CVIndependent

Sun09222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

At Long Last: O’Caine’s Irish Pub Is Finally Open in Rancho Mirage

It seems like as long as there’s been a city called Rancho Mirage, O’Caine’s Irish Pub has been under construction.

OK, I am exaggerating here, but I do so to make a point: The bar and restaurant at 36101 Bob Hope Drive—that’s the shopping center Gelson’s is in—has been “coming soon” for a really long time. But finally, the wait is over: O’Caine’s opened in March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

You’ll find the beer and cocktails one would expect to find at an Irish pub, and O’Caine’s menu offers tasty-sounding fare like sausage rolls, king salmon, bangers with mashed potatoes, fish and chips—and, of course, corned beef and cabbage (with bacon, too!) and shepherd’s pie.

“Chef Gavin’s menu offers high-quality, freshly crafted dishes, which reflect the authentic flavors of Ireland. We work with local vendors to procure the freshest ingredients and to source organic, non-GMO, sustainable items for the menu,” the website says.

We’ll be in soon to check things out with our own eyes. For more information, call 760-202-3311, or visit ocainesirishpub.com.


Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta Opens in La Quinta, Boosting the Local Craft-Beer Scene

In 2013, the valley’s nascent craft-beer scene got a boost when the number of local breweries tripled—that is, went from one to three—with the openings of Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and La Quinta Brewing Co. The future of craft beer in the Coachella Valley was looking bright and promising.

Today, in 2019, the number of local breweries is … still three.

Yeah, there have been endless rumors about other breweries popping up, and La Quinta Brewing has expanded its footprint by opening two taprooms in addition to its flagship Palm Desert location. Revel Public House has started the Palm Springs Brewing Company—although the handful of beers with that moniker are actually as of now brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works. In other words, there has been some progress in the local beer world—but the fact, is the number of companies actually making beer locally has stayed the same for almost six years.

However, that number will finally be increasing. Desert Beer Company will be opening this year in Palm Desert, according to its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/desertbeerco). And then there’s Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta.

The restaurant and brewery recently opened at 78772 Highway 111, in La Quinta—a site that has some local beer history, as it was once the site of Lamppost Pizza and Backstreet Brewery. It’s a project of two Yucaipa-based businesses: Tuscano’s Pizza and Pasta, and Brewcaipa.

As of now, Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta aren’t brewing any beer onsite. However, according to the Coachella Valley Beer Scene (CVBeerscene.com), that will soon change.

“In the early days, they’ll be bringing beer in from Yucaipa, brewed by none other than our local valley friend and beer writer, Aaron Ramson,” writes CVBeerscene.com. “Aaron has been the head brewer at Brewcaipa for a little over a year, and was formerly the assistant brewer at Babe’s. They plan to put a brewery in the La Quinta location within six months.”

This is all very exciting news for the local beer scene—and we’ll keep you updated as it develops.

For more information on Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta, call 760-625-1129, or visit www.facebook.com/TuscanosBrewQuinta.


In Brief

The Ingleside Inn, at 200 W. Ramon Road, in Palm Springs, has changed management—and that means so, too, has Melvyn’s Restaurant. Out is the PlumpJack Group, owned by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s family; in is the team that also runs the nearby Avalon Hotel. Executive Chef Jennifer Town has departed, and Melvyn’s is now being run by Jason Moffitt, the executive chef at the Avalon. … Congrats to Chelsi Bishop, the manager of the Ben and Jerry’s store at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage: She has been named by the corporate office as the nationwide Manager of the Year. Congrats! … The Steakhouse at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has a new executive chef. Kenneth Williams’ resumé includes a stint at Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas, where he helped open the Bellagio; most recently, he worked as the executive chef of theme park operations at Universal Studios Hollywood. Get more information at www.hotwatercasino.com/steakhouse. … New to 73130 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Kitchen 86 + Bar, a “modern eclectic small plate restaurant.” The menu includes all sorts of “sharables” including various dumplings, rosemary lamb chops and boom-boom shrimp, while “mains” include a cowboy rib eye and a house curry. View the menu and more at www.kitchen-86.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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

Rancho Mirage’s Fox and Fiddle to Morph Into Dringk Eatery + Bar

The Fox and Fiddle is going out with 2017 … and in its place, 2018 will bring Dringk Eatery + Bar.

The Fox and Fiddle opened in February 2017 at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, and was touted as one of the valley’s only English-style pubs. It also brought with it some name recognition, seeing as there are Fox and Fiddle pubs in Canada—and, of course, many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Coachella Valley.

However, some 10 months later, the English-pub concept was to be no more, as of the close of business on Saturday, Dec. 23. On New Year’s Eve, Dringk—with the same owners—was slated to be born.

What, exactly, is Dringk? Its shtick, according to the website, is centered on $5 drinks, with food being offered at $5, $10 and $15 price points.

