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Sun12082019

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

New: The Coachella Valley Culinary Invitational Takes Place Jan. 13

If you like really good food, want to help out some future chefs, and have at least $179 to spare, you’re going to want to be at the Stergios Building at Desert Regional Medical Center, 1150 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, for the first Coachella Valley Culinary Invitational.

What is this invitational, you ask? While the Invitational’s website is somewhat confusing, here’s what we’ve figured out: Top chefs from the valley and beyond will be offering various dishes—expect a dozen or so—to be enjoyed at one’s leisure, while fine local band Caxton provides the entertainment, and silent auction items are available for perusal.

And here’s something really cool: Before the event, four chefs will spend time with students at Rancho Mirage High School and La Quinta High School, and those kids will have a role in the dishes presented at the Invitational.

“The Coachella Valley Culinary Invitational … is an event designed to raise funds for a mentorship program for the youth of the valley enrolled in the culinary programs at the local high schools,” the website explains. “It will culminate with a scholarship program. Part of the proceeds will also benefit the chefs’ collaborative local group as it strives to educate the valley’s professional chefs on our responsibility to (develop) sustainable food systems.”

Participating chefs include Dish Creative Cuisine’s Joane Garcia-Colson, and Jimmy Schmidt of Morgan’s in the Desert.

Tickets are $179, or $229 for VIP admission. For more information, visit www.cvcinvitational.com.


Closed: Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

One of Palm Desert’s top-rated restaurants—and one of my personal favorites—is yet another victim of the “summer closure” that turns out to be a permanent closure.

The Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café website, as of this writing, enthusiastically says: “Thank you to all of our customers for a great season! Stop in for one last meal with us! We’ll be closed for the summer, starting on June 20.”

Summer came and went … and the spot at 72990 El Paseo never reopened. Now the signs have been removed from the building, and the restaurant’s Facebook page has disappeared.

Efforts to track down the owners, Jennifer and Christophe Douheret, to find out what happened were unsuccessful. If we learn anything, we’ll let you know in this space.


In Brief

Bucatini Trattoria, which has been serving up tasty Italian food at 46660 Washington St. in La Quinta, just opened a Palm Desert location, at 36901 Cook St., Suite 10. Learn more at www.bucatini.biz. … Construction continues on Truss and Twine, from chef Michael Beckman and the rest of the Workshop Bar + Kitchen crew, at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening sometime in the first chunk of 2017. Follow the progress on the Truss and Twine Facebook page. … The signs have been changed, and the former Matchbox Palm Springs is now Brickworks American Bistro + Pizza. Don’t expect a lot of changes beyond the name and those signs, though (and we mean that in a good way). Check things out on the second floor of 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive (overlooking the creepy Sonny Bono statue), in Palm Springs, or head to brickworksbistro.com for more information. … The Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, at 41000 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, will host a wine dinner at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, as part of the Taste of Rancho Dinner series. For $102—that’s $80 plus tax and tip included—you’ll get five courses paired with ONEHOPE Wine, a label which “creates delightful products that inspire people to indulge and do good.” Call 760-862-4518, or visit www.omnihotels.com/hotels/palm-springs-rancho-las-palmas for reservations or more information. … We hear that Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar, at 70030 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage, in the old Crab Pot spot, will be opening very, very soon, if it’s not open already. Call 760-321-7635, or visit www.facebook.com/thefishermansranchomirage to learn more. (It has no apparent relation to the other Fisherman’s spots in the area, by the way.) … Mecca is getting its first “nationally branded” (read: chain) sit-down restaurant, in the form of a Denny’s. Ground has been broken at the Mecca Travel Center at 90470 66th Ave.; watch for a mid-2017 opening. … In other chain news: Sonic Drive-In is coming to Indio, at Jefferson Street and Avenue 42. It should be open before all those big April music festivals take place.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

I know harried parents are going to roll their eyes at this statement, but here it is: I love going to the supermarket.

When life gets a little too hectic, when the world at large seems a little too hopeless, I have the joy of walking up and down aisle after aisle of options, just sitting there waiting for me. There’s need to till the soil or pluck a chicken—my privileged First World butt can just stroll around, putting things in my cart, to the smooth sounds of No Jacket Required-era Phil Collins. It’s a beautiful thing, a little adventure.

