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Mon11182019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What: The seared scallops and smoked pork belly

Where: The Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $30

Contact: 760-969-1818; www.colonypalmshotel.com/dining

Why: It’s elegantly delicious.

It’s a Thursday night. It’s been seemingly forever since my friend Darrell and I have caught up, so we make plans to grab a drink and perhaps a small bite at one of our favorite haunts: the Purple Palm Restaurant, poolside at the Colony Palms Hotel.

We order drinks from the amazing bartender. We chat. We peruse the menu. I see the words “seared scallops and smoked pork belly” in the entrée section.

Hmm. I am not going to be having a small-bite here; this is going to be a full-blown meal.

Pork belly is one of those foods I can rarely resist—even though I oftentimes wind up disappointed by what appears on my plate. When pork belly is prepared right, it’s orgasmic, but too often, it’s overcooked, rendering it gummy and greasy and just sort of bleh.

Well, the pork belly that appears on my plate at the Purple Palm is a prime example of why I can rarely resist pork belly: It’s divine. It’s cooked perfectly, and winds up being a splendid, salty companion to the pillowy scallops. The parsnip puree and chanterelle mushrooms bring even more depth to the party, and when I am finished, I feel a hint of sadness that this near-perfect meal has come to an end.

Unless I order another, that is. Hmm … nah. Neither budget nor calorie count will allow that.

So instead, Darrell and I order another round, and continue to catch up, as we enjoy the amazing Palm Springs “winter” weather. Life can be truly grand sometimes, can’t it?

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Baked Eggs in “Purgatorio”

Where: Joey Palm Springs, 245 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $9.50

Contact: 760-320-8370; www.facebook.com/joeypalmsprings

Why: It’s a perfect breakfast on a cool morning.

Amazing food can often be found in the most unexpected places—and Joey Palm Springs is a perfect example.

I met my friend Michael for coffee there one recent morning. I already knew that the space is beyond charming—it used to house the late, lamented Espresso Cielo—so I expected to enjoy a fine cup o’ joe in a nice spot with a good friend.

I was also feeling a bit peckish, so I decided to peruse Joey’s food offerings. At the top of the breakfast menu was a dish called baked eggs in “Purgatorio”: two eggs baked in soft polenta, marinara, Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil. Wow, I thought. I didn’t expect to find a dish like this in a li’l café like this!

Turns out I probably should have had higher expectations: Joey Palm Springs is owned and operated by Vince Calcagno and Joe Lucero—and this couple has a fine food pedigree: Calcagno used to own Zuni Café, widely regarded as one of San Francisco’s top restaurants.

While all of this sounds good on paper, the food was great in actuality. Cheese, polenta, marinara and egg are a classic combination for a reason, and while Joey Palm Springs’ version of this well-known dish—usually called “eggs in purgatory”—wasn’t at all unique, it was perfectly executed.

The baked eggs in “Purgatorio” dish was made even better by the weather—it was a chilly morning, something that’s rather common this time of year in our lovely bit o’ desert. Well, this little treat warmed me right up—and elated my taste buds at the same time. It was indeed an unexpected and most welcome find.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Stuffed French Toast

Where: The Broken Yolk Café, 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 78430 Highway 111, La Quinta

How much: $11.95

Contact: 760-318-9655 (Palm Springs); 760-777-9655 (La Quinta); thebrokenyolkcafe.com

Why: It’s sweet yet surprisingly nuanced.

I’m normally a savory-breakfast kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE the sweet stuff, but when it comes to a choice between, say, bacon and … well, anything, bacon’s going to win.

However, things started to change a bit on a recent visit to the Broken Yolk Café, where I saw this description of the stuffed French toast: Two extra thick slices of batter-dipped egg bread stuffed with creamy mascarpone cheese and sliced bananas. Crowned with rich caramel sauce, more bananas and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Wow. This is a dish that seemingly offers far more nuance than most sweet breakfast fare, so I decided I had to try it. (Yeah, I also got the add-on of two eggs and two bacon strips for a downright affordable $2.75. Because, y’know, bacon.)