Wait, what? $5 drinks? Like, all the time? “Yes, you can drink mules, beers, margaritas (and) Dringk cocktails for $5 all day long,” the website says, before going on to insist that all drinks will have a minimum of a 1.5-ounce pour.

As for the eats: “Our food is high-quality and sourced to be from the best without added junk,” the website says. “Our hamburger meat is the top we could find; breads (are) made from a locally sourced baker; and when possible, we serve organic and GMO-free. We want you to love our food and trust we put the effort in to make sure we are providing you with tasty dishes that will have you coming back for more.”

For more information on Dringk, call 760-888-0111, or watch that aforementioned website, dringkbar.com.


So Long, Bar: The Palm Springs Restaurant and Watering Hole Closes Its Doors

Bar—the charming bar, restaurant and music venue known for its fantastic drinks and provocative murals at 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—closed its doors for good on Saturday, Dec. 2.

While the closure was heartbreaking to many (including yours truly; Bar was one of my personal favorites, thanks in part to Bar having the best damn whiskey sour in the valley), it was no surprise: The owners had known the end was near for a good year and a half, as the landlord has been making plans to tear down the building, apparently to build yet another new hotel in downtown Palm Springs.

Bar was owned by the Funkey family, the members of which are certainly keeping themselves busy: In addition to running Smoke Tree BBQ and Giuseppes in Palm Springs, they recently switched their Palm Desert space, at 73850 Highway 111, from a Smoke Tree into a Giuseppes. Watch giuseppesps.com for updates on that.

Meanwhile … if you know of a place ’round these parts that makes an amazing whiskey sour, drop me a line.


In Brief

New to Cathedral City: Restaurant and Pupuseria Claudia, located at 68100 Ramon Road, at the intersection of Landau Boulevard. The place serves a variety of pupusas—a Salvadoran dish featuring thick corn tortillas stuffed with various ingredients—as well as another half-dozen-plus dishes. I tried to stop in and check it out for lunch one recent day, but the place was closed without explanation. Yeah, this is something that understandably happens at small, family-owned places from time to time—but I was disappointed nonetheless. I’ll check it out again here soon—but I’ll call 760-534-0594 before I go just to be safe. … New to the northern portion of Palm Springs: 4 Paws Coffee Co., located at 2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The pet-friendly place opened in early November, and serves coffee, tea, sandwiches and the like. (An aside: It’s exciting to see this long-decrepit shopping center, at the intersection of Racquet Club Road, being revitalized with the addition of new tenants including 4 Paws, the Escape Room Palm Springs and Venezia Restaurant and Pizzeria.) For more info on 4 Paws, type www.facebook.com/4pawscoffeeco into your Internet browser of choice. … New to the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort and Spa, located at 45000 Indian Wells Lane in—you guessed it!—Indian Wells: Citrus and Palm. The revamped resort restaurant has a self-described “farm-to-fork aesthetic.” Executive chef Paul Hancock is “(featuring) fresh local cuisine that is both healthy and delicious … utilizing items grown on property as well as sourced from local farm partners,” according to the restaurant website. Want more info? Head to that very website at www.citrusandpalmrestaurant.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Three New Places Coming Soon From Local Restaurant Greats

In the coming months, at least three new restaurants are slated to open their doors in the Coachella Valley that are owned by veteran local restaurateurs.

In order of anticipated opening:

Acqua California Bistro—at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Palm Desert—finally opened its doors to customers on Thursday, July 27.

A little history: Jerry and Barbara Keller got into the local restaurant business with Acqua Pazza California Bistro, located at The River, well before they opened their wildly popular Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs in August 2011. However, when the lease for Acqua Pazza expired in December 2014, the Kellers decided to walk away after 10 years, citing a desire to slow down and focus on Lulu.

BB’s at the River, owned by Jack Srebnik—who also owns The Slice and Maracas—soon opened in the space, but closed last year due to a lack of business. The owners of The River then did a very smart thing: They talked the Kellers into returning, and last September, they announced that Acqua California Bistro would open sometime in the winter.

Winter then turned to spring, which then turned to summer, without an opening date; Keller cited construction issues, in part due to the restaurant’s expansion, as one reason for the delay. However, opening time is finally here; to work out kinks, the restaurant served invited “pre-opening” guests July 22-24. (I was fortunate enough to be one of the guests, and the service and food were both top-notch—a good sign for a pre-opening meal, when the staff is still learning.)

If you know the menu at Lulu, then you know what to expect at Acqua, including the popular three-course menu for $19.99, and the all-day happy hour at the bar. As for the décor, the Kellers bumped things up a notch, including a sculpture featuring various colored forks out front, made by Karen and Tony Barone.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/AcquaRanchoMirage.

• A mile or two away in Palm Desert, crews are hard at work preparing AC3 Restaurant + Bar, at 45400 Larkspur Lane—just off El Paseo—for an anticipated fall opening.

