CVIndependent

Wed11202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Local beer weeks celebrate the culture and community of craft brewers across the U.S. These events give the beer-lover a chance to taste a variety of rare and new beers, meet area brewmasters and hang out with fellow beer-drinkers.

Featuring local breweries, pubs and restaurants at their best, beer weeks allow attendees to experience a “beercation” filled with gastronomic pairings, rare tastings, beer dinners and festivals showcasing thoughtfully crafted suds.

While the Coachella Valley may not have as many breweries as, say, Los Angeles or San Diego, the rate at which the craft-beer revolution has taken hold and demanded attention here is impressive. Two award-winning Coachella Valley breweries—Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and La Quinta Brewing Co.—are celebrating their second anniversaries this year, while Rancho Mirage’s Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse has taken home a lot of notable craft-beer awards—including the 2015 California State Brewery of the Year honor from the California State Fair.

Therefore, it’s time for our area to have a beer week of its own: Introducing Coachella Valley Beer Week, to be held Nov. 13-22.

CVBW is a 10-day, valley-wide celebration aimed at attracting beer and foodie tourism. It focuses on our fantastic local breweries as well as surrounding Southern California craft brewers. It will feature festivals, beer dinners, tours, pub/restaurant crawls, tastings and more. Full disclosure: I am one of the two founders of the week; Brent Schmidman, aka Schmidy, is the other.

We will be kicking off the week with the Beer Goddess Brewmasters’ Dinner on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Purple Room in Palm Springs. Chef Jennifer Town is preparing the perfect menu, using a handful of Southern California craft beers. Mingle and chat with some of your favorite brewmasters, the Beer Goddess (aka me!) and chef Jen; then sit down for a delicious dinner while the brewmasters head to the stage to talk about their beers. The cost is $69 per person.

On Saturday, Nov. 14, join us for the first Indio California Barbeque State Championship and Festival, at the Lights at Indio Golf Course. The festival, put on the city of Indio and various groups, will include a sanctioned state barbecue championship contest featuring up to 50 of the best pit-masters in the state, all competing for a prize pool of up to $10,000. Of course, great barbecue will also be sold to the public. Additional activities include a local “King of the Desert” BBQ competition, live music, games, craft beer and more. Entry is free and open to the public.

After the festival, head over to Coachella Valley Brewing Co. for a rare event: the “Below Sea Level” Hi Low Beer Release. This Guinness World Records contender is believed to be the first and only beer brewed at the lowest elevation in the country. CVB’s brewmaster Chris Anderson and Brent Schmidman brewed this 13.6 percent alcohol-by-volume imperial blonde stout in Death Valley, Calif. No tickets are required.

On Sunday, Nov. 15, join us in Palm Springs for the Beer Goddess Buzz Crawl, aboard the one and only free Palm Springs Buzz bus. Take a ride around Palm Springs, and savor favorite craft beers at some of the most swanky Palm Springs bars and restaurants. Buzz Crawl pick up will be approximately every 15 minutes at each stop. Stay as long as you want at any location, or make it a night and hit our top favorite craft stops from these participating locations: Workshop, Trio, Bar, Fame Lounge, Matchbox, Gyoro Gyoro, the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, the Ace Hotel and the Purple Room.

If you’d rather stay in one place that evening, head over to Eureka Burger in Indian Wells for “Nite of the Barrels 1.” This is an evening of learning, featuring one of the most popular craft beer styles: wine-barrel-aged beers. Taste a variety of California beers with their accompanying wine varietals, and compare the nuances. A variety of cheeses and crackers will be included in the tasting. Make sure to reserve your seat; watch the Coachella Valley Beer Week website for details.

Experience a sushi craft-beer dinner like none other on Monday, Nov. 16, at Palm Springs’ Gyoro Gyoro. Unlike most sushi restaurants, Gyoro Gyoro has a nice selection of not only American craft beers, but Japanese craft beers. More information will be available soon, so watch the website.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, head back to Eureka Burger for “Nite of the Barrels 2.” Bourbon-barrel-aged craft beers have a unique complexity that is full of flavor and perfect for cooler evenings. Come taste these complex beers alongside the very same bourbons that were aged in those barrels. Note the similarities, and see how the beers pick up different flavors and nuances from the bourbons.

On Friday morning, Nov. 20, come hit some balls with your favorite brewmasters from various breweries! You don’t need to be a great golfer to participate in the Brewmasters Shotgun Golf Event; everyone’s welcome. Get paired with a brewery team, and enjoy free pours as you play to win various prizes and awards. Cigars and snacks are also available. It costs $120, and there’s limited availability, so reserve soon!

On Friday evening, Nov. 20, the largest area guest-bartender brewfest will commence. This mini-block party will feature eight Southern California breweries and eight local charities. Watch the website for details.

That same night, head to Indio to check out live music and live ale at the Tack Room Tavern’s Caxton-n-Cask event. Sip local cask ale from our three local breweries while listening to one of our favorite local bands, Caxton. The breweries will be adding special ingredients, using some of the oldest and traditional methods of secondary fermentation, to create these amazing one-time cask ales.

On Saturday, Nov. 21, don’t miss out on the annual Props and Hops Craft Beer Festival at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Last year, we put together a rare in-flight beer-tasting in a vintage World War II airplane—and we’re doing that again this year! Enjoy more than 30 craft breweries, great food and live music, all while taking in the Palm Springs mountain views.

More events are being added, so watch the website for updates, changes and additions. Be a part of the first ever Coachella Valley Beer Week, and find out what makes our valley a great part of the craft beer revolution!

Published in Beer

State Fair: Babe’s Is the California Brewery of the Year

Arthur Vasquez, the chief operating officer at Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage, humbly posits that Babe’s does not make the state’s best beer, as far as his palate is concerned.

“I’ll be the first person to tell you that there are some amazing beers produced in California, and I would jump over my beer to get to them in a second,” he said.

However, the judges at the Northern California Brewers Guild, who run the California State Fair Commercial Craft Brew Competition, disagree: They say Babe’s is the 2015 Brewery of the Year.

