CVIndependent

Sun08252019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

What: The Super Cheesy Nachos

Where: Blackbook, 315 E. Arenas Road, Palm Springs

How much: $10; $14 with carne asada (as shown) or marinated chicken

Contact: 760-832-8497; blackbookbar.com

Why: This is an elevated version of a bar-food classic.

Blackbook has only been open for a couple of months in the old Café Palette space, but its take on elevated bar food has already developed quite a following.

Salads, tacos, burgers, fries and even a jacked-up hot dog are all on Blackbook’s menu—but I’d been hearing quite a lot about two of Blackbook’s offerings: the fried chicken sandwich ($12; you pick the level of spiciness), and the nachos.

The hubby and I met our friend Darrell at Blackbook for a recent Friday lunch. I was hoping to have the best of both figurative worlds—I could order the chicken sandwich as my entrée, and we could all split the nachos as an appetizer—but I was out of luck: Darrell was dieting, and the hubby has sworn off carbs, so they declined the nachos. Therefore, I decided to order the nachos with carne asada, and save the chicken sandwich for another visit.

Before I get to my gushing praise of the nachos, a complaint: The kitchen was rather skimpy with the carne asada. Each piece, while tasty, was tiny—and there weren’t a whole lot of pieces. Even for the relatively modest $4 up-charge, there should have been more.

As for the rest of the nachos … they were stellar. Fried corn tortilla pieces were topped with cheddar, Monterey jack, “Blackbook dark salsa” (which tasted like a good mole-esque enchilada sauce), tomatoes, green onions, sour cream and guacamole. Served in a cute tray, the gooey, delicious nachos made for a filling entrée—and they’d have been perfectly good as an appetizer, too, had my dining companions not been so darned high-maintenance.

Blackbook has elevated bar food a notch or two—and this is a very good thing.

What: The jamón Iberico

Where: Counter Reformation, inside the Parker Palm Springs, 4200 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $14

Contact: 760-770-5000; www.theparkerpalmsprings.com/dine/counter-reformation.php

Why: It’s a treat in every sense of the word.

I was fortunate enough to spend several days in Barcelona at the end of a cruise a while back—and during those several days, I enjoyed some of the best food I’ve ever had.

I was reminded of those glorious meals one recent late afternoon when I met friend and colleague Kevin at Counter Reformation, a hidden gem of a wine bar tucked inside the Parker Palm Springs hotel.

However, Counter Reformation is much more than a mere wine bar; it also serves some of the most decadent small plates around. Along with your glass of lovely wine (all of which are $6 for 3 ounces, $11 for 6 ounces, or $40 for a bottle) or champagne ($11 for 5 ounces, or $40 for a bottle), you can enjoy more than a half-dozen delights such as the grilled prawn brochette ($11), or the fingerling potatoes with a poached egg ($11) or the downright-intriguing foie gras macaron ($12).

However, when I saw the jamón Iberico on the menu, I knew that’s what I had to have. The cured meat from the black Iberian pig was one of the culinary highlights of my Barcelona stay, and the see-through-thin slices on offer at Counter Reformation—served with a tomato relish and two crostini with a creamy spread—were every bit as delicious (if a bit more pricey) as the stuff I enjoyed in Spain.

Almost (but not quite) as great as the jamon were the complimentary jars of olives and cornichons served with the tapas and wine. Wow. Just … wow.

The hours at Counter Reformation are limited (3 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Monday), but it’s worth finding some time to treat yourself there. It’s one of the best wine bars in the Coachella Valley—with some of the best tapas in the Coachella Valley. 

It’s a question I often get asked by people who are unfamiliar with the Coachella Valley Independent: “What sets your newspaper apart from the other local publications out there?”

After briefly mentioning the history of the alternative press (and explaining how the Independent fits into that history), I answer by suggesting what I call, somewhat jokingly, the “Independent Challenge”: “Take five minutes, and thumb through the Independent. Look at the articles, the design, the breadth of coverage, and the quality of the reporting and writing. Then, do the same with any other local publication. You’ll understand the difference right away.”

Yes, I am proud of what we accomplish every day at CVIndependent.com—and I am also proud to announce that for the second time, the Independent is receiving a national journalism award.

The Independent has been named a finalist in the 2017 Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) Awards, this time in the Column category. Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” is one of three finalists in the category for publications with a circulation of 45,000 or less. Judges were impressed by her columns on a post-election meeting of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union; the battle against cancer being waged by the wife of a radio-station colleague; and the work by Palm Springs residents to clean up dangerous explosives and other remnants of war in Vietnam via Project RENEW.