In many ways, it’s similar to residing in Palm Springs. I can just start walking around and have a unique experience without planning or getting behind the wheel: Just walk around, maybe a little farther than you normally would, and you’ll find something unexpected. (Phil Collins is strictly optional.) If you’re lucky, you might find rye-whiskey cocktails.

A disclaimer: There is nothing wrong with bourbon. America should be proud to have it as our most-famous spirit. We can hold our own with Scotland or any other place that wants to have an argument about spirit supremacy. But it’s been stealing the spotlight for too long: While $250-retail bottles of bourbon sell on the secondary market for thousands of dollars or get collected like so many Ted Williams rookie cards, most ryes have gone under the radar (with a few expensive and notable exceptions). Thanks to the noble efforts of craft bartenders all over the country, however, that is beginning to change.

I have been on a rye-whiskey kick for a little while (OK, for several years), and I love seeing it on menus. I love working with it, too. When a customer orders a Manhattan or an old fashioned, and I ask, “Bourbon or rye?” he or she often hesitates and looks like he or she is trying to figure out the correct answer. There is no correct answer, of course, but—dirty little secret here—when the answer is, “Uh, rye?” I offer a little half-smile and a nod of approval.

Rye has a lean and spicy profile that (especially the 100-proof stuff) makes a great foil for unctuous and herbal vermouths and barky bitters. As a bonus, it’s pretty good for keeping warm on chilly winter nights in the desert. With this in mind, I gathered a motley crew of merrymakers and set out on an impromptu adventure down Palm Canyon Drive.

The first stop was Dish Creative Cuisine, which wasn’t on my cocktail radar at the time; we were just going to meet some people there. As I took my seat at the semi-subterranean bar, I did my obnoxious size-up-the-bar-program thing. Some quality products are back there. Wait … are those homemade syrups? I ordered a rye concoction with housemade brown butter-infused Crater Lake rye, maple syrup and lemon juice, from bartender Morray. My first sip was good, and as the drink diluted a little bit, the flavors really started to express themselves. The nose is kettle corn, which increases on the palate. The maple syrup is subtle, and the lemon is just enough to balance the drink without intruding. The rye spice comes on the tail end. Whiskey sours include egg white partly to soften astringent flavors that lemon brings out of whiskey. The butter infusion (we call this process a “fat wash” in the business) does much of the same. I found out that chef Joane Garcia-Colson makes the infusions and syrups for the bar program. Nice!

A short walk got us to Trio, which even on a Tuesday was packed during happy hour. I resigned myself to exile at a high-top table. The downfall of traveling in a group is rarely finding enough bar seats, meaning I can’t bother the bartender with endless questions about ingredients and whatnot. The drink list was sizable, though, and I decided to keep the rye party going with a “Green Walnut Boulevardier”: Knob Creek rye, Campari, walnut liqueur, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and an orange peel. The addition of walnut to a classic boulevardier was a nice touch; walnut and rye are beautiful together. The drink starts sweet and spicy, with a hint of walnut in the middle, and it’s bitter and citrusy on the finish. Basically, it’s the classic drink with a subtle twist. The orange bitters and peel together with Campari could be a bit intense for some tipplers, but if you like a bittersweet flavor profile, give it a try in place of a Negroni or Manhattan.

Now that the whiskey train was running full-steam, it was time to visit the brown-liquor emporium which is Bar, just another short walk away. I grabbed an open bar seat, blatantly disregarding my cohorts, and said: “Make me something with rye!” Proprietor Donovan Funkey popped out of seemingly nowhere, gave the aforementioned half-smile and approving nod, and made me “The Chancellor”: a mix of Rittenhouse rye, Luxardo amaro and crème de cassis. It has black currant and baking spice on the nose, which is nice this time of year. On the palate, it’s slightly sweet and oaky up front, with a spicy and bitter finish. It’s on the menu as a bourbon drink, so make sure to ask for the rye version if you want to re-create the experience.

Several more rye whiskies were tasted in the name of research, and that was about it for the night’s adventure; I was fully warmed up and satisfied.

If you are looking for a little more of a rye-whiskey adventure, poke your head behind the heavy black velvet curtain at Mr. Lyons to check out Seymour’s, where we do a drink called the “Little Owl.” Since that’s a long walk from downtown, here’s the recipe, courtesy of Steen Bojsen-Moller:

• 2 ounces of Rittenhouse rye

• 1/4 ounce of Charbay black walnut liqueur

• 1/4 ounce of IPA syrup (boil down your favorite India pale ale, and add sugar to taste)

• a few dashes of Angostura amaro (not Angostura bitters; you can sub a different amaro)

Stir; serve on the rocks with a twist of orange.