This is an incredible honor for Babe’s, the granddaddy of the Coachella Valley craft-brew world. According to the Northern California Brewers Guild, 302 participants entered some 1,086 beers in the contest, and Babe’s took top honors in part because three of the six beers Babe’s entered won awards: the Belgian Vanilla Blond Ale, the 2014 Winterfest Ale, and the Blackfin Lager.

The Independent spoke to Vasquez on the day before he was slated to hop on a quick flight out of Ontario to Sacramento for an awards ceremony on the steps of the California State Capitol.

“We’re in a bit of a shock. We were hoping to win a ribbon or two,” Vasquez said, adding that the six beers Babe’s entered must have “just happened to hit the technical qualities in the categories we entered. … We sent the right beers to the right competition.”

Modesty aside, Babe’s is obviously doing something right: Vasquez noted that Babe’s has taken home at least one award from every competition the brewery has entered since 2009.

“This means a lot to us,” Vasquez said.

Congratulations to everyone at Babe’s, located at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Watch the Babe’s Facebook page for updates and more information.


Johannes Clarifies Bottled-Water Policy

Last month in this space, we poked fun at the fact that Johannes Restaurant, located at 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, was going to stop serving tap water, and instead only serve bottled water imported from New Zealand—in an effort to “preserve the environment.”

After that item appeared, chef/owner Johannes Bacher invited me to the restaurant so he could further explain the policy.

First: Bacher noted that even though an initial news release said Johannes customers would no longer be able to receive tap water, period, customers can have tap water, if they insist, rather than paying $1 per bottle for the Waiwera Organic Artesian Still Water.

Second: He insisted he was not making any money off the policy change, because he was essentially offering the Waiwera at cost.

Third: He extolled the virtues of Waiwera, and said he didn’t see much of a pollution problem coming from the fact that the water is shipped in all the way from New Zealand.

“I’m not harming the environment, because much of the stuff in the U.S. comes from overseas, anyway,” he said.

Fourth: He said that the use of tap water at Johannes—and therefore, use of California’s dwindling water supply—had been “greatly reduced” since the policy change.

So … there you have it. You can judge for yourself whether Bacher’s policy makes sense.

Get more information at www.johannesrestaurants.com.


In Brief

A lesson to all would-be scammers out there: Do your research! Mindy Reed, the owner of Zin American Bistro in downtown Palm Springs, recently received a letter at the restaurant from a Jack Sardinias of Hollywood, Fla. He was asking Zin to reimburse him for a cleaning bill, after a server at Zin allegedly spilled a small amount of sauce on his wife’s jacket. Here’s where the story gets interesting: Reed also owns Alicante, also in downtown Palm Springs—and Alicante received an almost-identical letter from the same person. Word is that other downtown Palm Springs restaurants were targeted, too. … Further proof that the Coachella Valley is becoming less “seasonal” as the years go by: Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café, located at 72990 El Paseo, Suite 3, in Palm Desert, recently announced that for the first time, the restaurant would be open all summer long. “We recognize that many of our loyal customers will be here all summer, and they are so happy that we’re planning to stay open,” said Christophe Douheret, an owner of Clementine, in a news release. Yay! … On the flip side, Margaritas, located at 100 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, closed for the summer on June 28. Management says to expect a re-opening on Oct. 1. … Because most local city councils are paranoid and ridiculously behind the times, it’s unlikely the Coachella Valley will be home to a vibrant food-truck scene anytime soon. However, Noni’s Wood-Fired Pizza, a mobile pizza-service operation, has found a work-around: It’s planning a series of “pop-up” partnerships with brick-and-mortar joints, the first of which will take place at Justme Sweets Bakery and Café, 83214 Requa Ave., In Indio, on Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11. Visit www.facebook.com/nonispizza for more details.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Top Chef Comes to Palm Springs

During its 12 seasons, Bravo’s Top Chef has spent time in great food cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas and, most recently, Boston.

Now we can add Palm Springs to the list … sort of.

For the show’s 13th season, producers decided to mix things up by returning to California—but hopping around, with stops in L.A., San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Santa Barbara and the Coachella Valley.

While not a lot of details on the Palm Springs stop have been released, here’s what we do know: On Wednesday, May 20, the chef-testants were tasked with cooking for a mass same-sex wedding/renewal-of-vows ceremony. We also know that Over the Rainbow’s Roman Blas was asked to make a wedding cake for the show. (He shared that tidbit on Facebook.)

If any more Top Chef news makes its way to our desk, we’ll be sure to pass it along.

Johannes Stops Offering Tap Water in Favor of Bottles ... to ‘Preserve the Environment’?

OK, we’re confused here.

Johannes Restaurant—for my money, one of the top restaurants in the valley—has announced that as of June 15, it will no longer serve tap water, and will instead offer bottled water from New Zealand.

Why, you ask? It’s being done in an effort to “preserve the environment.” Yeah, we don’t get it, either.

Here’s the scoop, straight from the news release:

“The restaurant will offer Waiwera Organic Artesian Still Water, a New Zealand treasure for centuries, for $1. Waiwera water is carbon neutral and bottled at the source in BPA-free PET bottles. If a guest doesn’t finish the bottle of water, they can take it with them.

“Serving tap water with ice has become wasteful, and in order to conserve water, Johannes has made this decision to convert to a new concept. Restaurants in other cities are adopting this same concept. During the course of a year, the restaurant uses over 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of ice and 15,000 gallons of water, which converts to an average of over 75,000 glasses of water and ice per year.”

The news release goes on to say: “We hope more restaurants in the Coachella Valley will consider doing the same and that our guests will understand and support our concept.”

OK. We understand that less water will be coming out of California’s aquifers as a result of this move, perhaps … but shipping water all the way in from New Zealand!?

If we figure out how that works, we’ll let you know. For more information, visit www.johannesrestaurants.com.

Babe's Joins Forces With The Venue for a Special Dinner

It’s being touted as “the desert’s first five-course sushi and craft beer pairing dinner.”

