Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

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

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

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

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; … 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 (, 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; 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;

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Dead or Alive Brings Fine Wine, Fine Beer and Fine Design to ‘The Curve’ Area

Christine Soto and Anthony Cioffi attended to Palm Springs High School together. After graduation, they went their separate ways, but in 2012, at their 10-year reunion, they reconnected—and started dating.

Today, they’re not only life partners; they’re business partners as well.

Cioffi works as a designer, and several years ago, he worked with Donovan Funkey to create the look of Bar, in downtown Palm Springs.

“That sort of sparked the idea for doing this,” Cioffi said.

The “this” of which Cioffi speaks is Dead or Alive, a charming-as-hell craft-beer and specialty-wine bar that opened in December at 150 E. Palm Canyon Drive, right next to El Mirasol in the midst of “the curve”—where South Palm Canyon Drive becomes East Palm Canyon Drive.

During a recent media tasting, Cioffi and Soto explained how they took more than a year to develop the idea and design for Dead or Alive. Design plays a big part in the bar’s vibe: A large, round, orange fixture at the end of the bar and a matching orb out front slowly change color and fade as the hours pass each evening and night, simulating a sunset. It’s impressive.

“Christine and I are very passionate about beer and wine, and wanted to create a place where people could come, get together, and discover new, great things,” Cioffi said. “The focus is on the product.”

As for that product: Dead or Live features an ever-changing assortment of craft beers—such as Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout ($9 for 13 ounces) and Coachella Valley Brewing’s sessionable Goze ($6.50 for 13 ounces)—and specially selected wines, such as Broc Cellars’ Love Red ($12 per glass) and Domaine Brazilier’s Methode Trad Brut ($9).

There’s nothing quite like this special little beer-and-wine bar anywhere else in the Coachella Valley. Check it out from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day, including holidays.

Visit for more information.

New: Creamistry Opens in Palm Desert

“We specialize in fresh, made-to-order ice cream using liquid nitrogen. Our rapid freezing process provides the smoothest and creamiest frozen delights.”

So say the folks at Creamistry, a growing Southern California chain currently boasting a dozen or so locations—and one of the newest locations is right here in the Coachella Valley, at 73131 Country Club Drive, No. C1, in Palm Desert. It’s in the same area as Sherman’s and Bristol Farms.

Creamistry’s various locations have been receiving praise on the various online review sites, and some of the pictures being posted on the Palm Desert Creamistry Facebook bring to mind the word yummy. Check out that Facebook page at

In Brief

The affiliation between Iron Chef Jose Garces and The Saguaro, located at 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is coming to an end: As of the end of February, his menus will no longer be served at the hotel. Who knows what will come next at Tinto and El Jefe? Stay tuned. … Wanna gorge yourself while watching the Super Bowl? Consider heading to Tacos and Tequila at the Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. For $35 per person (plus tax and service charges), from 3 p.m. until the beginning of the fourth quarter on Sunday, Feb. 7, enjoy crispy chicken tacos, pulled-pork sliders, nachos, chops and salsa, and hot dogs with several topping choices. Also included: two beers or well drinks! Visit for more details. … KESQ News Channel 3’s Bianca Rae, the Best Local TV News Personality according to Independent readers, will be the host of the L’Affaire Chocolat: High Tea at the Classic Club, 75200 Classic Club Blvd., in Palm Desert, from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 21. Proceeds go toward the Dames D’Escoffier Scholarships for local women in the culinary and hospitality industries. Sparkling wine, tea sandwiches, mini quiches and more are on the menu—and to top it off, there’s a 25-foot chocolate dessert buffet featuring goodies from some of the town’s finest restaurants and bakeries. The cost is $75; call 760-895-9899 for reservations. … Newish to Palm Springs: Frankinbun, located at 540 S. Indian Canyon Drive. It’s a “gourmet sausage grill” that we happened to see as we zoomed by one day. We’ll be investigating this further, because … well, gourmet sausages. Mmmm. More info at

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Tinto at the Saguaro Downsizes a Bit

Tinto, the Basque-style restaurant owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces that calls the Saguaro Palm Springs home, will reopen Wednesday, Dec. 3, after a lengthy closure during much of the summer and fall.

When Tinto reopens, it will be just a fraction of its former self, size-wise: The restaurant will occupy what had previously been the Tinto bar—and that’s it. The rest of the former Tinto space, including the lovely patio, has been converted into what’s called the Palmetto Room and the Santa Rosa patio. Those spaces will be available for special events like weddings and holiday parties.

The Saguaro hosted an event for VIPs and media at the old-new space on Wednesday, Nov. 19, and here’s the spin Tinto/Saguaro reps were putting on things: The Tinto downsizing will allow the restaurant to return to the small, intimate tapas-bar roots of the original Tinto in Philadelphia; meanwhile, the Palmetto Room and Santa Rosa Patio will help the Saguaro keep up with a demand for more special-events spaces.

Make what you will of that spin. All I know is that I hope the downsized Tinto can succeed; although I’ve experienced inconsistent service and food during previous visits to Tinto, I’ve also experienced some of the best bites I’ve had in the Coachella Valley.

