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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival Grows in Its Second Year

When I talked to David Fraschetti about the inaugural Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival a year ago, he promised me that the fest, taking place at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park, at 71560 San Jacinto Drive, would feature great food—but the primary focus would be on the wine, with no booze, beer or cooking demonstrations.

“This is a marketing event for our wineries,” he told me. “… We’re not trying to be everything to everyone.”

Seeing as Fraschetti, a Coachella Valley resident, is also the organizer of the popular VinDiego Wine and Food Festival, it should come as no surprise that he apparently knew what he was doing—and that an expanded Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival will return this year, taking place Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

A couple of five-course wine dinners at restaurants will happen on Wednesday, Jan. 30, with the Rare and Reserve Tasting happening at the park on Friday, Feb. 1. But the main event is the grand tasting, taking place at the park on Saturday, Feb. 2.

“When we started doing this business seven years ago in San Diego, we had a great business plan: ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Fraschetti told me recently. “Last year really proved to be the same out here in the desert.”

This year’s grand tasting will feature 18 to 20 restaurants—most, but unlike last year, not all based in Rancho Mirage—and about 45 wineries.

Fraschetti said he loves the community aspect of the festival; related to that, a portion of the proceeds will again benefit the Desert AIDS Project.

“I live four minutes from the festival site,” Fraschetti said. “The people who come are neighbors of mine. Everybody seems to know everybody out here.”

Tickets to Saturday afternoon’s grand tasting start at $85. For tickets and more information, including a complete schedule, visit ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.comf.


Enzo’s Bistro and Bar Replaces the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar

So it’s a good-news, bad-news sort of thing.

The bad: The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar, which took over the old Crab Pot digs at 70030 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, has closed its doors. (It had no relation to the Fisherman’s Market and Grill locations in Palm Springs, Palm Desert and La Quinta, for the record.)

The good news: The space is now home to the second Enzo’s Bistro and Bar location.

The first Enzo’s opened at 78121 Avenida La Fonda in La Quinta last spring and has gathered a lot of great buzz. I have not yet had a chance to check out the “elegant and authentic” Italian fare at either location—but you can bet your bottom dollar I will soon.

Get more info at www.enzosbistroandbar.com.


In Brief

One of the culinary centerpieces of downtown Palm Springs’ redevelopment project is open: Il Corso, the much-liked Palm Desert-El Paseo Italian restaurant owned by chef Mario Marfia and, uh, indicted developer John Wessman has opened its second location at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 180; get info at ilcorsocv.com. … Save wildlife “one brew at a time,” according to the news release, at the 10th annual Brew at the Zoo event, happening at and benefiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, 47900 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert, at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9. Tickets start at $60 (for members) and $65 (nonmembers) and will get you access to more than 30 beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverage vendors; 10 food trucks will offer food for purchase. Designated drivers get in for just $20; call 760-346-5694 or visit www.livingdesert.org for tickets or details. … Celebrate the Academy Awards in style and support AAP Food Samaritans at the same time by heading to Trio Restaurant at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, for the annual “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” shindig. The event will sell out, so get your seats, starting at $125, ASAP at aidsassistance.org; you’ll get a six-course dinner and beverages with your reservation, and most of what you’ll pay is tax-deductible. Yay! … The River giveth, and The River taketh away. The Rancho Mirage shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, recently welcomed the second location of the locally owned Apong’s Philly Steak, while the only valley location of MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza Company, which was located at The River, has shut its doors. Learn more about the yumminess at Apong’s at apongsphillysteak.com. … This announcement brings me joy: Mariscocos Culiacan, one of my favorite valley seafood places, has opened a second location: In addition to the original Coachella location, there’s now one at 16760 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs. Yes! More info at www.facebook.com/mariscocosymaristorresculiacan760. … Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has recently made some nice changes—including the opening of 360 Sports, a big, beautiful sports bar and restaurant. Learn more at www.hotwatercasino.com/360-sports-bar.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Best Auto Service for Honesty’s Sake

Cam Stone’s Automotive

Cam Stone’s Automotive in Palm Desert is the kind of auto-service shop every woman dreams of—at least women (and men) like me who know little to nothing about car repairs.

The people at Cam’s do good work, are honest, and never seem to recommend anything you don’t really need. And if money’s really tight … you can ask them what absolutely, positively has to be done; they’ll let you know how far you can push the part you can’t afford to have replaced today before a major mishap occurs.

Guy Allchin (pictured here with his family), who runs it, and Karl, his excellent sidekick, are straight-up guys who explain things so you can understand them and so you can make the best decisions to keep your wheels on the road. 74867 Velie Way, Palm Desert; 760-568-2999; camstonesautomotive.com.

