CVIndependent

Wed05272020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

What: Nonna’s Meatballs

Where: Birba Palm Springs, 622 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How Much: $10

Contact: 760-327-5678; www.birbaps.com

Why: The tomato sauce and the high-quality meat.

Birba Palm Springs is one of the most difficult restaurants in downtown Palm Springs at which to get a table on a busy night. No joke: If you walk in without a reservation and try to get a table on an in-season Friday night, be prepared to wait for an hour, or perhaps even longer.

So how did this outdoor restaurant that almost exclusively uses a wood oven to cook its food—the little kitchen does not even include a stove, a server told us during a recent meal there—become one of the west valley’s most-popular joints?

For one thing, the outdoor vibe is lovely. Tall bushes keep the hubbub from Palm Canyon Drive to a minimum; strings of lights add ambiance; and seating is offered in a variety of options—tables and bar space are supplemented with club-style couches.

For another, the menu is fairly simple, yet packed with delicious options: Eight appetizers/salads are joined by pizzas and a handful of other options, listed under the heading “Wood Oven.”

One of those “Wood Oven” options has left us coming back for more: Nonna’s meatballs. Four medium-size meatballs—made with both Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef—come covered with a delicious, perfectly seasoned tomato sauce and some large hard-cheese shavings. The fact that Birba’s chefs don’t just use any old ground meat in these meatballs is evident: The flavor is fantastic. After the meatballs were all gone, we had some of that savory tomato sauce left over—so, of course, we had to ask for bread with which to sop it up. However, this being Birba, we received pizza-crust triangles to use—and they did the trick.

The vibe, the friendly service and those meatballs have us so enchanted that we’re almost willing to wait an hour or more for a table. Almost.

What: The BBQ Pork and Egg Roll Vermicelli Bowl

Where: Pho Vu, 34260 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert; also at 79630 Highway 111, No. 103, La Quinta; coming soon to 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $8.95

Contact: 760-324-1888 (Palm Desert); 760-775-2417 (La Quinta); phovurestaurant.com

Why: Pork and “Vietnamese vinaigrette” rock together.

Let’s face it: With a few notable exceptions, the Asian-food scene in the Coachella Valley is pretty dismal.

Yeah, there are some good Thai and Indian joints … but how many truly outstanding, say, Chinese-food restaurants are there? Heck, let’s not even go that far: How many better-than-passable Chinese-food restaurants are there?

The same can be said for Vietnamese food—although things are improving, thanks in large part to the introduction of Pho Vu, with newish restaurants in Palm Desert and La Quinta, and a third location coming soon to Palm Springs.

I recently stopped by the Pho Vu in Palm Desert, located in one of those seemingly endless strip malls near the intersection of Dinah Shore Drive and Monterey Avenue. I was craving one of my fave Vietnamese dishes: bún, aka a vermicelli bowl, with lettuce, cucumber, mint, cilantro, green onions, nuoc cham (touted on the menu as a “Vietnamese vinaigrette”; it's a fish-sauce-based dressing, of sorts) and one’s toppings of choice; I chose pork and egg roll.

I am elated to report that my craving was more than satisfied.

One of my favorite things about good bún is that it’s a veritable cornucopia of textures, flavors and even temperatures: The noodles are soft; the warm pork is slightly chewy and salty; the cool veggies are crisp and just a wee bit bitter; and the fish sauce is tart and vinegary. Despite the incredible sensory variety, it all comes together beautifully.

Yeah, the Asian-food world in the Coachella Valley has a loooog way to go. But it’s on the upswing, thanks in part to Pho Vu.

I recently received an email from a person who works at a local advertising agency, requesting coverage of an event.

“Or all features given to advertisers?” the email said. “If so I understand.”

Sigh.

I sent a polite reply, explaining that advertising has nothing to do with our editorial coverage. (And, yes, we did cover the event, even though we didn’t receive any advertising—simply because it was an event worthy of coverage.)

