CVIndependent

Fri11222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

What: The Chicken and Waffle on a Stick

Where: Frankinbun, 540 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $9.95

Contact: 760-318-4841; www.frankinbun.com

Why: It’s a tasty and unique take on a classic.

Sausage. Is it possible for a non-vegetarian to not like at least some forms of ground, seasoned meat? I dare say: It is not. Or at least, in a logical world, it shouldn’t be possible.

These musings bring us to our recent visit to Frankinbun, a new Palm Springs restaurant that focuses on sausage—specifically, sausage in tubular form, presented in a wide variety of ways.

Frankinbun has hot dogs, of course—delicious dogs offered in ways both expected (a chili-cheese dog; a newly added Chicago dog that looks amazing) and unusual ’round these parts (the “currywurst,” a cut-up kielbasa smothered in curry sauce, with a chutney offered on the side). The restaurant also offers a variety of weenies such as hot Italian sausage, bratwurst, linguica, tri-pepper pork and even a vegan option, made with mushrooms and black-eyed peas. Yum.

However, the one sausage that really caught our attention at this little eatery with the cool patio and the impressive selection of bottled drinks was, paradoxically, the most familiar and the most creative: The chicken and waffle on a stick.

The chicken here is actually a Bavarian apple-cinnamon chicken sausage, wrapped in Belgian-waffle coating; the two dogs are baked, not fried, and then served with real maple syrup.

Yum.

I did have one minor issue with my lunch: It was not exactly filling. The hubby enjoyed the aforementioned currywurst ($7.95), and we split a tornado potato (a spiral-cut potato fried and then topped with a choice of seasoning, $2.95)—and after spending more than $25 (with tax and tip included), we both left wanting more. Yeah, we can be big eaters at times, but I have a feeling others will leave Frankinbun feeling similarly un-full.

That bit of gluttony aside, I’ll be returning to Frankinbun quite soon. Because, y’know … sausage. Mmmm.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Crispy Boneless Southern Fried Chicken

Where: The Tropicale, 330 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs

How much: $25

Info: 760-866-1952; thetropicale.com

Why: The delicious flavor leads to happy memories.

I went to The Tropicale for the first time back in 2008, shortly after the restaurant opened. I was visiting here from Arizona, doing research for a business plan—a business which would become the publication you’re reading right now, some four-plus years later.

I was immediately smitten with The Tropicale. It felt so … Palm Springs, thanks to the swanky vibe, the amazing patio, the bright colors and so on.

In the years since, The Tropicale has become more than just another restaurant to me: It’s become my default place to celebrate special occasions. Where did we go to celebrate the first print edition of the Independent after we picked it up from the printer? The Tropicale, of course.

I love everything about the restaurant (except, well, the prices; hey, I am a poor, struggling business owner now). However, when it comes to the food, there’s one dish I love more than all others: The crispy boneless fried chicken.

This dish, in a word, is fantastic. The coating is crisp and delicious; the chicken is juicy and packed with flavor. The accompanying corn mashed potatoes add smoothness and earthiness to the plate, while the collard greens bring a welcome briny, chewy element.

This is not the prettiest plate of food; the Iron Chef judges would deduct serious presentation points. However, it’d get a perfect score for taste.

On a personal level, I love this dish for reasons that go beyond its yumminess: It makes me happy, because it’s been a part of numerous wonderful occasions in my life—and I hope it’ll be a part of many other special moments to come.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Marcie’s Matcha smoothie

Where: Fresh Juice Bar, 73030 El Paseo, No. 104, Palm Desert; also in La Quinta and Palm Springs

How much: $5.95 for 16 ounces; $7.95 for 24 ounces

Contact: 760-837-9777; freshjuicebar.com

Why: All the unique flavors.

As I drove away from the Fresh Juice Bar on El Paseo, I faced a dilemma.

I knew I was going to be writing an Indy Endorsement about the Marcie’s Matcha smoothie on which I was sipping; after all, it was one of the best smoothies I’d ever tasted. However … I could not figure out how in the world I was going to describe the flavor.

Describing the color (yellowish-green) would be easy. Describing the texture (delightfully smooth) would be a piece of cake. But the flavor? Well, here’s my best effort.

It was sweet—but in a mellow way, thanks to the banana and vanilla whey. It was slightly earthy, due to the matcha green tea (read: powdered green tea) and the almond milk. It had just a hint of spice, due to the cinnamon.

But here’s the kicker: Even though I’ve used words to minimize the power of all these flavor profiles—mellow, slightly, just a hint—the sum of all these parts is a smoothie that’s packed with flavor.

As I pondered all of this for what seemed like seconds—a minute or two, tops—my heart sank when the flow of liquid in the straw suddenly ceased: My 16-ounce smoothie was gone. I’d practically guzzled the thing. This depressing event turned my thoughts from describing the flavor to regretting the decision not to get a 24-ounce smoothie instead.

