CVIndependent

Wed05272020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

It was a fabulous party. My house was packed with people.

I decided I was hungry. I walked past a bunch of people and went into the kitchen. I opened the freezer, and a frozen-pot-pie box fell out; it skidded across the floor and came to rest under a bar stool. I jokingly chided my friend who was sitting on the stool about being a terrible goalie.

I retrieved the pot pie and put it back. I pondered heating up a frozen pizza but decided against it, and instead went over to talk to some friends who were standing in front of the stove. Brad Fuhr was biting into a slice of another pizza that he’d apparently just pulled out of the oven. He started to say something—and one of the slices on the plate he was holding fell on the floor. We laughed, and as he began to clean up the mess, I started talking to another friend, Daniel, about an NFL player, recently in the news, who we both thought was attractive.

The conversation was suddenly interrupted by the sound of my iPhone alarm.

I woke up, confused at first, as the dinner-party dream had been so vivid. Soon, however, reality set in. The party and the amazing time I was having—neither were real. And they won’t be real again for quite some time.

Feeling sad, I sat up. As I continued to awaken, I checked the social media on my phone. About every third post dealt with President Trump’s remarks during yesterday’s COVID-19 press briefing, when he suggested that the virus could be combated by people injecting disinfectants.

I sighed, got up, and headed toward my real kitchen to make coffee. I paused briefly, but did not stop, as I passed our bottles of liquor. Somewhere down the line, there will be real parties again, after all, and I want to be functional for those. And besides, I had work to do.

Today’s links:

• No, seriously, we really are living in the timeline in which we’re six weeks into a crippling pandemic, and Lysol and Clorox need to issue statements telling people to please not inject or ingest their products, because confused people are calling health hotlines after the president said something bonkers on live TV.

• Also in this timeline: Facing a recession that could be as bad as the Great Depression—hell, in some ways, it could be worse—and with the country facing mind-blowing spending deficits, we’re giving rich people and large companies yet another humongous tax break.

• OK! We’re not walking past the bar this time! If you drink, join me in having a classic Manhattan. If you don’t drink, a tip o’ the hat to you, and instead, here’s info on Disney’s just-released Dole Whip recipe.

• Now, back to the news, and this fascinating piece on how Australia and New Zealand’s leaders—about as politically far apart as two people can get—have each seemingly put politics aside to help their countries make great strides in battling COVID-19.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald recently talked to Rep. Raul Ruiz about how he’s been able to combine two areas of expertise—medicine and politics—during the coronavirus crisis.

• News you can potentially use: Riverside County—Palm Springs included, in this case—is allowing HOA and apartment pools to reopen, but only one person can be in them at a time.

• The 10-cent charge for bags at grocery stores is a (temporary) thing of the past.

• Very interesting: Gov. Newsom today announced an effort to deliver seniors in need three meals per day—with the government hiring out-of-work restaurant employees to make those meals at restaurants.

• If you’re someone who’s having a hard time adjusting to working from home, you’re far from alone.

• You know all these “grassroots” protests popping up here and there to demand we reopen everything, virus be damned? The Conversation reveals that these protests aren’t so grassroots after all.

• Some people have jokingly referred to COVID-19 as “the plague.” Well, this piece—again from The Conversation—looks at a diary from the time of a severe bubonic plague outbreak in 1600s London, and reveals that there are some surprising similarities in terms of what we’re all going through.

Eisenhower is continuing its series of lectures and online classes—but now via Zoom, of course. Check out a calendar of events here.

• A cautionary tale that just so happens to come on the same day as Georgia is starting to reopen things: Here’s what happened when the Japanese island of Hokkaido lifted lockdown orders too soon.

What will it look like when schools finally reopen? Here’s NPR’s take.

That’s enough for today. Buy our awesome coloring book here. If you can afford to support the Independent, and can help us continue producing free-to-all, quality journalism for the Coachella Valley, please go here. Please stay safe. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you go out. Be nice. Unless there’s major breaking news, or the president announces that COVID-19 can be cured by using weedwackers or something, we’re taking the weekend off, and we’ll be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

I was feeling a bit nostalgic. Perhaps it was due to a post-holiday malaise; maybe I was simply succumbing to the general trend in popular culture.

Whatever the cause, I began reminiscing on my first experiences drinking in public places: a smoky blues club, Chinese restaurant lounges, fancy dinners out with family, etc. While I was unable to locate a smoky blues club here in the Coachella Valley (send me suggestions!), I did visit two analogues of the other places to see how they matched up with my first memories of drinking.

I had never been to Melvyn’s before, but I felt like I had: So many people have told me about the place that I had a pretty good mental picture before walking in for the first time—and that picture was pretty spot-on. It was busy for a weekday (judging by the comments of the regulars surrounding me), but I managed to snag a prime barstool. I usually can; it’s kind of my superpower.

Surrounded by pictures of faces of celebrities living and deceased, I settled in and made friends with a couple of Canadian teetotalers next to me. They said they came here all the time, and were wondering if I was here to see it before the new ownership possibly changes things (which is apparently a big concern among regulars).

The bartender, Michael, was working the whole restaurant alone. I got anxiety just watching him, but he kept his cool. The maître d’ made the rounds and knew the guests by name. I asked the maître d’ what time the music started, and he pointed at the piano player: “At 7, or whenever the spirit moves him.” A minute or two later, the tinkling of ivory floated out from the corner. I guess the spirit was moving him—as it was beginning to move me.

