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Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival Grows in Its Second Year

When I talked to David Fraschetti about the inaugural Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival a year ago, he promised me that the fest, taking place at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park, at 71560 San Jacinto Drive, would feature great food—but the primary focus would be on the wine, with no booze, beer or cooking demonstrations.

“This is a marketing event for our wineries,” he told me. “… We’re not trying to be everything to everyone.”

Seeing as Fraschetti, a Coachella Valley resident, is also the organizer of the popular VinDiego Wine and Food Festival, it should come as no surprise that he apparently knew what he was doing—and that an expanded Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival will return this year, taking place Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

A couple of five-course wine dinners at restaurants will happen on Wednesday, Jan. 30, with the Rare and Reserve Tasting happening at the park on Friday, Feb. 1. But the main event is the grand tasting, taking place at the park on Saturday, Feb. 2.

“When we started doing this business seven years ago in San Diego, we had a great business plan: ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Fraschetti told me recently. “Last year really proved to be the same out here in the desert.”

This year’s grand tasting will feature 18 to 20 restaurants—most, but unlike last year, not all based in Rancho Mirage—and about 45 wineries.

Fraschetti said he loves the community aspect of the festival; related to that, a portion of the proceeds will again benefit the Desert AIDS Project.

“I live four minutes from the festival site,” Fraschetti said. “The people who come are neighbors of mine. Everybody seems to know everybody out here.”

Tickets to Saturday afternoon’s grand tasting start at $85. For tickets and more information, including a complete schedule, visit ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.comf.


Enzo’s Bistro and Bar Replaces the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar

So it’s a good-news, bad-news sort of thing.

The bad: The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar, which took over the old Crab Pot digs at 70030 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, has closed its doors. (It had no relation to the Fisherman’s Market and Grill locations in Palm Springs, Palm Desert and La Quinta, for the record.)

The good news: The space is now home to the second Enzo’s Bistro and Bar location.

The first Enzo’s opened at 78121 Avenida La Fonda in La Quinta last spring and has gathered a lot of great buzz. I have not yet had a chance to check out the “elegant and authentic” Italian fare at either location—but you can bet your bottom dollar I will soon.

Get more info at www.enzosbistroandbar.com.


In Brief

One of the culinary centerpieces of downtown Palm Springs’ redevelopment project is open: Il Corso, the much-liked Palm Desert-El Paseo Italian restaurant owned by chef Mario Marfia and, uh, indicted developer John Wessman has opened its second location at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 180; get info at ilcorsocv.com. … Save wildlife “one brew at a time,” according to the news release, at the 10th annual Brew at the Zoo event, happening at and benefiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, 47900 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert, at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9. Tickets start at $60 (for members) and $65 (nonmembers) and will get you access to more than 30 beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverage vendors; 10 food trucks will offer food for purchase. Designated drivers get in for just $20; call 760-346-5694 or visit www.livingdesert.org for tickets or details. … Celebrate the Academy Awards in style and support AAP Food Samaritans at the same time by heading to Trio Restaurant at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, for the annual “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” shindig. The event will sell out, so get your seats, starting at $125, ASAP at aidsassistance.org; you’ll get a six-course dinner and beverages with your reservation, and most of what you’ll pay is tax-deductible. Yay! … The River giveth, and The River taketh away. The Rancho Mirage shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, recently welcomed the second location of the locally owned Apong’s Philly Steak, while the only valley location of MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza Company, which was located at The River, has shut its doors. Learn more about the yumminess at Apong’s at apongsphillysteak.com. … This announcement brings me joy: Mariscocos Culiacan, one of my favorite valley seafood places, has opened a second location: In addition to the original Coachella location, there’s now one at 16760 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs. Yes! More info at www.facebook.com/mariscocosymaristorresculiacan760. … Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has recently made some nice changes—including the opening of 360 Sports, a big, beautiful sports bar and restaurant. Learn more at www.hotwatercasino.com/360-sports-bar.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival Debuts on Feb. 17

The large and increasingly renowned Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival is set for March 23-25. So … is there a need for yet another food and wine festival happening just five weeks before and just a few miles away?