Try this smoothie. You’ll like it. And trust me: Get the 24-ounce size.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Veal Ingleside

Where: Melvyn’s Restaurant, at the Ingleside Inn, 200 W. Ramon Road

How much: $28.75

Contact: 760-325-2323; inglesideinn.com/melvyns-restaurant

Why: It’s a “famous signature creation” for a reason.

A friend is visiting town. He (or she) wants to eat at a place that epitomizes old-school Palm Springs—somewhere swanky, classy. A place that knows its way around a fantastic martini.

Chances are you’re taking this friend to Melvyn’s.

Located at the historic Ingleside Inn, once (and occasionally still today) the playground of Hollywood icons, Melvyn’s turned 40 this year. In 1975, Mel Haber bought the iconic property and opened the restaurant; the rest, as they say, is history.

At Melvyn’s, you’ll find a piano lounge, tablecloths, waiters and “captains” dressed to the nines and, yes, tableside preparations. For example, you can watch as the captain makes Steak Diane (filet mignon medallions made with shallots, French mustard and red wine demi-glaze) right in front of you. It was Frank Sinatra’s favorite, they say.

But my favorite dish is an entrée not prepared tableside—although it’s heralded as Melvyn’s “famous signature creation.” It’s called Veal Ingleside.

This veal, topped with avocado and a classic mousseline sauce (think hollandaise sauce, but creamier), is so tender that you will not need a knife; just a fork will do. The mousseline sauce adds a ton of savory richness, which is muted just enough by the avocado. The main course is served with pasta and vegetables, in case you’re wondering; they’re mere extras on a plate. Yes, this entrée is indeed called Melvyn’s “famous signature creation” for a reason.

So dress up a little. Take that out-of-town friend to Melvyn’s. Order a martini (dirty, of course). Encourage that friend to order one of the tableside dishes so you can enjoy the show. And then order the Veal Ingleside for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Street Taco Platter

Where: Loco Charlie’s, 1751 N. Sunrise Way, No. F5, Palm Springs

How much: $7.95

Contact: 760-832-6474; mylococharlies.com

Why: The crispy parts.

It was lunchtime, and I was craving some good tacos.

This is not an unusual occurrence in my life. In fact, there are few lunchtimes when I am not, to some degree, craving tacos. However, on this particular day, I was really craving tacos—so off to Loco Charlie’s we went. I had never been before, but several readers have recommended the restaurant to me—and we all know that Coachella Valley Independent readers are a smart bunch, yes? (Here’s a hint: If you’re reading this, you’re an Independent reader.)

Let’s just say that the readers didn’t let me down—and my taco craving was more than satisfied.

Loco Charlie’s—located in a nondescript strip mall on the corner of Sunrise Drive and Vista Chino Road—offers four types of meat in its tacos: Carne asada (beef!), carnitas (pork!), pollo asado (chicken!) and lengua (beef tongue!). Turns out the Street Taco Platter includes four tacos, and you can mix and match the meats.

I’ll take a Street Taco Platter with one of each, please.

The chicken and lengua tacos were just fine. (By the way, if the thought of eating tongue makes you squeamish, you really should get over that. It’s good, tender stuff.) However, the carne asada and carnitas tacos were revelatory, because the meat was so delicious—due, in part, to the fact that the taco-preppers in the kitchen included both softer and crispy pieces of meat in each taco.

I feel I should include an endorsement within an endorsement for the price: Four tacos plus sides for $7.95 is a fine deal. It’s such a fine deal that I may just go back tomorrow for some more street tacos … because the more I think about those tasty tacos, the less my craving is feeling satisfied.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Wok-Fired Jasmine Rice With Lemongrass Pork

Where: Pho 533, 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 625, Palm Springs

How Much: $13

Contact: 760-778-6595; pho533palmsprings.com

Why: It tastes even better than it looks.

It’s a good-news, bad-news kind of a situation that we have here.

The good news: Pho 533, a Palm Springs Vietnamese-food mainstay for many years, is better than ever, thanks to its new ownership. Chad Gardner, owner of Dash and a Handful Catering, has raised the bar at Pho 533 since he took over in April, tweaking the menu and refining everything that comes out of the kitchen.

The bad news: If you’re hankering for the best Vietnamese food in the entire valley, perhaps, you’d better go this weekend, because the restaurant will be closing for two weeks of renovations after dinner service on Sunday, Aug. 16.

Whether you head to Pho 533 this weekend, or wait until it reopens on Wednesday, Sept. 2, you can’t go wrong with any of the “Viet fusion” fare on offer. However, we’re particularly smitten with one item right now: The wok-fired jasmine rice with lemongrass pork.

Look at the picture above. Is that gorgeous, or what? Well, we’re here to tell you the dish tastes as good as it looks—maybe even better. The jasmine rice is a little soft and a little chewy. The lemongrass pork is tender, juicy and so delicious that you’ll be thinking about it for days. Scallions, seasonal vegetables, spices, egg and tamari sauce (it’s soy sauce without the wheat, more or less) complete the flavor profile—and what a flavor profile it is.

The dishes at Pho 533 aren’t necessarily cheap, but the portion sizes are huge, and the food quality is off the charts, so what comes on your plate is worth every penny.

