CVIndependent

Sun12082019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Closed: Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

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

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

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

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


In Brief

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

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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

What: The bacon, tomato, fontina and basil panino

Where: Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café, 72990 El Paseo, Palm Desert

How much: $10

Contact info: 760-834-8814; www.clementineshop.com

Why: The pickles brighten things up nicely.

For the first couple of bites, it was simply a sandwich—a tasty sandwich made with great ingredients, yes, but still just a sandwich—that was pricey and on the small side.

And what was on the plate alongside said sandwich, frankly, wasn’t looking too great. The potato chips were unremarkable, and the vegetables, as you can see above, looked … well, past their prime, to say the least.

But then something possessed me to take a bite of one of those carrots … and I felt really, really stupid. I should have known better.

Turns out those pieces of carrot and broccoli were pickles—tart, vinegary pickles. And it turns out that those pickles served as a palate-cleanser, of sorts, that helped make subsequent bites of that sandwich sing.

Before a pickle, a bite of the sandwich was good, but dominated by bacon, with the other flavors well in the background. After a bite of pickle, the pesto jumped front and center, with the basil bright and floral. The fontina’s sweetness also came forward, and the bacon moved from being the only star to being one of the three ingredients on the sandwich marquee.

This visit to Clementine was my first, and it sure won’t be my last. The café part offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the gourmet-marketplace part offers all sorts of goodies, including a pasta bar, refrigerated foods (the soups got my attention), a deli and a patisserie that’ll add a half-inch to your waistline just by looking at it.

Who could have known that among all these great foods, some rough-looking pickles would be so important?

Published in The Indy Endorsement