CVIndependent

Mon12102018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

More and more restaurants and bars are offering amazing craft beers in the Coachella Valley—and now there’s a new, responsible way to sample these tasty brews in Palm Springs.

Introducing the Buzz Crawl.

The concept behind the Palm Springs Buzz is simple: It’s a trolley that allows locals and visitors alike to explore Palm Springs for free. The bus is bright and retro, with vintage lettering, plush seats and wood paneling. The Buzz runs every 15 minutes from Via Escuela to Smoke Tree Lane, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., every Thursday through Sunday—again, for FREE!

And, yes, there’s an app for that.

According to city officials, from Feb. 5-8, the Buzz picked up about 4,500 people. The following week—which included Valentine’s Day and Modernism Week’s kickoff weekend—that number rose to nearly 6,000.

John Raymond, the director of community and economic development for the city of Palm Springs, is keeping a finger on the pulse of the Buzz. He’s hopeful that the Buzz is reducing the number of people who are driving under the influence.

“People are fanatical about it. They think it’s great,” he said about the Buzz. “We figured tourists would catch on … but what’s been really great is the number of locals who are into it—Thursday night, especially.”

Because the Buzz is free and runs all weekend, you don’t need a defined schedule—but here are my recommendations on spots to hit for craft beer.

One of the first places is on the south end, near stop No. 18: The Legendary Purple Room at Club Trinidad has a “Rat Pack” heritage, but owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen are now offering modern fare and amazing Southern California craft beers. Head chef Jennifer Town graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and was the executive sous chef at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club before coming over to the Purple Room. She’s a craft-beer lover and appreciates the culinary art of pairing rich dishes with perfect craft beers.

Speaking of the Ace Hotel and Swim Club: It’s a great launching point, with amazing spaces at which to soak up the sun and/or people-watch. The closest Buzz stop is just across the street, No. 16. Check out The Amigo Room and its artisanal cocktails, hippy party vibe and fantastic variety of craft beers. Enjoy them in the dim, cavernous space—or better yet, have one by the pool. Choose among 21 taps from Southern California breweries including Babe’s, Coachella Valley Brewing, La Quinta Brewing, Stone and Hangar 24.

At the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club (pictured below), near stop Nos. 14 and 20, soak in more rays by the pool or try your hand at bocce ball—or the largest game of beer pong ever (pictured below). While the Hacienda’s craft beer selection isn’t extensive, there are a few nice choices, and the $5 poolside menu is not to be ignored: Enjoy a Racer 5 IPA, Stone Pale Ale or Ballast Point Sculpin IPA with a braised short rib and Hacienda chorizo empanadas. Want really to get the party started? Have one of some 75 tequila flights, starting at only $3.50.

Not in the mood for Mexican-style food? Check out the new hip sushi spot in town. Gyoro Gyoro is in the middle of downtown, near stop No. 8. The restaurant opened last May and not only serves fantastic fish, but offers unique microbrewery beers from around the world—yes, even Japanese craft beer!—as well as a fine selection of sake.

Feeling like some fresh, delicious pizza? Get off at stop No. 9 or 11 and stroll over to Matchbox, which not only offers artisanal brick-oven pies amid a flame-lit balcony overlooking La Plaza; the restaurant also has a nice selection of craft beer, with a dozen or so on tap and about 20 different beers in bottles. Expect popular beers from breweries like Allagash, Green Flash, Stone, BearRepublic, Alaskan, LostCoast and Rogue. Matchbox typically has at least one local beer on tap, too.

Right around the corner is my favorite cigar lounge, which won over my heart because of its impressive selection of wine and craft beer: Fame Lounge is a masculine and comfortable place, also near stops No. 9 and 11. Try the cigar and beer pairing for $10.

Bar is located at 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, near stop No. 7. With its dark surroundings and extensive whiskey menu, Bar is a great stop at night. Try the picnic eggs—deviled eggs with Sriracha and wasabi—and pair them with the War Gin (gin and lemon-honey pale ale) beer cocktail. Bar offers about 20 bottled beer choices, including Blazing World and Black House from San Diego’s Modern Times; the beers on tap rotate.