AC3 is a joint project by some of the minds behind two of Palm Springs’ most popular restaurants: Tony Marchese of Trio Restaurant, and Andrew Copley and Juliana Copley from Copley’s Restaurant. The description on the AC3 Facebook page sums things up nicely: They’re “teaming up to pair the distinctive style of Trio’s hip local vibe with Chef Andrew’s vibrant progressive cooking.”

While no menu information has been posted yet, we know the décor will include the colorful work of young Rancho Mirage artist Nicholas Kontaxis.

Visit www.facebook.com/ac3palmdesert for more information, including pictures of some of Kontaxis’ art. Head on over to ac3palmdesert.com to sign up for emailed updates.

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine has gained an increasing number of fans since opening early this year at 72695 Highway 111, Suite A6, in Palm Desert—and owner John Tsoutis delighted his restaurant’s west valley devotees when he announced in mid-July that a second Evzin would be opening in Palm Springs in October.

Despite serious grilling from friends and fans on Facebook, Tsoutis—as of our press deadline—had not revealed the location of the Palm Springs Evzin; he did, however, say it would be part of a hotel. Hmm.

Watch www.facebook.com/Evzinrestaurant for updates.


Details Revealed Regarding Restaurants at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs

The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, at 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way—part of the huge and controversial downtown redevelopment project—will be opening sometime in the fall, and we now have information about the restaurants that will call it home.

According to the news release: “Juniper Table, a casual all-day Mediterranean café, and 4 Saints, an intimate hideaway on the rooftop, will serve bold, chef-driven cuisine under the direction of executive chef Stephen Wambach, along with an extensive cocktail, beer and wine program. … Prior to joining Juniper Table and 4 Saints, he led the Four Seasons Chicago as executive chef, revamping Allium to receive three stars from the Chicago Tribune, in addition to being awarded the esteemed Esquire ‘Best New Restaurant’ award for his work at Epic in Chicago.”

Juniper Table “will be a vibrant upscale-casual eatery featuring rustic, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine spotlighting seasonal and organic ingredients,” according to the release, while 4 Saints’ menu “includes sharable plates that reflect internationally inspired ingredients, such as foie gras bread and butter, paring autumn flavors with salted caramel apple, Thai long pepper and gingerbread.”

Sounds fancy!

Watch the restaurants’ respective websites—www.junipertable.com and www.4saintspalmsprings.com—for updates.


In Brief

If you somehow missed the social media freak-out surrounding the news: A Krispy Kreme is supposed to come to Rancho Mirage in a yet-to-be-built development near Dinah Shore Drive and Monterey Avenue. The opening date, however, is at least a year away. … Our friends at Dish Creative Cuisine, 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, have launched new menus both in the bar and dining room. The new creations by Joane Garcia-Colson and team include fried langoustine ravioli ($9) in the bar. Yum! Visit www.dishcreativecuisine.com for more information.

Updated July 27

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Everything Old Is New Again: Acqua California Bistro to Open at The River

When Acqua Pazza California Bistro closed at The River back in December 2014, owner Jerry Keller told the local daily that he was ending Acqua Pazza’s 10-year run because his lease was up, and he had decided it was time for him to slow down and focus on his other restaurant, the wildly successful Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs.

Keller has apparently decided it’s time to speed up again: Acqua Pazza is coming back … sort of.

Jerry and Barbara Keller, along with The River, announced on Sept. 12 that Acqua California Bistro will open in the old Acqua Pazza space—most recently occupied by the now-shuttered BB’s at The River—this winter.

“There’s not a day that goes by when we meet someone who misses our first restaurant at The River,” said Jerry Keller in a news release. “Our customers have asked us to come back to Rancho Mirage, and we will this winter with Acqua California Bistro.”

Whatever the owners of The River did to lure the Kellers back, it was shrewd. The Rancho Mirage shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, has been battered by negative buzz, due to various closures and empty storefronts.

“We are very excited to welcome Acqua California Bistro into our mix of retail shopping, dining and entertainment experiences, and of course, to welcome the Keller family back to Rancho Mirage,” said Ungar Kung, the principal at CL Asset Management, the owners’ representative of The River, in a could-only-be-said-in-a-press-release statement. “Acqua Pazza was an important destination restaurant during the first 15 years or so in The River’s history. I am confident that the Kellers will bring the same energy and excitement back to this location with their new Acqua California Bistro.”

Expect a December opening. Visit www.facebook.com/AcquaRanchoMirage for details and updates.


Taste of Palm Springs Returns to Colony 29 on Oct. 11

Every year, the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce puts on the 2016 Business Expo and Taste of Palm Springs. The good folks there will like you to know that the annual Business Expo—which takes place at the Colony 29, nestled against the mountain at 147 S. Tahquitz Drive, in Palm Springs—will feature more than 100 businesses showing off products and services from 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11.