The next time you stroll around downtown in Palm Springs, think about how nice it is to have so many options laid neatly, up and down in a row. Gather a crew of revelers, and set out on your own whiskey-fueled adventure. It’s just as convenient as a supermarket—but with better drinks and music.

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

Joane Garcia-Colson is a recovering attorney—her words—turned chef who owns the much-loved Dish Creative Cuisine in Palm Springs.

She’s always had a passion for food and service, and says she played “restaurant” with her cousin when she was a kid.

Local foodies know Garcia-Colson opened Dish several years ago in a humble Cathedral City strip mall (of course, humble strip malls are where the best food can often be found!) before upgrading to bigger digs early last year in the Uptown Design District.

Not all chefs understand the dance between food and wine—which is why far too many restaurants offer wine lists with little more than grocery-store favorites. Garcia-Colson, however, takes her wine seriously: She loves wine and has tasted every wine she serves in her restaurant.

We chatted in the lovely, intimate Chef’s Room—which boasts Dish’s cellar and a view of the kitchen—while we enjoyed sips of the new AM/FM Chardonnay.

How did you get your start in wine?

I got into wine in relation to food. I didn’t really start drinking wine until my last year in law school, 1989. That is when I went on the wine-and-dine interview circuit while I was getting recruited by law firms in Chicago, New York and other places. On that interview circuit, I really got exposed to red wine. Then, of course, (I learned more) during culinary school. It’s been an adventure over years. Now I’m really into good wine!

How do you select the wines to serve in the restaurant?

I always try to have in mind: “How is this going to fit with our current wine list? Is this a product I think our guests would enjoy? Can we pair it with our existing menu?” It’s really important to me to taste every wine. When someone asks me, “What’s your favorite?” or, “What wine would you drink with this?” I want to speak to them from a place of knowledge. The other thing I try to do is bring in wines that have a small retail presence. I don’t like to bring a bunch of wines on my list that guests can go down to Ralph’s and buy. We do have a few of those, because you have to carry some standards people are familiar with, but I really try to look for interesting small-production, boutique wines so that when guests come here, they can try something new and different, and get exposed to something new and different.

I think that is part of our role, our obligation, as a restaurant—to give people a different experience than they are going to have at home. Why go out if you can make it at home? I feel the same way about wine, and that’s another reason we serve 90 percent of our wine list by the glass—virtually everything we have is available by the glass. We have created a reserve list for more high-end wine.

Do you ever taste a wine and reverse-engineer—in other words, think about making a new dish to pair with it?

Oh yes, I have done that. I am open.

What is your advice to wine-drinking novices?

People shouldn’t be afraid of wine. A lot of people are afraid of wine. They are afraid to taste; they are afraid to try because they fear they don’t know enough. Be adventurous! Go to a place where you can try things, because you just don’t know how it’s going to hit your palate until you taste it. If you can go to a wine-tasting event, go to one—that is how you learn.

Did you entertain a lot at home before Dish?

Oh yeah. I loved having people over—dinner parties, cocktail parties, etc. I love setting the table and making delicious food. In my family, over the holidays, I’ve always been in charge of the food. I’m an introvert, so I’d rather be in the kitchen cooking. My wife and I formed a little supper club, four or five couples. The hosting couple would make the main dish, and the other couples would bring the side dishes. It was awesome!

What inspired you to open your own place?

A moment of temporary insanity. (Laughs.) When I went to culinary school, I didn’t have any intention of opening a restaurant, but when I weighed my options after I graduated, I realized I wanted to do something on my own. I want to create my own food; I don’t want to cook somebody else’s. I want to have that control. This is sort of my last hurrah. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and say, “What if?” Also, I’ll tell you my son (Stefan, a filmmaker in Los Angeles) in a lot of ways is my role model, because he has always marched to his own drumbeat; he’s very creative and talented, and he has always wanted to be his own boss and do his own thing. He has been self-employed since he left college. I so admired in him that he chose a path where he was true to himself, and he could follow his passion and use his creativity and find a way to make a living from it. I said, “You know, maybe I ought to do that.”

What are the challenges of selling wine?

