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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When you think of good wine, what comes to mind? A sit-down restaurant? A white tablecloth? A fancy bottle pulled from a cellar for a special occasion?

This is an outdated way of thinking: More and more, good wine isn’t limited to just high-end places or special occasions. For example, someone may not expect fine wine from a place well known for its coffee—but at Joey Palm Springs, you’ll get just that.

Vince Calcagno and Joe Lucero are partners in life and in business at Joey, which opened a little more than a year ago on Palm Canyon Drive. Calcagno spent more than 20 years as the owner/operator of Zuni Café in San Francisco, so he knows a thing or two about running a restaurant. At Joey, he does whatever needs to be done, including, on occasion, washing the dishes. One of his other responsibilities is curating the wine list.

Zuni Café has an expansive wine list and a sommelier, both of which helped Calcagno develop a love of wine. He brings this ethos to Joey’s more-casual bistro style. Although there are just six wines on the list, there is a little something for everybody—and you won’t find the usual affordable brand names, but instead offerings like a white Côtes du Rhône (which should please any chardonnay-drinker).

Calcagno and I sat down one morning at Joey and sipped not wine, but coffee—although I did taste the aforementioned white Côtes du Rhône!

What was your first wine love?

I was a waiter at the Hayes Street Grill from 1979 to 1981. Chalone Chardonnay! When I would have a hard night, my boss, Dick Sander, the owner, would pour me a glass, and I would sigh and say, ”Nectar!”

What’s exciting about wine to you right now?

I will always love delicious French wines, like Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc. I love blends. Since we live in the desert, (I love) rose all summer long. Italian whites.

Your desert island wine?

I mostly drink whites, so any white Tablas Creek, and Chablis.

Favorite Food Pairing?

Hmm … a Zuni chicken, although I make it differently now, with tarragon and a splash of sherry at the end. Then a great pinot noir … yum!

What are you drinking now?

I was having a Manhattan with Buffalo Trace and Carpano Antica, but I have a bottle of Clicquot rose staring at me.

What do you love about the desert?

Well, the weather, first of all. After living in the cold city of SF for so many years, it is fun to be in a warm place, where everyone seems so supportive. It is conducive to my “older” lifestyle.

Your favorite places to go in the desert?

I love Lyons. Tropicale, because it is always fun. Seymour’s, of course. Spencer’s for breakfast, and, oh … Dead or Alive.

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

What: The Baked Eggs in “Purgatorio”

Where: Joey Palm Springs, 245 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $9.50

Contact: 760-320-8370; www.facebook.com/joeypalmsprings

Why: It’s a perfect breakfast on a cool morning.

Amazing food can often be found in the most unexpected places—and Joey Palm Springs is a perfect example.

I met my friend Michael for coffee there one recent morning. I already knew that the space is beyond charming—it used to house the late, lamented Espresso Cielo—so I expected to enjoy a fine cup o’ joe in a nice spot with a good friend.

I was also feeling a bit peckish, so I decided to peruse Joey’s food offerings. At the top of the breakfast menu was a dish called baked eggs in “Purgatorio”: two eggs baked in soft polenta, marinara, Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil. Wow, I thought. I didn’t expect to find a dish like this in a li’l café like this!

Turns out I probably should have had higher expectations: Joey Palm Springs is owned and operated by Vince Calcagno and Joe Lucero—and this couple has a fine food pedigree: Calcagno used to own Zuni Café, widely regarded as one of San Francisco’s top restaurants.

While all of this sounds good on paper, the food was great in actuality. Cheese, polenta, marinara and egg are a classic combination for a reason, and while Joey Palm Springs’ version of this well-known dish—usually called “eggs in purgatory”—wasn’t at all unique, it was perfectly executed.

The baked eggs in “Purgatorio” dish was made even better by the weather—it was a chilly morning, something that’s rather common this time of year in our lovely bit o’ desert. Well, this little treat warmed me right up—and elated my taste buds at the same time. It was indeed an unexpected and most welcome find.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

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