According to festival organizer David Fraschetti, the answer is a resounding yes—hence the brand-new Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival, featuring food from 15 Rancho Mirage restaurants, and sips from more than 40 wineries, on Saturday, Feb. 17.

Fraschetti is the man behind the popular VinDiego Wine and Food Festival—but he resides here in the Coachella Valley. He wanted to start a festival locally, so he started looking for places to do so. It just so happens that he and his wife were playing tennis at Rancho Mirage Community Park one day, he said; she mentioned it would be a fine place for a food and wine festival. At first, he thought it would be too small, but they decided to take a closer look. An art fair was also going on that weekend—and that helped him realize he’d found a potential site.

“I was amazed at how large that park really is,” he said.

Fraschetti said he partnered with the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce—hence the inclusion of only Rancho Mirage restaurants, at least this first year—and the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival was born. But what sets this festival apart from others … like, you know, that one happening down the street five weeks later? He said he learned a lesson from talking to the winery reps at other festivals, and asking what they’d change.

“They said, ‘Get rid of the beer. Get rid of the spirits. We’re tired of all the drunks, ’” Fraschetti said. “When you mix alcohols, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

So this festival has no beer, no booze and no cooking demonstrations. Instead, Fraschetti said, the focus is strictly on the wine.

“This is a marketing event for our wineries,” he said. “… We’re not trying to be everything to everyone.”

The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival takes place on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park, at 71560 San Jacinto Drive. Tickets start at $75; some of the proceeds will benefit the Desert AIDS Project. Visit www.ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.com for those tickets or more information.


The Palm Desert Greek Festival Returns on Feb. 17 and 18

For some reason, I’ve really been craving good grape leaves lately. Because of this (and all sorts of other edible reasons), you’ll probably find me at the 22nd Annual Palm Desert Greek Festival, taking place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 17 and 18.

Not only will grape leaves (six tubs of them!) be for sale; all sorts of authentic Greek food will be available at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, along with entertainment including Greek music and dancers.

Admission is just $3, or free for children 12 and younger, as well as active-duty public-safety officers and members of the military. The church is located at 74109 Larrea St.; some shuttle service is available. Find those details and more by calling 760-568-9901, or visiting www.pdgreekfest.org.


In Brief

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey is now open at 1556 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s the latest venture by Engin Onural, the owner of The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge in Palm Desert. Get more info at www.facebook.com/pg/sandfishsushiwhiskey. … Cello’s Pantry, at 70225 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, has closed its doors for good following a death in the owner’s family. We send our best wishes. … Carousel Bakery is now open at 440 S. El Cielo Road in Palm Springs. We’ve been hearing good things; call 760-699-5006 for more details. … The ever-popular TRIO Restaurant, at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has a new executive chef: Nestor Ruiz. His previous employers include Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Palm Desert and The Chateau at Lake La Quinta. … Brand-new at 73655 El Paseo: Domo Sushi El Paseo. While we have not yet had a chance to try Chef Jin’s food, it sure does look beautiful. See for yourself at www.facebook.com/domosushielpaseo. … Speaking of beautiful food: New to Cathedral City, at 34041 Date Palm Drive, is Lala’s Waffles, Crepes and Shakes. See the pretty pics at www.facebook.com/eatlalas. … Now open in the old Clementine’s building at 72990 El Paseo: Wildest Greens, serving up raw, vegan, gluten-free and paleo options, plus more. Get more details at www.wildestgreens.com. … Also new, at 73900 El Paseo: Le Fe Wine Bar. You’ll find beer, wine, small plates and a fantastic happy hour. Learn more at www.facebook.com/pg/LaFeWineBar. … 716 on 111, which had been slated to open in the old Dickie O’Neal’s building at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, may not ever happen, thanks to mold. Visit www.facebook.com/716on111 to learn the latest news on what has become a rather ugly tenant-landlord dispute.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

New: So Cal-Based Chain Luna Grill Opens Its Doors in Palm Desert

Luna Grill claims to be “one of the country’s hottest fast-casual concepts.” While we are not sure exactly what that means, we are sure that the 39th and newest Luna Grill is located in Palm Desert, at 73405 Highway 111, in Palm Desert—and we’re also sure that the Mediterranean-style food being served there is pretty darned delicious.

Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald and I were fortunate enough to attend a pre-opening training-day lunch at Luna. I ordered the chicken kabob and gyros plate ($14.95) while Kevin had the chicken wrap ($9.50), and we split the handcrafted spinach pie ($5.25) as a starter. While we had minor quibbles—the chicken in Kevin’s wrap was a little dry, and the rice on my plate needed a bit more flavor—everything was delicious (especially that gyro meat!).

The first Luna Grill opened in 2004, and there are now locations across Southern California, as well as in the Dallas, Texas, area. The company is in a “strategic growth push,” according to a news release, so don’t be surprised to be more locations popping up.

For more information, or to order food online, visit lunagrill.com.


Roc’s Firehouse Grille Cancels NFL Sunday Ticket in Protest of the Protests

On Oct. 4, ROC’s Firehouse Grille, located at 36891 Cook St., in Palm Desert, made an announcement on Facebook: Owner Roland O. Cook was cancelling the restaurant’s subscription to DIRECTV and NFL Sunday Ticket due to the ongoing player protests, during which some players are kneeling during the national anthem.

In the lengthy announcement, Cook—a former firefighter—said that he supported the rights of the players to protest, but that cops and military officers are his friends, and he thinks political divisions are “killing” the country.

“It’s a sure recipe for destroying our children's future,” he wrote. “Damn, can’t you leave politics out of football and just play the game on Sunday? Emphasis on ‘play’ and ‘game.’”

The announcement was followed by hundreds of comments both in support of and opposition to ROC’s decision. The public comment chain is at times moving, at times horrifying (with some definite ignorance and racism here and there), and completely fascinating.

While I disagree in principle with Cook’s decision, I admire his willingness to take a stand for something in which he believes. Beyond that, I’ll leave the pros-and-cons discussion of these player protests—started by Colin Kaepernick, regarding the disproportionate number of deaths of minorities at the hands of law enforcement in this country—for other sections of this newspaper, and simply refer you to www.facebook.com/ROCsFirehouseGrille, where you can read Cook’s announcement and the many, many comments that follow.


In Brief

So long, Appetito. The “Cal-Italian Deli” at 1700 S. Camino Real, in Palm Springs, has closed its doors. A sign went up saying the place would be closed for deep cleaning … and then everything inside disappeared. … Also closed: Palmie French Restaurant, which was located at 44491 Town Center Way in Palm Desert. … And now some good news: Numerous new restaurants continue to open along Highway 111 in Palm Desert. In addition to Luna Grill, the second valley location of Dragon Sushi will soon be opening—if it hasn’t already—at 72261 Highway 111. The original Dragon Sushi, at 82451 Highway 111, in Indio, is wildly popular. Let’s hope this new Dragon Sushi location lasts longer than a short-lived Cathedral City incarnation did three years ago. Search for Dragon Sushi Palm Desert on Facebook for more info. … Just down the street, the second Pokehana is open, at 73405 Highway 111, following in the footsteps of the original location in La Quinta. Learn more at www.pokehana.com. … Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has hired Alen Badzak as the new executive chef. Badzak’s resume includes stints at the Europa Restaurant at the Villa Royale Inn, The Nest and The New York Company Restaurant. He replaces Jennifer Town, who moved over to Melvyn’s/Ingleside Inn. Learn more at purpleroompalmsprings.com. … Local wine-seller and social club Mood Wine is holding a red-wine tasting at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Food bites will be paired with the wines on offer; tickets are $57.30. Find more information and a ticket link at www.facebook.com/moodwinellc. … Mark your calendars: The Palm Desert Food and Wine festival will return March 23-25, 2018. Get tickets or sign up for updates at www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com. … If you don’t want to wait until March for local food-fest fun, no worries: The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival is slated for Feb. 17, 2018. Head to www.ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.com for tickets and details.

Published in Restaurant & Food News