Providing customers with an experience with wine that is positive and educational for them. We’re not afraid to suggest wines we like to customers and give them a taste and be honest about our preferences. People get really used to what they like, and if you don’t have it, sometimes, they get pissed off. There is no way possible that you can carry everything, so the challenge is introducing guests to something different and new that they might not have experienced.

The rewards?

I get to taste a lot of wine! (Laughs.) That’s one of the perks of the job. Another reward is that there is nothing that feels better than when a guest thanks you for giving them a wonderful experience. That feels really good and gratifying—when someone gets what you are trying to do and appreciates you for it.

What’s are you drinking right now?

We are really enjoying Daou cabernet (and) also the Paloma merlot. It’s a gorgeous wine. I’ve become very fond of Emmolo merlot—and the Pessimist, also by Daou. My palate really tends toward Paso Robles, so I love Justin, Daou and Sextant. Those are some big ones. And Peju!

What are you loving on your list right now?

We have the Daou on our wine list; we also have the Emmolo. I really love our merlots, and I want people to be more adventurous with them. We have a great selection.

Favorite pairing?

I like pairing sparkling with things. I think it’s fun to do whites with seafood, and it’s really fun to pair wine with salads. The last wine dinner we did, I made a grapefruit, avocado and crab salad that is on our menu now. We paired it with Truth and Valor chardonnay. Delicious!

Desert island wine?

It would definitely be a cabernet or a blend—something really rich. It might be the Emmolo, actually. I’m loving that one.

Favorite wine book?

It’s a book I often recommend to people: The Flavor Bible. It’ll tell you about wine pairings, too.

Where do you like to go out in the desert?

In Palm Springs, I tend to go Johannes and Copley’s. I also enjoy Le Vallauris.

Favorite thing to do besides drink wine and cook?

I like to read.

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

New to El Paseo: WP Kitchen + Bar

The Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar in Palm Desert is no more—but that doesn’t mean the celebrity chef is ditching the Coachella Valley. In fact, he’s chosen the Coachella Valley to launch his newest restaurant concept.

Puck has opened WP Kitchen + Bar in the space at 73130 El Paseo that previously housed his eponymous pizza bar. The restaurant website describes the place thusly: “Wolfgang Puck’s newest restaurant concept (is) serving globally influenced fare in a family-style format. Inspired by how the acclaimed chef dines and entertains at home, the menu boasts a seasonal offering of small plates, fresh salads, pizzas and handmade pastas, as well as a variety of seafood, steak and other proteins.”

The menu—which really does encourage the family-style dining concept—includes pastas, trout, snapper, chicken and a braised beef short rib, as well as steaks and a decent selection of “salads, soups and shares.” Fans of Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, take heart: The menu includes a half-dozen pizzas as well. Pastas, chicken and fish will set you back between $15 and $23; steaks cost between $34 and $44. You’ll find a kids’ menu and a nice happy hour menu as well.

Get menus, make reservations and learn more at www.wolfgangpuck.com.

Opening Soon (We Hope): WTF and Buzz Bar

At long last, the former Dink’s is lurching back to life.

As we reported last month, we’ve been hearing rumors that the large, ritzy former Dink’s space, at 2080 N. Palm Canyon Drive—which has been closed for several years now—would soon be reopening.

Of course, we’ve heard this before. In the spring, an announcement was made that the building would open as the W Ultra Lounge within a matter of weeks. That didn’t happen. At one point, we heard that the building would become a restaurant and music venue called Drinks. Nope.

Well, here’s the latest news: The space will become the WTF and Buzz Bar sometime in December. This news comes straight from Independent resident DJ Alex Harrington, who announced on Facebook that he is going to be the resident DJ there “alongside an AMAZING house band.”

We have no other information as of our press deadline. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, both for Alex and for fans of AMAZING house bands everywhere. Watch this space for details as they emerge.

Chef Joane Returns to the Kitchen’s Helm at Dish Creative Cuisine

Everything old is new again at Dish Creative Cuisine, at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs: Chef Michelle Heinrich has left to “pursue other interests,” according to an email from the restaurant—and owner Joane Garcia Colson, an attorney-turned amazing chef, is back in charge of the kitchen.

She is pledging to “return Dish to its roots,” when Dish gathered a huge following in its initial location—even though that initial location was a dreary Cathedral City strip mall. Seeing as Chef Joane prepared some of the best bites I’ve ever had at a restaurant, I see this as a very good thing.

Watch www.dishcreativecuisine.com for news on the ensuing changes, or call 760-322-7171.