I got a dry martini … what else am I going to put on a napkin featuring Frank Sinatra’s face? I ordered Bombay gin—craft gin’s not an option here. Shaken lightly, giant olives, hardly any vermouth … yeah, this is not the way you’d get it at my bar, but there are eras to cocktails, and they need to be acknowledged. For a place from this era, the tinkling of chip ice against the thin walls of a three-part shaker was a sound of success. I’m sure even Dale DeGroff was shaking plenty of gin martinis once upon a time. (That said, if you work at any place built in the last 20 years, and you shake my gin martini … well, let’s not go there.) Cold gin, a shrimp cocktail, piano music, Old Blue Eyes regarding me warmly from his paper prison … how much more old Palm Springs does it get?

The bartender suggested a Maker’s Mark Manhattan next, as though he were reading my mind; this drink was a mainstay of my early-to-mid-20s. Just like the ones I drank in my early-to-mid-20s, it was also shaken and light on vermouth, with nary a bitters bottle in sight. I didn’t come here for a Death and Co. Manhattan; I came for the kind my dad made at his bar—and I got it. (Again, bartenders: Don’t you dare do this if your clientele is younger than 75, on average.)

All and all, it was a lovely journey back to an era that we will never see again, since modern restaurant philosophy has changed so much—and so irreversibly.


So … there’s craft tiki; there’s tiki; and there is what I grew up drinking at the (long-gone) Aloha and other lounges that once peppered the Northeast: a sort of tiki/American-Chinese chimera with sour mix galore, and with loose interpretations of recipes by Trader Vic and Donn Beach (the creator of Don the Beachcomber), along with lots of greasy pork and noodles to sop up the ample booze. Oh, and ID checks were lenient, too. It was heaven. Luckily for me, some pockets of California held on to tiki in its more-or-less-original form. I’d heard that Tonga Hut, with a location in Palm Springs, was one of those places. I went to investigate.

First of all, it totally looks the part, aside from a balcony overlooking Palm Canyon Drive, but that’s a nice touch my Aloha could never have had. Everything was just as I imagined. I ordered a mai tai, which was made according to the Trader Vic recipe. (With all due respect to Donn Beach, I prefer the Trader Vic recipe, too—mostly because it’s way less complicated.) It was tasty and citrus-forward, with plenty of rum and a backbone of orange liqueur and almond—thankfully nothing like the pineapple-juice-and-rum versions of my youth! They had crab rangoons and beef teriyaki, and these dishes were actually much lighter-tasting and way less greasy than what I grew up eating (although I am not sure how I feel about that).

Next, I had bartender Josh make me a painkiller, one of those rarely seen tiki concoctions which was actually trademarked by Pusser’s Rum. It is a tasty mix of rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, coconut cream and a garnish of nutmeg. Because glassware is crucial to proper tiki, Josh even served it in a classic Pusser’s enameled metal mug. If you haven’t had one of these, give it a try: The ample nutmeg may seem a little odd at first, but once you get used to it, it really makes the drink feel festive. It has the DNA of a piña colada, but ends up tasting very different; the orange juice and nutmeg offer it a unique flavor.

Tonga Hut is definitely a good spot for those seeking a classic tiki fix, or for those, like me, who are just trying to scratch that itch for nostalgia.


Nostalgia cured, I went back to work.

I felt like I left the Bloody Mary debate a little unresolved last month, so I set about trying the drink at various places around town, despite my aversion to it in general. I felt it was my duty to know where the best one was; call it a sense of journalistic integrity, if you’d like.

I had been hearing over the last few months that Sparrows Lodge was a nice place to grab lunch, so when a friend called me up on a sunny afternoon, we decided to give it a go.

I had been to Sparrows once before, for an evening event, so I already knew the environment is unreal: You literally cannot take a bad picture here. I have tried. I ordered the Bloody Mary, knowing it could make or break my experience. It was wonderful, light and almost refreshing, with a sensible garnish of pickled okra. There seemed to be chili oil floating on top; I tasted mustard seeds and citrus. The vinegar was bright but not overpowering, with no congealed horseradish chunks in sight. While I would not have a second one in succession, because it’s still a Bloody Mary, I was impressed—so impressed that I am calling it the best one in town (at least that I have had so far).

So … goodbye nostalgia (and goodbye, Bloody Marys); time to move on and explore some new ground, even though it has been a fun trip down memory lane.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Seymour’s/Mr. Lyons and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

What: The Black Cherry Manhattan

Where: Jake’s Palm Springs, 664 N. Palm Canyon Drive

How much: $14

Contact info: 327-4400; www.jakespalmsprings.com

Why: It’s really freaking yummy.

Let’s start off with the negative stuff: The Black Cherry Manhattan is overpriced. There’s no good reason for a drink to cost $14 when one can get a 750-milliliter bottle of the starring liquor for less than $20. Period.

OK, maybe there’s one reason: The Black Cherry Manhattan is delicious.

The aforementioned starring liquor is Jim Beam Red Stag, a black-cherry flavored bourbon. Now, before all you bourbon purists out there start freaking out and taking umbrage with the idea of flavored freaking bourbon, please chill. I am with you. I am not recommending you rush out and buy a bottle of Red Stag for sipping. (Though if you do, and you like it, that’s fine with me. I am not judgmental like those folks who are taking umbrage.)

However, when this liquor is presented as a Manhattan, and garnished with tasty black cherries, this stuff is good. If you are a Manhattan purist, or you like your Manhattan not-so-sweet and woody, this drink is not for you. But if you may like a sweeter, lighter Manhattan, give this drink a shot. You’ll like it—and while it’s lighter, it’s still got a Manhattan-style punch.

So, splurge a little. Enjoy the $19 delicious meatloaf, and have a Black Cherry Manhattan. It’s almost worth the price.

Published in The Indy Endorsement