Sadly, emails like this to Independent World Headquarters are fairly common. These days—and in this valley, in particular—it’s fairly common for “legitimate” publications to sell editorial coverage along with advertising. This is an ethically questionable practice to begin with—and it’s downright wrong for publications to sell coverage without labeling that coverage as advertising. Yet it happens all the time.

Every journalism school in the country teaches classes warning against “pay for play” practices—and it turns out that many in the advertising industry warn against it, too.

The American Advertising Federation (of which the Independent, as well as almost every local advertising agency, is a member) is part of an Institute for Advertising Ethics, in partnership with the Reynolds Journalism Institute of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In 2011, that Institute for Advertising Ethics released a list of eight advertising “principles and practices.”

The introduction to the list, in part, reads: “The eight Principles and Practices presented here are the foundation on which the Institute for Advertising Ethics (IAE) was created. They are based on the premise that all forms of communications, including advertising, should always do what is right for consumers, which in turn is right for business as well. For while we are in an age of unparalleled change, this overriding truth never changes.” (Emphasis is theirs.)

As for Principle No. 3, it reads: “Advertisers should clearly distinguish advertising, public relations and corporate communications from news and editorial content and entertainment, both online and offline.”

That’s why we here at the Coachella Valley Independent never, ever promise editorial coverage as part of an advertising deal, nor will we ever write/publish something just to make an existing advertiser happy. As it says in our mission statement: “We believe in true, honest journalism: We want to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted. We want to be a mirror for the entire Coachella Valley. We want to inform, enlighten and entertain. We will never let advertisers determine what we cover, and how we cover things. In other words, we will always tell it how we see it.”

Allene Arthur, the locally legendary columnist for The Desert Sun who recently turned 90, is the subject of a lovely feature we recently published. She summed up this issue best: “I write for the reader—not the advertiser or the people being written about, but the reader!”

Amen, Allene.

Twin Palms Reopens After Fire-Related 8 1/2-Month Hiatus

As we briefly mentioned last month: Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, located at 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, re-opened in late December after a closure of 8 1/2 months.

Here’s what happened: On April 9, a small fire broke out in the kitchen of the “comfort food” restaurant. The damage was minor—limited to a fairly small area behind some stainless-steel wall panels, according to co-owner Pat Daltroff—because it was extinguished quickly. Daltroff and his crew thought the restaurant would be closed for days, or maybe a week or two, tops, due to the fire, which Daltroff blamed on shoddy workmanship by a former tenant.

Those days or weeks turned into 8 1/2 months. Why?

Daltroff, selecting his words carefully, answered thusly: “For whatever reason, the landlord took 8 1/2 months” to make the repairs allowing Twin Palms to re-open.

Of course, 8 1/2 months is a long time, meaning that Daltroff and general manager Marilyn Simmons had to almost start over. Simmons—who herself was forced to find another job while the landlord/insurance/etc. saga at Twin Palms dragged on—said that most of the original wait staff has returned, but the entire kitchen staff needed to be replaced. For that reason, the restaurant has been gradually re-introducing menu items and specials during their “soft reopening.”

Some of the favorites for which Twin Palms was known and loved are back, including red beans and rice on Monday nights; all-you-can-eat fried chicken on Tuesday nights; and all you can eat spaghetti on Wednesday nights. The restaurant is now open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays—a fact which makes me particularly happy, as I’ve been missing their crab-cakes Benedict all these months.

Daltroff emphasized that local government agencies—from the Palm Springs Fire Department, to the permit-issuing officials within the city of Palm Springs, to the Riverside County Health Department—“bent over backward” to help Twin Palms.

“They could not have been more anxious for us to reopen,” he said.

What’s in store for the future of Twin Palms? “We’re just trying to build our business back up,” Daltroff said.

Stop by and help the good folks at Twin Palms do just that, will ya? Call 760-322-3730 for more information.

Coming Soon: Pho Vu Palm Springs

The slow but steady diversification of downtown Palm Springs’ restaurant scene continues!

