CVIndependent

Mon05252020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

What: Bennie’s Bennie

Where: Wilma and Frieda’s, 73575 El Paseo Drive, No. C2310, Palm Desert

How much: $14

Contact: 760-773-2807; www.wilmafrieda.com

Why: The pork and the perfect balance.

Over the last couple of years, creative types ranging from musicians to comedians to publishers have used crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter to turn their figurative dreams into reality.

Restaurateurs have done so as well. These fundraising efforts don’t always succeed—on a local level, Cello’s Bistro and Dish Creative Cuisine recently saw Kickstarter efforts come up short—but when they do, they can lead to great things—such as Wilma and Frieda’s, a delightful breakfast/brunch/lunch joint located in the Gardens on El Paseo shopping center.

In the summer of 2013, the owners of Wilma and Frieda’s successfully raised more than $50,000 to help them open the restaurant. And what a restaurant it is—the fare is both innovative and delicious, and Wilma and Frieda’s somehow manages to have a homey feel while not feeling out of place on ritzy El Paseo.

That’s not to say all is perfect at Wilma and Frieda’s—on a recent weekend visit, for example, the host managed to underestimate our wait time for a table by nearly a half-hour, a cardinal sin in the restaurant business. Also, the prices are decidedly El Paseo-appropriate (i.e., a bit high). However, once you dig in to a tasty treat like the Benny’s Bennie, all faults will be forgiven.

Yes, you’ve had eggs Benedict before. But have you had eggs Benedict on freshly made, house-made biscuits that are fluffy on the inside, and crunchy/crumbly on the outside? Have you had eggs Benedict with thick pieces of high-quality Duroc pork, rather than ho-hum Canadian bacon? Have you had eggs Benedict with a hollandaise sauce that neither fades behind the saltiness of the pork, nor overwhelms with salt or some cloying flavor like too much lemon—but instead, complements the meat and the biscuit?

If the answer to these questions is, “Why yes, I have, thank you,” then tell me where you’re eating, please. If the answer is no, and it probably is no, a trip to Wilma and Frieda’s for the Benny’s Bennie is highly recommended. 

Voting in the Coachella Valley Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley has begun! Find the ballot here, including rules, dates and a complete list of categories.

I am intimately familiar with “Best Ofs”; I ran them or helped run them in newspapers in Reno, Las Vegas and Tucson before I moved here to launch the Independent. I’ll be completely honest with y’all: I have mixed feelings about contests such as these.

On one hand, “Best Ofs” are mere popularity contests, and what’s most popular is not always what’s best. (For example, Taco Bell is popular, but only someone with mental damage would claim that Taco Bell’s food is truly great. In every “Best Of” contest I have ever done, Taco Bell gets some votes in the Best Mexican Food category. Ick.)

On the other hand, “Best Ofs” themselves are popular: Readers and worthy businesses alike enjoy properly done “Best Ofs,” because they help spread the word about some of the community’s best businesses, places and organizations. Any time I travel to an unfamiliar city, I use the “Best Of” from that city’s alternative newspaper to help me pick where to go and what do to.

As I mentioned previously, our Best of Coachella Valley will indeed be properly done. Advertisers will have no say over who wins our readers’ picks, nor will the Independent staff: It’s the votes of you, our readers, who will decide the winners and finalists, period. (The staff will throw in some of our own picks—but they will be clearly marked as “Staff Picks” and will not in any way conflict with what readers choose.)

We’ll also do our best to make sure the contest is fair. We’re allowing readers to vote only once in each round, and we’re requiring that readers include a real email address with the ballot. We’re watching IP addresses, too, in an effort to eliminate as much ballot-box stuffing as we can.

Of course, this is our first Best of Coachella Valley, so there will be obstacles that arise. As always, if you or anyone else has questions about Best of Coachella Valley (or anything else related to the Independent, for that matter), my figurative door is always open: Call me at 760-904-4208, or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thanks in advance for voting in the Best of Coachella Valley!

In January 2013, Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock spoke at a TEDx event in the London area.

