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Tue09172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I’ll be honest: I’m not feeling very inspired this month.

My list of favorite cocktail places in the Coachella Valley hasn’t changed much this year. With the exception of the Del Rey (sorry for not covering you yet—it’s coming), it’s pretty much still the same seven or eight places. While there is no shortage of earnest people trying, I would like to be able to get a proper negroni or daiquiri before I can get something with beet juice and cachaça. You’ve got to crawl before you can walk, people.

We’re also in the middle of a ton of retrogrades and astrological horrors … and while I am not using that as an excuse, I think many of you can relate. So this month, you’re getting a thought piece on what it means to be a bartender—specifically, a bartender in the Coachella Valley.

I realized two insane truths recently: 1) Some guy named “Joe Pizzulo” sang “Never Gonna Let You Go” when I was certain it was James Ingram. 2) I can host an event, and people will show up. Seeing a crowd actually turn out for something as weird my “Tarot Workshop” at the fabulous Dead or Alive bar in Palm Springs was great … and exhausting.

This got me thinking about bartending, and the role of the bar and the bartender. I had a bar in front of me at Dead or Alive—as I always do at work. Could I have addressed a crowd without a bar in front of me?

What is the bar? Is it a stage? Is it a barrier? What is a bartender? What am I to you? When you look at me at the grocery store, like, “How do I know that guy?” it’s a little freaky. You don’t recognize me? Honestly, I talk to you three days a week for hours at a time. It must be like when I used to see a teacher out in public. She buys milk, too?!

The bar is like a sacred space, with the bartender as the shaman or priest. When one attends religious services, one (hopefully) leaves worldly problems at the door while walking into a sacred space. One does the same at a bar. The bar is a place of freedom and camaraderie, with the bartender being something like a friend—but a little removed, like a priest, or an actor, or something like that. I suppose this is why I wave at you, and you think, “How do I know that guy?”

It can be a lonely life, but luckily, we have other bartenders. Bartenders mostly hang out with bartenders, or other service-industry folk—maybe chefs here and there, or the server or host we’re dating … anyone who “gets it.” Is it any wonder that so few of us can make it long in this business … and if we do make it for a while, we never leave? It’s both a support system and a vicious circle. We spend a lot of time absorbing energy from everyone who walks in the door, and the rest of our time drinking over-proof rum and burdening other bartenders. We’re mostly introverted, and the question is: Were we introverted before we started? In my case, I can say “probably” … I was definitely the fat, nerdy kid, but I have always had a big mouth.

Of course, being a bartender in the Coachella Valley can be a little … different. Why does nearly every new-to-town entrepreneur seem to think you can bring in a consultant from San Francisco, an architect from Los Angeles and a manager from Brooklyn (who are all going to leave within six months) and succeed? Why not see what the local talent pool has to offer? There are many talented locals who would jump at the chance to take on a project. You want the good local people to work for you? Well, we take care of each other around here. No disrespect to the consultants—a lot of you are friends—but not everything that is a hit in the Meatpacking District will be a hit here.

The Coachella Valley could also use a more-robust nightlife scene. The number of questions I get every weekend in the range of, “So, what is, like … fun to do around here?” is in the dozens. Perhaps the tendency to drink by the pool all day or have bottomless mimosas is the real problem. That’s a pretty wicked combination. The fact that people occasionally bristle when I suggest a “gay bar” on a weekday (even if it’s a welcoming little spot like Retro Room—come on, people!) doesn’t help.

But there is hope. We have a new music venue, The Alibi, bringing cool and exciting acts to town (which you can read more about here), and an arcade and nostalgia bar called Glitch just getting rolling. (They’re both working on their cocktail programs as of writing, this so forgive my not talking about their drinks.) I am also aware there are new venues slated to open all over the place in the fall and winter … and that’s just in Palm Springs proper! In fact, the number of events and things to do has never been greater. FOMO is a real thing these days, and I hope to contribute to that in a small way.

So … get out there, people! If you’re a young bartender, it’s time to shine. Make your mark! The Coachella Valley needs you to step up—and I am just an email away if you’re in over your head.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week Returns May 31, With More Than 115 Participants

The bad news: Summer is almost here, meaning 100-degree temperatures will soon be a daily thing.