OK, well, that’s nice. But what about … you know, the Taste of Palm Springs part? Here’s the scoop: More than 30 area restaurants will offer bites of their fare, along with beer and wine—and there’s a cocktail bar there to boot.

Now we’re talking!

Admission to the event is technically free, but you’ll want to pay $25 for a wristband that allows you to enjoy the food, beer and wine. Also, a tip: Park at one of the downtown garages, and get to and from the festival at Colony 29 by catching one of the special Buzz trollies at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Cahuilla Road, or Palm Canyon Drive and Baristo Road.

Participating bars and restaurants are slated to include Appetito, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, Frankinbun, Lulu California Bistro, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, Ruby’s Diner, Sherman’s Delicatessen and Bakery, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, TRIO, Woody’s Palm House and a whole bunch more!

Get those wristbands and more information by calling 760-325-1577, or visiting pschamber.org.


In Brief

Man, a lot of good stuff is coming to the 1000s section of North Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs—including Draughtsman, at what used to be a Pizza Hut at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The “renderer of fine foods and craft beer” should open within a month or two. Visit www.facebook.com/draughtsmanpalmsprings for photos, details and updates. … What’s going on at Rocky’s New York Style Pizzeria, at 12856 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs? The place often closes for the summer—but last we looked, not only is Rocky’s still closed; the inside has been gutted. When you call Rocky’s phone number, a message reassures callers that Rocky’s will reopen in the fall. Hmmm. Something either really bad or really good is happening; we’ll keep our eye on things. … Fans of donuts and good coffee, rejoice! Dunkin Donuts is supposed to open sometime in October at 42225 Jackson St., in Indio. … It’s been a rough couple of months for mid-valley chain restaurants. Both Richie’s Real American Diner, inside the Westfield Palm Desert at 72840 Highway 111, and Johnny Rockets, at 71885 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, have closed their doors. … Keep your eyes on the space at 73330 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Yard House Restaurants founder Steele Platt announced on Facebook that he is working on Grafton’s Steakhouse, slated to open in the summer of 2017. It’ll be a two-story restaurant with an island bar, a rooftop deck with mountain views, and all sorts of premium meats. We shall keep you posted. … Tickets are now on sale for the Palm Desert Food and Wine festival, slated for March 24-26, 2017. Head to palmdesertfoodandwine.com to get ’em; grand tasting tickets start at $100. 

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Pho 533 Expands, Adds a Spring Roll Bar

About a year and a half ago, Chad Gardner—known for his fantastic Dash and a Handful Catering business—purchased longtime old-school Vietnamese restaurant Pho 533, located at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive.

What a difference 18 month makes: On Tuesday, Aug. 30, Pho 533 will emerge from a month-long closure as a completely different place.

First, Gardner has doubled Pho 533’s size while also revamping the menu. Second, he’s added a cocktail bar. Third, he’s added a 10-seat spring roll bar.

Yes, that’s right … a spring roll bar.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Pho 533 offered a sneak preview to the Palm Springs Eating and Living Facebook group—and the new digs are gorgeous.

The food’s pretty amazing, too. The new spring roll menu includes 10 different types of rolls, featuring everything from mango to chicken to lobster to mushrooms. The samples of the spring rolls being created—“hand rolled to order,” thank you very much—at that aforementioned spring roll bar were delicious. I got a bite or two of the spicy tuna roll ($16), which comes with sashimi-grade tuna mixed with pickled ginger, shirataki noodles, cilantro, lettuce, cucumber, sesame seeds and the house sriracha mayo. Let’s just say I am looking forward to enjoying my own spicy tuna roll, and don’t expect me to be in a sharing mood.

As for the drinks coming out of the new bar: The event featured the tequila “buoi”—Pho 533’s version of the paloma—which includes Arette blanco tequila, Bundaberg grapefruit soda, lime and salt. Tasty, indeed.

For more information, visit Pho 533’s Facebook page or website for more information.


Coming Soon: Umami Seoul Korean BBQ and Japanese Cuisine

We have a good-news, bad-news situation here.

First, the bad news: Thai Kitchen 1, which was located at 67555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City, has closed. Thai Kitchen 1 was one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the valley, and I learned the restaurant had closed the hard way: When I called the restaurant to get some takeout, I got that dreaded message: “Beep beep BEEP! We’re sorry. You have reached a number has been disconnected or is no longer in service.”

Now, the good news: The folks who owned downtown Palm Springs’ Wasabi for many years are opening Umami Seoul Korean BBQ and Japanese Cuisine in that spot.

“How did we come up with the name Umami Seoul?” the restaurant’s website asks. “We wanted to combine both our Japanese and Korean influences into one. Umami means savory in Japanese, using and challenging all of your senses to create a truly ‘umami’ experience. Seoul is our hometown city in Korea and the place that has inspired all of our Korean cuisine.”

The online menu promises various appetizers, sushi rolls and Korean specialties. Yum!

