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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Celebrity Bartender Rob Floyd’s ‘Cocktail Theatre’ Coming to TRIO Restaurant

Rob Floyd is one of the world’s most renowned cocktail creators. He’s a regular on the Bar Rescue TV show; he’s designed cocktail programs for some of the biggest cruise lines; he’s performed at some of Las Vegas’ most impressive hotel-casinos; and he travels the world as a consultant for bars and restaurants.

So why is he taking time out of his crazy-busy schedule to bring his Cocktail Theatre live show to TRIO Restaurant, in the middle of scorching-hot July? It’s because, he says, he loves Palm Springs.

“I can’t wait to get here,” he said during a recent lunch at TRIO. “Any excuse.”

Cocktail Theatre will arrive at TRIO, 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, for two shows on Saturday, July 6—one at 6 p.m., and another at 9 p.m.

Floyd said his interactive show takes a historical and theatrical approach to cocktails. He’ll tell the stories behind various drinks, from the 1600s up through the molecular-gastronomy era. Audience-goers will get to try five different drinks during the show, which runs just a little longer than an hour.

I asked Floyd what makes a cocktail great. His response: He treats creating a cocktail like a good artist creates a painting—except instead of colors, he uses ingredients.

“I use just a couple of primary colors, that are just gorgeous, and one or two accent colors that are just beautiful,” he said.

Of course, a lot of people can’t or don’t drink alcohol, for all sorts of excellent reasons—and many bartenders completely disregard this demographic. Fortunately, Floyd does not—and that’s why his show includes “zero-proof cocktails” for those who don’t imbibe. In fact, he estimates that up to 20 percent of his show attendees don’t drink.

Tickets to Cocktail Theatre are $62.50; a VIP meet-and-greet package along with the 6 p.m. show is $80, and includes a special cocktail created by Floyd. For tickets or more information, visit triopalmsprings.com.


In Brief

Workshop Kitchen + Bar, located at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will soon have a sister restaurant in Los Angeles. According to Eater Los Angeles, chef/owner Michael Beckman has bought the space currently housing Odys + Penelope, at 127 S. La Brea Ave., with plans of turning it into Workshop; expect it to open sometime next year. … One of the west valley’s best sandwich joints is moving to a larger space—although customers will still get to park in the same place: The Sandwich Spot is moving from its tiny home at 240 N. Palm Canyon Ave., in Palm Springs, into the old Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace space, in the Henry Frank Arcade, at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The move should be effective on July 1; call 760-778-7900 with questions. … Coming soon to the old Elephant Bar space at 73833 Highway 111, in Palm Desert: The BaBaLoo Lounge. It’ll be the second location of the Peruvian- and Cuban-fare joint; the original spot is in Lake Havasu, Ariz. Watch www.facebook.com/BabalooLounge for updates. … The new managing partner at the retooled Persimmon Bistro at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 N. Museum Drive, in Palm Springs, has a familiar name: It’s Arthur Vasquez, who used to run Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage. Congrats, art! Visit www.facebook.com/persimmonbistro to learn more. … Congratulations to the bar at Melvyn’s, located at the Ingleside Inn, at 200 W. Ramon Road, in downtown Palm Springs! Esquire magazine just named it one of the 27 Best Bars in America for 2019. … Coming soon to the space that used to house Maxcy’s Grill in the Ralph’s shopping center at 425 S. Sunrise Way, in Palm Springs: Asadero Los Corrales. It appears this will be the third location for this Sinaloa-style Mexican eatery, joining restaurants in La Quinta and Coachella. We learned this news because we happened to drive by and see the new sign; we will keep you posted as we learn more. … Congrats to the folks at La Quinta Brewing Co., who have announced the construction of a new, larger brewing location near Interstate 10 and Cook Street. The brewery—which opened its doors in 2013 at 77917 Wildcat Drive, in Palm Desert—also operates successful taprooms in Palm Springs and La Quinta. The new location is slated to include food and an outside beer garden; keep your fingers crossed for an opening late next year. Watch www.facebook.com/LaQuintaBrewingCo for updates.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

I think the martini, sadly, has lost its way.

Sure, three or four ounces of shaken vodka will probably get you nice and drunk, but it lacks the … shall we say, elegance of the drink’s original recipe.

A purist will tell you a martini has two components—gin and dry vermouth—and it should always be stirred. This purest agrees.

Some amateur comedians ordering a martini with vodka come up with clever catch phrases like, “Shake it until your arms get tired,” or, “I want to skate on the top of it,” or, “Just wave an unopened bottle of vermouth over it.” These people, in my opinion, are missing out on what was once a beautiful, sexy, delicious cocktail. My hope is they’ll give the original a try.

For those who enjoy the history of things, the origin of the martini is muddled. No, I don’t mean muddled with cucumber or blackberries or avocado—it’s just a figure of speech. What I mean is many different stories abound about who created the first martini, why, and where it came from. Some believe the martini was named after Martini and Rossi vermouth, which was created in the mid-1800s. Another theory—my favorite—asserts the martini originated in New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel in 1912 by bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia, made for John D. Rockefeller.