It is taking place at The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge, 73111 El Paseo, in Palm Desert, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 3. The Venue’s sushi will be combined with the great beer—and a little bit of the barbecue—from Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, in Rancho Mirage. The dinner starts with tempura-style stuffed zucchini blossoms (with spicy tuna!) being paired with Babe’s Honey Blond Ale—and it goes from there. As for the third course: We’re dying to find out what hickory-smoked tri-tip sashimi is! It’s being paired with Babe’s Bin 1214 Imperial Red Ale.

The dinner is $65 per person. For reservations or more details, call 760-346-1500.

In Brief

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge is closed—again. After getting back on its figurative feet after two recent fires, the restaurant, at 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, quite suddenly shut its doors on May 17. We’re told that serious maintenance issues within the building could not wait any longer to be fixed, so management decided to bite the bullet and address them, all while keeping fingers crossed for an Aug. 1 reopening. Here’s hoping that’s the case, as we’re already hankering for a bowl of Twin Palms’ amazing gumbo. Watch www.facebook.com/twinpalmsbistro for updates. ... Jersey Mike’s Subs is now open at 79174 Highway 111, in La Quinta. It’s the second Jersey Mike’s in the valley; there’s already one on Highway 111 in Palm Desert, and a third is supposedly coming to Palm Springs. … Wasabi, a Japanese/sushi joint that had for years been located at 333 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has closed, and an Italian restaurant is taking its place. More details to come. … The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has again tweaked its menus with help from Five Leaves restaurant out of Brooklyn, N.Y. We recently joined other media folks at a tasting of the new fare at the Ace’s King’s Highway, and found the food to be quite tasty. In particular, we were blown away by the shepherd’s pie! We’re also intrigued by the fact that the Ace is now serving some special cocktails out of taps and bottles. We’ll share more boozy details when we get ’em; in the meantime, head to www.acehotel.com/palmsprings to check out the new menus.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Closed: 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

The busy season is over—and that means this is the time of year when some restaurants on the edge financially will decide to close up shop rather than brave another Coachella Valley summer.

One of the first casualties of the (unofficial) summer of 2015: the 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro, which was located at 73101 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. It closed on Sunday, April 19.

In a news release, owner Ed Moore blamed the seasonality of business in the Coachella Valley for his decision to close the Palm Desert 3rd Corner, which opened in June 2010.

“Unlike our other two very successful restaurants in Ocean Beach and Encinitas, our Palm Desert location is a highly seasonal location which does very well in the winter and early spring, but struggles, like many restaurants in the Coachella Valley, during the summer and fall,” Moore said. “The seasonality of the market coupled with the fact that our restaurant lease is expiring has prompted us to close down our Palm Desert location.”

The aforementioned Ocean Beach and Encinitas locations of 3rd Corner remain open. For more information, visit www.the3rdcorner.com.

New: Rooster and the Pig

Rooster and the Pig, a “Vietnamese American Beer Bar” located in the old Café Scandia space at 356 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is now open.

We didn’t get a chance to check out the place in person before our press deadline, but the menu posted on the restaurant’s website offers some intriguing Vietnamese-themed fare, including tumeric chicken, mushrooms and gai lan (aka Chinese broccoli) over forbidden rice; a banh mi burger; and sweet-and-sour vegetable soup with pineapple, tomato, cilantro and sprouts. These yummy treats come courtesy of chef Tai Spendley, whose influences are listed on the website as “French technique, Asian heritage and bi-coastal gallivanting.”

The website also includes this tidbit: “The Rooster, of course, wants to be in charge, and that suits the hard working, No. 2-preferring Pig just fine. The practical-minded Rooster has clear and detailed vision, and the Pig gleefully helps carry out the Rooster’s plans.”

We don’t know what that means, but we find it utterly fascinating.

Learn more by calling 760-832-6691, or visit www.roosterandthepig.com.

In Brief

Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week is here—or at least it is as of Friday, May 29. The annual celebration of all things food and drink in the Coachella Valley runs through Sunday, June 7; during that time, participating restaurants will be offering three-course prix-fixe menus for either $26 or $38. Watch www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com for a list of participating restaurants, menus and more. … Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. The granddaddy of local craft brewers celebrated its 13th anniversary in April. … The folks at Bart Lounge, the bar and art gallery located at 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. F-124, in Cathedral City, tell us the much-anticipated joint will be opening its doors on Friday, May 1. A big name will be present, in a way, for the bar’s opening month: The art of film great Tim Burton is on display. Get details at www.facebook.com/bartlounge. ... In other bar news: The space that once housed Clinic and, briefly, Hester, at 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is now home to Tryst. It shares ownership and management with Score, a bar just around the corner on Arenas Road. Get more details at www.facebook.com/pages/Tryst-Bar-and-Lounge/867474949983973. ... Congrats to Johannes Restaurant, located at 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—for my money, one of the top restaurants in Palm Springs. Mimi Sheraton, a former restaurant critic for The New York Times, included Johannes Bacher’s schnitzel in her book 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. … Update: The demolition of the building that was home to Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, finally took place in April. The building was destroyed by a Christmas Day 2014 fire; keep your fingers crossed for a late-fall opening of Bernie’s 2.0 in a brand-new building at the same location. … The Steakhouse at the Spa Resort Casino, located at 401 E. Amado Road in Palm Springs, has a new executive chef: Kieran Fleming. He’s a veteran of Hyatt properties in San Diego and Indian Wells, and spent five years at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa. 

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Beer culture stretches back more than 4,000 years—and for much of that time, beer was primarily made by amateurs.

The more things change, the more things stay the same: Homebrewing today is on a meteoric rise in the United States.

Since 1978, the American Homebrewers Association (www.homebrewersassociation.org) has promoted the joys of homebrewing. The organization now has more than 43,000 members. An American Homebrewers Association survey done in the earlier part of 2014 estimated that there were at least 1.3 million homebrewers in the U.S. The hobby has been growing at a rate of 20 percent per year in the last five years—oh, and a lot more women are joining in, too.

I recently spoke several notable local homebrewers to get their two cents on the growing trend.


Joshua Kunkle has been brewing since October 2007 and is now the president of the Coachella Valley Homebrew Club. Club meetings are usually held on the first Thursday of the month, at Coachella Valley Brewing Co., starting at 7 p.m.