The restaurant should be open any day now; heck, it may be open by the time you read this. Stop by, or visit www.umamiseoul.com and www.facebook.com/umamiseoulps for updates and more information.


In Brief

Fans of the Augustine Casino’s restaurants—Café 54 and the Menyikish Bar and Grill—take note: The entire casino will be closed from Monday, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Oct. 16. The Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians is taking that time to do a full-scale remodel of the 14-year-old facility, located at 84001 Avenue 54, in Coachella. Visit www.augustinecasino.com for details and updates. … Coming soon: The Big Rock Pub, to 79940 Westward Ho Drive, in Indio. Expect “a blend of classic rock and classic cuisine.” Visit www.thebigrockpub.com for more info, including details on Big Rock’s job fair, taking place Sept. 6-9. … Congrats to the good folks at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, who on Aug. 28 celebrated the one-year anniversary of the restaurant’s popular Sunday Desert Divas Drag Brunch! For just $14.95, it’s an amazing deal. (Be sure to bring dollars to tip the divas, too!) Visit rioazulpalmsprings.com for more info. … Get ready to enjoy German beers and eats—and support a great cause while doing so! From 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, through Sunday, Oct. 2, Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, at 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be holding an Oktoberfest celebration—and 30 percent of all Oktoberfest proceeds will go to the March to Equality, billed as “the most expansive virtual march in history supporting full LGBT equality.” Visit marchtoequality.org for more details. … Please extend a hearty Coachella Valley welcome to Andrew Cooper, the new executive chef at the La Quinta Resort and Club, at 49499 Eisenhower Drive, in La Quinta. He’ll oversee the food and beverage program at all of the resort’s bars and restaurants, including Morgan’s in the Desert. Cooper’s 15-year career includes a lot of time at various Four Seasons resorts, most recently the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe, N.M. More info at www.laquintaresort.com. … Popular build-your-own-pizza joint Pieology Pizzeria has opened its first valley location, at 42500 Bob Hope Drive, Suite D, in Rancho Mirage. Head to www.pieology.com for details. … Coming soon to the old Sam’s Sushi location at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage: Fox and Fiddle, a British-style pub. There are a bunch of Canadian locations of Fox and Fiddle; visit www.foxandfiddlecalifornia.com for more info. … Keep your eye open for changes at Matchbox, on the second floor at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s under new ownership; a new name and menu should soon follow. … We’ve been hearing nothing but raves about Cie Sichuan Cuisine, which opened a couple of months ago at 45682 Towne St., in Indio. We’ll give a more detailed report after we’ve had a chance to check it out; in the meantime, find menus and more info at www.facebook.com/ciesichuancuisineofficial.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The Falls Steakhouse, R.I.P.

The Falls, the steakhouse known for its gorgeous downtown Palm Springs views and bubbling martinis (thanks to the addition of dry ice), has closed for good.

“After 15 years, we have closed the doors of The Falls,” reads a message on the restaurant’s website. “Our lease was up, and we decided to pursue other interests. It has been a privilege serving Palm Springs for so long.”

The Independent sent a message via The Falls’ Facebook page seeking further comment, but had not yet received a response as of our press deadline.

As is the case when any long-tenured restaurant closes its doors, the demise of The Falls saddened many people who spent special times there. I first learned of the closure from a friend on Facebook who was bemoaning the fact that he could not go there to celebrate his anniversary with his husband; I personally have fond memories of a memorable New Year’s Eve dinner there.

However, life goes on. We’ll keep our eyes on this prime space, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive—overlooking the Sonny Bono statue—to see what comes next.

Plate | Glass Moving To Rancho Mirage; Slated to Reopen in 2016

Larry Abel and Raymond McCallister shocked a lot of people with their recent announcement that they were moving their Raymond | Lawrence store from uptown Palm Springs to, of all places, The River in Rancho Mirage.

Turns out they’re taking their Plate | Glass restaurant with them.

The dessert and small-plates bar and restaurant, on the second floor at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, closed suddenly in early July, with a promise from owners Abel and McCallister that Plate | Glass would be back in October. It became apparent several weeks ago that such would not be the case, when “for lease” signs appeared at the space.

However, on Oct. 22, Abel and McCallister announced that Plate | Glass would join Raymond | Lawrence and their other popular business, Party Lab, in their large new space at The River, located at 71800 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage.

“In early 2016, Plate | Glass will return to its original concept, offering desserts, coffee and cocktails,” said a news release.

Raymond | Lawrence and Party Lab will celebrate a grand opening from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5. As for Plate | Glass, watch www.facebook.com/plateglassps for updates.