Both of these speakers are familiar with controversy, thanks to their criticisms of modern science and their outside-of-the-mainstream ideas about consciousness. However, these talks would catapult them into a whole new level of controversy: Their lectures—Sheldrake’s was titled “The Science Delusion,” and Hancock’s was called “The War on Consciousness”—were later removed from the main TED website, due to the speakers’ “questionable suggestions and arguments.”

This angered a lot of the speakers’ fans, including Gary Bobroff.

“They’re challenging assumptions in the scientific world that have no merit,” said Bobroff, a Jungian psychotherapist, about Sheldrake and Hancock.

He was so angered by what he perceived as censorship that he organized Synchronicity: Matter and Psyche Symposium, a conference that will take place at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center from Friday, Sept. 12, through Sunday, Sept. 14. The keynote speakers will be none other than Sheldrake and Hancock.

“When people are starting to get banned like that, it shows that the time is right for us to be learning these kinds of things,” Bobroff said.

What are “these kinds of things”? A publicity item for the conference declares: “Ours is the era of the conscious realization of the unity of psyche and matter. Today we are embodying consciousness with ever-greater awareness, subtlety and joy. With the reunion of earth and spirit in ourselves comes the end of the illusion of our distance from the world around us. On the growing edge of our cultural awareness lies the discovery that the split between body and spirit is only ever resolved through the heart.”

I asked Bobroff to clarify. He explained that events and our “inner state” often intersect in a meaningful way.

“We’re coming to understand that the world is patterned with meaning in a way that is available to us,” he said, adding that these patterns can be objectively recognized.

A lot of what Bobroff was talking about went over my head, I’ll admit. After watching the censored TEDx talks, however, I understand things a bit better—and I am certainly skeptical about some of the things they’re saying. Still, Bobroff has a point when he mentions that so often in our lives, things seem to happen for a reason, and that things are often surprisingly interconnected.

I asked Bobroff if he picked Joshua Tree as the spot for the conference for any specific reason.

“It’s a place that has that kind of spiritual bent to it,” he said, adding that the Joshua Tree Retreat Center itself is a perfect venue for a conference of this nature.

Bobroff said that Sheldrake and Hancock aren’t the only speakers who will captivate attendees (although this is the first time since that now-infamous TEDx talk that they’ll appear at the same event, he added); for example, University of Virginia School of Medicine professor Jim Tucker will talk about his research on children who claim to remember past lives.

“I honestly think that most people who attend will come out on another level,” Bobroff said.

Synchronicity: Matter and Psyche Symposium takes place Friday, Sept. 12, through Sunday, Sept. 14, at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Advance registration is $327. For more information, visit www.matterpsyche.net.

Hard Rock Replaces Sessions With Simon Kitchen + Bar

Another celebrity chef is coming to the Coachella Valley.

Simon Kitchen + Bar, a restaurant under the direction of Kerry Simon, is slated to open in mid-September at the Hard Rock, located at 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s replacing Sessions, which had occupied the Hard Rock’s restaurant space since the remodeling of the former Hotel Zozo.

“Palm Springs is hot right now,” Simon said in a news release. “I’m very excited to be a part of this laid-back, hipster getaway. The menu that I’ve developed for Simon Kitchen + Bar is a little edgy, a little fun and full of contemporary takes on the comfort foods we all love.”

As for that menu: It will include “an emphasis on sharing,” with “sandwiches, entrées and stone-oven flatbreads. Social plates include tempura green beans made with pepper jelly and cream cheese; bacon jam served with baked brie and toasted baguette; and ‘devil’s eggs’ complete with crispy pancetta and caviar.”

Sounds tasty to us. Simon should be a good fit for the Hard Rock; after all, Rolling Stone once called him the “Rock ’n’ Roll Chef.”

Watch www.hrhpalmsprings.com for updates and more information.

Cactusberry Getting a Remodel and a Concept Tweak

Cactusberry, the popular frozen-yogurt shop in the Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is going in a slightly new direction following a change in ownership.

Johnny Ramirez Jr. and Dale Sutherland are the new owners. After they got the keys, they closed the shop for remodeling. Ramirez tells the Independent they hope to reopen around Oct. 1.