Unlike most homebrewers, Kunkle began by making alcoholic ciders, after returning home from France. He was living in San Francisco at the time, and sought out local brew-supply shops that sold the appropriate equipment. It came with a free batch of grains to brew beer.

“I did the beer, and the beer turned out better than I thought it would,” he said. “And when I finally got around to making the cider, it was so much of a bitch to do that, I thought, ‘I’m going to stick with the beer. It’s a lot less work, for a lot better product.’ That spurred me into trying different things, and along the way, every time I made a mistake, it turned out to be kind of serendipity in my favor, so that helped me learn new things.”

He later moved back to Southern California—Murietta, specifically.

“I was living over at my parents’ house, which is on five acres, and that gave me impetus to expand the operation and start working my way to all-grain,” he said. “Once I started doing all-grain, that’s when I started building all my equipment.”

That’s right: He’s built his own beer-making equipment. The move also showed him how place can affect the beer-making process. “On one hand, the beer was slightly better at my parents’ house in Murietta, because they lived on a well system. But on the other hand, the weather was perfect for brewing in San Francisco. The temperatures do fluctuate there more in Southern California.”

Kunkle’s system includes a 4-foot-by-4-foot-by-8 foot insulated, temperature-controlled box; it started out as an armament-storage box belonging to his grandfather. There’s a door on the side and a lid that opens at the top. He has the ability to put as much as 70 gallons in it at one time. In half of the box, he’s got a hole cut out with some PVC pipe, a window air-conditioning unit, and a thermostat. He even has a dual-stage controller, to run two different circuits—air conditioning or heating, depending on the weather.

As for the system itself, it was built with a slight pyramid shape to center the gravity in the middle, minimizing the risk of tilting. Each side sits in a set of tracks with heavy-duty wheels, which take the load when the plates holding the pots are being lifted. Using this system, Kunkle has won several medals, including Best of Show at the 2013 Props and Hops Homebrew Competition.

He’s found that temperature control is the key to preparing his award-winning beers.

“I’m dealing with a living organism; I should treat it with respect,” Kunkle said. “I used to joke: ‘You should treat yeast like people.’ If you fluctuate the temperature, hot, cold, hot, cold, you get sick. I imagine yeast is the same way. Your beer is a result of that, for better or for worse. The idea is, you’re creating a nice environment for them.”

His two favorite homebrews have been a Trappist-style honey-orange pale ale, and a “Braggot”-style hybrid-beer—actually a form of mead made with honey and barley malt, using nitrogen after fermentation.

Like most homebrewers, Kunkle isn’t afraid to experiment. He’s even brewed with wormwood, taking concepts from absinthe.

He has ambitious plans for the Homebrew Club.

“I told the club at the last meeting that I want to be part of the community a lot more,” he said. “I want to get our name out there; I want people to know who we are—that we’re not just a bunch of drunk guys sitting around.

“There is a science behind this. There is biology and chemistry. This is a smart people’s sport. You can learn a lot about the art of it.”

He also wants the club’s meetings to have more of a focus on teaching.

“It’s nice trying different beers, but sometimes, a lot of people come to the meetings hoping to learn something,” Kunkle said. “So I’d like to use the meetings as a means of getting people together and learning: ‘Tonight, we’re going to learn why an IPA is an IPA,’ or why sanitation is a good thing.”

Kunkle works full-time as a reference librarian, and brewing feeds his desire to constantly learn.

“I live by the ethos that if I’m not learning something, I’m dying,” he said.


Brett Newton has been interested in craft beer since 1993, but he only started brewing with his cousin a little more than five years ago.

Their first batch was an IPA. It wasn’t very good, he said. But it was drinkable.

He joined the Coachella Valley Homebrew Club in 2010 after meeting four of its members. He sat in with many of the members on brew days in order to learn more about the process. (One of those members: future brewmaster of Coachella Valley Brewing Company, Chris Anderson.) He then went on to be elected president of the club. He also co-hosted the Beer Me Podcast up until a couple of years ago.

“I just kinda watched them do what they do,” he said of his beginnings with the Homebrew Club members. “I feel like I was able to brew better beer right away.

“There are a bunch of resources online. There’s a free older edition of How to Brew by John Palmer. That’s kind of the brewing bible. You can buy a version of it that’s up to date. I also read a couple of books by Charlie Papazian, who’s kind of considered the godfather of homebrew.”

Newton has brewed some delicious English barleywines. For one, he soaked French oak cubes in Maker’s Mark bourbon; for another, he used French oak cubes soaked in Glenlivet Nadurra 16-year-old Scotch. Brett orders his ingredients online at Austin Homebrew Supply because of the quality and customer service, he said. In a pinch, he’ll visit MoreBeer in Riverside.

He said he appreciates having local help via the Homebrew Club.

“It still helps me with learning to brew,” he said. “It’s a great place to come ask questions. … You can go online, and you can get some good advice, but you have to sift through some stuff. You can know there are some guys in the club who can really brew, because you’ve tasted their beer, and you can ask them questions and be a lot more sure of the answers.

Newton said the homebrewing world is changing in a lot of the same ways that the craft-beer world is changing.

“People are willing to try lots of different styles,” he said. “It’s not just, ‘Let’s brew the hoppiest beer we can brew,’ which I always thought was ridiculous, because I try to discourage the beginners from going hoppy right away, because that’s one of the harder ones to get right.”


Brent Schmidman is not only the founder and previous owner of Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert, and a founder of the Props and Hops Festival in Palm Springs; he is also an avid homebrewer, and has been now for eight years.

Brent started with a Mr. Beer kit—and quickly realized that there had to be a better way to brew. He now has a system that was partly purchased from MoreBeer, with some elements he designed himself. One of Brent’s most impressive homebrews was a 17 percent alcohol chocolate-cherry Russian imperial stout, aged in Bourbon barrels.

Like Josh and Brett, Brent uses the Homebrew Club as a resource.

“I’d say when I joined the club, Chris (of Coachella Valley Brewing) was probably the most influential, because he was so open to meeting new people, and that kind of thing,” he said. “… I think the best part about the club is that people can come and just learn and experience and share before they have to actually go and buy equipment to do all of that. We’ve had several members that came for six months to a year before they ever bought anything.”