The Knickerbocker’s “Original 1912 Martini” blends two parts gin and one part dry vermouth with orange bitters; it is then stirred and zested with a lemon peel, and garnished with an olive.

Sure, there are those who say Rockefeller didn’t drink, and that the real martini predates 1912. However, this doesn’t really matter: The Original 12 Martini is one of the best drinks I’ve ever had, and one everyone should try.

Another theory, which makes some sense, is that the martini is a derivative of the martinez—a classic gin and vermouth cocktail which was first made in the 1860s and documented in Jerry Thomas’ 1887 edition of his Bar-Tender's Guide; How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks. The martinez came about during a vermouth craze in the latter half of the 1800s and was likely a variation of the Manhattan: Someone, at some point, got the idea to mix gin instead whiskey with sweet vermouth, a couple of dashes of bitters, and a little maraschino liquor. Voila, you have a martinez. It’s obvious how the evolution to the first martini wouldn’t be much of a leap.

One thing is clear, however: A martini should be stirred, not shaken. Though I adore James Bond, we can blame him and author Ian Fleming for the shaken martini.

There are reasons we shake some drinks and stir others—and they’re based on science. In general, cocktails containing citrus—like margaritas, daiquiris and sours—should be shaken, while cocktails which are all spirits with no citrus—like Manhattans, negronis and martinis—should always be stirred. The reason of this is thermodynamics, but I’m not going to bore anyone by getting too far into that. Basically, the idea behind both techniques is to cool, mix and dilute the cocktail—and both do so. However, shaking dilutes the cocktail faster than stirring. Shaking also creates tiny air bubbles which brighten a citrusy drink, but ruin the silky texture of a straight spirit. So if you want a bubbly, slushy martini, go ahead, and order it shaken. It’s a free country. But it’s your loss.

Many imbibers also miss out on the beauty of a martini by forsaking gin in lieu of vodka, and/or by skipping the vermouth. The herbs and botanicals of the gin, and the lighter, floral notes of the vermouth balance each other out and create magic in a glass. Vodka, on the other hand, is pretty basic and doesn’t have much flavor or depth—especially when you don’t mix in some flavorful vermouth.

Vodka became so popular, in part, because of advertising in the Mad Men era of the “martini lunch.” A fledgling vodka company marketed its product by saying it would “leave you breathless”—meaning your boss, client or co-workers wouldn’t smell the booze on you. The campaign worked: Vodka first outsold gin in the U.S. in 1967, then whiskey in 1976. Personally, when I’m out tippling, I’m not trying to hide anything.

Speaking of going out tippling, I took a spin around the desert trying martinis. What I found was, basically, what I thought I would find. Every bar I went to had some sort of “classic martini” on the menu, and each one I tried was basically the same: shaken vodka in some sort of martini glass with an olive, or maybe an olive stuffed with blue cheese, and/or a twisted lemon peel. Now, that’s not the worst thing to drink; it’s just not what I was looking for. Like I said, I believe there’s a better way.

During a recent stop at Mr. Lyons in Palm Springs, I found the martini on the menu—“The Honest Martini”—was made with either gin or vodka and vermouth, and stirred, unless otherwise specified. I ordered mine with The Botanist gin from Scotland, and it was just what I wanted alongside my steak tartare. The bartender said the martini was the most-ordered cocktail at Mr. Lyons, and it was 50-50 between patrons who ordered vodka, and those who ordered gin.

At my bars—Workshop Kitchen + Bar, and Truss and Twine—we don’t have a standard martini on the menu, but every bartender on staff knows how to make the Original 1912 Martini. So, next time you’re in, I’ll more than happily stir one up for you.

Patrick Johnson is a journalist and head bartender at Truss and Twine. He can be emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

I’m behind the bar at Truss and Twine. There’s a nice lady at the bar, pointing to the cute little antique-looking dasher bottles lined up in a row on the bar top.

Lady: What are these? Balsamic vinegar and olive oil?

Me: No. They’re bitters.

Lady: Oh. What kind?

Me: Angostura, orange, Peychaud’s and celery.

Lady: So, do they make your drink bitter?

Me: Well, no, that’s not it, exactly …

Though they’re one of the oldest, most important and most versatile ingredients in cocktails, aromatic cocktail bitters—often referred to as the salt and pepper for adult beverages—are often misunderstood, overlooked and underappreciated.

Bitters have been produced, often for medicinal purposes, since at least the 1600s (and likely before). The human body is wired to reject the flavor of bitter, because it equates bitter with poison, so the body automatically gets the digestive juices flowing to combat the toxic element.

Bitters were first put into drinks in the 1700s and went through a boom in the United States back in the 1850s. Bitters were nearly extinct just after Prohibition, but have thankfully enjoyed a renaissance alongside the craft-cocktail wave we’re all currently riding. Fact: No old fashioned, Manhattan, Martinez, Vieux Carre or Sazerac is complete without the right bitters.

In a conversation about bitters, a co-worker at Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Jeff Cleveland, described bitters beautifully. Jeff worked for Bittercube—a company out of Milwaukee—that creates cocktail bitters and does bar consulting and training around the country.