For upscale, neo-retro dining, head over to Trio, near Buzz stop No. 5, in an historic midcentury building in Palm Springs’ sophisticated Uptown Design District. Trio serves a fine selection of craft beers and delicious cocktails, and offers a three-course $19 prix-fixe menu 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Happy hour brings $3 well, $5 call, $8 premium and $5 bar bites at the bar and on the patio.

Nearby is Birba, a modern outdoor pizzeria. Birba translates from Italian to “little rascal.” Enjoy a carefully crafted cocktail like the “Hello Nancy” in the courtyard, surrounded by white-light-wrapped trees. While the eight signature cocktails are delicious, Birba also offers a selection of local craft beer.

Get off at Buzz stop No. 4 to enjoy the friendly and chic Workshop Kitchen + Bar. The popular spot has a nice selection of craft beer, but also specializes in cocktails inside the restored 1926 Spanish colonial revival building. I have been known to be a cross-drinker—and you might become one, too, among the cool concrete tables and souring wooden ceilings. Gourmet farm-to-table restaurants like Workshop are no stranger to the craft-beer “revolution,” and Workshop offers sublime pairings with locally sourced ingredients. The rich herbes de Provence fries are cooked in duck fat; pair them with a crisp Belgium beer. On tap, you’ll find brews from Salzburg, Colorado, San Diego and the Coachella Valley, as well as a great bottled-beer selection. Don’t be afraid to check out the spirits menu, showcasing “underdog” whiskeys, vodkas and gins. My personal favorite handcrafted cocktail here is the “Palm Springer,” with vodka, fresh pineapple juice, house-made grenadine, angostura bitters.

The Buzz has four buses, ensuring that riders can hop on at any of the 30-plus stops every 15 minutes. Check out the new fun and responsible way to catch a buzz in Palm Springs—and Tweet to @TheBeerGoddess if you’re checking out the #PSBuzz!

For more information and a route map, visit buzzps.com.

Published in Beer

Ryan Sheridan, a DJ known by music fans as Gossip Culture, has created some great dance cuts—which you can catch for yourself at Birba on Friday, April 18, at the Catching Shade party, produced by Cream and Eventseeker.

The event’s sponsors include the Coachella Valley Independent, and other performers include Templeton, from Los Angeles; Cream DJs, a collective out of Los Angeles; and local favorite (and Independent resident DJ) All Night Shoes, aka Alex Harrington.

If you fire up Sheridan’s Soundcloud, you’ll hear dance music presented in a very unique way. During a recent phone interview, Sheridan discussed Gossip Culture’s beginnings in Cleveland (which is also my hometown).

“In Cleveland, I had my original first band,” Sheridan said. “It was a trio, and it was called Gossip Culture. I played the venues there called Happy Dog, the Grog Shop and the Beachland Tavern for about two years before I moved to Los Angeles.”

While Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has a vibrant music history, the city’s local-music scene has been in a bit of a rut, with some of Cleveland’s legendary music venues closing up shop.

“The rock hall is there, and there are a lot of good people there,” Sheridan said. “The Black Keys from Akron, and Kid Cudi—it’s funny, because all of these people come from Cleveland, and it seems like they don’t represent it when they get out of there.”

Sheridan said he left Cleveland for Los Angeles because of opportunity and exposure.

“Gossip Culture is very Internet-based,” Sheridan said. “When I first came here, Binary Records and a lot of bookers in downtown Los Angeles were saying, ‘We’d like to book you and help you get set up.’ So that was my main motivation for coming out here. Gossip Culture as a band slowed down, but once I was out here, I met my producers.”

When he began to start recording material, he had a lot of help in high places.

“A lot of the people who helped me make my music are people from Mayer Hawthorne’s band,” Sheridan said. “We kind of just put all of our brains together, and we had hip-hop, soul and a lot of other things. Topher Mohr co-produced it; I just hit him up online and was like, ‘Hey, I’m in L.A., and I have my demos, and they need a good mix,’ and he directed me to a studio in Culver City, and it went from there.”

The material that Sheridan puts together as Gossip Culture gives him the opportunity to work with many Los Angeles artists. For example, his track “Waiting” features Quincy McCrary, a Los Angeles songwriter and vocalist.