It’s in your taste buds’ best interests to get to Pho 533 this weekend. If you don’t, you’ll have to deal with 16 days of bad news … but as of Sept. 2, it’ll be all good.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Over the Edge Wedge

Where: Serious Food and Drink, 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How Much: $10.95

Contact: 760-832-6023; seriousfoodanddrink.com

Why: Pork. Belly. Croutons.

I am a simple man, who is into simple things. Whiskey. Baseball. Pork products. Etc.

Therefore, when I saw the description of the wedge salad on offer at Serious Food and Drink—a fantastic new restaurant occupying the building that previously housed Hamburger Mary’s—I was intrigued: “pork belly ‘croutons’ / grapes / bleu cheese-dill vinaigrette.”

Wait, what? Pork belly “croutons”?

Turns out bread has nothing to do with these “croutons.” No, these little cubes of deliciousness are pure pork, baby—specifically, they’re little fried pieces of pork belly that taste so awesome, you’ll have drool-inducing flashbacks for days afterward.

The rest of the salad is great, too. The dill in the bleu-cheese vinaigrette adds a welcome bit of pep. The grapes are fun, and create a lovely flavor profile when added to the bleu cheese. And cool, crisp lettuce is a welcome addition to almost anything when it’s 107 degrees outside.

But I’m not gonna lie: As nice as the lettuce, grapes and dressing all are, in this dish, it’s all about the pork. Yes, I’m a simple man—and these pork belly “croutons” make me very, very happy. Thank you, Serious Food and Drink, for bringing them into my life.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how fantastic Serious’ other offerings are, as well. There’s an amazing happy hour in the bar area, and the hand-crafted cocktails served here are among the best in town. The name is accurate: This is some serious food and drink, and the restaurant is a most welcome addition to the northern chunk of downtown Palm Springs.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Italian Soda at Ristretto

Where: Ristretto, 500 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $2.50 medium, $2.95 large

Contact: 760-656-7352; ristrettops.com

Why: It’s a refreshing drink in a relaxing spot.

We often praise the virtues of simple food in this space—we are fans of quality ingredients, properly combined and lovingly prepared.

However, I doubt we’ll ever tout a simpler item than this, the Italian soda at Ristretto. Why, you may ask, are we bestowing the extreme honor of an Indy Endorsement on a drink that consists of soda water, Torani syrup, ice and nothing else? After all, anybody can make an Italian soda at home in less than 30 seconds, right?

The key here is the venue, not the soda itself.

Ristretto is a delightful spot that’s quickly become the de facto coffee-shop meeting place for many people in downtown Palm Springs. It’s clean; it’s comfortable; and there’s a charming patio where one can watch the goings-on at the intersection of Ramon Road and Palm Canyon Drive.

Plus, the food (including burritos, quiches, bagels, wraps and salads) and drinks Ristretto offers are quite good—and the service is always fantastic. Finally, Ristretto is endorsement-worthy for its community involvement: It recently became one of the first two restaurants (along with Pho 533) to donate 100 percent of its Dining Out for Life-day proceeds to the Desert AIDS Project.

You may also ask: If the coffee and food at Ristretto are all so groovy, why endorse an Italian freaking soda? Well, summer arrives soon, and in our heat-addled minds, there is no non-alcoholic beverage that’s more refreshing on a 100-degree day than a nice, cold soda.

So, join us at Ristretto; pick your syrup flavor (we’re partial to peach or watermelon in terms of refreshing-ness); and cool off with us, will ya?

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Peanut Butter and Banana Shake

Where: Great Shakes, 160 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A, Palm Springs

How Much: $5.50 to $7.50

Contact: 760-327-5300; greatshakesps.com

Why: Fresh ingredients make for … well, great shakes.

In April 2013, the walk down Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs became all the more dangerous for people’s waistlines—and all the more enthralling for people’s taste buds.

That’s when Great Shakes opened, in a little storefront just north of Arenas Road.

Inside, you’ll be greeted by a chalkboard menu offering more than two-dozen milkshake concoctions, all made with premium vanilla ice cream or a lactose-free option; floats and Dole Whip are available as well.

On a recent visit there, I quizzed the young woman working behind the counter on customer favorites. She recommended the date shake, the salted caramel shake, “anything with Oreos” and the shake with peanut butter and bananas. In a nod to The King himself, thank you very much, I went with the peanut butter and banana shake. Boy, was that a good call on my part.

The flavors melded perfectly, and the inclusion of both some unblended peanut butter (smeared somewhat artistically around the inside perimeter of the plastic cup) and several banana slices gave each bite/slurp some variety in flavor and texture. (The shakes come with both a large straw and a spoon. You’ll need them both.) Of course, all shakes come with a little mini donut—a nice touch.

I got a small-sized shake (pictured here), and that was more than enough to make my taste buds happy—and to add at least an extra half-hour to my next trip to the gym. But it was sooo worth it; you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better shake anywhere in the Coachella Valley.

Published in The Indy Endorsement