In Brief

So•Pa, the restaurant that’s been gaining acclaim at the L’Horizon Resort and Spa thanks in part to the fact that its chef, Giacomo Pettinari, has a Michelin star to his credit, is now open for all three meals of the day. The resort is located at 1050 E. Palm Canyon Drive; open your wallets, and head to lhorizonpalmsprings.com/sopa-restaurant for menus and other details. … Rooster and the Pig, one of the area’s most talked-about new restaurants thanks to its intriguing fusion of Vietnamese-American fare, is temporarily closed for renovations and repairs. Keep your fingers crossed for a re-opening at 355 S. Indian Canyon Drive sometime in November. Watch Rooster and the Pig’s Facebook page for the latest news. … We’re hearing rumors that the former Dink’s space, at 2080 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, may be getting closer to a reopening with a new name and revamped concept. Of course, we’ve heard similar rumors before. We’ll keep you posted. … Mark your calendars for the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo and Taste of Palm Springs, taking place from 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 10, at Colony 29, located at 147 S. Tahquitz Drive, up against the mountain in downtown Palm Springs. More than 25 area restaurants will be participating. Entrance to the expo is free, but wristbands that allow participants to taste food are $10; if you want beer and wine as well, it’ll cost you $25. Get details and buy wristbands at pschamber.org. … Meanwhile, down in Indio, the inaugural Indio California State BBQ Championship and Festival is slated to take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 14, at The Lights at Indio Golf Course, at 83040 Avenue 42. Up to 50 of the state’s best pit-masters are set to battle for a prize pool of up to $10,000. Live music and craft beer will be on offer at the event. Admission is free, although we’d be surprised if there’s not a charge for food and drink. Get more info by calling the Indio Chamber of Commerce at 760-347-0676, or visiting www.discoverindio.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: The BBQ Free Range Chicken Pizza

Where: BB’s at The River, 71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

How Much: $13.95 (or $9 at the bar during all-day happy hour, Monday through Friday)

Contact: 760-862-9800; www.bbsattheriver.com

Why: This pizza backs up the brag.

The sign in front of the restaurant said multiple things. It promoted a $19.99 prix fixe menu. It touted tasty burgers. And it said the restaurant served the best barbecue chicken pizza in town.

Game on, BB’s at The River. I’ll take one BBQ free range chicken pizza, please.

Inside, BB’s doesn’t look all that different than its predecessor, Acqua Pazza: It has a clean, contemporary vibe, with a great bar. The menu features California/American fare. The server said the pot roast was particularly popular.

Fair enough. But I was here to see if the pizza backed up the sign’s brag.

The verdict: While I won’t go so far as to say the BBQ free range chicken pizza is the best such pie in town, I will say it’s good. Really good.

First and foremost: The folks in the kitchen don’t skimp on the chicken, which is juicy and delicious: Every bite of the pizza (save maybe one or two near the crust) included chicken. Second: The sauce is indeed sweet and spicy, as promised on the menu—and it’s balanced. In other words, it’s neither too sweet nor too spicy; as Goldilocks would say, it’s just right. Third. There are just enough red onions on the pizza to make their presence known; any more, and they’d dominate the flavor. Fourth: The smoked mozzarella was gooey and delightful. Fifth, but not least: The crust was tasty. I would have preferred it to be a little thinner, maybe, but there was nothing wrong with what was on my plate.

How excellent was this pizza? I intended to eat only half of it, and take the rest home. But before I knew it, I’d devoured three-quarters of it—and I had to restrain myself from finishing it off. Good stuff, indeed.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

A Bad Month for The River: Acqua Pazza, Tulip Hill Winery Close Their Doors

To say December was a terrible month for food and drink at The River—the Rancho Mirage shopping center, located at 71800 Highway 111, described as “the premier destination for food, fashion and fun” on its website—is a bit of an understatement.

First came the closure of Acqua Pazza, one of The River’s anchor restaurants, on Sunday, Dec. 14. Then two weeks later, on Dec. 28, Tulip Hill—the only winery that made the Coachella Valley its home base—was slated to close its doors.

It’s been rumored for months that Jerry and Barbara Keller, the owners of Acqua Pazza, were looking to sell the decade-old restaurant to focus solely on their popular Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs. According to that same rumor mill, a sale of the restaurant fell through at the last minute, leading to the restaurant’s shuttering as the lease expired at The River, a shopping center which business owners say has been suffering from a decline in traffic in recent years.

“It’s been a great 10 years, but all good things come to an end,” said a notice posted on the Acqua Pazza website. “It is with sad feelings that we thank all our wonderful friends, customers and especially our magnificent staff who made Acqua Pazza such a lovely place to dine. We will miss everyone. We will now be able to put all our efforts into Lulu—already one of the valley’s most successful restaurants. Lulu’s continuing growth, including a substantial catering business, is an exciting full-time job for all of us!”

Over at Tulip Hill Winery, owner Kristi Brown placed blame for the closure squarely on the decline of The River. Tulip Hill had called The River home since December 2002.