While the plate of food that arrived could certainly send some individuals into an instant diabetic coma, it was indeed fantastic. The bananas (lots of them!) mingled nicely with the caramel—a classic combination, after all—and the mascarpone added a lovely creaminess. The bread offered just enough resistance to keep everything together and create a pleasant mouth feel. However, I was definitely happy I ordered the add-on, too, as the saltiness from the bacon and the muted richness of the eggs countered the sweetness of the French toast before it became overwhelming.

After my meal, I left the Broken Yolk Café decidedly satisfied; my sweet tooth was pleased, while my desire for savory fare was quenched, too … even if I did feel the need to add an extra gym trip to my schedule to atone for all that breakfast goodness.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The “Benedict” Sopes

Where: Reservoir at the Arrive Hotel, 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $13

Contact: 760-507-1640; reservoirpalmsprings.com

Why: It’s a fresh take on an old classic.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day—when it’s done right. However, as I have noted in this space before, breakfast is often not done right: Far too many restaurant breakfasts are boring and uninspired.

Well, at Reservoir at the Arrive Hotel, they do breakfast right. Witness this fresh take offered on that breakfast classic, eggs Benedict: For the “Benedict” sopes, they swap out English muffins for sopes—you know, the masa-based cakes that are kinda, sorta like a thick tortilla—and exchange the Canadian bacon for chorizo.

The resulting dish is still fairly basic—it’s still just sauce, meat, egg and “bread”—but man, it is delicious.

While I enjoyed the heck out of the chorizo, it was the sope that really made the food sing. A hint of corn adds just a bit of sweetness and freshness to the dish, while the sopes’ texture creates a more pleasing mouth feel than a soggy ol’ English muffin.

The dish, as delivered, was not perfect—the valentine hollandaise sauce had started to congeal ever so slightly, meaning the plate sat around a bit too long before being brought to my table, a fact that also led to the food’s temperature heading down toward lukewarm. However, the “Benedict” sopes were still delicious despite these flaws, and that says a lot.

Trust me: There are few better ways to spend a Palm Springs fall morning or afternoon than eating an egg dish while overlooking Arrive’s pool, with the San Jacinto Mountains as the backdrop. Go and see for yourself.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Breakfast Sandwich

Where: Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $7.95

Contact: 760-322-6666; tippersgourmetmarketplace.com

Why: It’s a terrific meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I was running errands around 5 p.m. one recent late afternoon/early evening when my stomach started telling me it was hungry.

More specifically, it was hungry for breakfast. (My stomach clearly does not care what time of day it is when it comes to what it craves.) I was in downtown Palm Springs, so I knew right where to go to make my tummy happy.

Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, tucked into the rear of the Henry Frank Arcade across the street from the Hyatt, specializes in breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes that can be enjoyed either onsite or to-go. While the breakfast sandwich is obviously on the breakfast menu, Felix Tipper and his crew have the good sense to offer it all day long.

And what a sandwich it is: A fried egg is placed atop toasted sourdough bread along with Gruyere cheese, bacon, tomato and a special aioli. The sandwich doesn’t look especially pretty, but it tastes freaking fantastic. And at $7.95, it’s a pretty great deal, to boot.

While the breakfast sandwich holds my heart, Tipper’s menu includes all sorts of yummy things. Breakfast offerings include quiche, pancakes (cinnamon banana sour cream!) and traditional fare, while lunchtime brings all sorts of sandwiches and salads, and dinner keeps it simple: You can get chicken, or Italian turkey meatloaf.

I must admit that I’ve never actually tried the chicken or the meatloaf. Every time I’ve been at Tipper’s late in the day, I’ve been unable to resist that breakfast sandwich, and as fantastic as it is, I’m not sure I’ll ever try the chicken or meatloaf—unless perhaps I bring a friend and talk him or her into ordering one of those dinner entrées, and I steal a bite.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Queso Bonita Tacos

Where: La Bonita’s, 330 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $12.99

Contact: 760-318-8883; www.labonitas.com

Why: Crispy cheese is an amazing thing.

Ah, the taco. It’s the perfect food—delicious, potentially nutritious, easy to make and effortless to eat. Plus, it singlehandedly elevated the status of Tuesday, formerly the most boring day of the week.

It’s not easy to improve on supposed perfection—yet that’s exactly what the good folks at downtown Palm Springs Mexican joint La Bonita’s have done to the taco.

