CVIndependent

Wed07082020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

The holidays are here, and there are a lot of things for which I am thankful:

• I’m thankful for the Independent’s knowledgeable readers. Our inaugural Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll is complete, and the results are here! With a few categories excepted (In-n-Out has the valley’s Best Burger? Really?!), the results show that our readers, like you, are smart, cultured and local-minded: Very few chains won in our poll, especially when compared with readers’ polls in other publications and/or other cities.

I hope that as many of you readers who voted in the Best of Coachella Valley poll as possible (and, heck, even those of you who didn’t vote … next year, right?) will join us to celebrate the winners at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 3, at multiple-category-winner Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The Best of Coachella Valley Party will feature a brief awards ceremony at 7:15 p.m., and great specials on food and drinks all night.

See you there!

• I’m thankful for the Independent’s fantastic employees and contributors. Specifically, I’m thankful for those Independent designers and scribes who helped me out with our booth at Greater Palm Springs Pride, where we gave out community bags containing newspapers and great deals, as well as mini-flying discs and lots of pens. Thank you to Brian Blueskye, Wayne Acree, Victor Barocas and the indefatigable Valerie-Jean Hume for representing the Independent so proudly! Also, thanks to the readers who stopped by to say hi!

• I’m thankful to everyone who has contributed to our Indiegogo campaign. As I noted last month, we’re trying to raise $10,000 so we can increase our distribution and, most importantly, boost our coverage of news and local events. As of this writing, we’ve received some fantastic support, including a donation from reader Shilo Herrling, who wrote: “I really appreciate the CV Independent, and wish you all the best of luck in your expansion efforts. Unlike many, I don’t think The Desert Sun is a bad paper … but I do like to have options and alternative viewpoints, and CV Independent does a great job!”

Thanks, Shilo!

Despite the support from readers like Shilo, as of this writing, we’re behind the pace we need to be on to reach our goal. Please consider joining Shilo in supporting the Independent; find details on every page here at CVIndepedent.com, and via the short video posted below.

Happy holidays, everyone!

What: Barbacoa (pork and beef stew)

Where: La Perlita Mexican Food, 901 Crossley Road, Palm Springs

How much: $11.95

Contact: 760-778-8014

Why: It’s some of the best Mexican food in the valley.

You really have to be looking for La Perlita Mexican Food to find it.

The joint is stuck at the end of a strip mall on Crossley Road between Ramon Road and Dinah Shore Drive. The strip mall is sort of behind the big ol’ Walmart, but, really, it’s surrounded by … nothingness. Your view from the large windows: sand and brush, a fact the owner joked with us about as we waited for our lunch to arrive.

But you’re not going to La Perlita for that view. You’re going for that lunch, or a dinner, or even a late breakfast. And if you’re smart, that meal, whichever meal that may be, will include La Perlita’s fantastic barbacoa.

The menu describes the barbacoa, one of the house specialties, as “homemade-style pork and beef stew with our special sauce, topped with onions and cilantro.” The key word there is “stew”: This is a slow-cooked bit of heaven. The meat is tender; the flavors are rich and infused. When thrown on top of the accompanying rice, or spooned into a fresh tortilla (or, heck, both!), it’s even better.

My only complaint about the barbacoa was that there wasn’t a whole lot of it. The portion was a bit smaller than one would normally find at a Mexican joint, and I was definitely left wanting more.

So add portion sizes to the list of La Perlita negatives, along with the location and the view. Whatever; I’ll be back—because that barbacoa is one of the tastiest Mexican dishes you’ll find in this not-so-li’l valley of ours.

What: The Beef Stroganoff

Where: Miro’s, 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $28

Contact: 760-323-5199; mirospalmsprings.com

Why: Perfection in proportions.

Beef stroganoff is, on paper, a simple dish. You have your beef and maybe mushrooms; you have your pasta; you have your sauce. Mix together. The end.

Ah, but if you want that beef stroganoff to be good, it’s not so simple, is it? For example: How’s the pasta quality? How is that pasta prepared? The same goes for the beef; we’ve all choked down bits of meat before that were closer in texture to leather than food. And then there’s the sauce: How does it taste? Is there too much of it, or is there too little?