A Vietnamese restaurant is soon joining the figurative fray: The valley’s third Pho Vu will be opening at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive. A mid-to-late January look in the windows revealed a mostly gutted space, with a few pieces of equipment here and there. In other words, the restaurant is still weeks, if not months, away from opening.

The other two Pho Vu restaurants in the valley are located at 79630 Highway 111 in La Quinta, and 34620 Monterey Ave. in Palm Desert—bright spots in a valley where there’s not a heck of a lot of good Vietnamese fare.

To our knowledge, Pho Vu Palm Springs will become only the second Vietnamese restaurant on the valley’s west side, joining Pho 533 at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive.

Visit phovurestaurant.com for more information.

Coming Soon: The Tonga Hut

Ever since we saw Tonga Hut’s awesome entry in the Palm Springs Festival of Lights, we’ve peeked in every time we’ve walked by to see if the bar/restaurant at 254 N. Palm Canyon Drive (above NYPD) is open yet—and alas, it has remained “coming soon.”

Why are we so excited about the Tonga Hut? Well, it’s the sister bar to the legendary Tonga Hut in North Hollywood, which has been serving fruity Island drinks and other tropical fare since 1958; it’s Los Angeles’ oldest still-open Tiki bar, in fact.

While Tonga Hut’s Palm Springs operation was not yet open as of our press deadline, the Tonga Hut Facebook page promises that an opening is imminent; watch that page for more details.

In Brief

On Sunday, Feb. 2, the inaugural Palm Springs Vintage Market will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the parking lots of the Spa Resort Casino (near Indian Canyon Drive and Amado Road). The organizers promise lots of vintage goods—as well as food trucks! (Hence the inclusion in this column.) The market is slated for every first Sunday, and admission is $5; find more info at www.palmspringsopenairemarket.com. … The news release was headlined: “Natural 9 Noodle Company to celebrate year of the horse with specialty dishes.” Thankfully, the restaurant—located at Morongo Casino Resort Spa—is not serving horse. Instead, the eatery, under the direction of executive chef Michael Nguyen, will be celebrating Chinese New Year with yummy special dishes, including a lobster cognac fried rice with Chinese sausage, shitake mushrooms and other goodies ($24); and roasted whole Peking duck with green onions, cucumbers, hoisin sauce and Chinese pancakes ($32). The celebration runs from Thursday, Jan. 30, through Monday, Feb. 17; find more info at www.facebook.com/Natural9NoodleCompany.

What: Felipe’s huachinango (whole red snapper)

Where: Maracas Mexican Cantina and Grill, 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; also at 72775 Dinah Shore, Rancho Mirage

How much: $20.95

Contact: 322-9654 (Palm Springs); 321-1001 (Rancho Mirage); www.maracas-restaurant.com (warning: prices and other info woefully outdated)

Why: It’s primal and delicious.

One of the best lines from A Christmas Story (yeah, I know it’s almost February; please bear with me) comes when the family—their Christmas turkey destroyed by the Bumpus hounds—heads to dinner at Chop Suey Palace, and the enthusiastic staff delivers a whole goose to the table.

“It’s … smiling at me!” says Mr. Parker, played by the late, great Darren McGavin—just before one of the waiters helpfully chops off the head.

I don’t know where in the Coachella Valley one can get a whole goose for dinner, but I do know where one can enjoy a meal that’s smiling at you—a very good meal, in fact.

Maracas Mexican Cantina and Grill serves up all of the fare you’d expect from a restaurant with the words “Mexican Grill and Cantina” in its name—and some dishes you may not expect, too. One of those possibly unexpected dishes that we here at Independent headquarters absolutely love is the whole red snapper—which, as you can see from the accompanying photo, arrives at the table with a big, toothy smile.

This is not a meal for the faint of heart, nor is it a meal for people who mind getting messy when they eat: This whole fish is coated in “New Mexico flour,” fried and then served in all its primal glory. The cooks helpfully slice the flesh in a grid pattern before frying, but otherwise, when it comes to picking this fish apart into edible chunks, you’re on your own.