In Brief

Watch for a new wine bar, liquor store and tasting room, coming soon to the uptown area of Palm Springs. It’s called Barrel House; watch www.facebook.com/barrelhouseps for updates. … Once again, Rancho Mirage’s Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse is teaming up with The Venue Sushi Bar to pair sushi with tasty craft beer. The Sushi + Craft Beer 02 event will take place at The Venue, 73111 El Paseo, at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 1. It’ll cost you $65 per person; get details at www.babesbbque.com. … Speaking of restaurants at The River: Gioia Italian Bistro has opened at the Rancho Mirage shopping center. The menu includes pizzas, pastas and other Italian standards, as well as a few surprises. Visit www.gioiaitalianbistro.com for details. … After a few starts and stops, Cactusberry Frozen Yogurt and Desserts is open again, in the Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Bring your pet there from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 and/or 12, to get a free emailed picture taken with Santa. The event on the Dec. 5 is presented by the Palm Springs Animal Shelter; on the 12th, the Humane Society of the Desert is presenting. You can get adoption information and donate while you’re there, too—and enjoy some delicious frozen yogurt while you’re at it! Get more info at www.facebook.com/CactusberryCV, or call 760-832-6127.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

A Bad Month for The River: Acqua Pazza, Tulip Hill Winery Close Their Doors

To say December was a terrible month for food and drink at The River—the Rancho Mirage shopping center, located at 71800 Highway 111, described as “the premier destination for food, fashion and fun” on its website—is a bit of an understatement.

First came the closure of Acqua Pazza, one of The River’s anchor restaurants, on Sunday, Dec. 14. Then two weeks later, on Dec. 28, Tulip Hill—the only winery that made the Coachella Valley its home base—was slated to close its doors.

It’s been rumored for months that Jerry and Barbara Keller, the owners of Acqua Pazza, were looking to sell the decade-old restaurant to focus solely on their popular Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs. According to that same rumor mill, a sale of the restaurant fell through at the last minute, leading to the restaurant’s shuttering as the lease expired at The River, a shopping center which business owners say has been suffering from a decline in traffic in recent years.

“It’s been a great 10 years, but all good things come to an end,” said a notice posted on the Acqua Pazza website. “It is with sad feelings that we thank all our wonderful friends, customers and especially our magnificent staff who made Acqua Pazza such a lovely place to dine. We will miss everyone. We will now be able to put all our efforts into Lulu—already one of the valley’s most successful restaurants. Lulu’s continuing growth, including a substantial catering business, is an exciting full-time job for all of us!”

Over at Tulip Hill Winery, owner Kristi Brown placed blame for the closure squarely on the decline of The River. Tulip Hill had called The River home since December 2002.

“For the past several years, Tulip Hill has struggled in overcoming the declining traffic at The River in Rancho Mirage, as businesses have closed, and the tenant retail spaces have remained empty without being replaced by new businesses,” she said in a letter posted on the Tulip Hill website. “Tulip Hill has continued operating despite these head winds, but today, I am writing to let you know that … Tulip Hill Winery will be permanently closing the doors of our retail tasting room and gift shop at The River at Rancho Mirage.”

Of course, not all is bleak at The River; the shopping center remains the home of some of the valley’s most popular chain joints, including P.F. Chang’s, Yard House, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, and the mysteriously perpetually busy Cheesecake Factory. Some local joints worth noting remain at The River as well, most notably the popular-as-ever Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse. Still, it’s heartbreaking to see two much-loved local businesses close their doors—especially during the holiday season.

So long, Acqua Pazza and Tulip Hill. You’ll be missed.

In Brief

Our sincere sympathies go out to the folks at Bernie's Lounge and Supper Club. The restaurant, at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, was gutted by a fire on Christmas morning. Fingers crossed for a quick rebuild. ... A new sushi joint has come to Cathedral City. Hamachi Sushi recently opened its doors at 31855 Date Palm Drive, in the shopping center anchored by Cardenas and CVS. A sign on the door—posted right above a liquor-application notice—promises “the best fusion sushi, teriyaki and tempura. Muy pronto esperalo.” … The Real Italian Deli, which has delighted customers in Palm Desert for a year or so now, has opened a second location in Palm Springs, at the intersection of Sunrise and Tahquitz Canyon ways … Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a fast-casual barbecue chain that serves up pretty darned good ’que, will be opening at the intersection of Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs sometime this month. The folks at Dickey’s have been whetting locals’ appetites for several months now by making appearances at events, including the Desert AIDS Walk back in mid-October. Follow www.facebook.com/DickeysPalmSprings for updates and more information. ... Chill, the upscale bar going into the old Rainbow Bar and Grill space at 217 E. Arenas Road in Palm Springs, should also be opening any day now. Watch www.facebook.com/chillpalmsprings for news. … Yet another opening to talk about: Dish Creative Cuisine will soon be opening at its new location at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive. However, a new restaurant has already set up shop in Dish’s former home, at 68525 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City: Mike’s American Bistro. Learn more at www.facebook.com/mikesamericanbistro.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