“For the past several years, Tulip Hill has struggled in overcoming the declining traffic at The River in Rancho Mirage, as businesses have closed, and the tenant retail spaces have remained empty without being replaced by new businesses,” she said in a letter posted on the Tulip Hill website. “Tulip Hill has continued operating despite these head winds, but today, I am writing to let you know that … Tulip Hill Winery will be permanently closing the doors of our retail tasting room and gift shop at The River at Rancho Mirage.”

Of course, not all is bleak at The River; the shopping center remains the home of some of the valley’s most popular chain joints, including P.F. Chang’s, Yard House, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, and the mysteriously perpetually busy Cheesecake Factory. Some local joints worth noting remain at The River as well, most notably the popular-as-ever Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse. Still, it’s heartbreaking to see two much-loved local businesses close their doors—especially during the holiday season.

So long, Acqua Pazza and Tulip Hill. You’ll be missed.

In Brief

Our sincere sympathies go out to the folks at Bernie's Lounge and Supper Club. The restaurant, at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, was gutted by a fire on Christmas morning. Fingers crossed for a quick rebuild. ... A new sushi joint has come to Cathedral City. Hamachi Sushi recently opened its doors at 31855 Date Palm Drive, in the shopping center anchored by Cardenas and CVS. A sign on the door—posted right above a liquor-application notice—promises “the best fusion sushi, teriyaki and tempura. Muy pronto esperalo.” … The Real Italian Deli, which has delighted customers in Palm Desert for a year or so now, has opened a second location in Palm Springs, at the intersection of Sunrise and Tahquitz Canyon ways … Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a fast-casual barbecue chain that serves up pretty darned good ’que, will be opening at the intersection of Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs sometime this month. The folks at Dickey’s have been whetting locals’ appetites for several months now by making appearances at events, including the Desert AIDS Walk back in mid-October. Follow www.facebook.com/DickeysPalmSprings for updates and more information. ... Chill, the upscale bar going into the old Rainbow Bar and Grill space at 217 E. Arenas Road in Palm Springs, should also be opening any day now. Watch www.facebook.com/chillpalmsprings for news. … Yet another opening to talk about: Dish Creative Cuisine will soon be opening at its new location at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive. However, a new restaurant has already set up shop in Dish’s former home, at 68525 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City: Mike’s American Bistro. Learn more at www.facebook.com/mikesamericanbistro.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Awards and medals for Babe’s brewing excellence adorn the dining room at Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, in Rancho Mirage, like golf courses adorn the Coachella Valley.

Decades ago, Don Callender started a Southern California chain of American-style restaurants that was known for its pies, its fully stocked saloon and its salad bar. As the years passed, and the restaurant chain was sold and merged with other restaurants, Don had a slightly different vision of barbecue and beer.

It’s not as well known that Don was fascinated with craft beer. In the late ’90s, when the craft-beer revolution took hold, Don’s passion for these new styles led him to taste what Southern California brewers had to offer.

Don knew excellence when he tasted it. Strawberry blondes, pumpkin ales and fruit beers from upstarts like Belmont Brewing Company satisfied Don’s sweet tooth and culinary prowess. Don was also one of the first Californians to enjoy the Pasadena based Craftsman Brewing. The Marie Callender’s founder and craft beer aficionado drank their Heavenly Hefe and Orange Grove Ale, while brewing a legacy all his own.

Don opened two small breweries in 1998 and 1999. The first, P.H. Woods, was a popular BBQ and brewhouse with beer brewed by Hans Johnson. Johnson later came up with the award-winning craft beers for Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, which opened in April 2002.

In 2001, as Don prepared to unfold his ultimate beer-and-barbecue concept, he and his manager, Arthur Vasquez, couldn’t foresee the volatile socioeconomic climate they were about to face. Just a few months before opening, the Sept. 11 attacks shook the core of America. Spending was down, and the slower, warmer months of the desert didn’t promise a hugely successful launch.

The most-pressing problem with opening a barbecue and craft-beer brewhouse in an area known for its spa resorts, art galleries, 60-something golfers and Rat Pack heritage was introducing the relatively new culinary art of craft beer. While nearby San Diego and Orange County were quick to catch on to the craft-beer calling, the gin-and-tonic crowd of the Coachella Valley was a little slower to heed the call.

“There were no hop heads out here,” Vasquez said—not smiling.

For several years, they pushed their light-to-medium beers. Vasquez carefully crafted the menus and tap offerings in order to please the Coachella customer.

The Honey Blonde Ale and Blackfin Lager caught on. But the passion to offer a bigger variety of microbrews smoldered inside Vasquez.

After all, Babe's Brewhouse has a beautiful, custom JV Northwest brew system with a hand-hammered, aged copper exterior, four fermenters and five serving tanks. Its massive functioning malt silo stands tall next to the restaurant's entrance and holds 15,000 pounds of malt. Coming in at a cost of just more than a half-million dollars, who wouldn’t want to show off what this thing can really do?