The devil is in the details—and at Miro’s, the beef stroganoff is so splendid that you know the folks in the kitchen are carefully making sure those details are perfect.

Yes, you’ll pay more than one normally would for beef stroganoff ($28), but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. In this case, you’re paying for either delicious noodles or spaetzle—and we heartily recommend the spaetzle. It was light with just a hint of browning, giving it a mouth-pleasing hint of crunch. You’re paying for tender, tasty beef that’s been cooked with shallots, garlic and herbs. You’re paying for delicious, appropriately sized mushroom pieces. And you’re paying for all of that to be lovingly combined in just the right amount of a creamy mushroom-brandy sauce.

Miro’s Restaurant is celebrating 20 years in business this year, and dishes like this amazing beef stroganoff illustrate why: Miro Terzic, an immigrant from Yugoslavia, and his crew are experts at Mediterranean and Central European recipes. (An endorsement within an endorsement: You must try the cabbage rolls. Really.) Go and see for yourself.

It’s a typical October Friday lunch hour at the American Legion’s Owen Coffman Post 519, located on Belardo Road in downtown Palm Springs.

The mostly older, mostly male crowd is enjoying tasty dishes such as burgers, sand dabs and deliciously crispy fish-and-chips, while sipping on drinks from the inexpensive yet fully stocked bar.

I’m here with my good friend Jim McDivitt; this is the second time I’ve had lunch with him at the American Legion hall. McDivitt—some of his friends, myself included, lovingly call him McDiva—first invited my partner and me to lunch at the hall over the summer. He thought the place and its people would make for a good story.

He tells me why he joined this post of the American Legion.

“The food and drinks are cheap,” McDivitt says, laughing. “I’d been going as a guest of a friend, and I finally joined because I felt stupid not paying the $55 membership fee.”

The topics of conversation on this day at this table include a great deal found on a washer and drier set at Revivals, old telephone party lines, and a recent fall from which one of the attendees was recovering.

The Owen Coffman post looks, feels and sounds exactly like you’d expect any American Legion post across the country to look, feel and sound like—except for one difference.

About half of the veterans in attendance are gay.


McDivitt introduces me to Pete Pilittere, the post commander, who gives me a tour of the hall. (Both are pictured to the right.)

About 1,200 members—including Sons of the Legion (for relatives of veterans), Women’s Auxiliary and Legion Riders members (a motorcycle/charity group)—belong to the post, Pilittere says, as he shows me around. First, he explains the “table set for one,” which can be found at every American Legion post. (See a photo at the bottom of this story.) Every element of the small table—from the color of the tablecloth to the pile of salt on the plate—represents the various sacrifices a soldier and his loved ones make when that soldier goes off to war. For example, an explanation of the chair reads: The chair is empty. They are not here.

Outside, a “fallen heroes” plaque honors the local residents who gave—and, sadly, continue to give—their lives in combat. Earl Coffman, the son of the founder of the Desert Inn Hotel, was a World War I veteran who started this post. His son Owen was killed during World War II while he flew a B-17 bomber over England. This building, housing the post that bears Owen’s name, was dedicated in 1948.

We take the stairs onto the stage, and Pilittere explains something else that sets this post apart: its history. We’re looking at a booth where luminaries like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Jack Benny did radio broadcasts in the 1950s. The post’s members are working on restoring the booth to its vintage appearance, Pilittere says.

He then takes me into the back area, where a newly renovated smaller room—complete with its own bar—is ready for use. Pilittere would like you to know this room and the rest of the hall is available for rent; after all, rental fees, along with the bar take, donations and other income—keep the post afloat.

But the post, first and foremost, is there for its members.

I ask Pilittere, a Navy and Vietnam veteran who’s in his second one-year term as the post commander, about the members. Is he concerned that the member base is aging, and therefore unsustainable in the long term?

“We’re doing our best trying to get young guys in, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he says, adding that the post has been offering a dues-free first year of membership to veterans of these 21st-century wars.