New: Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant has opened at 330 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in the downtown Palm Springs space occupied until recently by Kimy Sushi.

While we have not yet had a chance to check out Pho Lan, the restaurant’s Facebook page offers some details about the place: The restaurant opened in September, and offers the appetizers, pho dishes and entrées one would expect to find at a Vietnamese joint—at reasonable prices. For example, a large bowl of pho will only you back $8.50.

We’ll offer a more detailed report when we have a chance to try out the restaurant in person. In the meantime, call 760-778-1473, or visit the aforementioned Facebook page for more information.

Hacienda Hosts a Benefit for Meals on Wheels

The newish Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, located at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, will be the location of Playa de los Muertos—a Dia de los Muertos Celebration, at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 1.

The event will feature an open sangria bar, tray-passed appetizers, great DJ music poolside, and all sorts of Day of the Dead-themed activities, like sugar-skull face-painting.

Sounds fun, yes? Well, there’s even better news: The event is a benefit for Meals on Wheels Coachella Valley.

“We wanted to honor and capture the color and vibrancy of Dia de los Muertos celebrations and combine it with a beach party like only Palm Springs can offer,” said event coordinator George Nasci-Sinatra in a news release.

Admission to the event is $45. Visit playadelosmuertos.brownpapertickets.com, or call 760-323-5689, ext. 112, for tickets or more info.

Citron at the Viceroy Gets a New Executive Chef

The Viceroy Palm Springs has hired a French-born chef with impeccable credentials to lead up the hotel’s well-regarded Citron Restaurant.

Patrice Martineau is a native of Champagne, France, who trained at several Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming the No. 2 chef at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Daniel, in New York City. He also served as the executive chef at London’s Savoy Hotel, and was most recently at the Belmond El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara.

“I look forward to adding some international flair to Citron’s menu and sharing my interest in regional California cuisine with Viceroy Palm Springs’ gastronomically minded guests,” said Martineau in what has to be one of the most ho-hum press-release quotes in recent memory.

New menus should have been launched by the time you read this.

For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings.

Restaurant Musical Chairs in Cathedral City

The spot they optimistically call “downtown Cathedral City” will soon be the home of two new restaurants.

Bontá, a Latin-European restaurant, is slated to soon open in the space that used to house Picanha Churrascaria at 68510 Highway 111. Practically next door, in the spot once occupied by Big Mama’s Soul Food, Taqueria Los Arcos is scheduled to open.

Watch this column for details.

Also: Last month in this space, we noted that a new “art bar and live music” venue called Bart Lounge was coming to the valley, perhaps in Cathedral City. Well, a lease has been signed, and Bart Lounge is indeed coming to Cathedral City—specifically, the old Level 2/Elevation/Sidewinders space, at 67555 E Palm Canyon Drive. Watch www.facebook.com/bartlounge for updates.

In Brief

Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at 71800 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. The valley’s oldest microbrewery took home a silver medal from Denver’s 2014 Great American Beer Festival for Babe’s Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. … Dish Creative Cuisine remains on hiatus as its new home at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—next to Ernest Coffee and Bootlegger Tiki—gets constructed. A Facebook-page update from Oct. 20 states that restaurant management is keeping its fingers crossed for a mid-November opening. … Also in downtown Palm Springs: Brandini Toffee just celebrated the grand opening of a store at 132 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Brandini is in the spot formerly occupied by the Red Black Café; last year, the prospective owners of what was to be the Gin and Juice Bar announced they’d be taking over the space, but that obviously never happened.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

East Valley Restaurant Week

Let’s face it: As great as Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week is, the vast majority of the participants in the May-June event are located in Palm Springs, Palm Desert or somewhere in between. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, there’s a lot right about the new East Valley Restaurant Week, a creation of the Indio Chamber of Commerce. According to CVDining.com, the event “will showcase restaurants throughout the eastern portion of our valley, from the cove of La Quinta to the emerging developments in North Indio,” from Thursday, Oct. 23 through Saturday, Nov. 1.