“Bitters are to cocktails what salt, pepper, herbs and spices are to cooking,” he said. “It’s a way to affect the flavor of a cocktail without adding much liquid volume to the cocktail. Just like you’d salt a piece of meat or add herbs to a vegetable dish, adding bitters to a cocktail is often the thing that can bring the other ingredients in the cocktail together.”

Bitters are basically flavoring agents made from a high-proof, neutral-grain-based spirit infused with herbs, spices, botanicals, barks and roots, etc. Yes, most bitters contain alcohol. Angostura, for example, is 90 proof!

Bitters were originally presented by snake-oil salesmen as an elixir to cure anything from a cough or cold to constipation and malaria, and were likely first added to cocktails in London in the early 1700s, according to cocktail historian David Wondrich, when bitters were being mixed with Canary wine or brandy. In 1750, he says, bitters were being mixed with brandy, which was lit on fire, along with melted sugar—essentially creating one of the world’s first cocktails.

Actually, bitters were part of the first known written definition of the word “cocktail,” in the May 13, 1806, edition of the Hudson, N.Y., newspaper The Balance, and Columbian Repository. The “cock-tail” was described by the writer as “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.”

While there were hundreds of different bitters-makers in the 1800s, the world was down to just three after Prohibition suffocated and nearly choked out the world of mixology—Angostura, Peychaud’s and Fee Brothers—until the modern cocktail craze brought everything back full circle near the turn of the current century. While you could have probably found a bottle of Angostura hiding somewhere behind a bar in the 1980s and ’90s, at a trendy craft cocktail bar now, aromatic bitters and other tinctures are as prevalent as Civil War-era beards, handlebar mustaches and sleeve tattoos.

Dave Castillo, the bar manager at Workshop Kitchen + Bar and Truss and Twine (where I am employed), loves his bitters. At Truss and Twine, nearly half of the drinks on the menu call for aromatic bitters, while others contain bitter liqueurs.

“They’re absolutely important, and people are discovering that more and more,” he said. “When I first started bartending, everyone had the one bottle of Angostura behind their bar, and it was probably 3 years old, dusty and you never touched it. When I started doing craft cocktails, there were maybe four or five on the market. Now you couldn’t count them all if you tried to.”

Dave likes to keep it fairly simple. At Truss and Twine, we have Angostura, Peychaud’s, Angostura orange and Bitter Truth Celery Bitters. Workshop has Ango, Peychaud’s, Ango orange and Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters (nonalcoholic!) for their rad mocktail, the Wiki Tiki.

“For all the crazy flavors out there, I still think Angostura, Peychaud’s and orange bitters are the big ones,” Castillo said. “I’ve worked in places where we’d have 15 different kinds on the bar, and the funny thing is you typically just grab the same three multiple times, every single day, and there’s a reason for that.”

Steen Bojsen-Moller, owner/partner of Palm Springs’ acclaimed cocktail bar Seymour’s and the beverage director for F10 Creative—the owners of Mr. Lyons, Cheeky’s, Birba, and the Alcazar hotel—leans toward the normal players as well, with roughly seven or eight types of bitters behind the bar at Seymour’s. They mainly use Angostura, Regans’ Orange No. 6, and Bitter Truth chocolate, celery, peach, lemon and tonic bitters.

At Bootlegger Tiki in Palm Springs, beverage director Chad Austin said they currently have 16 bitters/tinctures in stock and are actively using seven on their current menu. He said he’s a big fan of the Bittermens line, and Bootlegger uses Bittermens’ Boston Bittahs, Hellfire, Orchard Street Celery and Xocolatl Mole flavors, along with the classic Angostura, Peychaud’s and orange bitters.

Jeff Cleveland’s favorites to use at home include Bittercube’s Jamaican No. 1 and Jamaican No. 2 in his tiki-style cocktails, and I’ve used Bittercube’s Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters in my old fashioneds, as well as my whiskey and pisco sours.

Aromatic bitters can be more than a mere flavoring agent, too. One amazing drink, the bold and delicious Trinidad sour, uses Angostura bitters as its base, giving it a high level of confectionary notes, particularly clove; the bitters are usually paired with a little rye, orgeat and lemon juice, and served up. Bootlegger has an awesome tiki riff on the concoction on its current menu called the Trinidadi Issues, pictured below, which is Ango, aged rum, orgeat, cinnamon, lime and pineapple, served over crushed ice.

Though not for everyone, a straight shot of Angostura bitters is also one of my jams. I mean, why not? Castillo first introduced me to the idea, which I’ve come to learn is his modus operandi.

“After being a bartender in craft bars a while, and after we shot enough Fernet and all different kinds of amari, the next logical step to me was taking shots of Angostura,” he said. “I thought someone must have done it before, but nobody who I knew was. Everyone thought it was crazy, but I loved to start initiating people at my bar to it, and then going out to the neighborhood bars and doing it there, too.”

Patrick Johnson is a journalist and head bartender at Truss and Twine. He can be emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

It’s Saturday night, and Workshop Kitchen + Bar, in downtown Palm Springs, is buzzing. The bar is full—and the drink tickets are piling up.