He said it’s a lot easier to be a homebrewer these days than it used to be.

“Now there are so many different sites that you can order from online. There are tons and tons of books … and you can have kits that take a RussianRiver beer, and you have a clone that’s very, very close to that,” Schmidman said. Maybe you’ve never made a sour before, and you can buy a kit and do it. I think it’s the accessibility to everything, in small quantities.”


Homebrewer Erik DeBellis has been brewing for just 2 1/2 years—but he sure has racked up a lot of medals in that time.

Erik took the gold medal in the American ale category in both 2013 and 2014 at the Hangar 24 homebrew competition. He took home the gold in the German wheat category at the 2013 and 2014 Props and Hops homebrew competition, the gold and silver in the IPA category at the 2013 Props and Hops competition. He also nabbed a silver in the German wheat and rye category at the Southern California Homebrew Championships.

He is now the assistant brewer at Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage.

The Hangar 24 homebrew competition in 2012 sparked his interest in homebrewing, he said. It just so happened that he and a friend visited the brewery on the day of the competition.

I asked him what he uses to make his award-winning brews.

“I used to just do stovetop—you know, everything on your burner. Now I actually bought a propane-powered burner, so, I’m doing everything on that, and it’s awesome. I will never go back to stovetop. … I’m getting so much better isomerization of my hops on this bad boy—more power, more heat. You’re getting a better boil, which allows my hops to bitter more, I’m getting more out of my bittering additions.”

DeBellis said he buys most of his supplies at MoreBeer, although he wishes the store took better care of their hops.

“I pretty much buy everything at MoreBeer or Northern Brewer, but when it comes to hops, I just source straight from the farms—mostly, Yakima Valley Hops,” he said.


What are some homebrewing trends worth knowing about?

Brew in a bag (BIAB) one-gallon kits are becoming more popular for brand new homebrewers. It’s an inexpensive way to for homebrewers to transition to all-grain or partial-mash brewing. 

Alternatively, all-grain is becoming more popular, and extracts are declining. This speaks to quality and the fact that the future brewers of America want to make the best beer they can.

Speaking of quality: With the ever-growing popularity of the hobby, you can now find more quality ingredients; including malts and hops from around the world, and top-notch yeast from ever-more companies.

Don’t fear the foam. Join the club; do some online research; and/or read a homebrew book. Then take a sip and exhale with the satisfaction of your delicious, homebrewed pint.


Want to start learning more about homebrewing? Here are some online resources to consider:

  • Beer Conscious Training (beerconscious.com) offers beer training and learning videos for those interested in passing exams like the Cicerone Certification Program, the Beer Judge Certification Program and Beer Steward Certificate Program.
  • Beer Smith (beersmith.com) is a homebrewers’ dream resource, with answers to just about any question or roadblock. It also has informative video blogs from seasoned homebrew professionals.
  • Better Beer Scores (www.betterbeerscores.com) is a Colorado-based company that offers webinar programs to learn more about craft-beer styles and homebrewing. It also features programs to help people prep for beer exams.
  • Craft Beer University (www.craftbeeru.com) is an online school offering Beer Judge Certification Program exam-prep courses, as well as other Internet-based educational services to improve home-brewing skills.

Published in Beer

It’s time to take a look back at another glorious year for the craft beer industry. The year that was 2014 wasn’t just great for beer; it was a push-the-envelope, challenge-the-palate, variety-exploding year.

In November, there were more than 3,200 breweries in the United States, with more than 2,000 in the planning stages, according to the Brewers Association. The majority of Americans now live within 10 miles of a craft brewer.

So, what were some of the largest and inspiring stories and trends of 2014?

Transporting American Craft-Beer Culture to the Old World

History was made in July 2014, when Green Flash became the first U.S. craft brewery to begin making and selling fresh beer in the European market. The San Diego brewery started selling its signature West Coast IPA, brewed and bottled at traditional abbey brewery St-Feuillien, in Belgium.

Around the same time, Escondido’s Stone Brewing Company announced plans to open a Stone facility in the old world: America’s 10th-largest craft brewer will build and operate a brewery and beer garden in Berlin, Germany, with an expected opening in late 2015. The Brewery’s “Stone Groundbreaking Collaborations” campaign on Indiegogo earlier this year had a stated goal of $1 million; the brewery wound up bringing in more than $2.5 million.

These two breweries make in-your-face, West Coast style IPAs. This speaks volumes about the craft beer drinker’s voice and the recent global domination of American craft beer.

This brings me to the next obvious trend.

India Pale Ales (IPAs) Remain the Most Favored Craft-Beer Style

These hop-laden beers have come full circle: IPAs are up 47 percent by volume and 49 percent by dollar sales, according to the Homebrewers Association. The style was the most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival in September.

Because of the massive popularity, a new, more “sessionable” version of the IPA is now favored by many. At less than 5 percent alcohol by volume, session beers are easier to sip by the six-pack. Try Stone Go To IPA, Firestone Walker Easy Jack, or—one of the newer Los Angeles beers on the block—Three Weavers Stateside, a 4.5 percent session IPA.

Canning Continues to Get More Craft Beer Into More Places

Tin is in!

Can are cheaper to produce, and require less energy to cool down. Less packaging means packing more beer in less space, which reduces a brewery’s carbon footprint.

According to CraftCans.com, there are now 453 breweries with more than 1,600 craft brewed canned beers now available across the United States.

As a matter of fact, the airlines are getting in on the craft canned trend. In early December, Delta Air Lines began stocking carts with a selection of regional craft beers from breweries like Ballast Point, Lagunitas Brewing and Stone Brewing.

On a local level, La Quinta Brewing started canning in February 2014 with The Can Van. New painted cans that are now making their way into stores.

The Rise of American Wild Ales

Sours are made by introducing bacteria and/or wild yeast strains into the beer. And the results? Think bright, tart, funky and mysterious. Building off classic Belgian and German styles, U.S. breweries are harnessing wild yeast, creating beers with novel dimensions of aroma and flavor.