—Anita Rufus


Best Sandwiches Inside a Convenience/Liquor Store

Larry’s Gourmet Market and Deli

From the outside, Larry’s Gourmet Market and Deli looks like a run-of the-mill liquor store, selling the usual stuff. But … go inside, and you’ll see Larry’s is an unexpected, family-run treasure chest.

For one thing, the deli is really good. We’ve enjoyed everything we’ve gotten there, but our favorite is the meat-filled Don Veto specialty sandwich (pictured here).

Larry’s also has a variety of interesting gourmet items you might not find elsewhere. One example: On a recent trip, we got a box of delicious rose-flavored Turkish delight candy.

Along with a nice variety of beer and hard liquor, Larry’s carries a respectable wine selection that goes from very cheap to the $100-a-bottle range. There’s even a refrigerated wine room in the back that feels great in the heat of summer.

Just don’t go to Larry’s looking for lottery tickets. They don’t sell them … which, for us, classes up the place. 2781 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-832-7188; larrysgourmetmarket.com.

—Jeffrey Clarkson


Best Place to Avoid If You’re Arachnophobic

The VW Spider on Indian Canyon Drive at Interstate 10

When you’re driving by, you can’t help but notice the massive spider looming large in front of a warehouse with “Hole in the Wall” emblazoned across the front. And you may have wondered, like me: What? How? Why?

After some sleuthing, I discovered that the 28-foot high, eight-legged hunk of metal formerly fronted a Volkswagen repair shop, Hole in the Wall Welding. The enormous recycled artwork (the spider body is a full-size VW bug) was created by owner/welder/mechanic/desert rat Bob Miner, who passed away in 2008. The repair shop no longer exists, but Bob’s family still resides in the warehouse.

If you’re into kitsch and not afraid of creepy crawlers, this hairy-legged arachnid is a quirky must-see landmark. If you are afraid … avoid Indian Canyon Drive (next to Jack in the Box), just south of the Interstate 10.

—Beth Allen


Best Place to Pretend You’re on the Set of a David Lynch Movie

Open-Mic Night at the Palms Restaurant in Wonder Valley

The Palms is one of those middle-of-nowhere places that’s really a groovy hangout. It’s a throwback, with very affordable booze—$1.50 for a can of Pabst beer; $3 for a domestic bottle; shots starting at $4—and cheap tasty, eats (the onion rings and fried zucchini are delish), all in an atmosphere that’s weathered, worn-in, kooky and cool.

Every Friday at 7 p.m. (with signups starting at 6:30), The Palms hosts an open-mic night, where there’s a good chance reality may become fuzzy—all in the name of “entertainment.” Spoken word, comedic acts, genuinely gifted musicians, not-so-gifted musicians … there’s something for everyone. You may witness folks like “Grannie”—a toothless senior in a cute wig and cowboy hat—crooning “Stand by Me,” a cappella, in a gruff, “I’ve been smoking a pack a day for the last 60 years” voice. The Palms’ open mic is truly strange and endearing at the same time. The Palms Restaurant, 83131 Amboy Road, Wonder Valley; 760-361-2810. (Pictured: Guitar-player Karl Van Dyke performs at The Palms’ open-mic night. Photo courtesy of Joseph Barrett.)

—Beth Allen


Best Tapas and Wine Hideout

Counter Reformation at the Parker Palm Springs

With its semi-mandatory valet parking, fancy-schmancy main restaurant and well-heeled celebrity clientele, the Parker Palm Springs can be a bit intimidating … despite the hotel’s ostensible casual-hip vibe. However, we’re madly in love with Counter Reformation, the hotel’s cozy wine bar, featuring friendly service and great music.

The door to the bar is hard to find—head toward the pool and take a left—but discovering this well-designed and inventively Catholic-themed spot is serendipity. The wine choices are not extensive, but the selections are diverse and interesting enough. And at the prices … well, at the Parker, at least, they’re bargains.

We’ve sampled about half of the tapas on the menu, and everything so far has been delicious. These small plates, along with the free loaves of fresh-baked bread and the complimentary olives and cornichons, can make for a filling meal … a meal you can partially work off during the walk back to your self-parked car on the street outside. 4200 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-770-5000; www.parkerpalmsprings.com/food-and-drink. (Pictured: The Jamón Iberico at Counter Reformation.)

—Jeffrey Clarkson


Best New Band

Mega Sun

Mega Sun arrived in early 2018—and the group quickly earned the admiration of the local music scene.

The band’s sound reminds of stoner rock, circa the early ’90s, and the group’s live shows are always loud and fantastic.

The power trio is currently in the process of completing some recordings. I’m excited to see what this band will do in 2019 … and beyond.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Album

Throw the Goat, The Joke’s On Us

Throw the Goat had a great year in 2018 after finishing off 2017 on a mind-blowing note: The group won a contest, as announced on New Year’s Eve 2017, put on by Dave Ellefson of Megadeth to release an album on his Combat Records label. The Joke’s On Us was released shortly thereafter.