A party of 12 walks in the door. A complicated cocktail order could put the bartenders in the weeds, or sink the ship entirely. (Full disclosure: I work at Workshop and its sister bar/restaurant, Truss and Twine—so trust me, I know.) Instead, Workshop bar manager Michelle Bearden deftly pours a pre-batched drink into a large antique punch bowl, tosses in a block of ice, sprinkles some micro edible flowers over the top, and—voila! The group’s first round is ready.

Punch, America’s first cocktail, is a win-win for the bartender and the guest, and is a perfect option for a party at home.

Bearden first realized the magic of the punch bowl when attending Orange County Bartenders Cabinet meetings, where roughly 50 groggy bartenders might show up at once, looking for a little hair of the dog. The punch bowls allowed attendees to get a drink in their hands before they started introducing themselves and mingling.

Bearden calls punch “a social lubrication.”

“For special events at the restaurant, or if you’re hosting something at your house, I love the idea of punch bowls, because it’s the water cooler of the party,” Bearden said. “It’s such a great way to break the ice, and it’s interactive: You go back to fill up your cup, or someone else’s. It’s very social and can get a dialogue going.”

Bearden said that on a busy Saturday night, Workshop might make six to 10 punch bowls, at least. The 5-year-old Uptown Design District staple offers one punch on the menu—the venerable Pisco Punch, Workshop’s take on the classic concoction containing Peruvian brandy, the house-made pineapple shrub, lemon juice, clove and sparkling wine—but will spin any drinks on the cocktail list into a bowl on request. The Pisco Punch at Workshop is perfectly balanced, refreshing, easy to drink and delicious.

Punch bowls are usually kept on the lighter side, as far as the alcohol by volume is concerned.

“They’re meant to be made so you can have two or three or four, and not get knocked on your ass,” Bearden said. “I love that about them.”

Bearden said she’s made punch bowls for groups in size from four up to 80 (!), and large groups can pre-order a punch bowl so the first round is ready the moment the party walks in the door.

“You walk up to your table, and there’s the vintage punch bowl all set with these cute little vintage tea cups. That just puts a good taste in everyone’s mouth,” Bearden said. “It’s exciting and takes the experience to the next level.”

Punch’s roots run deep, perhaps as early as 17th-century India. Punch has five important elements, which are basically the building blocks of the modern craft cocktail: liquor, sugar, citrus, tea (or spice) and water. It’s believed “punch” may have been derived from the Farsi and Hindi word for “five,” which is pronounced “panch.”

English sailors brought the concept of punch and its necessary spices home with them, and by the end of the 17th century, a bowl of punch was all the rage throughout England and its colonies. Back then, punch was usually served hot, but it was sometimes made with ice or cool water for the upper class.

James Ashley, known as the world’s first celebrity bartender, had a famous tavern—The Sign of the Two Punch Bowls, where punch was the obvious staple—on Ludgate Hill in London from 1731 until his death in 1776. Punch has always been community-oriented, and has crossed class boundaries from lowly sailors to British Lords. It’s odd but true: In the 18th century, men used to carry little silver nutmeg graters around with them for their punch.

A punch and its five elements can easily be thought of as the cornerstone of tiki cocktails as well, and any tiki bar worth its salt should offer punch bowls. The two main tiki bars in town—Bootlegger Tiki and Tonga Hut—fill the bill.

Bootlegger’s signature punch for the summer is called Knee Deep, named after the classic George Clinton song. It includes Cuban-style rum, Blanc Rhum, aquavit, pear brandy, pineapple, lime, pineapple gomme, blue curaçao and soda. Like all the drinks on the list at Bootlegger, the Knee Deep is perfectly balanced and rich with flavor.

“I think it’s important to remember the idea behind punch is to have something light that can be enjoyed for an hour to a whole afternoon, depending on the event,” said Chad Austin, beverage director at the 3-year old Bootlegger, located in the Uptown Design District and attached to Ernest Coffee. “You aren’t trying to get everyone tanked, just loosened up after a few cups.”

Tonga Hut, in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, lists two punch bowls on its menu: the classic Scorpion Bowl and the Tonga Hut Treasure—but offers any of its drinks as a bowl for two or more people. The Tonga Hut Treasure is an original recipe containing rum, orange liqueur, cream, honey, orgeat and grapefruit. The Scorpion Bowl has rum, brandy and almond. The punches are served in classic volcano bowls—lit on fire and sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg, tableside, for a spark.

Legend has it the Scorpion Bowl was born in the 1930s at a bar in Honolulu called The Hut as a single-serve concoction, but came to prominence when “Trader Vic” Bergeron scooped up the recipe roughly a dozen years later. He then tweaked it, multiplied it and served it up at his famous Oakland bar.

No matter the setting, from fine dining to tiki to a pool party, a bowl of punch is a great kickoff.

“It gets the energy going,” Bearden said. “No one is looking at each other and asking, ‘Are you going to have a drink, or are you going to have an ice tea?’ It sets the stage and gets things moving in the right direction.”

