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Fri06052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

What: The lobster bisque

Where: Gelson’s Market, 36101 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage

How much: $8.99

Contact: 760-770-0010; gelsons.com/store-locations/rancho-mirage

Why: Great flavor, fine price.

The grocery store located at Bob Hope and Gerald Ford drives has had a turbulent history in recent years. It was a Pavilions; for about 15 minutes (give or take), it was a Haggen; and then it became a Gelson’s.

When Gelson’s opened in the space a little more than two years ago, however, the new owners brought with them a different mindset: The people behind the Southern California mini-chain not only wanted to genuinely become part of the community (including some events with this newspaper, I should disclose); they had big plans for the space.

Those big plans have now come to fruition: The Rancho Mirage store has been completely renovated—and the prepared-food options in Gelson’s are nothing short of epic.

Wolfgang Puck’s pizza. A downright-reasonably-priced salad bar. A sushi bar. All sorts of deli meats, salads and prepared entrées. A wine, craft-beer and tapas bar. And even a seafood bar—with oysters, shrimp, crab, lobster, poke and other tasty treats.

One of those “other tasty treats,” the 12-ounce bowl of lobster bisque, made for a mighty fine lunch one recent weekday. It was rich, creamy and flavorful—everything a great lobster bisque should be. There were also tiny little lobster bits in almost every bite. Yum!

Beyond the quality of the bisque itself … of the best things about the dish was its price: $8.99 is a fine deal for this amount of good lobster bisque. However, I had one teeny, tiny complaint: My bisque came with oyster crackers (which are supposed to go with the clam chowder, $8.99) instead of crostini slices, as promised on the menu; that would have been a slightly better pairing.

But that’s a minor nitpick; I thoroughly enjoyed my first dine-in lunch at Gelson’s. It certainly will not be my last.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

BEVMO! Opens in Downtown Palm Springs—but I'm Still Going to Total Wine for the Better Prices

Fans of booze and spirits who reside in the western portion of the Coachella Valley got good news in November, when BevMo! opened at 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, in part of the building that formerly housed The Alley.

This is the second valley location for BevMo! The other is located at 79715 Highway 111, in La Quinta.

I reside in Palm Springs, within walking distance of the new BevMo!, and I was looking forward to no longer having to drive to the Total Wine and More at 72339 Highway 111 in Palm Desert when I needed to stock my personal bar.

Then I tried to get a bottle of my go-to bourbon at the Palm Springs BevMo!—and found it was about three bucks more expensive than it is at the lovely Palm Desert Total Wine.

Hmm. That made me wonder: Which of these two mega-booze chains have better prices? Might it still be financially prudent for those of us in Palm Springs and La Quinta (and beyond) to head to Total Wine?

I decided to do a little experiment. I checked the prices at each place of eight spirits and two wines that I happen to have at home: Maker’s Mark bourbon (750 milliliters); Evan Williams bourbon (750 ml); Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin (1.75 liters); Tanqueray gin (750 ml); Herradura reposado tequila (750 ml); Don Julio blanco tequila (750 ml); Fireball (don’t ask why I have it; 750 ml); Ketel One (750 ml); Bogle Vineyards merlot; and Toasted Head cabernet sauvignon.

The verdict? I’m still going to be making the drive to Palm Desert.

The tally (before taxes) for the nine items both BevMo! and Total Wine had—BevMo! does not stock the Toasted Head cabernet, according to the website—came to $179.39 at Total Wine, while it came to $204.91 at BevMo! That’s a substantial difference of $25.52, or more than 14 percent.

Total Wine’s prices are basically lower across the board: Eight of the nine items were between $1 and $5 cheaper at Total Wine. There was one tie: The Herradura reposado was $38.99 at both places.

Check the prices on your own favorite liquors at www.totalwine.com and www.bevmo.com.


Cello's Bistro Closed; Cello's Pantry, Catering Remain Open

Cello’s Bistro, a cute restaurant with yummy food at 35943 Date Palm Drive, in Cathedral City, is no more.

The owners announced the news in an email on Nov. 8.

