected humor and generosity—as well as some unexpected last-minute program changes—on Tuesday, March 10.

World No. 1 ATP pro Novak Djokovic, who has contributed to the hilarity and star power in previous years, was a no-show. Instead, No. 20-ranked John Isner stepped into the program, joining No. 31-ranked Fernando Verdasco in the final match of the day. Earlier No. 43-ranked Sam Querrey, a repeat volunteer himself, partnered with pro Mardy Fish to deliver the most entertaining real tennis of the day, as they took on the No. 1-ranked doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan.

On the women’s side, WTA No. 7 Genie Bouchard was unexpectedly joined by No. 47-ranked Daniela Hantuchova in the opening singles match, which offered the most purely competitive tennis display.

In the middle two matches, comedy moved to center court at the La Quinta Resort as host Will Ferrell (who suffered a muscle strain in the morning’s VIP Pro-Am competition—the tape job for which he proudly displayed) moved into the role of chair umpire to supervise a surprise treat of a match featuring Justin Bieber, actor/comedian Kevin Hart and talk-show host Billy Bush.

Throughout the afternoon, spectators enjoyed themselves as cocktails and champagne contributed to high spirits and generous support of multiple impromptu donation challenges directed toward Cancer for College’s fundraising for the college educations of cancer survivors.

See pictures from the event, at the La Quinta Resort, below.

Published in Snapshot

A good time for a good cause was the goal at the Will Powered Golf Classic, held Monday, March 3, at Palm Desert’s Bighorn Golf Club, and the Desert Smash tennis tournament, held Tuesday, March 4, at the La Quinta Resort.

The events were hosted by actor/comedian Will Ferrell and cancer survivor Craig Pollard, the founder of Cancer for College.

Players competed in a “shamble” format in the annual golfing fundraiser, which has been funding scholarships for cancer survivors since 1994. The golf tournament kicked off Cancer for College’s 2014 Desert Showdown, which continued on Tuesday, March 4, with the Desert Smash tennis tournament, as well as a concert featuring Nelly and Boyz II Men at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.

Ferrell and Pollard were joined this year by Kevin Spacey, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor and star of the hit Netflix series House of Cards. Since 1994, Cancer for College has granted more than $2 million in college scholarships to more than 1,000 cancer survivors.

At an impromptu press conference on his way to tee-off on Monday, Ferrell touted all of the charity-centric activities included in this year’s expanded Desert Showdown. In particular, he expressed excitement about the concert at The Show, modestly called Will Ferrell’s Epically Awesome Desert Showdown Concert Extravaganza.

“I don’t think that Coachella music fest will be able to compare! And that’s a scoop, by the way,” he said.

Regarding the serious cause underlying the fun and games, Ferrell explained the perspective he and Pollard share.

“We use humor to kind of talk about cancer,” said Ferrell. “You know, it’s such a taboo subject, because people don’t want to talk about having gone through the disease, but we kind of mix it up. One of the best parts is hearing the recent scholarship recipients’ speeches, where they talk about everything they’ve gone through, and how motivated they are to make a difference.”

Moments later, just after the celebrity groupings were announced on the first tee, the crowd was told that Will Ferrell would face the No. 2-ranked tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic, at the Desert Smash tourney on the next day.

“I’m going to be playing with my driver,” deadpanned Ferrell as he waved his golf club in the air.

On Tuesday, March 4, however, that driver was nowhere to be seen, as fans of tennis and celebrity star-gazing flocked to the La Quinta Resort’s tennis club. Desert Showdown Day 2 got under way with celebs and amateurs filling many of the back courts for short doubles matches. Comedian/actor Jon Lovitz, singer Redfoo, actor Joel McHale of Community and actor Timothy Olyphant of Justified were among the stars who participated.

In the afternoon, fans ringed the stadium to watch the featured matches. Ferrell decided serenade the crowd during his opening remarks with a flawed rendition of the Canadian national anthem. No. 2-ranked tennis pro Novak Djokovic, who was teamed with Ferrell in one of the most entertaining doubles matches, played while wearing a wig as an homage to Will Ferrell’s character Jackie Moon from the film Semi-Pro.

Also competing were Bridesmaids actress Rebel Wilson, two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey, 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka, the top-ranked doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan, and former BNP Paribas Open winners Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova, among others.

As play was about to begin, Will Ferrell told the crowd, “I’ve been practicing for this moment my entire life! Make sure you hydrate. I’m doing that by drinking a lot of tequila and vodka.”

The contests were frequently interrupted by impromptu fundraising auction events, the proceeds of which all went to Cancer for College. One highly successful auction was inspired by valley resident and WBO world welterweight boxing champion Timothy Bradley, who provided two ringside tickets to his upcoming bout with Manny Pacquiao. As bidding escalated rapidly, Kevin Spacey taunted his doubles opponent Ferrell to bid higher, saying, “Come on, Will! Anchorman did better than that.”

Ferrell responded by urging Spacey to pony up some of his earnings from his Netflix series House of Cards.

“Netflix only pays us in DVDs,” quipped Spacey.

It’s fair to say that a good time was had by all.

Scroll down to view a photo gallery.

Original version published at 10:45 a.m., Tuesday, March 4; updated version published at 10:15 a.m., Wednesday, March 5.

Published in Snapshot