CVIndependent

Mon12102018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Three New Places Coming Soon From Local Restaurant Greats

In the coming months, at least three new restaurants are slated to open their doors in the Coachella Valley that are owned by veteran local restaurateurs.

In order of anticipated opening:

Acqua California Bistro—at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Palm Desert—finally opened its doors to customers on Thursday, July 27.

A little history: Jerry and Barbara Keller got into the local restaurant business with Acqua Pazza California Bistro, located at The River, well before they opened their wildly popular Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs in August 2011. However, when the lease for Acqua Pazza expired in December 2014, the Kellers decided to walk away after 10 years, citing a desire to slow down and focus on Lulu.

BB’s at the River, owned by Jack Srebnik—who also owns The Slice and Maracas—soon opened in the space, but closed last year due to a lack of business. The owners of The River then did a very smart thing: They talked the Kellers into returning, and last September, they announced that Acqua California Bistro would open sometime in the winter.

Winter then turned to spring, which then turned to summer, without an opening date; Keller cited construction issues, in part due to the restaurant’s expansion, as one reason for the delay. However, opening time is finally here; to work out kinks, the restaurant served invited “pre-opening” guests July 22-24. (I was fortunate enough to be one of the guests, and the service and food were both top-notch—a good sign for a pre-opening meal, when the staff is still learning.)

If you know the menu at Lulu, then you know what to expect at Acqua, including the popular three-course menu for $19.99, and the all-day happy hour at the bar. As for the décor, the Kellers bumped things up a notch, including a sculpture featuring various colored forks out front, made by Karen and Tony Barone.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/AcquaRanchoMirage.

• A mile or two away in Palm Desert, crews are hard at work preparing AC3 Restaurant + Bar, at 45400 Larkspur Lane—just off El Paseo—for an anticipated fall opening.

AC3 is a joint project by some of the minds behind two of Palm Springs’ most popular restaurants: Tony Marchese of Trio Restaurant, and Andrew Copley and Juliana Copley from Copley’s Restaurant. The description on the AC3 Facebook page sums things up nicely: They’re “teaming up to pair the distinctive style of Trio’s hip local vibe with Chef Andrew’s vibrant progressive cooking.”

While no menu information has been posted yet, we know the décor will include the colorful work of young Rancho Mirage artist Nicholas Kontaxis.

Visit www.facebook.com/ac3palmdesert for more information, including pictures of some of Kontaxis’ art. Head on over to ac3palmdesert.com to sign up for emailed updates.

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine has gained an increasing number of fans since opening early this year at 72695 Highway 111, Suite A6, in Palm Desert—and owner John Tsoutis delighted his restaurant’s west valley devotees when he announced in mid-July that a second Evzin would be opening in Palm Springs in October.

Despite serious grilling from friends and fans on Facebook, Tsoutis—as of our press deadline—had not revealed the location of the Palm Springs Evzin; he did, however, say it would be part of a hotel. Hmm.

Watch www.facebook.com/Evzinrestaurant for updates.


Details Revealed Regarding Restaurants at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs

The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, at 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way—part of the huge and controversial downtown redevelopment project—will be opening sometime in the fall, and we now have information about the restaurants that will call it home.

According to the news release: “Juniper Table, a casual all-day Mediterranean café, and 4 Saints, an intimate hideaway on the rooftop, will serve bold, chef-driven cuisine under the direction of executive chef Stephen Wambach, along with an extensive cocktail, beer and wine program. … Prior to joining Juniper Table and 4 Saints, he led the Four Seasons Chicago as executive chef, revamping Allium to receive three stars from the Chicago Tribune, in addition to being awarded the esteemed Esquire ‘Best New Restaurant’ award for his work at Epic in Chicago.”

Juniper Table “will be a vibrant upscale-casual eatery featuring rustic, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine spotlighting seasonal and organic ingredients,” according to the release, while 4 Saints’ menu “includes sharable plates that reflect internationally inspired ingredients, such as foie gras bread and butter, paring autumn flavors with salted caramel apple, Thai long pepper and gingerbread.”

Sounds fancy!

Watch the restaurants’ respective websites—www.junipertable.com and www.4saintspalmsprings.com—for updates.


In Brief

If you somehow missed the social media freak-out surrounding the news: A Krispy Kreme is supposed to come to Rancho Mirage in a yet-to-be-built development near Dinah Shore Drive and Monterey Avenue. The opening date, however, is at least a year away. … Our friends at Dish Creative Cuisine, 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, have launched new menus both in the bar and dining room. The new creations by Joane Garcia-Colson and team include fried langoustine ravioli ($9) in the bar. Yum! Visit www.dishcreativecuisine.com for more information.

Updated July 27

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Café Europa Moving to Former Plate | Glass Space, Adding a Tapas Concept

The gorgeous second-story spot at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs has gained a reputation as being jinxed, because the list of recent restaurants that have unsuccessfully made a go of it there is rather lengthy.

Plate | Glass. Crave. The Kickstand. All are gone.

