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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

The Goal of the Second Desert VegFest: Sharing Info About Veganism With the Coachella Valley

Bryan Lopez is passionate about the vegan lifestyle—so passionate, in fact, that he produced a whole festival focused on vegan food back in the spring.

Just six months later, Lopez is back with the sequel: The second Desert VegFest—a whole day of food, music and guest speakers—will take place on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the UC Riverside’s Palm Desert campus.

“I went vegan two years ago, and I have a lot of friends ask what I eat,” Lopez said. “‘What do you eat? Grass?’ I get poked at a lot, because a majority of people don’t understand it—so I thought that it would be a good idea to bring a lot of food into the valley that people can taste to try to disprove many people’s misconceptions. Vegan food is good, but a lot of people don’t know that.”

To Lopez’s knowledge, Desert VegFest is the only vegan-centered festival in the Coachella Valley.

“There are a lot of vegan festivals throughout the U.S., and I tried to use their formula to do mine,” Lopez said. “For the most part, I did what they are doing—but I plan to do different things in the future now that I know what I’m doing and am more confident with myself.”

While Lopez pulled off a great festival in the spring, he learned a lot of lessons—some the hard way.

“There were a lot of last-minute expenses,” Lopez said. “There was a big tent that we had for the artists, but we found out we couldn’t stake it down into the ground because of the piping, so I had to pay out-of-pocket for some cement blocks.

“The night before the festival, our generator got stolen. That was also expensive, but it also delayed the music by an hour and a half. … It was definitely a trial-and-error experience, and I know I’m going to be better (this time).”

The May event hosted some 2,000 people celebrating the vegan lifestyle by chowing down on food from various vendors.

“I’m hoping that a lot of people get to try the food, because the way to people’s hearts and minds is through food,” he said. “You can show people facts and statistics about going vegan, but the truth is that it’s all about the taste of the food. If I could get some people to consider going vegan just by trying the food, then that would be great.”

The second Desert VegFest will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert campus, at 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive. Tickets are $3 online, or a buck more at the door. For tickets or more info, visit www.desertvegfest.com.


In Brief

Sing along: “It’s the most yummiest time of the year!” To translate: It’s time for the 28th annual Indio International Tamale Festival! It all goes down on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7 and 8, in downtown Indio. Admission is free (but alas, the tamales are not). Expect a food-truck park, a farmers’ market, entertainment, beer gardens and all sorts of family-friendly fun. Get more details at www.tamalefestival.net. … Now open: Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, at 73040 El Paseo, in Palm Desert. The high-end seafood restaurant is owned by the same company that runs The Capital Grille; learn more at www.eddiev.com. … The second annual Golden Grapes Wine Festival will take over the Commune at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8. This joint production of the Ace and the Palm Springs Wine Festival will feature more than 50 winemakers “who are part of a radical shift in the wine industry in the Golden State.” Ooh! Tickets are $85; $99 gets you a VIP ticket, which comes with a free bottle of wine and admission to the soiree an hour early. Get those tix at www.acehotel.com. … Coming soon to 13104 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs: Taste of India. That’s all we know for now; watch this space for more info when we get more info. … New to 461 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs: Las Palmas Brewery. The microbrewery and natural wine bar is the latest feather in the growing cap that is the Coachella Valley beer scene. (Apologies for that terrible analogy.) Visit www.facebook.com/laspalmasbrewing to learn more. ... Coming soon to Palm Springs, at 170 E. Palm Canyon Drive, next to Kreem: Gabino’s Creperie. Watch www.facebook.com/gabinoscreperie for updates.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Owner of 533 Viet Fusion to Open Roly China Fusion in Former Alebrije Space

One of downtown Palm Springs’ best restaurants is no more—but a veteran restaurateur is going to take over that restaurant’s space and hopefully fill a culinary need.

Here’s how it all went down: Alebrije Bistro Mexico, at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, closed in early July. The Mexico City-style upscale restaurant announced on Facebook: “Dear amigos, Alebrije will be closed for the rest of the summer. See you again in September!”