“I feel lucky with the way I got hooked up, but it also happened really fast, because everything was here,” Sheridan said. “In Cleveland, there are a lot of really cool people, but it’s hard to make a record there.”

Sheridan said attendees of Catching Shade will be treated to some brand-new music.

“The DJ set is going to be some new remixes, and there’s a new ‘Waiting’ remix from a guy named OneFive, and he’s actually from Orange County. I’m also going to play a lot of throwback stuff. I feel like a lot of DJs try to pump you up, and I’m trying to slow things down a bit. It’s still going to be tropical, but we’re going to keep the BPMs under 120.”

Catching Shade starts at 9 p.m., Friday, April 18, at Birba, 622 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission is $8; 21 and older. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Previews

What: Nonna’s Meatballs

Where: Birba Palm Springs, 622 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How Much: $10

Contact: 760-327-5678; www.birbaps.com

Why: The tomato sauce and the high-quality meat.

Birba Palm Springs is one of the most difficult restaurants in downtown Palm Springs at which to get a table on a busy night. No joke: If you walk in without a reservation and try to get a table on an in-season Friday night, be prepared to wait for an hour, or perhaps even longer.

So how did this outdoor restaurant that almost exclusively uses a wood oven to cook its food—the little kitchen does not even include a stove, a server told us during a recent meal there—become one of the west valley’s most-popular joints?

For one thing, the outdoor vibe is lovely. Tall bushes keep the hubbub from Palm Canyon Drive to a minimum; strings of lights add ambiance; and seating is offered in a variety of options—tables and bar space are supplemented with club-style couches.

For another, the menu is fairly simple, yet packed with delicious options: Eight appetizers/salads are joined by pizzas and a handful of other options, listed under the heading “Wood Oven.”

One of those “Wood Oven” options has left us coming back for more: Nonna’s meatballs. Four medium-size meatballs—made with both Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef—come covered with a delicious, perfectly seasoned tomato sauce and some large hard-cheese shavings. The fact that Birba’s chefs don’t just use any old ground meat in these meatballs is evident: The flavor is fantastic. After the meatballs were all gone, we had some of that savory tomato sauce left over—so, of course, we had to ask for bread with which to sop it up. However, this being Birba, we received pizza-crust triangles to use—and they did the trick.

The vibe, the friendly service and those meatballs have us so enchanted that we’re almost willing to wait an hour or more for a table. Almost.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The ramen with pork belly

Where: Jiao, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. B-10, Palm Springs

How much: A downright reasonable $10

Contact info: 321-1424; www.jiaops.com

Why: The flavors are a perfect mix.

It was an in-season Friday night, and we were wandering around the north part of downtown Palm Springs. We had no reservations anywhere—and as hunger started to set in, that lack of reservations became a problem.

There was an hour wait at Jake's. Double that at Birba. So we crossed Palm Canyon Drive and decided to check out Jiao. We're very happy that we did.

Jiao has not quite been around for a year yet; it was opened last spring by the same folks who own Cheeky's and the aforementioned Birba. While it does not draw the freaking-insane-sized crowds that its sister restaurants do, Jiao seems to do a nice business, and we were happy to immediately get seats at the counter. Like I said, we were hungry.

We sampled dishes from all over the reasonably priced pan-Asian menu (which changes every week, if the Jiao Facebook page to be believed), but one stood out: the ramen with pork belly.

Here's how good the pork ramen was: Despite some flaws, the dish was still amazing. Ramen noodles in a delicious broth were topped with perfectly prepared pork belly, greens and a sliced-in-half hard-boiled egg. Simple, but splendid. Every bite in which I could get all of the ingredients was pure heaven.

That leads to the aforementioned flaws: It was almost impossible to get all of those ingredients together in one bite. There is not enough of the earthy, salty (in a good way) broth—it goes fast—and the large pork-belly slices get devoured too quickly unless one cuts them up with a knife. 

But those bites where everything does come together? Perfection.

The next time I am at Jiao, I will order this dish with extra broth and a steak knife (that is, if the dish is on the ever-changing menu that week). I recommend you do the same.

Published in The Indy Endorsement