As of this writing, 14 places are listed as partner restaurants, ranging from old favorites like the Shields Date Garden Café and El Rincon Norteño, to newer hotspots like JOY at Fantasy Springs, to … Sizzler? Yes, Sizzler. Anyway, each participating restaurant will feature at least two discounted popular menu items during the week.

Also included are satellite events, including the Taste of the East Valley Sampler, at Shields, 80225 Highway 111 in Indio, from 4 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 22; admission is $10.

Get the list of participants and more information at CVdining.com.

Another Restaurant Crowd-Sourcing Campaign: Bart Lounge

The minds behind Bart Lounge are calling it “the art bar and live music venue”—and they want your help in bringing this “creative fusion of art, alcohol and live music” to fruition.

Here’s what we know about Bart Lounge: Michael Murphy, 27, is the driving force behind the proposed bar. He said he’s raised most of the $75,000 he needs to open the doors sometime in early 2015, but he’s launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise about $22,250, running through Oct. 9.

“I really wanted a place where I could bring the snooty art gallery world into a more-laid-back, casual setting,” Murphy said in a news release. “You know, a place where you could grab a beer and check out some art without some jerk security guard breathing down your neck.”

Murphy said the bar would also have a small dance floor and host live music.

What we don’t know: Where Bart Lounge would actually be located. Murphy said the spot can’t be revealed until the “final lease is signed,” and that had apparently not happened as of our press deadline. (A picture on the Bart Lounge Facebook page may offer a clue: It showed a “design board” with Cathedral City listed as the location. But who knows?)

Want to contribute to the cause, or at least get more info? Head to BartLounge.com, or visit the Bart Lounge Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bartlounge.

New: La Suerte at Spotlight 29

Coachella’s Spotlight 29 has added a new Mexican restaurant to its mix.

La Suerte opened in September in the spot once occupied by JEM Steakhouse, and offers Mexican specialties in addition to steaks and seafood.

La Suerte opens at 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. To make reservations or peruse the menu, head to www.spotlight29.com/dining/suerte.php.

’Tis the Season: Summer Closures Coming to an End

It’s October, and that means nearly all of the restaurants that closed their doors during the toasty summer months will be reopening this month, if they haven’t already—and some of the restaurants will be showing off some improvements, too.

Take Vicky’s of Santa Fe, for example. The restaurant, located at 45100 Club Drive, in Indian Wells, will reopen Friday, Oct. 3, with a party featuring jazz musician Janis Mann. The restaurant will be showing off a new courtyard and entrance featuring paving stones, as well as new flooring and furnishings inside.

There’s also a new website at www.vickysofsantafe.com, where you can find menus, a music schedule and much more.

In Brief

Congrats to Dish Creative Cuisine, formerly of Cathedral City and opening soon at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. It was recently named one of OpenTable.com’s Top 100 Fit for Foodies Restaurants in America. … Simon Kitchen and Bar at the Hard Rock Palm Springs, 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, opened Wednesday, Sept. 24. The executive chef at the Kerry Simon venture is Jeremy Saccardi, formerly of the Parker Palm Springs. … Sad news: The owner of Hamburger Mary’s Palm Springs, which is located at 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page that he would not be reopening the restaurant in the fall—although the post seemed to leave the door open for a possible new owner. If that happens, we’ll let you know. … The Palm Springs Air Museum’s Seventh Annual Chili Cook Off and Classic Car Show takes place on Saturday, Oct. 25. The chili-tasting goes from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.; get six tastes for $5, plus museum admission. Get more details at www.palmspringsairmuseum.org.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Dish Creative Cuisine Using Kickstarter to Help With Move

Dish Creative Cuisine, the Cathedral City restaurant that made waves with its upscale modern food and tasty amuse-bouche offerings over the last two years, is moving to downtown Palm Springs—and the restaurant’s owner is asking for the public’s help.

In an email sent to Dish customers on July 21, chef/owner Joane Garcia Colson explained that the restaurant, which had been located at 68525 Ramon Road, would be reopening in the fall at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—once the site of renowned tiki joint Don the Beachcomber. The new location will have a full bar, and a selection of more casual dishes will join the upscale offerings on the menu.