The queso Bonita tacos have all of the good stuff one would expect in a taco—fantastic carne asada or chicken, plus salsa, onion and cilantro, all placed on a fresh tortilla. Then comes the unexpected: The tortilla is coated with crispy, melted-and-then-cooked-on cheese.

Oh. My. God. The sharp flavor of the cheese adds a whole ’nother flavor level to the tacos. There’s nothing particularly special about the accompanying beans, rice and salad—but these tacos are special enough, thank you very much.

The queso Bonita tacos are just one of the much-raved-about dishes this year-old Mexican restaurant offers in the weirdly narrow Palm Canyon Drive space that previously housed several short-lived Asian joints. Friends of mine have spoken highly about the chimichangas and the burrito bowls, for example, and one of my dining companions would not stop talking about the California burrito ($11.99), which contains either carne asada or chicken, the usual burrito fillings and … French fries. Yes, inside the burrito.

If you’re reading this shortly after its posting, and these words have made you hungry, I have some bad news: The restaurant, like too many others around town, is currently in the midst of an August closure. (“Small remodel,” explains the La Bonita Facebook page.) Expect La Bonita to reopen on Aug. 27.

There is a lot of fine Mexican food in Palm Springs (as well as some not-so-fine Mexican food). And that queso Bonita taco plate is among the finest.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Wok-Fried Noodles With Chicken

Where: Watercress Vietnamese Bistro, 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $11 as a lunch special; $14 as a dinner entrée

Contact: 760-832-9927; watercressvietnamesebistro.com (site currently only mentions Redlands location)

Why: It’s fresh and tasty.

Regular readers of these Indy Endorsements know that I am not all that impressed with the Asian food on offer here in the Coachella Valley.

Yes, there are some great Thai restaurants. But as for good Chinese food … it’s veeeery hard to find here in the desert.

A couple of years ago, the same thing could have been said about Vietnamese fare in the Coachella Valley. However, that’s changed in recent years, thanks to the valley-wide expansion of Pho Vu, Chad Gardner’s game-raising purchase and revamp of Pho 533—and now the buzz-generating Palm Springs debut of Redlands favorite Watercress Vietnamese Bistro, which recently took over the building last occupied by Serious Food and Drink (R.I.P.).

On a recent lunchtime visit to Watercress, we instantly learned that this little restaurant is clearly doing something right: There was a wait for an inside table. On a Wednesday. In July. Wow. Alas, soon after that, we also learned that Watercress—as is often the case with new restaurants—is still working out the figurative kinks: We waited more than a half-hour between the delivery of our lunch-special soup and the arrival of two of our three entrées. The third entrée followed about another 10 minutes later. Oops.

However, in my case, the food was worth the wait: My wok-fried noodles (flat rice noodles, in this case) with chicken were delicious. The vegetables—crisp bok choy, still-crunchy carrots, onions, peppers, baby corn and shiitake mushrooms—were perfectly prepared, while the chicken was moist and flavorful. All of it was brought together by a savory brown sauce. One food-related nitpick: The noodles were a bit congealed and mushy—but that didn’t stop me from gobbling it all up with glee.

The valley’s Vietnamese food scene has definitely received a boost, thanks to Watercress. Now, about the Chinese food scene …

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Chile Relleno de Camaron

Where: Felipe’s Fine Mexican Food, 400 S. El Cielo Road, Palm Springs

How much: $13.50

Contact: 760-318-9277

Why: It’s creamy, spicy deliciousness.

I do not care for Yelp. The quality of reviews is suspect, and many businesses accuse the website of what amounts to extortion: Yelp’s advertisers get preferential treatment when it comes to highlighting good reviews, and burying the bad ones, according to several lawsuits (which Yelp has disputed). Blech.

Still, Yelp has its useful qualities. I disregard the negative reviews (you never know what motives the reviewers have) but use the positive ones to research oft-raved-about items at unfamiliar restaurants. I also check Yelp on occasion to find out about newly opened restaurants.

In this vein, I must tip my figurative hat to Yelp for letting me know about Felipe’s, which opened around the first of the year in the space that previously housed El Cielo Bakery. Even though I’ve driven past the strip mall that Felipe’s calls home many dozens of times since the first of the year, the restaurant escaped my notice until I stumbled across its Yelp listing. The five-star cumulative rating of Felipe’s caught my eye—as did the frequent raves about the chile rellenos with shrimp.