Have there been any takers? “A couple,” Pilittere says, adding that some posts have blinked out of existence due to declining membership. “This post, though, I’m not concerned about. We’ve got enough things in place right now.”

Then there’s the fact that so many members of the post are gay. Pilittere, who is straight, estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the members are gay. McDivitt puts that number closer to 50 percent. One of the longtime lunch servers put the number higher than 50 percent when asked.

Pilittere says he served with men he knew were gay. I asked him if he cared.

“No,” he says. “I was born pretty progressive. On an aircraft carrier, if you have 4,000 people, how many people are going to be gay? What are the odds?”

I mention “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the thankfully now-vanquished policy that allowed the military to get rid of men and women who were openly LGBT, or who were simply exposed as LGBT.

“That was bullshit, by the way,” Pilittere says.

I asked him if anyone involved with the post has had an issue with the fact that so many members are gay. Not really, he says.

“Look, this is Palm Springs,” Pilittere says. “Here, it’s accepted. It’s a way of life in Palm Springs.

“If you can’t accept it, you’d better get out of town.”


Today, the military is much more accepting of gay and lesbian service members, thanks in part to the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

However, most members of the Owen Coffman Post 519 served—and have lived much of their lives—at a time when being openly gay was very much taboo.

Post member Robert Rogers, 81 (right), was one of the lucky ones: He says his sexuality did not cause him any problems when he was in the military

“I was out when I was 3 1/2 years old,” he smiles.

He was drafted and served in the Navy in San Diego from 1956 to 1958.

“I was a corpsman”—in other words, a medical specialist, Rogers tells me on the Owen Coffman Post’s patio, several days after McDivitt introduced me to him at lunch. “They put me in as a corpsman because I was an art major and I taught art, and they said, ‘That’s where you belong.’ Well, I found out real quick that I didn’t want to be in medical.”

Rogers, a former florist who lived much of his life in Oroville, Calif., and still spends four months per year there, says he knew there were “a lot” of other gay men in the Navy from the moment he started boot camp. The topic of homosexuality once came up with a commanding officer when Rogers went to ask for a liberty pass.

“He said, ‘I don’t care if they’re cherries or not, as long as they do their job,’ Rogers remembers.

McDivitt, 74 and turning 75 in November—he calls his upcoming birthday his “diamond jubilee”—was not so lucky. He joined the military after his parents found out he was gay; he was doing poorly in school, so it was inevitable that he’d eventually get drafted anyway, he says. He jokes that he enlisted the Air Force because of that military branch’s superior fashion sense.

“I like blue better than Army drab,” he quips, before clarifying that he actually joined the Air Force because he thought the odds were better that he’d get a desk job.

He became a Morse intercept operator from 1961 to 1963, and was stationed in Scotland, where he listened to Soviet communications. He had top-secret clearance—but that meant the government was keeping tabs on him, too.

“Little did I know they would read my mail,” McDivitt says.

He had mentioned in a letter that he found a fellow serviceman attractive. He was honorably discharged due to the “inability to adjust to military life.”

McDivitt is publically and happily open about his life, his military service and his sexuality—but not all of his and Rogers’ fellow American Legion members feel the same way. I tried to talk to several other gay post members for this story, and they either flat-out refused, or never returned my calls or emails.

Upon reflection, this isn’t so surprising. After all, many of them spent their entire military careers, and much of their lives, unable to talk about being gay without fear of repercussions—so why would they want to talk now?


One thing is clear: The members of the Owen Coffman Post 519—gay and straight—love the hall because it gives them a space where they can be comfortable and enjoy the company of people who have been through similar experiences.

“It’s a place for veterans to meet and talk with their families and guests. It’s a place to relax,” says Pilittere. “They can come in and have a great lunch, or Friday night dinner with entertainment, or Sunday brunch.”

Pilittere says Sunday brunches often have 150 or so attendees, and that lunches—offered Monday through Saturday—can attract 20 to 30 people in the depths of summer, and 100-plus people during the season.

Rogers emphasized the word “acceptance” regarding the Palm Springs American Legion post.