“After seven seasons, we have decided to close the restaurant,” the email said. “This was not an easy decision, but every year when we are off during the summer, we ask ourselves the same question: ‘Do we want to open the restaurant this season?’ Unfortunately, the answer this year was no. We want to thank all of our lovely and gracious guests who were so supportive to us over the years.”

The owners will now focus on Cello’s bustling catering business, as well as serving grab-and-go meals at Cello’s Pantry, at 70225 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Customers can get breakfast at Cello’s Pantry on the weekends, too.

For more information, call 760-328-4200, or visit www.cellospantry.com.


In Brief

Gelson’s Market, at 36101 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, is offering several free wine-tastings this coming weekend! Stop in between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, to try Catena malbec and Fat Bastard chardonnay, and/or Saturday, Dec. 3, between 2 and 5 p.m. for three different Donati wines. Again, tastings are free—and everyone who attends will be entered into a raffle to win a $25 gift card. Call 760-770-0010 for more information. … Mark your calendars: Draughtsman, the “renderer of fine foods and craft beer” from the team behind the Arrive hotel, will mark its for-real grand opening on Monday, Dec. 5. The venue is located at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs; get more details draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The long-delayed and much-anticipated reopening of Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club at 69830 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage is close enough that management held a job fair just before Thanksgiving. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening around Christmas. Ironically, it was on Christmas day in 2014 when a fire doomed Bernie’s at its old location at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Watch for updates at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans. … More good news: Rocky’s New York Style Pizzeria and Restaurant, at 12856 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs, finally reopened in November. Some folks (myself included) feared Rocky’s was gone for good after a “summer closure” drifted well into the fall—especially since the building that houses Rocky’s was at one point gutted. Peruse the menu at www.rockyspizzadhs.com. … Rubio’s, a chain known for its fish tacos and other “coastal” fare, will open another valley location on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 73399 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. … Coming soon to the West Elm building in downtown Palm Springs: Blaze Pizza. The first valley location of the chain can be found in Palm Desert, just down from that new Rubio’s. … I was startled to see the building that houses beloved Palm Springs Italian restaurant Johnny Costa’s, at 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive, listed for lease on a commercial real estate website. Turns out Johnny Costa’s is slated to move sometime in the new year to 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive, the same building the aforementioned new BevMo! calls home. … Village Pub, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, is celebrating its 21st birthday with a new menu. Find details at www.palmspringsvillagepub.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

After we created the Facebook event page for the Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Championship, a well-meaning friend commented: "I'm confused. Non-Alcoholic? Why bother?"

Here's why: There are many, many people who do not drink alcohol—for a variety of reasons. Yet all of those people still go into bars and restaurants with friends who do imbibe—and their drink choices are often severely limited, to soda, juice, coffee, tea and perhaps a really bad nonalcoholic beer. 

It does not have to be this way: Non-drinkers deserve tasty cocktails, too—and it's indeed possible to create cocktail-style drinks without alcohol.

This point was illustrated masterfully on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Gelson's in Rancho Mirage, during the Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Championship, a production of the Independent's Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week. While a couple of contestants dropped out at the last minute due to work commitments, the two contestants—Kevin Carlow of Seymour's/Mr Lyons (and, it should be noted, an Independent contributor) and Joey Tapia of New York Company—proved with their delicious cocktails that alcohol is not needed for a drink to be downright tasty.

The judges—the Independent's Garrett Dangerfield; Kristin Stahr of Gelson's; Alexis Ortega of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert; and Doug VanSant of reigning Best Local Band (according to readers voting in the Best of Coachella Valley) The Flusters—had split opinions on which drink was best. However, Tapia—who won the Audience Choice Award two nights before at the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship—and his watermelon-based drink edged out Carlow and his deliciously sweet, vinegary cocktail.

Below are photos from the event.

Published in Snapshot

New to the CV Supermarket Scene: Gelson’s and ALDI

The grocery-store gods giveth; the grocery-store gods taketh away.

In recent months, both Haggen and Fresh and Easy have faded to black in the Coachella Valley due to financial stresses.

Enter Gelson’s Markets and ALDI to fill the void.