“We are taking ‘Cactusberry Frozen Yogurt’ and expanding the brand, but keeping the same great tastes, as well as adding new items like gelato and frozen custard,” Ramirez said via email. “Our new name in honor of this expansion is ‘Cactusberry+ Frozen Treats.’ We hope to become the Coachella Valley’s go-to shop for frozen treats and drinks!”

Watch Cactusberry’s website (cactusberryplusps.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CactusberryPlus) for updates and more information.

TRIO, Purple Room Shaking Things Up Just a Bit

Trio and the Purple Room, the popular restaurants in Palm Springs owned by Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen, are both going through some minor yet welcome changes.

At TRIO, located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, executive chef Van Laanen recently introduced weekly specials to complement the tried-and-true menu. Every week, TRIO is offering an all-day drink special and three new dinner dishes.

“We love pairing fresh ingredients with distinctive flavors, and we are thrilled to cook up these new specials,” Van Laanen said in a news release.

For example, the specials ending the week of Sept. 4 are seared Cajun ahi tuna and carrot cucumber slaw with pickled ginger wasabi; a USDA New York strip steak with caramelized onions and sautéed wild mushrooms; and pan-roasted barramundi with mango pico de gallo and sweet saffron butter sauce. The drink special is the “TRIO Fizz,” featuring muddled orange, Absolut Mandarin, orange juice, lemon juice and soda.

Watch www.triopalmsprings.com for a list of specials throughout September.

Meanwhile, the Purple Room, inside Club Trinidad at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, was slated to reopen after a month off on Thursday, Aug. 28. The slightly rebranded Purple Room Restaurant and Stage also has a new chef and a new menu; a “peek” was posted on the Purple Room Facebook page shortly before the Independent’s press deadline. The new menu includes a wide variety of modern cuisine, ranging from a Brussels sprout salad as a starter ($10) to filet Oscar ($36) and chicken paillards ($23) as main courses.

Head over to www.facebook.com/purpleroomrestaurantstage to get gobs more information on the Purple Room, including a list of upcoming shows.

In Brief

After a seemingly endless construction period, Pho Vu is finally open at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. … The transformation is complete: The former Chop House Palm Desert has been converted into the Kaiser Grille Palm Desert. The moderately priced restaurant at 74040 Highway 111 is now open. … Tell your beer-loving friends in Arizona that offerings from Coachella Valley Brewing Company will soon be available there, thanks to a distribution deal with Young’s Market Company. … The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, which opened in June with the first 2014 Splash House, closed with the second 2014 Splash House in August. However, management says the closure is only temporary, and that the Hacienda will reopen on Friday, Sept. 26. … The Bootlegger Tiki bar is slated to soon debut at 140 W. Via Lola, Suite 1101, in the back of the building occupied by Ernest Coffee. … Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill, which has been a La Quinta staple for almost a decade, recently opened a second location in the Westfield Palm Desert at 72840 Highway 111. Get more info at www.stuftpizzabarandgrill.com.

What: The Dragon Roll with the all-you-can-eat sushi at Dragon Sushi

Where: Dragon Sushi, 68369 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City; also at 82451 Highway 111, No. 103, Indio

How much: $22.99 for lunch; $27.99 for dinner

Contact: (760) 321-5935; www.facebook.com/pages/Dragon-sushi/194086770616660

Why: A variety of flavors and textures for one fair price.

Nevada may just be the all-you-can-eat (AYCE) sushi capital of the world.

Several recent newspaper articles have confirmed that the cities of Reno and Las Vegas are havens for AYCE sushi; in fact, one of those stories speculated that every sushi joint in Reno offers an AYCE option. These stories throw out a variety of speculative reasons for this, ranging from the need for sushi restaurants to compete with the ample number of all-you-can-eat buffets, to a desire for sushi by cash-strapped college students (and both Reno and Las Vegas are indeed college towns).