So off I went to Felipe’s during a recent lunch. While the menu offers a wide variety of intriguing breakfast, lunch and dinner fare, my mind was set on the chile relleno de camaron. I sat at the small bar area during my lunch, and was waited on with care by Felipe himself.

Now I know what all those citizen reviewers are raving about: The dish was fantastic. The perfectly prepared peppers and the ample shrimp were brought together by the creamy chipotle sauce—it was flavorful, with just enough spice. I was tempted to pick up the square plate and lick up every last bit of that sauce.

I didn’t, but I was tempted. If you try this dish, you may be tempted to do so as well.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Grape Nut Ice Cream

Where: Ice Cream and Shop(pe), 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A

How much: $3.50 single scoop (pictured); $5.50 double

Contact: 760-507-4005; www.icecreamandshop.com

Why: Both the flavor and the texture are delightfully unique.

On the Palm Canyon Drive side of Arrive, THE new hip place to see and be seen in Palm Springs, is an ice cream shop, appropriately named (if oddly punctuated) Ice Cream and Shop(pe).

However, this is no ordinary ice cream shop(pe). Here, you’ll pay a little more for your ice cream—but in exchange, you’ll get scooped-up goodness in a rotation of flavors both expected (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) and delightfully WTF? (avocado, pomegranate chip, lavender). Sorbet is also on offer for those eschewing dairy for whatever reason.

On a recent stop at Ice Cream and Shop(pe), I decided to get a scoop of the grape nut ice cream. As she dished it into the cute li’l cup, the woman working behind the counter said I’d enjoy the unique texture.

She was right. I didn’t know it was possible for a treat to be frozen yet gooey (in a good way) at the same time, but that’s exactly how this grape nut ice cream is. The cereal mixed in with the ice cream adds both flavor and texture, creating a frozen dessert that’s flavorful—it’s sweet, but in a mellow way—and fun.

The ice cream isn’t the only fun thing about Ice Cream and Shop(pe); the “shop(pe)” part of the name hints at the fact that this is also a cute little gift shop selling cards, souvenirs and the like. One other element of the place is also fun: It’s open late—until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 p.m. the other days of the week.

The portion of Palm Canyon Drive south of Vista Chino and north of downtown Palm Springs proper continues to get more popular and hip—and Arrive and its Ice Cream and Shop(pe) are a big reason why.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: Black Pepper Pok Pok Som Drinking Vinegar

Where: Dead or Alive, 150 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $4

Contact: 760-864-7193; www.deadoralivebar.com

Why: It’s an equally attractive nonalcoholic beverage.

Back when I was in college, the university had a policy: Any group that threw a party on campus that included alcohol also had to offer EANABs—equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages—for attendees who were eschewing booze, for whatever reason.

However, this policy was a joke: The EANABs at parties were almost always terrible—a couple cans of Diet Coke, perhaps, or maybe a half-flat two-liter bottle of Sprite off in the corner somewhere. These lame beverages were certainly not equally attractive to anything, in any way.

EANABs have been on my mind as of late, because the hubby recently quit drinking. (He was never much of a drinker in the first place. He just doesn’t care for it.) Therefore, in recent months, we’ve learned that most bars and restaurants are horribly uncreative when it comes to non-alcoholic beverages.

That’s why the Pok Pok Som Drinking Vinegar offered at Dead or Alive, the fantastic new wine and beer bar across the street from Mr. Lyons on Palm Canyon Drive, is so refreshing—in several different ways.

It’s refreshing because it’s a perfect warm-weather beverage. I know many of you are reading this and thinking, “WTF is drinking vinegar?!” The answer: It’s a tart, sweet, nuanced beverage that in no way tastes like the stuff one would use to make a salad dressing. Dead or Alive offers several different flavors in rotation, including Meyer lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit. However, my favorite is the black pepper: You don’t really taste all that much pepper, but you feel a pleasing, subtle burn on the back of your tongue while drinking the beverage.

It’s also refreshing because it’s truly an EANAB. Hooray to the folks at Dead or Alive (full disclosure—co-owner Christine Soto is a contributor to the Independent) for offering non-drinkers an equally attractive beverage. Here’s hoping other bars and restaurants follow suit.

Published in The Indy Endorsement