Patrick Johnson is a journalist and head bartender at Truss and Twine. He can be emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Dining Out for Life Benefits the Desert AIDS Project on Thursday, April 27

Dining Out for Life day is one of my favorite days of the year. Why, you ask? Well, when else can you eat at one or two (or, uh, like seven?) of many, many Coachella Valley restaurants—and say you’re doing so not due to gluttony, but instead to benefit a great cause?

The great cause in this case is the Desert AIDS Project, and this year’s DOFL date is Thursday, April 27. On that day, participating bars and restaurants will donate anywhere from 33 percent to 100 percent (!) of the day’s sales to DAP.

Earning special mention are the four (as of our press deadline) restaurants giving their entire days’ sales to DAP: The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, Pho 533, Ristretto and Townie Bagels.

You must participate in this. I mean, you dine out anyway, right? We’ve said it before, and we’ll say again: It’s literally the least you can do.

For more information, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings—and on that special day, follow the Independent’s Facebook page as we chronicle our various visits to Dining Out for Life restaurants.


New: Truss and Twine, Sister Bar/Restaurant of Workshop Kitchen + Bar

When Michael Beckman’s Workshop Kitchen + Bar restaurant opened in the historic El Paseo building at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, in 2012, it earned a lot of much-deserved buzz thanks to its innovative menu, its stark industrial décor and its fantastic craft-cocktail offerings.

Now Beckman has a second buzz-worthy restaurant in that building. Truss and Twine opened March 13, offering “classic cocktails broken down by era, alongside a desert-inspired menu using ingredients from the Coachella Valley,” according to a news release.

Wait … cocktails broken down by era? Very cool! According to that news release, bar managers Dave Castillo and Michelle Bearden broke down their menu into five eras of cocktail culture: the “Golden Age,” “Prohibition,” “Tiki,” “Dark Ages” and “Originals” (featuring new in-house creations).

As for the food, expect upscale bar/snack offerings, including jamon iberico, the amazing ham that caused me to put on several pounds the last time I was in Spain.

We had not checked out Truss and Twine in person as of our press deadline—but trust me, we will soon.

Truss and Twine is open at 4 p.m. daily, and stays open late. Details at trussandtwine.com.


In Brief

Early readers of this column, here’s an event you won’t want to miss: The lovely Purple Palm Restaurant and Bar, at the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is hosting the Pink Party. It takes place from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, March 29. The event, featuring chef Nick Tall’s cuisine and a variety of rosé wines, is a benefit for the Annette Bloch Cancer Care Center at the Desert AIDS Project. Admission is $50; call 760-969-1818 for reservations. … Pete’s Hideaway, at 665. S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is the home of the new Club Rouge. The “secret underground nightclub and showroom” is a joint product of PS Underground, the group that puts on various themed dinners at top-secret locations around the valley. Club Rouge is currently hosting the Lost Cherry Cabaret every Saturday at 10:30 p.m.; $47 will get you “gourmet appetizers and sinful desserts” as well as the show, featuring performers Francesca Amari, Robbie Wayne and Siobhan Velarde. A full bar is available, of course. Get tickets and info at www.rougepalmsprings.com. … Coming soon to Rancho Mirage: Haus of Poke, a restaurant serving the raw-fish salad in various forms. It’ll be at 42500 Bob Hope Drive, Suite B; info at www.hausofpoke.com. … The old Café Europa space at The Corridor, at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will soon be the Mod Café. A menu at ToastTab.com shows it’ll offer all three square meals, with salads, stuffed pitas, burgers, melts and bowls as the main lunch and dinner fare. Visit www.toasttab.com/mod-cafe for more. … The Noodle Bar, our favorite place to eat at the Spa Resort Casino, 401 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, has closed. … Coming soon: Vinny’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard, to 190 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Attendees of the LGBT Center of the Desert’s recent Red Dress Dress Red Party got to sample some of Vinny’s frozen fare; expect an opening around May 1. Details at www.vinnysitalianice.com. … The L Fund, a local nonprofit that helps out lesbians in crisis, is having its Gumbo Gala fundraiser at noon, Sunday, April 2, at the Palm Springs Pavilion, 401 S. Pavilion Way, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $75; get details at www.facebook.com/Palmspringslfund. … Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza has opened its doors in the West Elm building in downtown Palm Springs, at 201 N. Palm Canyon Drive. It’s the second valley location of the highly regarded pizza franchise. Details at www.blazepizza.com/locations/palm-springs. … Brunch has returned to The Saguaro, at 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Outside of El Jefe, the hotel’s culinary offerings have been in flux since the departure of Tinto. People can now enjoy weekend brunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends on the courtyard patio; get menus and more info at thesaguaro.com/palm-springs.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

New: The Coachella Valley Culinary Invitational Takes Place Jan. 13

If you like really good food, want to help out some future chefs, and have at least $179 to spare, you’re going to want to be at the Stergios Building at Desert Regional Medical Center, 1150 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, for the first Coachella Valley Culinary Invitational.

What is this invitational, you ask? While the Invitational’s website is somewhat confusing, here’s what we’ve figured out: Top chefs from the valley and beyond will be offering various dishes—expect a dozen or so—to be enjoyed at one’s leisure, while fine local band Caxton provides the entertainment, and silent auction items are available for perusal.