I bring this all up for one reason: I, your humble food scribe, grew up in Reno, which means my formative years were spent gobbling up nigiri and various rolls without concern for individual prices. Alas, when it comes to sushi, the Coachella Valley ain’t Reno: Many of the area’s finer sushi joints don’t offer an all-you-can-eat option, meaning that my AYCE-conditioned brain is confused and paranoid about pricing whenever I eat at one of these places.

However, an increasing number of local sushi restaurants are starting to offer AYCE options—such as the relatively new Dragon Sushi in Cathedral City. (The original Dragon Sushi location in Indio does, too.) This somewhat peculiar restaurant—it shares an entrance and space with La Tablita, a Mexican joint—offers a nice variety of appetizers, nigiri and rolls under its AYCE option. During a recent lunch, we sampled a number of goodies, and they were uniformly tasty—but our favorite was the Dragon Roll (what else would it be at a place called Dragon Sushi?), which is basically a California Roll with freshwater eel, eel sauce and crunch thrown in.

It was a great lunch—and my brain was spared confusion and paranoia. Here’s to the continuing spread of the AYCE sushi paradigm! 

What: The Blistered Shishito Peppers

Where: Appetito Cal-Italian Deli, 1700 S. Camino Real, No. 2, Palm Springs

How much: $4.95

Contact: 760-327-1929; appetitodeli.com

Why: They’re an example of delicious simplicity—with a side of adventure.

Appetito opened earlier this year in the long-vacant space in the Koffi building adjacent to the Ace Hotel, and has since been delighting foodies with its “Cal-Italian” fare, including panini, pasta dishes, pizzas and other goodies.

However, one of Appetito’s best menu items has its roots in neither Italy nor California—instead, it comes from Japan.

Shishitos are a long, thin, green pepper variety. They’re sweet, but you have to be careful when eating them: Every so often, you’ll come across a shishito that’s rather hot. So, hey: Consider eating shishitos to be an adventure!

Eating shishitos is also delight. These peppers are thin-skinned, which means they react wonderfully to heat: The skin chars, or blisters, leaving tasty goodness all around the pepper.

There’s not much to blistered shishitos—just the peppers, salt, a little oil and perhaps another flavoring agent here or there. (On our recent trip to Appetito, I kept getting hints of citrus; whether that was the pepper talking, or whether the talented folks in Appetito’s kitchen added a squeeze of juice during the cooking process, I am not sure. All I know is that it was yummy.)

Another great thing about the peppers: the price. For just $4.95, you get a whole bunch of them. They’re perfect to enjoy before the main course (say, a porchetta sandwich that’s packed with perfectly prepared roasted pork)—or on their own, perhaps paired with a negroni or something else from Appetito’s full bar.

Enjoy!

As we distribute the new print issue of the Independent this week, I can’t help but think: Wait. Isn’t August supposed to be the slow season around these parts? Geez. Things sure aren’t slow here at the Independent offices.

Here are a few things going on that you should know about:

• Mark your calendars: Voting in the Independent’s very first Best of Coachella Valley will kick off in September.

I know what you’re thinking: Does the valley really need another freaking “best of”? Our answer: Yes, the valley does need another freaking “best of,” because we’ll be doing the Best of Coachella Valley right. Here’s how:

In September, public voting will begin in 120-plus categories at CVIndependent.com and BestofCoachellaValley.com. The voting form will include no “finalists” or pre-determined candidates—each category will have a blank field next to it, period. Voters will need to fill out at least 20 of these categories; will only be allowed to vote once; and will need to provide an email address for possible verification purposes. (We will also be watching IP addresses for possible ballot-box-stuffing.)

In October, we’ll tally those results, announce five finalists in each category, and launch a second round of voting among those finalists.

The final results will be announced in our inaugural Best of Coachella Valley issue, in December. (We’ll throw in some great features and staff picks as well.)

It’s gonna be awesome! Watch for details in next month’s print issue and/or at CVIndependent.com.

• Speaking of CVIndependent.com: The Independent Market—our online store—continues to add new deals! This month, while supplies last, customers can get half-off gift certificates to Crave dessert restaurant, La Quinta Brewing Co., Lisa Harrington Pest Control and the Synchronicity: Matter and Psyche Symposium.