However, all your effort is worth it: The fried fish is moist, texturally satisfying (with a nice mix of soft meat and crispy skin) and, most importantly, delicious.

Trust me: When you’re at Maracas eating Felipe’s huachinango, the snapper won’t be the only one at the table who’s smiling.

What: The cordoniz estilo Ernesto (quail, Ernesto style)

Where: Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $24.95

Contact: 760-992-5641; rioazulpalmsprings.com

Why: It’s one of the tastiest plates of food in the entire valley.

I grew up on a cattle ranch outside of Reno, Nev., where quail are ubiquitous.

Thus, I know a little bit about these birds. Quail are cute. Quail are fast. Quail don’t seem all that bright. And I’d never thought of quail as all that delicious, either. I’d eaten quail a couple of times, and those meals were rather unremarkable. The little birds struck me as stringy and insubstantial—a lot of work for not a lot of reward.

Flash forward to a month or two ago, when my partner and I were having dinner at downtown Palm Springs’ Rio Azul. We ordered the parrilladas for two ($38.95), the restaurant’s entrée combination plate. It included a couple of different shrimp preparations, grilled steak, grilled chicken, the usual Mexican sides … and “succulent quail grilled to perfection.”

If you’d have told me ahead of time that the quail would be the hit of the plate (over bacon-wrapped shrimp?!), I’d have told you to lay off of whatever substance was leaving you outside of your right mind. But lo and behold: The quail was amazing.

Now, flash forward to my next (and most recent) meal at Rio Azul: Of course I had to get the cordiniz estilo Ernesto (aka the quail Ernesto style; Ernesto Gastelum is Rio Azul’s executive chef).

The plate, pictured above, does not offer the prettiest presentation—and, yes, you’re gonna have to get your hands a bit messy to eat this. Well, roll up your sleeves, because it’s worth it: This combination of potatoes, onions, peppers, garlic with the moist quail parts is fantastic.

It’s fantastic even without that little cup o’ sauce off to the side—but it’s even better when the quail is dipped in that “famous diablo cream salsa.” Don’t let the words “diablo” or “salsa” confuse you: It’s a liquid that’s not all that spicy; instead, it’s rich and luxurious.

I don’t know how Chef Ernesto makes these quail so succulent, so juicy, so packed with flavor—but he does. And the result is one of the best meals I’ve had in the Coachella Valley.

Wednesday, 01 January 2014 10:30

A Note From the Editor: Volume 2, Issue 1

When we launched the Coachella Valley Independent in late 2012, we knew that we’d face numerous obstacles and dilemmas along the way.

However, our latest print issue presented us with a unique dilemma that I didn’t see coming. The question at hand: When should the Independent start its new volume?

For years, magazines, newspapers and other print publications have divvied up issues into volumes. Most publications change volumes on a yearly basis—quite often on the anniversary of the publication’s launch. For example, the publication I worked at before the Independent came to be, the Tucson Weekly, will start its 31st volume in late February, when the publication celebrates its 30th anniversary.

That’s all well and good—but in the Independent’s case, we have at least four “launch” dates.

We launched CVIndependent.com in beta in October 2012. We took the website out of beta on Jan. 1, 2013. We published our first print issue, a quarterly, in April 2013. After another quarterly in July 2013, we published our first monthly edition in October 2013.

So, taking this all into consideration, when should we start our new volume? One could make the case that we could have done so in October 2013, with our first monthly, to coincide with the one-year anniversary of our beta launch. But that was only our beta online launch; our full launch happened a year ago this month. However, we didn’t do a print issue until April—and it’s the print edition, not the website, that is divided up into issues and volumes.

After much inane back-and-forth—I think everyone can agree that when to start a new volume is not a dilemma that anyone would categorize as “serious” in any way—we decided to start Volume 2 with our January 2014 issue. It marks the fact that the Independent has a year of great, full-time content and coverage under its figurative belt, so it felt like the best answer to this silly question.