Coachella Valley Brewing started a sour program when they first opened their brewery, more than a year ago. CVB’s sours will be offered in small allotments for Fault Line Society members, and in the tasting room in 2015, starting with Framboys, a boysenberry raspberry framboise. Keep an eye out for Flame Rouges, an American wild brewed with red flame raisins. Both are aged in port and cabernet wine barrels.

CVB will also be releasing Epineux Poire, an American wild brewed with locally foraged prickly pear cactus fruit. Persnickety, CVB’s persimmon sour, will also make an appearance next year. If the beers don’t sell out to the FLS members, the remainder will go on public sale.

“I think in 2015, you will see more and more of beer-style fusion,” said Coachella Valley Brewing’s Chris Anderson. “Think along the lines of a Belgian IPA. I think farmhouse ales, wild ales and Brett beers (created by a funky wild yeast) will all continue to be hot.”

The Rise of the Farm-to-Table Movement

The convergence of the slow-food movement and the craft-beer revolution has led to fantastic events and exhibits, like the Great American Beer Festival’s Farm to Table Pavilion. The Pavilion provided 28 pairings designed and prepared by small and independent breweries and chefs from around the country. Coachella Valley Brewing was specially selected to pour, and was also chosen to present a special “Farm to Glass” tasting for 200 people.

“I found that our beers were very unique and innovative compared to other breweries, and it inspired me to see more breweries jumping into the concept of farm to glass,” he said, referring to the use of more fresh, local ingredients in beers.

Farmhouse ales have also seen a huge spike in sales. With applications of new-wave hop varietals like Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado and Hallertau Blanc, more people are asking for those less-bitter beers and raising their glass to juicier brews.

Breweries, like CVB, are embracing agriculture and sourcing even more local fruits, vegetables and grains. More people are recognizing the compatibility of craft beer and contemporary cuisine, too, with more beer-and-food pairings. If in the Los Angeles area, stop by Hook and Plow. Locally, don’t miss Workshop Kitchen + Bar, which offers farm-fresh heirlooms, wild arugula, watermelon, champagne grapes and lemon cucumbers in season, along with a nice selection of Southern California craft beer.

Nano Breweries Continue to Open

When it comes to beer, size really doesn’t matter. Nano breweries, often started with a single batch of homebrewed beer, typically produce one batch at a time. They represent craft in the truest sense. Also referred to as pico breweries, nano brewers make beer on a three-barrel system or smaller. There were reportedly more than 300 breweries operating in the United States as of the summer of 2014 that would qualify as nano breweries.

San Diego’s Hess Brewing opened in 2010 and produced about 1.6 barrels of beer per batch. Mike Hess Brewing has since grown to include two locations: the original “nano” in the Miramar area, and a production brewery in North Park, San Diego.

Big Success for Local Breweries

In Rancho Mirage, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse celebrated a massive win this year when the brewery took home a medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. The beloved restaurant and brewhouse nabbed its first-ever GABF medal in the “Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale” category for the Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. Babe’s is also reportedly celebrating a 110 percent increase in off-site sales from 2013 to 2014.

Over at CVB, Tom Del Sarto, the director of sales, spearheaded distribution deals with Young’s Market Company to sell the brewery’s beers throughout California and now Arizona.

It’s a trend: More and more people are eschewing big, mass-market brands in favor of craft beer. Del Sarto noted the fall of Budweiser’s annual barrel sales from 30 million barrels in 2003, to 16 million in 2014. Meanwhile, the craft-beer industry has gone from selling 5 million barrels in 2003, to 16.1 million barrels this year. As a result, more craft beer is appearing in restaurants and grocery stores alike.

“National chains are giving more autonomy to regional stores as customers are seeking local brands, adding to the major breweries’ decline in volume," said Del Sarto.

La Quinta Brewing, as noted earlier, has also had a big year. Owner Scott Stokes said he’s been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance and support of craft beer in the desert in 2014.

“Just the attendance and success of this year’s Props and Hops Festival, compared to two years ago, illustrates the passion that desert residents have for craft beer,” he said.

He went on to add: “We’re proud to say that after only a year, La Quinta is the second-most-widely distributed craft beer in terms of bars and restaurants within the Coachella Valley, just behind New Belgium (Fat Tire).”

Bring on the next round, 2015!

Published in Beer

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

The weather is starting to cool down in the Coachella Valley—so it’s a perfect time to explore what the craft-beer industry has to offer at local beer festivals. They are the perfect place to experiment, meet fellow craft-beer enthusiasts and even get involved in the community!

For the third year, the Palm Springs Air Museum is combining two things that you may not normally think go together: flying and beer. The Props and Hops Craft Beer Festival commences on Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Air Museum, a picturesque venue with gorgeous views. General admission costs $35.

I am on the festival’s board, and this year, the beers on offer will range from one-off seasonals to perennial favorites.

All three local breweries will be pouring their award-winning beers. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse will be pouring its Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale, which just took home a silver medal from the granddaddy of all beer events, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. will likely be pouring its newest seasonal offering, Condition Black. It’s an imperial black IPA offered every Veterans Day. Another possible offering is the new Saison L'Automne, a fall farmhouse ale with yams, pumpkins and spices.

La Quinta Brewing Co. will have on hand the popular Indian Canyon IPA, the Poolside Blonde and the brewery’s fall/early winter seasonal, the Tan Line Brown. The brewery will also bring either its new barrel-aged porter, or the Sand Storm Double IPA.

Of course, other breweries from Southern California will be on hand, including Lost Abbey/Port Brewing, Stone Brewing, Hangar 24, Lagunitas, Ballast Point, Firestone Walker, Black Market, Refuge Brewery and Golden Road Brewing.

Homebrewers are making an ever-increasing mark on the industry, and the festival will highlight these beer-making champions with the third annual homebrewers' competition. Led by local Coachella Valley Homebrew Club president Brett Newton, the Beer Judge Certification Program-certified competition will only be limited by imagination. Bring your tasty concoction, and get some expert feedback from certified beer judges! Entries must be received at either Coachella Valley Brewing in Thousand Palms, or MoreBeer in Riverside, by Nov. 8. Brewers must bring three unmarked, unlabeled 12-ounce bottles, and the winners will be announced at the festival. Prizes include gift cards, a 70-liter Speidel fermenter from MoreBeer, and, of course, mad respect from fellow craft-beer drinkers.