“It’s the atmosphere of friendliness and acceptance all of us, no matter what we do or where we live,” he says.

While McDivitt—only half-joking, perhaps—says he joined the post for the cheap food and drinks, he’s a regular at the post because of the camaraderie.

“(We) get together and tell war stories,” he says. “Most people join for the social aspect and to be with people of like kind.”

Does McDivitt know of any men who met and fell in love at the hall? Alas, he says he does not—although it would not surprise him if it had happened.

“Palm Springs is unique in so many ways,” he laughs.

For more information on the American Legion Owen Coffman Post 519, visit www.americanlegionpalmsprings.org.

The calendar says it’s November, so that means our second annual Pride Issue is hitting the streets.

In terms of circulation, revenue and quality, November is shaping up to be the best month the Independent has ever had, both online and in print. However, we still have work to do in our effort to give the Coachella Valley the best alternative publication/news organization it’s ever had—and we’re asking for your help.

The Independent has launched a crowd-funding effort to help us reach the next level. The funds we hope to raise via the campaign will help us expand our coverage and strengthen our distribution.

As for distribution, we’re currently in 365 or so locations across the region, from Desert Hot Springs, through Palm Springs, and all the way down to the Salton Sea; we’re even at Chiriaco Summit and in select locations in the Yucca Valley area. That’s pretty darned good, I’d say—but we can do better. We want to boost that number of locations to around 400, and we want to do better at our existing locations. Our crowd-funding effort, if successful, will help us purchase new wire indoor racks, and will allow us to refurbish, repair and perhaps replace some of our outdoor distribution boxes.

The vast majority of the funds we hope to raise will help us improve what we do best—journalism. We want to increase our arts and events coverage, for example. Right now, we’re doing a fine job of covering band/club/popular music and reviewing multi-week theatrical performances; our visual arts coverage is also among the valley’s best. However, many events outside of these categories have tended to fall through the cracks, so we want to hire more writers on a freelance basis to patch these figurative cracks.

On the food and drink side: Have you noticed that no publication in the valley does full, honest restaurant reviews—the kind in which restaurants are visited more than once by an unannounced reviewer who pays his or her own way? Next year, we hope to start doing at least two reviews per month.

Finally—and most importantly—we want to boost our news coverage. We are constantly getting great story tips and ideas here at the Independent, yet we often don’t have the writers and other resources to pursue them. We want to—no, we need to change that, especially since The Desert Sun and other traditional news sources are continuing to get hammered by layoffs and cutbacks.

The Indiegogo page can be found here. We sincerely appreciate your help.

New: Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant has opened at 330 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in the downtown Palm Springs space occupied until recently by Kimy Sushi.

While we have not yet had a chance to check out Pho Lan, the restaurant’s Facebook page offers some details about the place: The restaurant opened in September, and offers the appetizers, pho dishes and entrées one would expect to find at a Vietnamese joint—at reasonable prices. For example, a large bowl of pho will only you back $8.50.

We’ll offer a more detailed report when we have a chance to try out the restaurant in person. In the meantime, call 760-778-1473, or visit the aforementioned Facebook page for more information.

Hacienda Hosts a Benefit for Meals on Wheels

The newish Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, located at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, will be the location of Playa de los Muertos—a Dia de los Muertos Celebration, at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 1.

The event will feature an open sangria bar, tray-passed appetizers, great DJ music poolside, and all sorts of Day of the Dead-themed activities, like sugar-skull face-painting.

Sounds fun, yes? Well, there’s even better news: The event is a benefit for Meals on Wheels Coachella Valley.

“We wanted to honor and capture the color and vibrancy of Dia de los Muertos celebrations and combine it with a beach party like only Palm Springs can offer,” said event coordinator George Nasci-Sinatra in a news release.

Admission to the event is $45. Visit playadelosmuertos.brownpapertickets.com, or call 760-323-5689, ext. 112, for tickets or more info.

Citron at the Viceroy Gets a New Executive Chef

The Viceroy Palm Springs has hired a French-born chef with impeccable credentials to lead up the hotel’s well-regarded Citron Restaurant.