On a not-so-silly note: We’re kicking off Volume 2 with quite a bang; there’s a lot of great stuff in this issue (most of which has already been posted online). Our cover package looks at some of the issues that people within the Coachella Valley’s homeless population face—including a crippling amount of petty legal citations, with not-so-petty fees. Our News section features a story on the Desert Ice Castle, and its ties to potential Winter Olympics glory; our Movies section offers a quick history of the Palm Springs International Film Festival; and our Music section is packed with coverage on everything from the newly restored Purple Room to a third-wave ska act that’s making an appearance at The Hood. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Enjoy Volume 2, Issue 1, of the Coachella Valley Independent.

Thursday, 19 December 2013 15:30

The Lucky 13: The Members of Brain Vat

Meet the men of Brain Vat—and be there at 10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20, at the Red Barn, 73290 Highway 111 in Palm Desert, when they’ll be making a live recording. Joining the heavy rock band for the free show are Wooden Nomad and Fever Dog. For more information, peruse the band’s Facebook page.

All four of the local-music veterans took the time to answer The Lucky 13. Here are their answers.


Sheridan Carnahan, 24, vocals, Palm Desert

What was the first concert you attended?

Ozzfest 2002. It was a great time with buddies and family.

What was the first album you owned?

Pantera, Cowboys From Hell.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’ve been listening to the Atomic Bitchwax a lot lately.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Anything mainstream, it seems.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Stevie Ray Vaughan, or good old Lynyrd Skynyrd, or Pantera, perhaps. I love me a good Gwar show.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

GG Allin.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The one with the cheapest drinks, ha ha.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

Thats a hard one; everyday, it’s a new one—and not usually something I want in my head. I randomly get a lot of The Doors stuff.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Jon Coty, FYB. R.I.P

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

To Dimebag Darrell: “You want to take a shot?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I’d like a lot of songs, not just one song looping constantly, though that would be pretty funny. “Have a Drink on Me,” AC/DC, maybe.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Lynyrd Skynyrd, Disc 3 of Box Set.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Brain Vat, “My Infinity”


Brad Garrow, 45, guitar, Palm Desert

What was the first concert you attended?

The Pretenders and Bow Wow Wow.

What was the first album you owned?

Judas Priest, Unleashed in the East.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Bloodsimple, Alice in Chains, Rival Sons.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

It would have to be pop punk.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I would like to see Led Zeppelin and old, old Rush!

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I don’t believe there is such a thing. There is no wrong with music.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The National Bowl in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. In 1998, I saw Soulfly, Tool, Slipknot from the stage, and then the original Black Sabbath from the side of the stage!

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“If you should die before me, ask if you can bring a friend,” from “Still Remains,” Stone Temple Pilots.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Randy Rhoads and Mikey Doling.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Tony Iommi: “What do you think of Randy Rhoads?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Diary of a Madman,” Ozzy Osbourne.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Diary of a Madman, Ozzy Osbourne.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“2112,” Rush.


Frank Joseph Ramirez, 44, drummer, Indio

What was the first concert you attended?

I attended Summer Strut in 1982 at Anaheim Stadium with my two sisters; I was 12 years old. Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Loverboy and Foreigner were on the bill.

What was the first album you owned?

I inherited my sister’s album collection, but my first album with my own money would have to be Kiss, Alive!

What bands are you listening to right now?

Black Label Society, Truckfighters, Rush, Rainbow, Iron Maiden. I stick with the old stuff.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I don’t get pop punk. It’s pretty lame.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I would love to see Snot again, and Soundgarden.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I love country music, artists like George Strait, Toby Keith, and Keith Urban.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Greek Theatre (in Los Angeles) has to be the best; I was able to see Santana and Boston together on the same night. Those are two of my many favorite bands.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“So live for today, tomorrow never comes,” from “Die Young,” Black Sabbath.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

It absolutely has to be Rush. I was blown away by how much music could come out of three guys. They were way ahead of their time.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Jim Morrison: “Why?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“The Long and Winding Road,” the Beatles.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

It’s a tie between Rush’s Hemispheres and 2112.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Trenches,” Pop Evil.