However, the Independent Market is now offering another cool thing: Tickets! This month, we’re selling a limited supply of tickets to two shows at the Palms Restaurant in Twentynine Palms: Rock Formations II, featuring Jello Biafra and Spindrift, on Saturday, Aug. 23; and the Bat Country Labor Day Blast With the Rikk Agnew Band, on Sunday, Aug. 31.

Head on over to CVIndependent.com to get these exclusive deals—and if you want your business included in the Independent Market, drop me a line.

• Finally, I’d like to welcome a new comic strip to the pages and pixels of the Independent. Tom Tomorrow’s “This Modern World,” a staple of the alternative press for decades, will now appear each week at CVIndependent.com, and each month in the print edition.

Welcome, Tom!

As always, folks, thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Dish Creative Cuisine Using Kickstarter to Help With Move

Dish Creative Cuisine, the Cathedral City restaurant that made waves with its upscale modern food and tasty amuse-bouche offerings over the last two years, is moving to downtown Palm Springs—and the restaurant’s owner is asking for the public’s help.

In an email sent to Dish customers on July 21, chef/owner Joane Garcia Colson explained that the restaurant, which had been located at 68525 Ramon Road, would be reopening in the fall at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—once the site of renowned tiki joint Don the Beachcomber. The new location will have a full bar, and a selection of more casual dishes will join the upscale offerings on the menu.

However, Garcia Colson also asked for a li’l help from her friends. “As with any expansion, however, we need assistance to bring it to full fruition,” she wrote. “It is incredibly hard to ask others for help, and it is something I have avoided doing. But we need help, so I am writing to you, hoping some of you will be able to support us in this venture. We have created a Kickstarter campaign and would appreciate you taking a look at it and helping us in any way you can.”

A look at that Kickstarter effort reveals that Garcia Colson’s goal is to raise $49,500 by Monday, Aug. 25. It also revealed a few added details about the new Dish: The restaurant will be open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and in the high season, it will offer Sunday brunch and perhaps lunch Thursday through Saturday.

The new spot will also include a “Chef's Room,” “where small, intimate, tasting dinners will occasionally be offered for a pre-fixe price,” the Kickstarter page says. “This private dining room will be right off the kitchen and will feature a large window where the diners can watch the kitchen in action.”

We are big fans of what Garcia Colson did in her space on Ramon—and we can’t wait to see what she does in downtown Palm Springs.

For more information, follow the goings-on at the Dish Facebook page.

Johannes Offers $10 Schnitzel, Other Anniversary Specials

For my money, Johannes—located at 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—is one of the best restaurants in the valley. And this summer, I’m not shelling out quite so much of that aforementioned money to dine there.

To celebrate the restaurant’s 15th anniversary, chef Johannes Bacher and company are offering a variety of discounted schnitzel dishes in the bar area. This is nothing new, but the steeper discounts are indeed new: Basic bar schnitzel now costs just $10. Want one of Johannes’ renowned toppings? (I personally am a fan of the Mama’s schnitzel, which is covered with tomatoes, gruyere and fontina cheeses, and basil. Yummy!) That’ll set you back just $14.

The restaurant is also offering a $29 prix-fire menu during the summer, which includes a selected entrée, an appetizer or dessert, and a house cocktail.

Johannes is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Call 760-778-0017, or visit johannespalmsprings.com for more information.

And Now, a Rant on Prices

We were hungry for a light meal, so the partner and I decided to stop at one of our normal haunts for cocktails and a couple of our favorite appetizers.

All was well and good until we opened the menu—and saw that the restaurant had raised the prices on many of those favorite items.

I understand that all businesses have to increase their prices now and then. That’s life. But businesses also need to realize that there can be consequences if price increases are too drastic—and that’s exactly what happened here.

My fave appetizer had been $9—and it was now $11. That’s a 22 percent price increase. My favorite cocktail, a lovely, flowery martini (hey, don’t judge), saw a similar price boost.

The result of all this? That restaurant is no longer one of our normal haunts. I would have dealt with a more reasonable increase, like 50 cents or even a dollar. But not 22 percent (especially in the middle of the summer, when many restaurants are offering lower-cost specials to attract customers).