Patrice Martineau is a native of Champagne, France, who trained at several Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming the No. 2 chef at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Daniel, in New York City. He also served as the executive chef at London’s Savoy Hotel, and was most recently at the Belmond El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara.

“I look forward to adding some international flair to Citron’s menu and sharing my interest in regional California cuisine with Viceroy Palm Springs’ gastronomically minded guests,” said Martineau in what has to be one of the most ho-hum press-release quotes in recent memory.

New menus should have been launched by the time you read this.

For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings.

Restaurant Musical Chairs in Cathedral City

The spot they optimistically call “downtown Cathedral City” will soon be the home of two new restaurants.

Bontá, a Latin-European restaurant, is slated to soon open in the space that used to house Picanha Churrascaria at 68510 Highway 111. Practically next door, in the spot once occupied by Big Mama’s Soul Food, Taqueria Los Arcos is scheduled to open.

Watch this column for details.

Also: Last month in this space, we noted that a new “art bar and live music” venue called Bart Lounge was coming to the valley, perhaps in Cathedral City. Well, a lease has been signed, and Bart Lounge is indeed coming to Cathedral City—specifically, the old Level 2/Elevation/Sidewinders space, at 67555 E Palm Canyon Drive. Watch www.facebook.com/bartlounge for updates.

In Brief

Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at 71800 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. The valley’s oldest microbrewery took home a silver medal from Denver’s 2014 Great American Beer Festival for Babe’s Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. … Dish Creative Cuisine remains on hiatus as its new home at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—next to Ernest Coffee and Bootlegger Tiki—gets constructed. A Facebook-page update from Oct. 20 states that restaurant management is keeping its fingers crossed for a mid-November opening. … Also in downtown Palm Springs: Brandini Toffee just celebrated the grand opening of a store at 132 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Brandini is in the spot formerly occupied by the Red Black Café; last year, the prospective owners of what was to be the Gin and Juice Bar announced they’d be taking over the space, but that obviously never happened.

What in the world were Tres Dean and the rest of the people at College of the Desert Performing Arts thinking when they decided to produce The Rocky Horror Show—with a cast and crew primarily consisting of unseasoned college students?

After all, it’s a complex musical with a large cast, challenging songs and a whole lot of choreography. At the opening-night show, my concern was heightened when a student wearing a headset took the stage and announced that the show’s start would be delayed a bit due to “technical difficulties.”

Gulp.

Heck, the name of Rocky Horror’s writer, Richard O’Brien, is misspelled on the show’s promo poster and program cover, for crying out loud.

The prospects, as they say, were looking dim.

Time-warp two hours into the future, though, and I was smiling. So were the rest of the attendees of the sold-out show as they left COD’s Theatre Too—because these talented students and their teachers had pulled it off. In every way, College of the Desert’s Rocky Horror Show is a rollicking, risqué good time.

Many elements of the show—directed by Dean, the assistant professor of theater at COD—were beyond impressive. The amazingly complex set, with multiple stairs and platforms and even a pull-down diagram depicting how to do the “Time Warp,” would have made a large-budget professional company proud; hats off to J.W. Layne, the college’s technical specialist, who acted as the scenic and properties designer. The costumes by Kailey Osgood-McAuliffe were perfect. And the five-piece band, conducted by Scott Smith, was tight. Amazing stuff.

In his introductory remarks, Dean—who noted that this is the first musical being performed in COD’s Theatre Two space in more than a decade—said he’s been emphasizing a student-first philosophy when it comes to casting and producing plays at College of the Desert, and he was proud to announce that COD students constituted “95 percent” of the Rocky Horror cast. He must have been beaming with pride after seeing what he’s helped these students accomplish.

That’s not to say all of the performances in the show were flawless. Portions definitely had a community-theater feel, and there was a wide range of acting, dancing and singing proficiency displayed throughout the cast. However, if you’re coming to COD expecting a fully professional production like you’d find a short walk away at the McCallum Theatre, you need to get your expectations in check.