David Gonzalez, 24, bass, Indio

What was the first concert you attended?

Ozzfest 2004. So epic!

What was the first album you owned?

It had to be Slipknot, Slipknot.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Generation Kill, and Channel Zero, from Belgium. Channel Zero is currently recording a new album which I am really looking forward to. Mikey Doling from Snot and Soulfly is in the band. They got Roy Mayorga from Stone Sour and Soulfly, recording drums only.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Techno and pop punk. Oh, and melodic metal. I hate it!

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Snot with Lynn Strait, in 1997. He had so much energy!

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I love classical. … Symphonies are great.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Roxy (in West Hollywood). I saw Invitro there, and it was epic.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“If you’re 555, then I’m 666!” from “The Heretic Anthem,” Slipknot.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

It has to be Snot. The style was so unique to me. They were hardcore; the lyrics were hardcore. I’m a originally a guitar-player. Once I heard their guitar style, it was epic to me: It had punk, and was bluesy, and heavy. I learned to (mix) different styles.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would ask Jimi Hendrix, along with Dimebag Darrell: “Do you want to smoke a couple of joints?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Goodbye to Romance,” Ozzy Osbourne.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Pantera, Cowboys From Hell.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Pantera, “Cowboys From Hell.” (Scroll down to hear it.)

What: The Chicken Caprese

Where: Cello’s, 35943 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $18 for lunch; $20 for dinner

Contact: 760-328-5353; www.cellosbistro.com

Why: It’s subtly delicious.

The word “delicious” is surprisingly versatile. Most people use “delicious” to refer to yummy food, but didja know that the first definition of the word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is simply “affording great pleasure”?

Of course, the second definition relates a little more specifically to food—“appealing to one of the bodily senses, especially of taste or smell,” to be exact—but regarding the word’s versatility, think about how many different foods you consider “delicious.” Some delicious foods figuratively smack you over the head with flavor; others are subtle, yet nonetheless incredibly enjoyable.

This brings us to the signature dish at Cello’s, a delightful restaurant tucked into a strip mall at Date Palm and Gerald Ford drives in Cathedral City. The chicken Caprese is not a plate that will smack you over the head with flavor—but it will indeed offer you great pleasure.

The dish is a symphony of mild flavors. The “lightly breaded” chicken breast is juicy and tender—almost schnitzel-like. The yellow and red cherry tomatoes are fresh, firm and slightly sweet. The mozzarella is smooth with just a hint of salt. Add in an ample amount of basil and olive oil, and the dish is set.

The result is an entrée that’s greater than the sum of its parts. No flavors dominate, but they all make their presence known. There are no big taste crescendos—just a perfect, harmonious, subtle melody.

If you’re looking for something that will knock your taste buds around, try something else. But if you want something fresh, filling and subtly splendid, we heartily endorse the chicken Caprese. It truly is delicious—in every sense of the word. 

IW Club Becomes Vue Grille and Bar

There’s good news for lovers of fine food and drink in the Coachella Valley: The restaurant formerly known as the IW Club has changed its name—and stepped up its game.

The restaurant, located at the Indian Wells Golf Resort at 44500 Indian Wells Lane, officially changed its name and concept on Thursday, Dec. 5. Hundreds of people came out that evening to celebrate the change at the city-owned venue, at a party that included food, cocktails, beer from La Quinta Brewing Company, and live music in the resort’s brand-new events pavilion.

Why the change?

“A lot of people had heard of (the IW Club),” said Scott Winant, the director of food and beverage at the restaurant and resort, “but the word ‘club’ gave off a private connotation. The main premise is to let everybody know it isn’t a private country club, so to speak.”

Indeed: The restaurant is open to all for both lunch and dinner seven days a week (as well as brunch on Sundays, of course).

Executive chef Cale Falk has reconfigured the menus to emphasize a farm-to-table approach, with the use of many local ingredients. Prices, while certainly not cheap, aren’t astronomical, either: Most lunch dishes are in the $15 range, while dinner entrées range from $21 to $38 (for a prime filet mignon).