I’m not the only savvy, cost-conscious foodie out there. Something tells me these price increases may actually lead to a revenue decrease at this restaurant.

Stay tuned.

In Brief

Mark your calendars: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, located at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be holding its third annual Craft Beer Weekend on Friday through Sunday, Sept. 12-14. Expect tastings from more than 20 craft breweries, as well as a pool party/barbecue and a special five-course meal—with beer pairings, of course. More info at the Ace website. ... Just a reminder that many of the town’s top restaurants close their doors for all or part of August. Unless you’re sure your favorite spot is open, it never hurts to call ahead.

What: The Slider Sampler

Where: Woody’s Burgers, 317 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $10.50

Contact: 760-230-0188; woodysburgersps.com

Why: Variety is the spice of life.

Sometimes, you don’t want to make a choice—and when it comes to burgers, Woody’s makes life a little easier on indecisive diners with the restaurant’s slider sampler.

Now, that does not mean said diners are absolved of all choices; after all, Woody’s offers more than a half-dozen burger offerings, and the sampler includes just three sliders (miniature versions of the restaurant’s burgers). Sorry ’bout that.

On our recent visit to the renowned downtown Palm Springs burger joint, we skipped the basic hamburger and cheeseburger, as well as the Hawaiian burger and the mushroom burger, in favor of the three sliders pictured above: the jalapeño burger, the bleu burger, and the Western burger.

Speaking of not wanting to make a choice: We’re glad nobody’s making us pick a favorite, because all three of these li’l burgers were damn tasty.

The three sliders had a lot of great things in common: The deliciously seasoned patties were cooked perfectly (medium, just as requested). The buns were delightfully toasted. And they were each cute as heck.

They also had a lot of fantastic differences as well: The jalapeño slider had a nice kick—from the fresh pepper slices, yes, but from the pepperjack cheese, too. The bleu burger had a lot of high-quality crumbled blue cheese, but not so much that the rest of the other flavors were overwhelmed. And the Western burger featured sweet, tangy barbecue sauce, as well as a firm, thick beer-battered onion ring.

Yummy.

While Woody’s is best known for the burgers, the restaurant is also known for friendly service, a great vibe and fantastic jazz music every single night. (Oh, and the restaurant has a full bar, too!) All of these factors make Woody’s Burgers an easy choice for burger-lovers and music-lovers alike.

What: The cheese Danish

Where: Villa Bakery, 67470 Ramon Road, Cathedral City

How much: 80 cents

Contact: 760-322-5701

Why: It’s flaky, sweet, cheesy and generally delicious.

Sometimes, good things can result when bad things happen.

I was driving down Ramon Road recently when I saw that someone had kicked or punched in the plastic door on the Independent’s orange distribution box outside of Villa Bakery, located on Ramon and Crossley Road in Cathedral City.

Crap, I thought. I stopped to check the damage; the door was indeed busted, but it appeared that I might be able to engineer a temporary fix with the help of some clear packing tape.

But first things first: I was hungry, and I’d been meaning to try Villa Bakery for quite some time. So … it was time for lunch.

I walked in, scanned the menu at the counter, and ordered the pollo ranchero ($6.75). However, my eyes kept wandering toward the pastry display case.

Hmm. This is a bakery, after all, I thought. So I asked the woman at the counter: What’s your best pastry?

She said the cheese Danish was pretty popular. I added one to my order. Well, now I know why the cheese Danish is pretty popular: It’s the best gosh-darned pastry I have eaten in years.

First, the pastry part of the pastry: It’s flaky, buttery, just sweet enough, and just soft enough, kind of like a really amazing croissant.

Then there’s the cheesy part of the pastry: It actually tastes like cheese—it’s sweet, yes, but it’s got character and nuance.

Put the pastry part and the cheesy part together, and … damn, it’s amazing.

The pollo ranchero was tasty, and I was more than full after eating it and the cheese Danish. But that didn’t stop me from getting another cheese Danish on my way out.

Thank goodness for that broken (and now-repaired) distribution box.