The name of the album is a reference to the presidency of Donald Trump and has political themes. Produced and recorded by guitarist Brian “Puke” Parnell, the album shows the band going heavier with more punk. It’s a great example of a musical evolution.

While Throw the Goat might confuse audiences who question whether the band is punk or metal, we can all agree: The Joke’s On Us is a great album.

—Brian Blueskye


Best All-Female Band

The After Lashes

I have enjoyed watching the all-female four-piece band The After Lashes improve its sound over the course of 2018; in fact, every time I take in one of the group’s shows, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much the talented band has improved since I first saw The After Lashes.

Why has the band improved? The members of The After Lashes put in the work. Combine that hard work with talent, attitude and energy, and The After Lashes are amazing.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Pizza Joint You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Pizzeria Bambinos

I’m kind of shocked that Pizzeria Bambinos wasn’t a Best Pizza finalist this year. But then again … this fantastic pizza joint seems to be flying under the figurative radar. In fact, it may be the valley’s best kept pizza secret.

Maybe it has to do with the location; this small pizzeria is tucked away in the same shopping plaza as Big Lots in Cathedral City, and has limited seating … but it makes fantastic pizza, with other delicious options as well. 69040 Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City; 760-770-0505; pizzeriabambinos.com.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Comfort Food in a Desert Dining Wasteland

Two Guys Pies

I moved to Morongo Valley a year ago from the Bay Area … and my taste buds have been suffering terribly in this desert wasteland. Nearby Yucca Valley is more of a mecca for fast food (including ridiculous overexcited buzzing about the recent opening of a Popeye’s Chicken) than any sort of place for fine dining. However, all is not lost.

I am in the midst of a comfort foodgasm over my discovery of Two Guys Pies, aka TGP. Specializing in brick oven ’za, Guy and Guy, the two guys behind Two Guys Pies, promote rock ’n’ rolling all night and ’za-ing every day. Their double-decker pepperoni pizza ranked 24th in the world at an international pizza expo just last year!

Aside from the delicious pizza, Two Guys has salads, pastas and sandwiches … all with creative rockin’ names like Sound Tomato Garden, Bon Chovies, The Hungry Rollins Band, Spinach Tap, Weird Al-Fredo, Run DMCaesar, etc. The Basket Case bread balls with Love Potion No. 9 dipping sauce are an absolute must-have.

It’s hard for me to refrain from eating at TGP every night. My only complaint: It closes at 4 p.m. on Sundays. 56969 Yucca Trail; Yucca Valley; 760-418-5075; 2guyspies.com. (Pictured: A Two Guys Pies employee hard at work. Photo by Shawn Smith.)

—Beth Allen


Best Local Event for Car Lovers

McCormick’s Palm Springs Collector Car Auctions

Keith McCormick is a classic-car guru, and whether you’re looking for a rare foreign vehicle or a domestic beauty from the ’50s, a Porsche or a Corvette, chances are you can find one at McCormick’s showroom on Indian Canyon Drive downtown Palm Springs—or at his twice-a-year car auction.

McCormick is an import himself: He moved from the outskirts of Liverpool in England to Palm Springs in 1981.

“I’ve been into the cars since I was 18,” he said. “Moving my exotic car biz here was a no brainer: It was the same (here) as in England, except for the sunshine and no rain over here.”

In 1985, he put together the Palm Springs Vintage Grand Prix and Concours d’Elegance show to help promote local tourism.

“We raced the vintage cars where now the new Convention Center is,” he said, proudly pointing out that he himself owns a cool Ferrari 488 GTB.

The McCormick family—with his wife and son, Jason, working alongside—has put together 65 Palm Springs Collector Car Auctions so far. The event is held twice a year, in February and November, with more than 500 cars at each event.

The McCormicks sell and ship cars all over the world, from Japan to Germany.

“We have sold Sinatra’s, Liberace’s and Elvis’ cars—even the Batmobile,” McCormick said with a grin. “Classic cars are like art to me—it’s like looking at ‘Mona Lisa,’ but a lot less expensive.” www.classic-carauction.com. (Pictured: Keith McCormick. Photo by Brane Jevric.)

—Brane Jevric


Best Artery-Clogging Meal

The Disco Superfries at Blackbook

If you’ve ever been hungry while in downtown Palm Springs, you know there are many, many options for food … but when my friends and I are in the mood to be bad, we always pick the cardiac special of disco superfries at Blackbook on Arenas Road.

These little yummies are a home run every time. Think nachos … but instead of chips, you get fries! That’s right—fresh fries topped with gooey cheese, sour cream, tomatoes and hot sauce.