However, this dubious record does not scare Michael Stoltz, the owner of Café Europa: Stoltz has temporarily closed his popular breakfast and lunch joint, which was at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, to move down the street into that gorgeous second-story spot. The target reopening date is Oct. 1.

“We outgrew the space,” Stoltz said about the old Café Europa digs. “People were also asking when we were going to open up an evening place.”

The space at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive addresses both of those dilemmas: It has twice the amount of seating as the old spot, and a kitchen that’s about three times the size. Beyond that growth, fans of Café Europa have nothing to worry about: Stoltz promised that he “is not touching” the menu of Café Europa.

As for that evening place: Stoltz said Café Europa will share the space with a new concept, Jus’ Tapas, which will offer tasty small plates and a full bar during the evening hours.

It’ll work like this, Stoltz said: Café Europa’s tasty fare and relaxed vibe will rule the daytime hours, until 2 p.m. or so. After a brief closure, Jus’ Tapas will take over. Linens will then be placed on the tables—and the artwork may even be changed, he said.

Jus’ Tapas menu will feature items in the $6 to $19 range, Stoltz said. He mentioned that one of his favorites on the in-development menu is a Brussels sprouts dish; the sprouts will be paired with twice-baked hazelnuts and topped with crème fraiche and a Dijon mustard sauce.

Then there’s the “Man Candy”—strips of bacon coated with cayenne pepper and molasses. Wow.

Stoltz is especially excited about the bar concept: He said Jus’ Tapas will emphasize skinny, low-calorie cocktails, as well as a large number of wines offered by the glass.

Sounds pretty amazing to me! Watch www.cafeeuropapalmsprings.com for updates as Oct. 1 approaches.


When It Comes to Rumors, Don’t Necessarily Believe ’Em

Facebook brings both good and bad: The good: People can share information with friends, followers and fellow group members with just several clicks on a keyboard.

However, not all of this information is necessarily accurate. That’s the bad part.

So much misinformation regarding the restaurant world has been spread via Facebook and word of mouth recently that a local TV station had to come out and do a story to debunk an out-of-control rumor: On July 13, KMIR ran a piece emphasizing the fact that The Tropicale—one of the most popular restaurants in the valley, located at 330 E. Amado Road—is NOT closing, despite rumors that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians was kicking them off the land.

Turns out the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians doesn’t even own that land, according to the KMIR piece.

Rumors have also been running amok about the fate of Wang’s in the Desert and Bit of Country, located at 424 and 418 S. Indian Canyon Drive, respectively: Once the nearby Burger King closed, speculation that those two restaurants were doomed ran amok. Turns out there’s no evidence, at least that we could find, that this is the case.

That’s not to say rumors sometimes aren’t true; Woody’s Burgers, for example, recently had to move due to a land sale. But the point remains: Make sure your information is correct before blathering online, folks.


In Brief

Well, that didn’t take long: BB’s at The River, which opened in March of 2015 at the Rancho Mirage shopping center that made up part of the restaurant name, closed earlier in July, due to an apparent lack of business. The restaurant opened with a boast by Jack Srebnik that the old Acqua Pazza spot was one of the best restaurant locations in the valley. Hmm. … The approach of the month of August means that you should probably check to make sure your restaurant of choice is open before heading there: A lot of popular local joints close for several weeks, or more, during these dog days of summer. For example, all of the F10 Creative stand-alone joints—Cheeky’s, Mr. Lyons and Birba—are taking the month off, and reopening on either Aug. 31 (Mr. Lyons, Birba) or Sept. 1 (Cheeky’s). … While the approach of August brings numerous closures, this year, it also brought a most-welcome opening: Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a number of yummy to-go options; peruse all the menus at tippersgourmetmarketplace.com. … Also new in downtown Palm Springs—right next door to Tipper’s—is Gré Coffeehouse and Art Gallery, at 278 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The Beatnik-inspired joint mixes coffee, art and live performance; get more details at www.grecoffeehouse.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: The BBQ Free Range Chicken Pizza

Where: BB’s at The River, 71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

How Much: $13.95 (or $9 at the bar during all-day happy hour, Monday through Friday)

Contact: 760-862-9800; www.bbsattheriver.com

Why: This pizza backs up the brag.

The sign in front of the restaurant said multiple things. It promoted a $19.99 prix fixe menu. It touted tasty burgers. And it said the restaurant served the best barbecue chicken pizza in town.

Game on, BB’s at The River. I’ll take one BBQ free range chicken pizza, please.

Inside, BB’s doesn’t look all that different than its predecessor, Acqua Pazza: It has a clean, contemporary vibe, with a great bar. The menu features California/American fare. The server said the pot roast was particularly popular.

Fair enough. But I was here to see if the pizza backed up the sign’s brag.

The verdict: While I won’t go so far as to say the BBQ free range chicken pizza is the best such pie in town, I will say it’s good. Really good.