Hans Johnson (now with Blackstone Brewery in Nashville, Tenn., developed the recipes for the Honey Blonde Ale, Blackfin Lager and 29 Palms Pale Ale. Still served today and brewed by Scot Grabbe, the Honey Blonde Ale comes in at 5 percent alcohol by volume and has won bronze, silver and gold in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 medals in the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition. Golden in color, light- to medium-bodied, this is a smooth beer with a subtle finish from the orange blossom honey.

Named in honor of the brave 29 Palms Marines, the pale ale is a deep, copper color with cascade hop floral aroma and sweet caramel malt notes. The Blackfin Lager has the most accolades, winning a bronze medal in the 2003 Australian International Beer Awards. Taking the gold in the 2009 and 2012 L.A. International Commercial Beer Competition, the dark German style beer has a hint of roasted barley and toffee sweetness.

Vasquez credited an assistant manager for giving him a nudge to expand Babe’s beer offerings.

“My assistant manager, Josh (Levish, who has a beer podcast at beermepodcast.com), he kind of brought it to my attention and said, ‘Art, there’s a lot more going on here with craft beer; we should start paying more attention,’” Vasquez said. “And I was kind of in this funk, and I said, ‘No, no, we gotta keep the product medium bodied.' That’s what’s selling.

“Y’know, I lost that spark from the ’90s. Then Stone (Brewing Co.) started doing their own distribution and so we started to bring in a few more things. … And by summer 2011, I said, ‘You know what? Eff this. We’re going to go big.’”

As the years passed, and the American craft-beer industry continued to grow, Vasquez and co. bumped Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse up to six taps. They featured two seasonals and made smaller four-to-five-barrel batches, so they could rotate the beers more often. They phased out Southern beers and offered more bombers and the likes of Flying Dog and Dogfish Head. Every seasonal was higher than 8 percent alcohol by volume, and they started wood-aging some of their beers.

In other words, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse was getting real with their beer. And it took off.

While the quality of their beef short ribs can’t be overstated, Vasquez has shown that he is serious about not just the quality of craft beer offered, but the quantity. Because of his passion and due diligence, Babe’s is now on the allocation list for Southern California-based Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Stone Brewing Co., so all of those breweries’ new and interesting releases are automatically sent to the brewhouse. Babe’s BBQ and Brewhouse is one of only three places in the Coachella Valley to be on this special beer list.

Callender passed away in 2009, and while the restaurant pioneer and innovator may no longer be with us, it’s apparent that Vasquez, Babe's chief operating officer and executive chef, is committed to making sure that Don's spirit stays alive.

Budget-conscious beer-lovers will be pleased to find craft beer at half-price from 3 p.m. to closing on Monday. Even the growlers are half-off: Refill a 32-ounce growler for $7, or the 64-ounce growler for $9. Happy hour is Monday through Friday, from 3 to 6 p.m., and 9 to 11 p.m.

“The Cicerone” flight consists of four smaller beer tasters. Currently, you can enjoy the 58 Palms Imperial Pale Ale (7.2 percent alcohol), the Babe’s 10th Anniversary Ale (seasonal), guest Belgian draft Delirium Nocturnum (8.5 percent) and guest American draft Stone Brewing Co. 12.12.12. Vertical Epic (9.4 percent).

I’ve become a fan of the 10th Anniversary Ale. With eight malts, 50 pounds of Belgian rock candy, California cherries, blackberries, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cherry-and-cinnamon bourbon-aged American oak, this beer is the perfect complement to slightly spicy barbecue during the chilly, winter months. The guest drafts were also impressive, proving that Art and the rest of the Babe’s team know more than your average restaurant about good beer.

Babe’s just renewed its 10-year lease and is starting to market the beer outside the brewhouse.

“I just want outside accounts in the Coachella Valley,” Vasquez said. … “I want people to know, when they’re coming here, if they don’t see our beers on tap, I want them to ask for it.”

And the gospel of Babe’s is spreading. LQ Wine has all of their bottled products. Grill-A-Burger in Palm Desert also carries their pale ale.

Love barbecue? Love beer? Love Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse.

Call to schedule a free tour of the brewery 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., December through June (excluding Wednesdays and Thursdays) or July through November (excluding Sundays and Mondays). Babe’s is located at 71800 Highway 111, in The River in Rancho Mirage. For more information, call (760) 346-8738, or visit www.babesbbque.com.

About the author: Erin Peters has been enticing beer drinkers since before beer blogging was really cool. (It’s cool, right?) She started down the carbonated path of intoxicating reviews and articles about craft breweries and the people behind the beer in 2008 and hasn’t turned back since. Erin studied journalism at San Diego State University. Rearrange the letters in SDSU, and you get SUDS. Coincidence—or, divine inspiration?

Below, from left to right: Erin Peters (the article's author), Arthur Vasquez and Scot Grabbe. Photo by Sean Planck.

Published in Features & Profiles