And here’s something really cool: Before the event, four chefs will spend time with students at Rancho Mirage High School and La Quinta High School, and those kids will have a role in the dishes presented at the Invitational.

“The Coachella Valley Culinary Invitational … is an event designed to raise funds for a mentorship program for the youth of the valley enrolled in the culinary programs at the local high schools,” the website explains. “It will culminate with a scholarship program. Part of the proceeds will also benefit the chefs’ collaborative local group as it strives to educate the valley’s professional chefs on our responsibility to (develop) sustainable food systems.”

Participating chefs include Dish Creative Cuisine’s Joane Garcia-Colson, and Jimmy Schmidt of Morgan’s in the Desert.

Tickets are $179, or $229 for VIP admission. For more information, visit www.cvcinvitational.com.


Closed: Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

One of Palm Desert’s top-rated restaurants—and one of my personal favorites—is yet another victim of the “summer closure” that turns out to be a permanent closure.

The Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café website, as of this writing, enthusiastically says: “Thank you to all of our customers for a great season! Stop in for one last meal with us! We’ll be closed for the summer, starting on June 20.”

Summer came and went … and the spot at 72990 El Paseo never reopened. Now the signs have been removed from the building, and the restaurant’s Facebook page has disappeared.

Efforts to track down the owners, Jennifer and Christophe Douheret, to find out what happened were unsuccessful. If we learn anything, we’ll let you know in this space.


In Brief

Bucatini Trattoria, which has been serving up tasty Italian food at 46660 Washington St. in La Quinta, just opened a Palm Desert location, at 36901 Cook St., Suite 10. Learn more at www.bucatini.biz. … Construction continues on Truss and Twine, from chef Michael Beckman and the rest of the Workshop Bar + Kitchen crew, at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening sometime in the first chunk of 2017. Follow the progress on the Truss and Twine Facebook page. … The signs have been changed, and the former Matchbox Palm Springs is now Brickworks American Bistro + Pizza. Don’t expect a lot of changes beyond the name and those signs, though (and we mean that in a good way). Check things out on the second floor of 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive (overlooking the creepy Sonny Bono statue), in Palm Springs, or head to brickworksbistro.com for more information. … The Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, at 41000 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, will host a wine dinner at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, as part of the Taste of Rancho Dinner series. For $102—that’s $80 plus tax and tip included—you’ll get five courses paired with ONEHOPE Wine, a label which “creates delightful products that inspire people to indulge and do good.” Call 760-862-4518, or visit www.omnihotels.com/hotels/palm-springs-rancho-las-palmas for reservations or more information. … We hear that Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar, at 70030 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage, in the old Crab Pot spot, will be opening very, very soon, if it’s not open already. Call 760-321-7635, or visit www.facebook.com/thefishermansranchomirage to learn more. (It has no apparent relation to the other Fisherman’s spots in the area, by the way.) … Mecca is getting its first “nationally branded” (read: chain) sit-down restaurant, in the form of a Denny’s. Ground has been broken at the Mecca Travel Center at 90470 66th Ave.; watch for a mid-2017 opening. … In other chain news: Sonic Drive-In is coming to Indio, at Jefferson Street and Avenue 42. It should be open before all those big April music festivals take place.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The first Coachella Valley Beer Week—which I helped create—recently wrapped up after 10 days of craft-beer events all over the valley. On Nov. 14, the Indio BBQ and Beer Competition took place, and on that same day, La Quinta Brewing celebrated its second anniversary.

Now that these excellent events are over, where in the Coachella Valley can you go to enjoy the ever-expanding craft-beer revolution?

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club keeps up with trends in music, art, food and drink, and the folks in charge have updated the Amigo Room to carry more craft beer again. You can enjoy them in the dim, cavernous space, or brighten up by the pool.

In the northernmost reaches of Palm Desert, you’ll find the beloved La Quinta Brewing Co. and its taproom. On any given evening, you may find a local band playing, or women enjoying Koffi Porter ice cream floats during Ladies Night. The Heat Wave Amber and Tan Line Brown Ale beers recently returned, and the Napoleon barrel-aged beer was released for the brewery’s second anniversary. The biggest news of all: La Quinta Brewing just opened a taproom in Old Town La Quinta!

In Rancho Mirage, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse has been serving up barbecue (just voted as the valley’s best by Independent readers) and craft beer since 2002. Try the award-winning Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale, brewed with raisins and whole Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans. Babe’s also offers new, seasonal brews and a nice selection of other Southern California beers in the restaurant bar. Keep an eye out for the recently released DIPA, a hoppy pilsner, as well as an apricot tripel.

Babe’s neighbor at The River, the Yard House features 155 beers on tap. I’ve recently met knowledgeable bartenders there who will guide you in the right sudsy direction.

Schmidy’s Tavern is a favorite in Palm Desert among the younger crowd. Live music is a constant, and the pool tables are typically full. Enjoy beers on tap like Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale, Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale and Ironfire Outcast Dead Barrel Aged Imperial Red Ale.