First and foremost: The folks in the kitchen don’t skimp on the chicken, which is juicy and delicious: Every bite of the pizza (save maybe one or two near the crust) included chicken. Second: The sauce is indeed sweet and spicy, as promised on the menu—and it’s balanced. In other words, it’s neither too sweet nor too spicy; as Goldilocks would say, it’s just right. Third. There are just enough red onions on the pizza to make their presence known; any more, and they’d dominate the flavor. Fourth: The smoked mozzarella was gooey and delightful. Fifth, but not least: The crust was tasty. I would have preferred it to be a little thinner, maybe, but there was nothing wrong with what was on my plate.

How excellent was this pizza? I intended to eat only half of it, and take the rest home. But before I knew it, I’d devoured three-quarters of it—and I had to restrain myself from finishing it off. Good stuff, indeed.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Zin American Bistro Finds Itself in the Midst of a Foie Gras Uproar

In early January, U.S. District Judge Court Stephen V. Wilson overturned California’s ban on foie gras—a 2004 voter-approved law that went into effect in 2012.

Almost immediately, Mindy Reed, the owner of downtown Palm Springs’ Zin American Bistro and Alicante restaurants, announced she was returning fatty goose liver to Zin’s menu—and she attracted serious local media attention in the process.

Ever since, Reed and her staff members have been the targets of opposition, protests—and even threats.

“I’ve gotten hate mail,” Reed said. “I’ve been called a murderer. I’ve been sent pictures of me personally being bound and force-fed though a tube. My staff has been harassed.”

Reed said she understands why some individuals may be vegetarian or vegan; in fact, she said she herself was a vegan for decades. However, she said it’s unfair and hypocritical for people to focus on the delicacy that is foie gras.

“People need to remember there are two ways to do everything in life,” she said: the right way, and the wrong way. Reed insisted that she goes out of her way to use as many ingredients as possible that are produced in the right way—local, free-range, humanely raised, etc. That goes for foie gras, too.

“I serve foie gras that’s humanely raised,” she said. “The geese are not caged. There’s no tube. There are no machines. The goose is hand-fed. There are a few farms doing this. Geese will gorge themselves naturally. People who like foie gras appreciate the fact that I buy humanely raised foie gras.”

Reed gets visibly irritated when she discusses her detractors.

“Why aren’t they picketing McDonald’s or other restaurants in town (that don’t seek out meat from humanely raised animals)?” she asked. “I don’t think it’s fair.”

Meanwhile, foie gras remains on the menu at Zin; for example, a Belgian waffle dessert features brûléed pineapple, foie gras and sauternes. At least that’s the case for now: California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced in February she was appealing the ruling against the foie gras ban.

Zin American Bistro is located at 198 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 760-322-6300, or visit pszin.com.

Plate | Glass’ Goal: To Be a Place to ‘Chill Out’

“Leisure” is the key word at Plate | Glass, which last fall took over the second-story spot at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, that had been home to Crave.

Owners Raymond McCallister and Larry Abel—best known as the men behind the Raymond | Lawrence retail shops—had previously been part-owners of Crave. When they took control of the dessert-and-coffee spot last year, they decided it was time to make some changes.

“We think Plate | Glass fulfills a need by creating a place for people to chill out,” Abel told me recently. “We have a great view. People will linger and hang out.”

Plate | Glass still offers desserts, of course—but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Also on offer: Fantastic craft cocktails, breakfast/brunch items, salads, large-sized “melt” sandwiches and appetizer style-plates. I was fortunate enough to attend a recent media lunch there, and the fare was delicious. My favorite: The Sweet Hog melt, with pan-fried ham and blueberry goat cheese. It was amazing.

When Abel said he wants people to “chill out” at Plate | Glass, he meant it: The space even includes a cell-phone charging station and a variety of board games.

Plate | Glass is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Call 760-322-2322, or visit plate-glass.com for more information.

In Brief

The space formerly occupied by Café Scandia, which closed recently at 356 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will soon be the home of Rooster and the Pig. We’ll pass along details when we get ’em. … Keep your eye on Bart Lounge, the bar/music venue/art gallery at 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City, in the second-story space that recently housed Level 2 bar. It’s slated to open sometime in March. Follow www.bartlounge.com and Bart’s Facebook page for updates. … The Food+Wine Festival Palm Desert, a Palm Springs Life joint, will take place Friday, March 27, through Sunday, March 29. Watch www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com. … BB’s at the River is taking over the former Acqua Pazza space at The River, located at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Jack Srebnik, who owns the two local Maracas restaurants, is the brains behind the place. Get info—including hiring details—at www.facebook.com/BBsRiverRanchoMirage. ... The Westin Mission Hills, at 71333 Dinah Shore Drive in Rancho Mirage, has launched a series of wine dinners at the Pinzimini Restaurant. The four-course meals with wine pairings are taking place the last Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. through April; the first dinner, in February, cost $85 plus tax and tip. Get more info at www.pinziminipalmsprings.com/WineDinnerSeries.

Published in Restaurant & Food News