You can share them, or you can make them a meal—you get a whole small cookie sheet of them! Warning: This is an item that’s just begging to be shared, so even if you’re alone and intend the superfries to be your meal … you will always have “friends” magically appear, even if you didn’t bring any with you. 315 Arenas Road, Palm Springs; 760-832-8497; blackbookbar.com.

—Dwight Hendricks


Best Karaoke

Peabody’s Café

The Coachella Valley is certainly not suffering from a lack of talented professional singers. But if you’re not a professional … it’s hard to carry your shower out on the town with you, so check out Peabody’s Café on Friday and Saturday nights for karaoke.

Even if you don’t want to croon yourself, you can kick back and hear some great singers … and some not-so-great singers. There is a great music selection, and the DJ is a nice guy. The fun starts at 7:30 p.m., but get there early—it fills up fast!

Enjoy the menu and bar while you’re waiting for your turn on the mic; Peabody’s has killer Bloody Mary’s. Heck, bring your friends and make a night of it! 134 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-1877; www.peabodyscafeandbar.com.

—Dwight Hendricks


Best Weekend Culinary Classes

Wabi Sabi Japan Living

One of my favorite places to hang out is Wabi Sabi Japan Living. It may sound weird that I like to hang out at a small Japanese-goods store, but don’t judge.

Not only does Wabi Sabi have great merchandise; the owners, Darrell and Sam, offer amazing classes on how to enjoy and use their products. Check out the website for dates and times; the classes are usually held on Saturday afternoons. I have been to the bonsai tree and ramen classes … but I have yet to attend the class I want to take most of all: the sushi-making class. You learn how to make three rolls by actually making them … then you get to eat them! You have to sign up early; the class fills up quickly. Wabi Sabi also offers sake and Japanese-grilling classes.

Not only do Darrell and Sam know what they are talking about; you can feel their passion. Take note: Wabi Sabi is set back off of the road a bit; look for the Rising Sun flags. 258 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-537-3838; www.wabisabijapanliving.com.

—Dwight Hendricks


Best Seafood Towers and Tostadas

Mariscoco’s Culiacan

Because I am a west valley resident, I don’t get down to the east valley that much … but I can tell you that an east valley trip is coming soon. In fact, it’s probably already happened by the time you’ve read this.

The reason: I have a huge, honking hankering for the food at Mariscoco’s Culiacan.

The last time I was at this Coachella mainstay, I ordered the tostada especial (pictured here): an individual-sized plate of delicious, fresh and cool seafood, including shrimp, abalone, octopus, fish, sea snail and scallops—plus cucumbers, onion, avocado and other ingredients—all mixed in with Mariscoco’s special smoky-tasting sauce. It was really, really good.

Still, I looked longingly at the seafood towers—including many of the aforementioned ingredients, and then some—as they went by to other tables. These huge creations are meant for more than one mere mortal … so next time I go to Mariscoco’s, I won’t be going alone.

Hey, west valley friends: How about a short road trip? We can meet our east valley friends at Mariscoco’s. 51683 Harrison (Cesar Chavez) St., Coachella; 760-398-5666; www.facebook.com/mariscocosymaristorresculiacan760.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

What: The tostada especial

Where: Mariscoco’s Culiacan, 51683 Harrison (Cesar Chavez) St., Coachella

How much: $11.99

Contact: 760-398-5666; www.facebook.com/mariscocosymaristorresculiacan760

Why: The freshness and the impeccable flavor.

A while back, a friend told me about the most amazing Mexican seafood place in Coachella. I remembered part of the distinctive name—Mariscoco’s—so when I recently found myself in Coachella during lunch time, I looked the place up.

Boy, am I glad I did: The lunch was one of the tastiest meals I have had in months.

Seafood, obviously, is the focus at Mariscoco’s, and the restaurant is renowned for its seafood towers. However, these towers are meant for more than one individual, even if said individual is quite hungry, as I was. The helpful server pointed me in the figurative direction of the tostada especial—a smaller, meant-for-one dish containing most of the same ingredients as the most-popular towers.

The plate that arrived a short time later was a thing of beauty: cucumbers, onion, shrimp, abalone, octopus, fish, sea snail, scallops and other ingredients sat atop a tostada, with another tostada gently placed on top. The plate also included some fresh avocado, a bit of mango, and a couple of orange slices—and everything sat in Mariscoco’s smoky, savory “special sauce.”

The plate’s beauty was topped only by its flavor: Everything tasted impeccably fresh and delicious. The crunch of the cucumber, the sweetness of the shrimp, the smoothness of the avocado, the tartness of the citrus in the special sauce—it all came together masterfully. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out what an amazing deal this is: $11.99 for this much great seafood?! Amazing.

The only thing that could have made it better would have been a chavela (which I could have ordered, but I didn’t because it was a work day) and a beach (which, alas, is not available at Mariscoco’s Culiacan). Otherwise, this was a perfect lunch—one I can’t stop thinking about.

Published in The Indy Endorsement