This year, the festival is offering beer-lovers a chance to literally combine flying and beer: For an extra $175, experience a Cicerone-guided tour of beers while in the sky above the Coachella Valley. This rare beer-tasting will be held aboard a vintage DC3!

The festival will include more live music than last year, with performances by The Anonymous Five, the Independent´s own All Night Shoes, and Long Duk Dong.

The big brain behind the event is an ale-loving, craft beer advocate, Brent Schmidman. He’s the man responsible for making Schmidy’s Tavern into the loved craft-beer spot that it is today.

“We’re always trying to push the envelope with the event and to bring something new,” he said.

Schmidman said he’s excited about some breweries who are new to the festival this year.

“The first two that come to mind are Avery and Three Weavers. Avery is an amazing brewery and makes some insane beers—crazy wild sours and barrel-aged beers that are hard to get. I'm also excited about Three Weavers Brewing, a new brewery from Inglewood. They’re already making a big buzz in the beer scene.”

Yours truly will be hosting a special beer dinner on the night before the festival at the Purple Room in Palm Springs. Join me on Friday, Nov. 21, at 6:30 p.m. for an intimate dinner featuring several Southern California beers. Executive chef Jen Town will be preparing the menu, and together, we’ll pair the food with the perfect beers. Tickets are $55, and capacity is limited to 100 people. Don’t miss out!

Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated if you’re a beer novice. Volunteers, brewers and other festival attendees will be happy to guide you toward amazing beers with which you may not be familiar.

The craft-beer revolution continues to gain momentum, and festivals like Props and Hops are a perfect way to experiment with new and trending California beers. Who knows? You may just find a new favorite.

Get tickets and more information at www.PropsandHopsFestival.com.

Published in Beer

Back when Palm Springs was a frequent destination for the truly hip, Frank Sinatra would hoist his Jack Daniel’s flag on the pole in his luxurious Movie Colony neighborhood. It was like a smoke signal to Frank’s cohorts—it was cocktail hour.

Today, the Coachella Valley is once again becoming a frequent destination for the truly hip—but in a younger way. There’s new blood pumping into the area, and instead of a Jack Daniel’s flag, the craft-beer flag is flying high.

Aug. 30 marks the first anniversary of Coachella Valley Brewing Company, and what a year it’s been. Most recently, CVB signed an agreement for statewide Arizona distribution with Young’s Market Company.

Head brewer and chief operating officer Chris Anderson attributes the company’s fast success to “quality beer matched with a quality brand—but most importantly, the hardworking team at the brewery.”

CVB has secured more than 100 tap handles in the Coachella Valley, and earlier this year was featured at the renowned Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (better known around the world simply as Coachella).

I asked David Humphrey, the company’s CEO, if he expected this rapid success.

“Hell no,” he declared. “Honestly, you’ve got to understand, I had no preconceived notions of how this was going to go.

“We made a lot of calculated, risky decisions—underline ‘calculated,’ I suppose—and just hoped that it worked, and so far, it’s totally blown away our expectations, and even other people’s expectations.”

One of those recent “risky” and “calculated” decisions is to start a sour program. Sours are a great option for hot-weather drinking, and they have a wine-like quality that may attract an even wider audience of drinkers.

Anderson has been preparing a wild yeast and bacteria blend that is almost 15 years in the making. Now that is calculated. It’s a blend of Roeselare, the Rodenbach strain, Cantillon, and Russian River sour yeast blends. It also includes Pediococcus Lambicus, three strains of Brettanomyces, and a lactic strain Anderson isolated back in Alaska while working at Midnight Sun.

Framboys is a framboise made with raspberries and locally grown boysenberries; it will be released in November. Flame Rouges will be available in January; it will be brewed with red-flame raisins, re-fermented in cabernet barrels. Epineux Poire is a prickly pear sour, aged in port barrels, and will be ready around April 2015. All of these offerings will only be made available to CVB’s Fault Line Society.

On the non-sour side, CVB recently released its Whopper, a 10.4 percent alcohol by volume imperial chocolate milk stout that was aged in Old Fitzgerald bourbon barrels for six months, and brewed with 98 percent cocoa Callebaut chocolate, as well as Ecuadorian cocoa nibs. Dark Candi Syrup and Vermont maple syrup bring even more warmth for a sweetly decadent and Sinatra-approved beer.

The Harvester IPA was recently tapped. Humphrey especially loved this batch.

“Harvester IPA turned out better than the first time,” he said. “We use grapefruit that was picked a day or two beforehand, and the freshness is all about the Harvester. I think that’s the best IPA we’ve done.”

CVB is also busy getting ready for the Great American Beer Festival, held in Denver in October. Coachella Valley Brewing was specially selected to pour and was also picked to present a special “Farm to Glass” concept with a tasting for 200 people.

“It’s great to have good beer,” Humphrey said. “And it’s great to be able to do the ‘farm to glass’ local angle, but you know, you really worry: Are you going to be able to make it out of your own backyard?

“I think where we took our time is to really think about the brand. … I think that it comes down to great beer, but also having an iconic brand, that is something that’s going to be exportable.”

Just a bit east in Palm Desert, the folks at La Quinta Brewing Co. are busy with new releases, a new brewery club and expanded distribution—which is impressive, considering that the brewery is not yet a year old.

La Quinta Brewing just released a new imperial stout, coming in at 8.3 percent alcohol (80 IBU), that’s only available in the taproom. The brewery will also release a brown ale in mid-September, and the brewery’s popular Koffi Porter will be released any day now.

La Quinta Brewery is also starting to barrel-age for the first time, beginning with its porter. It’s aging in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels and will be available in the fall.

Of course, La Quinta’s popular usual suspects—the Sandstorm Double IPA, Poolside Blonde and Indian Canyon IPA—remain available. La Quinta’s also busy taking memberships for the Inner Circle club. The brewery only had eight slots left as of this writing, so hurry while there’s still availability.