By far, the most fully realized performance came from Alden Dickey, who played our bespectacled, uptight, tighty-whitey-wearing hero, Brad. This COD student can act, and boy, can he sing. If you slipped him into a Rocky Horror performance on a pro stage in New York or L.A., he’d fit right in. Michael Hadley, one of the non-student ringers in the cast—although he’s a COD alumnus who works at the college—was splendid as Riff Raff, the put-upon servant of Dr. Frank-n-Furter who gets his revenge in the end.

In that plumb role of the good Dr. Frank, Adam Genesta did well, for the most part. He sounded, sang and moved (other than some awkwardness in high heels) like the Frank-n-Furter we all know and love, even if his facial expressions seemed somewhat random at times. While Alden Dickey as Brad threatened to steal the show thanks to his amazing pipes, Genesta took it back by leaving the audience in absolute stitches during the scene toward the end when Dr. Frank slowly, oh so slowly, loses his life.

Johnny Bolth overcame some initial nervousness and wound up shining as the pipe-smoking, stuffy narrator. Briana Taylor was perfectly cast as Janet—man, she’s gorgeous. She won over the audience, even if her singing wasn’t always up to par.

Alisha Bates and April Mejia were fun as Magenta and Columbia, respectively, and Christine Michele was good during her brief appearance as Eddie. Yes, you read that right: Eddie is played by a woman, an interesting casting choice by Dean that makes the sexual dynamics of Rocky Horror even stranger. Who knew that was even possible?

Fans of abs will enjoy Raz Segev as Frank-n-Furter’s masterpiece, Rocky. I am still trying to recover from the handstand/butt-flex moves he showed off during one of the musical numbers. Alma Johnson-Lacy was amusing in during her brief time onstage as Dr. Scott, even if her wig was a bit ridiculous.

Ramon Martinez, Sergio Lopez, Courtney Pittsley, Leslie Benjamin, Miranda Hane, Ronda Williams, Brieana Holguin, Tamani Ono and Rebecca Ann Rodriguez kept the energy going as the cast’s Transylvanians and Phantoms, thanks in part to excellent choreography by Shea New.

If you’re a fan of this legendary show, by all means, go, and support the amazing College of the Desert talent that’s on display. By the time the cast concludes with an encore of “The Time Warp,” you’ll be beaming from ear to ear.

The Rocky Horror Show is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 3 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 2; there’s also a midnight show on Halloween. It takes place at Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., in Palm Desert. Tickets are $30 general, with discounts for students, COD staff and seniors. For tickets or more information, call 760-773-2565, or visit collegeofthedesert.edu/performingarts.

What: Seafood Thursday Dinner at the Potrero Canyon Buffet

Where: Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon

How much: $22.95 with a players’ club card

Contact: 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com

Why: You can pig out on crab or dessert or shrimp or whatever else.

I grew up in Nevada, a fact I’ve noted in this space before. The more time I’ve spent away from Nevada, the more I’ve become convinced that growing up in a state where casinos are everywhere makes you … well, just a little different.

For example, take buffets—specifically, casino buffets. Some non-Nevadans tend to be a little wary of large buffets, fearing potential disease and mediocre, mass-quantity food. However, these fears are unwarranted. First of all, I have eaten at casino buffets hundreds of times, and never have I gotten food poisoning from one. Not once. And second of all, great food can be found at many casino buffets—and such is the case at Morongo’s Potrero Canyon Buffet.

We went there for a birthday celebration on a recent Thursday night—which just so happens to be seafood night—and everyone in our large party thoroughly enjoyed the bevy of food on offer. That’s not to say everything was good—among many dozens of dishes both hot and cold, and both sweet and savory, there are bound to be a few clunkers. However, each of us found an item or four that we absolutely reveled in. For one person, it was the crispy fried shrimp (with oodles of cocktail sauce). For another, it was the unlimited quantity of crab legs.

For me? I was having a sweet-tooth sort of night, so my personal highlight came at the dessert case, where I enjoyed cookies and German chocolate cake and even a miniature lemon-meringue tart.