Gelson’s—a Southern California fixture since 1951—opened in late January in the former Haggen/Pavilions space at 36101 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Gelson’s purchased the Rancho Mirage store and seven others from Haggen when the company made a hasty retreat from California last year.

“Gelson’s has been looking for a great desert location for nearly 15 years, and we’re excited to come to Rancho Mirage,” said Rob McDougall, Gelson’s president and CEO, in a news release. “Our goal is to serve the local community by providing premium-quality merchandise and exceptional customer service, while also re-employing many of the dedicated employees of the former Haggen store.”

Gelson’s has a upscale yet friendly vibe, with high-quality meats, produce and seafood, in addition to a fantastic floral department; bars for salad, antipasti and hot foods; a service deli; and a counter serving juices and cut fruits. Find more information at www.gelsons.com.

And now for something completely different: ALDI, a much-larger chain that’s aggressively moving into California from Europe and the East Coast, opened stores in La Quinta (78601 Highway 111, La Quinta) and Palm Springs (5200 E. Ramon Road) on March 24.

ALDI’s shtick: It features a limited selection of most of the usual items you’d find in a supermarket—except you’ve probably never heard of the brands that ALDI sells. For the most part, the less-expensive brands are exclusive to ALDI, and the company claims the items must all match or exceed the quality offered by national brands. Don’t like something? ALDI will both replace the product and give you your money back.

One other twist at ALDI: If you want to use a shopping cart, you’ll need a quarter—but you’ll get it back when you return the cart to the central station.

Get more info at www.aldi.us.


The Saguaro’s former Tinto Restaurant Is Now Rocco’s Electric

As was foretold in this space a couple of months ago, the relationship between the Saguaro Palm Springs and the Garces Group has come to an end.

Gone is Iron Chef José Garces’ Tinto. In its place: Rocco’s Electric.

The new “Red Room and Ice Cream Emporium” looks pretty much just like Tinto did—no surprise, seeing as there was not very much time between the Tinto era and the Rocco’s Electric era.

As for the menu … it’s quite different. The Basque-inspired plates of Tinto have been replaced by a focus on cocktails (at least during evening hours) and entrées like salads and tacos. And ice cream … lots of ice cream; in fact, on the weekends, the restaurant offers midday ice cream socials.

Speaking of tacos, and specifically Taco Tuesday: If you’re a fan of El Jefe, never fear, because the popular spot survived the changeover.

For more information, call 760-322-1900, or visit www.thesaguaro.com/palm-springs.


In Brief

Congrats to Chef George’s, located at 40100 Washington St., in Bermuda Dunes. Not too long ago, the much-loved Hungarian joint took over an adjacent space and created Pickaso, a lounge with dancing and live music in addition to tasty food and drink; call 760-200-1768 for info. … The Habit Burger Grill, a 150-plus-location chain that claims to have the best burger in America according to Consumer Reports, is opening its second valley location on Highway 111 in Palm Desert. The initial area location opened a year and a half or so ago at 79174 Highway 111 in La Quinta; www.habitburger.com. … Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse is teaming up with Catalan Restaurant for “Pigs, Paella and Brews” at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 5, at Catalan, located at 70026 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. $49 will get you beer-tastings and a fantastic family-style dinner. Call 760-770-9508 for reservations or more info. … Want yummy treats while in Palm Springs? Well, you now have more options than ever before. Fruit Wonders is now offering juices, fruit bowls, smoothies and vegan cakes at 264 N. Palm Canyon Drive (www.facebook.com/fruitwondersps), while Ice Cream and Shop(pe) is just one of the much-raved-about offerings at the brand-new Arrive Hotel, located at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive. (Reservoir, the new full-service restaurant there, is creating quite a buzz.) At Ice Cream and Shop(pe), you’ll find between 16 and 20 favors of ice cream every day until midnight; icecreamandshop.com. Finally, if you want coffee or a light lunch, check out downtown Palm Springs’ newest coffee shop, Joey Palm Springs, at 245 S. Palm Canyon Drive; www.facebook.com/joeypalmsprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News