Within a couple of weeks, however, it became apparent that Alebrije would not be seeing us again in September—because Chad Gardner, the owner of both 533 Viet Fusion and Dash and a Handful Catering, announced on Facebook that he’d be opening Roly China Fusion in the space that had been Alebrije’s home.

A July 28 announcement on Facebook said Roly will be “serving authentic Cantonese and Sichuan Chinese Cuisine with (Gardner’s) own modern twists. Roly China Fusion will offer an exceptional social and traditional dining experiences in our indoor-outdoor lounge and restaurant.”

What does all of this mean? First: The closure of Alebrije is truly a loss. For my money, it served some of the most sophisticated food and drink in the Coachella Valley. The roasted suckling pig was on my unofficial Top 10 list of the valley’s best entrées. It will be missed.

Second: The opening of Roly, which could come as soon as October, will be most welcome. Gardner has been looking for his next restaurant project for a while now; he announced back in 2016 that he’d be opening a Mediterranean restaurant in the much-and-still-delayed Andaz Palm Springs hotel, but those plans fell through. Given his success with 533 Viet Fusion, I am excited to see what he’ll do with Chinese cuisine—and it’s a well-known fact that the western Coachella Valley badly needs some good Chinese fare.

Watch www.rolychinafusion.com and Roly’s Facebook page for updates and more information.


Ace Hotel Launches a Monthly Wine-Tasting Series

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club is holding a monthly poolside wine-tasting series in the months leading up to the second annual Palm Springs Wine Festival.

The Golden Grapes tastings each cost $20, will occur on a weekend day between noon and 5 p.m., and will feature a “curated selection of wineries represent(ing) just a few of the new California vintners who are transforming the landscape of wine in the Golden State and beyond,” according to a press release.

On Sunday, Sept. 29, Nomadica wines will be available; on Sunday, Oct. 13, the featured winemaker will be Amy Atwood Selections. On Saturday, Nov. 9, it’ll be Scribe Wine (Nouveau).

As for the second annual Palm Springs Wine Festival … mark your calendars for Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7 and 8.

The Ace Hotel and Swim club is located at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. For more information, visit www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.


In Brief

New to 72301 Country Club Drive, Suite 110, in Rancho Mirage: The Sandbox Kitchen, a deli/taco joint that opened in early August. For now, the place is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Sunday (and Saturday, when it’s open until 9). We’re already hearing raves about the street tacos and the impressive number of vegan/vegetarian options. Call 760-565-6044, or visit facebook.com/TheSandboxKitchen for more information. … New to 360 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs: InKa Peruvian Cuisine. The restaurant wins our Weirdest Facebook “About” Description Award with this: “The InKa came to Palm Springs, brought with him his best dishes with which he will conquer the entire city.” OK then! The expansive menu features a lot of yummy-sounding dishes with meat and seafood, as well as some intriguing vegetarian options. InKa opens at 11 a.m. Monday and Tuesday, and 9 a.m. the other five days of the week; it’s open daily until at least 10 p.m. For more information, call 760-992-5311, or visit www.facebook.com/inkaperuviancuisine. … Acqua California Bistro, at The River (71800 Highway 111) in Rancho Mirage, is now offering a “Buffet Bar” every Sunday through Friday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.: $7.99 will get you a selection of pizzas, pastas, salads, sliced meats and other goodies—and the house chardonnay and cabernet wines are just $4.99. Call 760-862-9800, or visit acquaranchomirage.com for more information. … Coming soon to 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 130, in downtown Palm Springs: Stout Burgers and Beers. It’ll be the sixth Stout location, joining three other Southern California locations, plus restaurants in Brentwood, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky.; visit www.stoutburgersandbeers.com for more information. … Coming soon to 73040 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Eddie V’s Prime Seafood. It’s a sister restaurant to The Capital Grille chain; visit www.eddiev.com for the scoop.

Published in Restaurant & Food News