Yeah, the experience wasn’t so good for my waistline, but it did limited damage to my wallet—and absolutely enthralled my taste buds.

So, go. Don’t be afraid of the casino buffet. Trust me: I’m a former Nevadan.

What: The Grilled Miso Cod Set

Where: Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise, 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $17.95

Contact: 760-325-3005; otootorestaurant.com

Why: The price is right—and the fish is splendid.

Several of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed have been at Nobu, the extremely high-end Japanese restaurant chain owned by Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa.

Nobu’s house specialty is black cod in miso, a stunningly delicious piece of fish that is at once sweet, savory and velvety. It’s often included in the omakase tasting menus at Nobu ($100 to $200 at the Los Angeles Nobu)—or if you want to order the black cod with miso à la carte, it’s $32.

Pricey? Yes—and Nobu is two hours away, to boot. But the news is good for local foodies who don’t want to leave the valley and/or fork over $32, minimum, for a piece of fish: Gyoro Gyoro, in the heart of Palm Springs, is now offering miso cod.

Is the miso cod at Gyoro Gyoro as delectable as the version that made Nobu Matsuhisa a household name? Not quite … but it’s not that far off, either: This grilled cod is a flavor and texture delight—and it’s almost half the price of Nobu’s version.

But wait … there’s more! The “set” (it’s basically fancy bento box) that includes the cod also comes with miso soup, a lovely salad, a side dish (an impressive cold radish-noodle dish when we were there) and rice. (I spent $3 extra to upgrade that rice into four California roll pieces; I was glad I did.) Not bad for $17.95 (plus that $3 upgrade), eh? You can get a larger entrée portion—sans the set, but with veggies and Japanese Satsuma sweet mashed potatoes—for $21.95.

I recommend getting to Gyoro Gyoro a little early and taking advantage of the restaurant’s nice happy hour. Daily from 3 to 6:30 p.m. (or 10 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday), enjoy discounted treats such as a lychee sake-tini ($4.95) or a splendid spicy tuna roll ($5.95).

Add the cocktail, the roll and the miso set together, and you’re still spending less than $32. That’s a great deal. Hooray for Gyoro Gyoro!

Some thoughts percolating through my head this month:

• It was two years ago this month that CVIndependent.com first went live to the world. And it was one year ago this month that the Coachella Valley Independent—after two quarterly print editions—became the monthly print publication that it is today.

So, yeah, October’s kind of an important month for us.

We debated having a big anniversary party, kind of like we did for last year’s print-edition launch and one-year online anniversary, but we decided to hold off and put all of our efforts into creating a kick-ass Best of Coachella Valley party, coming your way most likely in early December. Keep your eye open for more details about that.

By the way, have you voted in the Best of Coachella Valley yet? Round One of voting ends Oct. 3, and the Final Round begins Oct. 8. So, go vote now at CVIndependent.com!

• While the Independent is holding off on an anniversary party, we’re sponsoring All Night Shoes—aka Alex Harrington—as he celebrates the one-year anniversary of his FRESH Sessions mixes for CVIndependent.com. Join us at the party: It’s going down at the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club at 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11. DJ Day and COLOUR VISION will be joining All Night Shoes for one hell of a dance party—and there’s no cover. See ya there!

• Speaking of anniversaries: An organization that’s quite important to me and the Independent is celebrating 10 years of existence this month.

Ever since I moved here, I’ve been a part of the Palm Springs Gay Softball League. I’ve played on and helped coach the team now known as The Green Team for almost two years—and I’ve had the time of my life while doing so. (The Independent sponsors The Green Team, too.)

The league will be celebrating the big anniversary at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5, at Demuth Park, on Mesquite Drive just east of El Cielo Road, in Palm Springs. Come and join in the celebration—especially if you are or were once part of the league, or if you want to know more about it. (By the way, you don’t need to be gay, lesbian or bisexual to play in the league; you just need to be a fun person.)

If you can’t make it on Oct. 5, the league plays games on most Sundays between October and May (with a holiday break in January and much of February) at Demuth Park, so come on down.

Congratulations to everyone in the league! Get more information at psgsl.org.