Up Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs is a restaurant offering a farm-to-concrete-table dining experience that’s industrial chic and progressive. While the menu at Workshop Kitchen + Bar is heavy with cocktails and duck fat, the spot also offers a nice selection of beer. With a 34-foot-long concrete communal table and lofty wood-trussed cathedral ceiling, you may feel as if you’re sharing beer steins in Bavaria.

A little closer to the heart of downtown Palm Springs is Bar. The street-art-friendly, chalet-inspired watering hole serves classic cocktails and a nice sampling of Southern California craft beers. Try the Picnic Eggs—deviled eggs with Sriracha and wasabi—with the War Gin beer cocktail, with gin and lemon honey pale ale.

The spirit of Sinatra is alive at the Purple Room Restaurant and Stage—but unlike hangouts of the ’60s, this swanky supper club offers a great selection of craft beers. In bottles, you can enjoy San Diego beers like Ballast Point Longfin Lager and Stone Pale Ale. On tap, enjoy CVB’s Desert Swarm, Babe’s Blackfin Lager, La Quinta’s Poolside Blonde and many other brews

Fame Lounge is an upscale cigar, wine and microbrew lounge located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. At the bar, you’ll find a rotation of beers on tap. Recent finds: Stone Wootstout 2.0 and North Coast Indica IPA.

On Indian Canyon Drive, check out the progressive Vietnamese-American beer bar Rooster and the Pig. Try the banh mi burger with one of the California craft beers on draft. Chef/owner Tai Spendley also has a nice variety of Vietnamese beers in bottles.

What happens when you combine traditional Tokyo cuisine with American and Japanese craft beer? You get the upscale-casual Gyoro Gyoro, at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive. The spot offers a nice selection of craft beers from the states and Japan, along with a variety of fantastic sake.

Beloved farm-to-table brewery Coachella Valley Brewing Co. also celebrated its second anniversary recently. Sustainability, creativity and passion are key ingredients in these exceptional beers. Be sure to check out head brewer Chris Anderson’s sour program, as well as the brewery’s Profligate Society, which features rare beers. Palms to Pines, the ever-popular Triple IPA brewed with locally foraged spruce tips and coconut palm sugar, will be released around mid-December.

On Highway 111 in Indian Wells, you’ll find So Cal chain Eureka! Currently, Eureka! boasts 20 impressive taps ranging from Stone’s Barrel Aged Brown Ale with Balaton Sour Cherries to Mother Earth’s Imagination Land. Watch for great beer-pairing events.

The Stuft Pizza locations in Palm Desert and La Quinta have become hot spots for watching the game and sipping your favorite suds. The “not just pizza” joint in Palm Desert has 15 taps, two of which rotate with the latest craft seasonals. There’s a reason why pizza and beer are a match made in heaven: The acids and tannins in wine tend to amplify the acidity of tomato dishes.

Wherever you go … take time to savor your beer and enjoy the craft-beer revolution! 

Published in Beer

More and more restaurants and bars are offering amazing craft beers in the Coachella Valley—and now there’s a new, responsible way to sample these tasty brews in Palm Springs.

Introducing the Buzz Crawl.

The concept behind the Palm Springs Buzz is simple: It’s a trolley that allows locals and visitors alike to explore Palm Springs for free. The bus is bright and retro, with vintage lettering, plush seats and wood paneling. The Buzz runs every 15 minutes from Via Escuela to Smoke Tree Lane, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., every Thursday through Sunday—again, for FREE!

And, yes, there’s an app for that.

According to city officials, from Feb. 5-8, the Buzz picked up about 4,500 people. The following week—which included Valentine’s Day and Modernism Week’s kickoff weekend—that number rose to nearly 6,000.

John Raymond, the director of community and economic development for the city of Palm Springs, is keeping a finger on the pulse of the Buzz. He’s hopeful that the Buzz is reducing the number of people who are driving under the influence.

“People are fanatical about it. They think it’s great,” he said about the Buzz. “We figured tourists would catch on … but what’s been really great is the number of locals who are into it—Thursday night, especially.”

Because the Buzz is free and runs all weekend, you don’t need a defined schedule—but here are my recommendations on spots to hit for craft beer.

One of the first places is on the south end, near stop No. 18: The Legendary Purple Room at Club Trinidad has a “Rat Pack” heritage, but owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen are now offering modern fare and amazing Southern California craft beers. Head chef Jennifer Town graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and was the executive sous chef at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club before coming over to the Purple Room. She’s a craft-beer lover and appreciates the culinary art of pairing rich dishes with perfect craft beers.

Speaking of the Ace Hotel and Swim Club: It’s a great launching point, with amazing spaces at which to soak up the sun and/or people-watch. The closest Buzz stop is just across the street, No. 16. Check out The Amigo Room and its artisanal cocktails, hippy party vibe and fantastic variety of craft beers. Enjoy them in the dim, cavernous space—or better yet, have one by the pool. Choose among 21 taps from Southern California breweries including Babe’s, Coachella Valley Brewing, La Quinta Brewing, Stone and Hangar 24.