La Quinta is in approximately 45 local retail stores, including Albertson’s, Total Wine, LQ Wine, Jensen’s and Bevmo. Currently, the brewery is distributing within the Coachella Valley and Idyllwild, but should begin delivering beer outside of the valley within 60 days. La Quinta is currently in 115 bars and restaurants (with more than 160 tap handles), and in about 45 stores.

More good things are coming: La Quinta installed two additional fermenting vessels in July, increasing the current production capacity to near 3,000 barrels per year. The brewery’s tap room will also be installing a new walk-in cooler behind the bar to increase the number of beers on offer.

Heading south to Rancho Mirage, the valley’s veteran brewery, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, has big plans for the remainder of the year.

Upcoming releases include Das Schwein (The Pig), a dunkelweizen available through late September. In the fall, keep a look out for Fall Amber Rye IPA, due in October. Babe’s annual Winter Nipster will hit taps around Thanksgiving, so make sure you drop in for this tasty colder-weather, seasonal brew.

Starting Sept. 4, Babe’s will host Thursday Night Football with Team 1010 Sports radio—and will tie in a segment called Beer Scene, discussing the growing Coachella Valley craft-beer culture.

The brewhouse is also attending the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Keep a look out for Babe’s and the other breweries at the Ace Hotel’s Craft Beer weekend on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12 and 13. Join the local breweries and other popular craft brewers on Saturday afternoon for a pool party and barbecue with craft-beer tastings and live music. It’s ultra Palm Springs cool!

Published in Beer

Coming Soon: Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise

After many months of construction, Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise—located at 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, surrounding the Starbucks at the Tahquitz Canyon Way intersection—is getting closer to opening.

The signs for the much-delayed restaurant are up; several photos of the interior have been posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, too.

Gyoro Gyoro will be a sister restaurant to Oto-Oto, which includes locations in Monrovia and West Covina; and the Gyoro Gyoro in Encino. The menu posted online at otootorestaurant.com will make the mouth of any Japanese-food-lover water: A wide variety of sushi, sashimi, ramen dishes, rice clay-pot entrées and appetizers are listed, as are many other goodies.

There’s an interesting story behind Gyoro Gyoro and Oto-Oto. According to otootorestaurant.com, the restaurants are owned by Ramla Inc.: “Founded in Tokyo, Japan in 1980 by Akira Murakawa, Ramla has grown … into Tokyo’s third-largest restaurant operator. With 154 restaurants comprised of 32 brands, Ramla’s restaurants span a spectrum of cuisines ranging from traditional Japanese, to French, to Italian, to Spanish and more. … Ramla is embarking on an ambitious expansion into the U.S. with its plan to bring 150 Ramla-branded restaurants to American cities both large and small.”

Beyond Thai food, downtown Palm Springs is in serious need of more Asian-food offerings—so count us as excited. If you’re excited, too, follow Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise on Facebook for updates.

Now Open: Smoke Tree Supper Club

The Funkey Family has done it again: The folks behind Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta and downtown Palm Springs’ Bar have finally opened the much-anticipated Smoke Tree Supper Club.

The restaurant—located next to Giuseppe’s at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—appeals to lovers of grilled meat: In addition to starters and salads, the menu features reasonably priced steaks ($18 to $23), a 12-ounce pork porterhouse ($17) and slow-smoked baby-back ribs ($16), as well as a burger ($11), salmon ($16), a sea-scallop skewer ($16) and a pounded free-range chicken breast ($16). Prime rib—$26, with two sides—is the house specialty.

Vegetarians, take note: Aside from the aforementioned salads, you can enjoy a jumbo marinated portobello mushroom burger on a brioche bun ($10).

The Smoke Tree Supper Club is open for dinner every day but Monday. For more information, call 760-778-6521, or visit www.stsupperclub.com.

New: Nothing Bundt Cakes Opens in Palm Desert

Veteran Southern California chef Jeffrey Tropple, along with partner Ellie Koch, has opened the valley’s first Nothing Bundt Cakes location, at 72216 Highway 111, No. F-3, in Palm Desert.

Nothing Bundt Cakes is a chain, based in Las Vegas, with about 90 locations in 20 states. The Palm Desert location celebrated its “soft” opening on Friday, April 11.

The concept behind Nothing Bundt Cakes is simple: The bakery sells bundt cakes, 10 flavors of ’em (nine regular, with one flavor of the month thrown in), in various sizes. That’s it.

What Nothing Bundt Cakes does may be limited, yes, but they do what they do well: Store manager Lauren Bright offered us a sample of the cinnamon swirl cake, saying it was her favorite flavor. Why is the cinnamon swirl her favorite, as opposed to the carrot, or the red velvet, or the pecan praline?

“Because it’s amazing,” she said.

Turns out she was right: The moist, yellow cake with cinnamon, sugar and a signature frosting was indeed amazing. In fact, it was one of the best cakes we’ve had in the valley.

More good news: Tropple and Koch are celebrating the grand opening of their locally owned store by giving a little something back. On Friday, May 2, 20 percent of sales will go to local no-kill shelter Animal Samaritans.

For more information, call 760-346-3440, or visit www.nothingbundtcakes.com.

In Brief

While some restaurants have struggled in what is considered “downtown” Cathedral City—for example, Picanha Churrascaria never found its footing after moving from Palm Desert to 68510 Highway 111, next to the IMAX theater, before closing last year—fast food seems to be taking hold there: A Subway recently opened not too far from the Mary Pickford Theatre, and a Taco Bell is on its way. … Another sad note from downtown Cathedral City: Daniel Webster Jr., 44, the man who owned Big Mama’s Soul Food, has passed away, reportedly due to a heart condition. His highly regarded restaurant closed late last year. Our condolences go to Webster’s family and friends … Farm, the lovely breakfast/brunch place located in downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza, is expanding, sort of: Just around the corner is Farm 2, a spot that will be offering “super foods and juices.” … On Tuesday, April 8, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at 71800 Highway 111, No. A176, hosted the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Child Abuse Awareness Lunch at the center, located on the Eisenhower campus at 39000 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. The luncheon offered thanks to detectives, prosecutors and other professionals who fight child abuse.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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