I was fortunate enough to sample several of Falk’s new dishes at a private media lunch a couple of days before the grand opening, and everything we tried—including the aforementioned filet—was splendid. Other highlights included the Jamie Farms beet salad (pictured above), with “beet soil,” goat-cheese dressing and honey pearls ($15); a seabass dish with Manila clams, pork belly, potatoes, carrots and a sauce that made the plate into a deconstructed seafood chowder, of sorts ($29); and the Medjool dates with gorgonzola, apple and honey ($12).

Yum.

Winant said that Vue is hosting three different concepts under its one roof (and assorted patios, one of which will soon be covered for year-round comfort): an upscale, fine-dining area; a gastropub/bar area, featuring the craft-cocktail creations of local bar veteran Javier Santana; and a sushi bar/lounge featuring the work of sushi chef Akio Naito.

At that media lunch, I got to try some of the fish Naito was offering, and it was amazing. But that isn’t even what I am most excited about regarding the new Vue: It’s those cocktails being offered at the gorgeous bar. The Coachella Valley has been slow to catch on to the craft-cocktail craze that’s sweeping the nation, and Vue has one of the most intriguing drink selections I’ve found in the valley. Santana’s bar menu includes five different types of Manhattans, for starters; if rye or whiskey isn’t up your alley, perhaps something refreshing like the white linen is: It includes Bombay Sapphire gin, St. Germain, lemon and cucumber. The specialty cocktails all cost $10 or $11—or a downright reasonable $7 or $8 during happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m.

One carryover from the IW Club days: Vue offers live music six days per week.

For more information or reservations, call 760-834-3800, or visit www.vuegrilleandbar.com.

Thai Smile Palm Springs Now in New Digs

Thai Smile Palm Springs, the popular restaurant that called 651 N. Palm Canyon Drive home for years, has finally moved to its new location at 100 S. Indian Canyon Drive.

The move into the spot at Indian Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon Way has been in the works since at least May; a representative back then told us that owners hoped to have the new and bigger location open by August. Obviously, that projected opening date was overly optimistic—but Thai Smile management wisely made a deal to stay in their old spot as long as they needed. In fact, only several days passed between the old location closing, and the new one opening its doors.

So far, so good at the new location: On a recent evening, the wait for takeout orders was running at least 45 minutes.

Call 760-320-5503, or visit www.thaismilepalmsprings.com for more information.

Paradiso Closes Its Doors

Paradiso, the newish Cathedral City restaurant known for its pastas and its all-you-can-eat pizza on Monday nights, closed its doors rather suddenly in late November.

Mike Ramos and Chip Yarborough opened the restaurant, at 35903 Date Palm Drive, last spring. After a summer closure during the month of August, the restaurant reopened on the Monday of Labor Day weekend, and seemed to be gearing up for the height of season. However, around Thanksgiving, everything regarding the restaurant went silent, without any explanation: Its Open Table reservation system went offline; there were no more Facebook updates; and the restaurant’s voicemail system became full and stopped accepting new messages.

If we receive further word on what happened, we’ll pass it along. In any case, we’re sad to see this locally owned spot go so soon.

In Brief

The Copa Room Palm Springs, at 244 E. Amado Road, the sister nightclub of The Tropicale restaurant, officially opened its doors with a “soft opening” and a packed house on Wednesday, Dec. 11; watch www.copapalmsprings.com for more info. … The Miramonte Resort and Spa, 45000 Indian Wells Lane, in Indian Wells, has named Adam Votaw—a veteran of restaurants both large and small around the world—as its new executive chef. … Here at Independent World Headquarters, we’ve been getting inundated with news releases about various Christmas Day dining options around the Coachella Valley. We don’t have space to list specifics, but chances are, one or more of your favorite dining spots will be open; that’s one of the advantages of living in an area beloved by tourists. No need to eat duck at the Chop Suey Palace here! Call or visit the website of your favorite restaurant to learn more.