At the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club (pictured below), near stop Nos. 14 and 20, soak in more rays by the pool or try your hand at bocce ball—or the largest game of beer pong ever (pictured below). While the Hacienda’s craft beer selection isn’t extensive, there are a few nice choices, and the $5 poolside menu is not to be ignored: Enjoy a Racer 5 IPA, Stone Pale Ale or Ballast Point Sculpin IPA with a braised short rib and Hacienda chorizo empanadas. Want really to get the party started? Have one of some 75 tequila flights, starting at only $3.50.

Not in the mood for Mexican-style food? Check out the new hip sushi spot in town. Gyoro Gyoro is in the middle of downtown, near stop No. 8. The restaurant opened last May and not only serves fantastic fish, but offers unique microbrewery beers from around the world—yes, even Japanese craft beer!—as well as a fine selection of sake.

Feeling like some fresh, delicious pizza? Get off at stop No. 9 or 11 and stroll over to Matchbox, which not only offers artisanal brick-oven pies amid a flame-lit balcony overlooking La Plaza; the restaurant also has a nice selection of craft beer, with a dozen or so on tap and about 20 different beers in bottles. Expect popular beers from breweries like Allagash, Green Flash, Stone, BearRepublic, Alaskan, LostCoast and Rogue. Matchbox typically has at least one local beer on tap, too.

Right around the corner is my favorite cigar lounge, which won over my heart because of its impressive selection of wine and craft beer: Fame Lounge is a masculine and comfortable place, also near stops No. 9 and 11. Try the cigar and beer pairing for $10.

Bar is located at 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, near stop No. 7. With its dark surroundings and extensive whiskey menu, Bar is a great stop at night. Try the picnic eggs—deviled eggs with Sriracha and wasabi—and pair them with the War Gin (gin and lemon-honey pale ale) beer cocktail. Bar offers about 20 bottled beer choices, including Blazing World and Black House from San Diego’s Modern Times; the beers on tap rotate.

For upscale, neo-retro dining, head over to Trio, near Buzz stop No. 5, in an historic midcentury building in Palm Springs’ sophisticated Uptown Design District. Trio serves a fine selection of craft beers and delicious cocktails, and offers a three-course $19 prix-fixe menu 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Happy hour brings $3 well, $5 call, $8 premium and $5 bar bites at the bar and on the patio.

Nearby is Birba, a modern outdoor pizzeria. Birba translates from Italian to “little rascal.” Enjoy a carefully crafted cocktail like the “Hello Nancy” in the courtyard, surrounded by white-light-wrapped trees. While the eight signature cocktails are delicious, Birba also offers a selection of local craft beer.

Get off at Buzz stop No. 4 to enjoy the friendly and chic Workshop Kitchen + Bar. The popular spot has a nice selection of craft beer, but also specializes in cocktails inside the restored 1926 Spanish colonial revival building. I have been known to be a cross-drinker—and you might become one, too, among the cool concrete tables and souring wooden ceilings. Gourmet farm-to-table restaurants like Workshop are no stranger to the craft-beer “revolution,” and Workshop offers sublime pairings with locally sourced ingredients. The rich herbes de Provence fries are cooked in duck fat; pair them with a crisp Belgium beer. On tap, you’ll find brews from Salzburg, Colorado, San Diego and the Coachella Valley, as well as a great bottled-beer selection. Don’t be afraid to check out the spirits menu, showcasing “underdog” whiskeys, vodkas and gins. My personal favorite handcrafted cocktail here is the “Palm Springer,” with vodka, fresh pineapple juice, house-made grenadine, angostura bitters.

The Buzz has four buses, ensuring that riders can hop on at any of the 30-plus stops every 15 minutes. Check out the new fun and responsible way to catch a buzz in Palm Springs—and Tweet to @TheBeerGoddess if you’re checking out the #PSBuzz!

For more information and a route map, visit buzzps.com.

Published in Beer

What: The farro calamari salad

Where: Workshop Kitchen + Bar, 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $13

Contact info: 459-3451; workshoppalmsprings.com

Why: The variety of textures and flavors.

There are a lot of attention-grabbing items on Workshop Kitchen + Bar’s winter menu. A scallops dish with squid-ink risotto. Wood-charred Brussels sprouts. (An aside: Did Brussels sprouts become ubiquitous overnight, or what?) And the star of the show, the 30-ounce grass-fed rib eye, which is prepared sous vide before being grilled. (We endorse this steak, too, by the way, as long as there are at least four people in your party—and as long as the $77 price tag won’t give you a heart attack.)

Flying under the radar a bit, however, is arguably our favorite thing on the menu: the farro calamari salad with olive oil, red-wine vinegar, olives, tomatoes, herbs and lemon cucumber.

Some foods are just delicious; other foods are fun to eat. This salad is both: Delicious because the flavors work so well together (freshness from the cucumber; tartness from the vinegar; saltiness from the olives, etc.), and fun because of the whacked-out variety of textures. Crunchy (cucumber), slippery (oil), bouncy (calamari), chewy (farro)—it’s all there.

The portion is generous, too; it’s perfect for splitting with several friends, or as a main course for one. Actually … now that we think about it, this salad’s so fun to eat that it may be best to just order it for yourself. It’s best to avoid awkward I-don’t-want-to-share moments during a nice night out, after all.

Published in The Indy Endorsement