However, Garcia Colson also asked for a li’l help from her friends. “As with any expansion, however, we need assistance to bring it to full fruition,” she wrote. “It is incredibly hard to ask others for help, and it is something I have avoided doing. But we need help, so I am writing to you, hoping some of you will be able to support us in this venture. We have created a Kickstarter campaign and would appreciate you taking a look at it and helping us in any way you can.”

A look at that Kickstarter effort reveals that Garcia Colson’s goal is to raise $49,500 by Monday, Aug. 25. It also revealed a few added details about the new Dish: The restaurant will be open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and in the high season, it will offer Sunday brunch and perhaps lunch Thursday through Saturday.

The new spot will also include a “Chef's Room,” “where small, intimate, tasting dinners will occasionally be offered for a pre-fixe price,” the Kickstarter page says. “This private dining room will be right off the kitchen and will feature a large window where the diners can watch the kitchen in action.”

We are big fans of what Garcia Colson did in her space on Ramon—and we can’t wait to see what she does in downtown Palm Springs.

For more information, follow the goings-on at the Dish Facebook page.

Johannes Offers $10 Schnitzel, Other Anniversary Specials

For my money, Johannes—located at 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—is one of the best restaurants in the valley. And this summer, I’m not shelling out quite so much of that aforementioned money to dine there.

To celebrate the restaurant’s 15th anniversary, chef Johannes Bacher and company are offering a variety of discounted schnitzel dishes in the bar area. This is nothing new, but the steeper discounts are indeed new: Basic bar schnitzel now costs just $10. Want one of Johannes’ renowned toppings? (I personally am a fan of the Mama’s schnitzel, which is covered with tomatoes, gruyere and fontina cheeses, and basil. Yummy!) That’ll set you back just $14.

The restaurant is also offering a $29 prix-fire menu during the summer, which includes a selected entrée, an appetizer or dessert, and a house cocktail.

Johannes is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Call 760-778-0017, or visit johannespalmsprings.com for more information.

And Now, a Rant on Prices

We were hungry for a light meal, so the partner and I decided to stop at one of our normal haunts for cocktails and a couple of our favorite appetizers.

All was well and good until we opened the menu—and saw that the restaurant had raised the prices on many of those favorite items.

I understand that all businesses have to increase their prices now and then. That’s life. But businesses also need to realize that there can be consequences if price increases are too drastic—and that’s exactly what happened here.

My fave appetizer had been $9—and it was now $11. That’s a 22 percent price increase. My favorite cocktail, a lovely, flowery martini (hey, don’t judge), saw a similar price boost.

The result of all this? That restaurant is no longer one of our normal haunts. I would have dealt with a more reasonable increase, like 50 cents or even a dollar. But not 22 percent (especially in the middle of the summer, when many restaurants are offering lower-cost specials to attract customers).

I’m not the only savvy, cost-conscious foodie out there. Something tells me these price increases may actually lead to a revenue decrease at this restaurant.

Stay tuned.

In Brief

Mark your calendars: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, located at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be holding its third annual Craft Beer Weekend on Friday through Sunday, Sept. 12-14. Expect tastings from more than 20 craft breweries, as well as a pool party/barbecue and a special five-course meal—with beer pairings, of course. More info at the Ace website. ... Just a reminder that many of the town’s top restaurants close their doors for all or part of August. Unless you’re sure your favorite spot is open, it never hurts to call ahead.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Foodies from around Southern California and beyond have descended on Palm Desert this weekend for the 2014 Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival.

At the Saturday, March 22, grand tasting, attendees dealt with sweltering heat inside of the giant white tent on Larkspur Lane, just off of El Paseo. Despite the toasty temps, however, people seemed to have a great time, enjoying bites of food from various local restaurants, as well as sips of wine and cocktails from various vendors.

The Food and Wine Festival also spawned various food-related satellite events, such as the Taste of the Saguaro. Jose Garces—the Iron Chef and head of the Garces Group, which operates Tinto and El Jefe at the Saguaro—came to town for the weekend, and attended a special dinner at the Saguaro on Friday, as well as an event called Taste of the Saguaro on Saturday.

The Independent attended the Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival's grand tasting on Saturday afternoon, and the Taste of the Saguaro on Saturday evening. Scroll down to enjoy some photos from the events.

Published in Snapshot

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