Get more details at

PS Underground Takes Up a Semi-Permanent Residency With Light

Over the last two years or so, Michael Fietsam and David Horgen have wowed local foodies with PS Underground, a series of intimate, details-secret-until-the-day-of themed dinners held at a variety of valley locations.

While PS Underground lives on—in fact, the next event, called “Wanderland,” takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 10 (more details at—Fietsam and Horgen have also set down roots, of sorts, for a new experience called Light.

Fietsam told me that like the usual PS Underground events, the details of Light’s dinners—including the menu and the dining location—remain secret to diners until the day of the event. However, unlike PS Underground events, the Light experience will be accessible throughout the season—until May 2, to be exact.

Why did the duo add Light to the PS Underground menu of offerings? Fietsam explained that he and Horgen wanted to share the PS Underground experience with a wider variety of people; it was a logical expansion of the hobby-turned-business.

“We haven’t been able to tap into the market of tourists and (out-of-town) friends of people who live in the desert” thanks to the inconsistency of the PS Underground schedule, he said.

While Light’s venue will remain the same through May 2, chef Horgen’s menu, or at least portions of it, changes on a weekly basis, Fietsam said.

Light takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through the season. The experience costs $150. Make reservations and get more details at

LuLu’s Rhine Joins Forces With Photog John Paschal for Eight4Nine

Willie Rhine has become a community icon as the general manager (and one of the public faces of) Barbara and Jerry Keller’s LuLu California Bistro, in downtown Palm Springs.

He’s so strongly associated with LuLu that his mid-November announcement that he was starting his own restaurant shocked many in the restaurant world.

Rhine is joining forces with John Paschal, of Snapshot Palm Springs Studios, to open a new-American cuisine restaurant called Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, at 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The new restaurant is slated to open sometime next summer.

After the initial announcement, Rhine took to Facebook to clarify his status with LuLu.

“I have the love and support of LuLu California Bistro owners, Barbara and Jerry Keller, who are excited about my new opportunity and equally thrilled and happy that I am staying on to continue the success of LuLu, where I remain both vested and the general manager, in charge of the day-to-day operations,” Rhine wrote. “I will continue to oversee our catering events with our amazing management team, including Lucy Kent and Francisco Plascencia.”

Congrats to Willie Rhine and John Paschal!

Follow the progress at

In Brief

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant—the gorgeous La Quinta spot that was a solo effort by Lee Morcus, of the Kaiser Restaurant Group—is apparently no more. While no official announcement that we know of has been made, the closed restaurant’s Facebook page and website have not been updated in many months. ... The Villa Royale Inn and Europa Restaurant will hold a masquerade-themed dinner to benefit Angel View at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11. Europa is located at 1620 S. Indian Trail, in Palm Springs; call 760-327-2314 for reservations or more info. … The former Crave, the dessert joint and bar on the second floor at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is now known as Plate | Glass. Larry Abel and Raymond McCallister are the owners; they formerly owned Crave with Davy Aker, who is not part of Plate | Glass. Find more details by calling 760-322-2322, or visit

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

What: The gazpacho

Where: Tinto, inside the Saguaro, 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $11

Contact: 760-322-1900;

Why: The smoothness.

A friend recently told me that she has thus far avoided Tinto—the Iron Chef-owned “Basque wine bar” restaurant inside the Saguaro Palm Springs—because she finds the menu “a tad scary.”

I am blessed (or perhaps cursed, if you consider my waistline’s perspective) with the ability to eat and enjoy almost anything (as long as it’s … y’know … good). However, I do understand that not everyone is like me, and a menu featuring all sorts of unfamiliar words that seem loaded with unnecessary x’s (like “pintxos” and “gatxuxa”) may be a tad scary to some.

However, to this friend and any others who may be intimidated by Tinto’s menu, I say this: You have nothing to worry about, because one of the best things on said menu has a name that we’ve all heard before—gazpacho.

There may be no better time and place on Earth to enjoy chilled soup than Palm Springs in August, so I highly recommend this glass of deliciousness. Other than a bit of bread (for consistency and flavor) and spices, this gazpacho is vegetable heaven, with tomato, peppers and a bit of fresh avocado leading the way. It’s so tasty and refreshing that you may find yourself engaging in a Pavlovian bit of drooling when driving by the multicolored former Holiday Inn that is the Saguaro.

I’ll now give you a home-cooking tip: When we were trying to re-create the gazpacho ourselves at the Independent test kitchen (i.e., our apartment), we stumbled across a video on The Desert Sun’s website of Tinto owner/chef Jose Garces making the gazpacho.

In the video, Garces doesn’t share the exact proportions he uses, and gazpacho he makes is not the exact version on the current Tinto menu. Nonetheless, the video was helpful enough to lead us to gazpacho joy. In fact, by tweaking the gazpacho to our own preferences, our home version tastes even better than Tinto’s version, at least to us.

But one thing we haven’t been able to replicate successfully is the smoothness (even though we have a serious blender at home). The gazpacho at Tinto is creamy, silky, yummy.

So, friends, don’t be afraid. Tinto’s gazpacho is there to cool you and comfort you. Go.

Published in The Indy Endorsement