The good news: This also means Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is almost here.

The annual event will return for 10 days—that’s seven days shorter than Restaurant “Week” was last year, alas—of great deals at restaurants valley-wide, starting on May 31. Here’s how it works: Participants offer special prix-fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner. Lunches, with at least two courses, cost $15, $20 or $25, while dinner, with at least three courses, costs $29, $39 or $49.

As of now, 117 participating restaurants are listed on the Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week website—a record, I believe. And this year, there’s a very cool charitable hook: A lot of the participating restaurants are offering reservations to be made through the Restaurant Week website, and $1 from each reservation made via the website will be donated to the FIND Food Bank, thanks in part to the generosity of the week’s sponsors, Agua Caliente Casinos and Sysco Riverside.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll leave you with just a little advice: Go to the Restaurant Week website; do your research by perusing the participants’ menus; and plan your visits. A lot of the restaurants offer truly amazing deals; others … not so much. Remember: This year, you’ll only have 10 days rather than 17 to enjoy Restaurant Week!

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week takes place Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 9. For more information, including menus, visit www.visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/dinegps/restaurant-week.


Opening This Week: Tac/Quila, From the Owners of Farm Palm Springs

Liz and Mark Ostoich are lawyers by trade—but they’ve proven themselves to be amazingly good restaurateurs with Farm, located in downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza. Therefore, it’s very good news that they now have a second restaurant: Tac/Quila, located at 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive, which most recently housed Watercress Vietnamese Bistro.

“Farm allowed us to bring our love of the French countryside to a charming little courtyard, chock full of flowers and tucked away from the hustle and bustle,” reads a message from Liz and Mark Ostoich on the Tac/Quila website. “We love everything that has become Farm, but there was more to be said. So part of our life story involves food—but it also includes travel, history and, of course, tequila! Tac/Quila is our made-up word for combining gourmet Jalisco style cuisine with specialty tequilas and mezcals, in an effort to transport our guests south of the border and into a culture rich in flavor, color, art and authenticity.”

The pictures posted on the Tac/Quila Facebook page and website show a gorgeously renovated space—and the menu posted on the website made my mouth water. Three different kinds of ceviche? Yes, please.

Tac/Quila is slated to open Wednesday, April 24. For more information, including the menu, visit www.tacquila.com.


In Brief

Taco fans, take note: Plan on being at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa on Saturday, May 18, from 11 to 6 p.m., for the annual Morongo Taco Fest. Admission is $10, and 30 or so vendors will be selling $2 tacos. Lucha libre wrestling and live music will entertain, while tequila and margaritas will provide the buzz. Get information and tickets at morongocasinoresort.com. … New to Palm Springs: Glitch, a Southeast Asian restaurant and ’80s-style arcade. Wait, what? Let me check my notes … yep, that’s right. Wow. Enjoy items like num pang—that’s a Cambodian-style pork sandwich—while playing classic arcade games and table games. If you’re looking for something completely different, you’ll find it at 2080 N. Palm Canyon Drive; get more information at www.glitchpalmsprings.com. … New to Cathedral City: Romano’s, offering pizza, subs, salads and other goodies at 27800 Landau Blvd., at Vista Chino. Find more information and photos of the menu at www.facebook.com/Romanos-Pizza-373313373264165. … New to Rancho Mirage: Maria Jose Peruvian Gourmet, inside The Atrium at 69930 Highway 111. Check out the menu (including photos that made me very hungry) at www.mariajoseperuviangourmet.com. … Sad news: Desert Wines and Spirits, which had been located inside Go Deli at 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is no more. Happy news: In the whole space starting sometime in May will be Bouschet, a “wine and gourmet food experience.” Watch www.bouschet.com for updates. … New to Palm Desert, from the folks at longtime sushi restaurant Musashi: Ramen Musashi. Find it at 44491 Town Center Way, and get more information at ramenpalmdesert.com. … New to La Quinta: Palm Tree Palace. We couldn’t find an online presence for this new Chinese restaurant, so we recommend stopping by 79660 Highway 111 to get the details.

Published in Restaurant & Food News