A total of 67 publications across the United States and Canada entered the competition, and we’ll find out where we placed on July 29, during the annual AAN Conference in Washington, D.C. You can find a complete list of finalists here.

Two years ago, the Independent’s Brian Blueskye took third place in the Arts Feature category.

While there are a lot of journalism contests out there, the AAN Awards are the only one we enter here at the Independent. It’s a highly competitive contest, and all of the papers we’re competing with have larger staffs and more resources—so winning one of these awards means something.

Congrats, Anita!

Perhaps one of the stories we’ve published over the last month in the Independent will win an award one day. I’m both proud of and alarmed by the article that serves as our July cover story, about the charges being pursued by the federal government against journalist Aaron Cantu. He was covering an Inauguration Day protest that got out of hand—and because he was wearing a shirt that was the same color as the shirts of many of the protesters, he’s being prosecuted. Check it out here.

As always, thank you for reading the Independent. Take the “Independent Challenge” yourself—and email me with questions or feedback at the email address below. Also, watch for our July print edition, being distributed throughout the valley this week.

Local Restaurants Offer Splendid Summer Specials

The summer giveth to Coachella Valley foodies … and the summer taketh away.

As for the “taketh away” part: This is your annual reminder to call ahead before heading off to your favorite local bar or restaurant … because it may very well be closed. Some places take a couple of weeks off; others take off the whole damn season.

However, an increasing number of places are choosing to stay open throughout the summer, because they recognize that most locals and even a fair number of sun-loving visitors are, in fact, here. Some restaurants offer up amazing deals, too—which leads me to believe that the summer is the best time to be a foodie in the Coachella Valley.

Here are four of the summer deals out there that have caught my eye thus far:

Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge (849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) is offering a $29 three-course meal Sundays through Thursdays. I’m partial to Willa Jean’s fried chicken, by the way.

Bernie’s (69830 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage) is offering a $29 three-course menu daily; options include a 7-ounce cut of prime rib, and Wagyu meatloaf.

The Purple Palm Restaurant (in the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) has its three-course “love to the locals” dinner for $39, Sundays through Thursdays. The almond wood-roasted strip steak sounds amazing!

Shame on the Moon (69950 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage) is giving diners three great deals: a three-course dinner (soup or salad, entrée and dessert) for $21; and two different four-course dinner menus (soup or salad, appetizer, entrée and dessert), for either $29 or $38, Sundays through Fridays. Wow!

Visit the restaurants’ Facebook pages and websites for more information—and let me know about other great specials not listed here; if we get enough, we’ll publish a roundup of these suggestions at CVIndependent.com!


Taste of Summer Returns to Rancho Mirage

Rancho Mirage restaurants are again teaming up to offer up delicious food at a discount—and benefit great causes while doing so.

Here’s how it works: People can buy $10 wristbands, and anyone with those wristbands will be able to enjoy $4 offers at participating restaurants during the promotion periods: July 7-16, Aug. 11-20 and Sept. 8-17. All of the wristband proceeds will go to an impressive list of charities.

Wristbands are available from the charities themselves; at the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce (71905 Highway 111, Suite H); or at the launch party, taking place from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, July 6, at Pirch, also located at 71905 Highway 111, in Suite H.

RSVP for that launch party, and get a list of participating restaurants and charities, at www.tasteofsummerranchomirage.com.


In Brief

Now open and earning rave reviews: Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, at 706 S. Eugene Road, over in the industrial area near Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs. The “plant-based kitchen that’s totally bitchin’” is a vegan restaurant, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (with expanded hours until 8 p.m. on Wednesday), helmed by Tanya Petrovna, the founder of Native Foods. Visit www.cheftanyapetrovna.com for more info. … After being closed for nine months due to the sudden death of the owner, Willie Boys finally reopened on June 2. The Morongo Valley barbecue joint and music venue, a popular destination for valley denizens, is located at 50048 Twentynine Palms Highway; get updates and information at www.facebook.com/willieboyssaloon. … The Arrive Hotels empire continues to grow: Chris Pardo and co. christened the Palm Springs Fan Club with a shindig on June 3. What exactly the space, adjacent to Arrive, at 1541 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs? “Palm Springs Fan Club is a cocktail lounge and event space,” according to the Facebook event page for that aforementioned shindig. “Designed with a nod to the iconic wind farms just outside Palm Springs city limits, Palm Springs Fan Club is a playful and unique location for pop-ups, receptions, meetings and weddings.” OK then! In other news, Pardo recently announced an Arrive hotel will be opening in Austin, Texas, in 2019. … Coming soon: Venezia Restaurant and Pizzeria, to the former Spaghetteria/Caffé Italia space at 2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. While a slightly faded sign on the building inaccurately says to expect an opening in “early 2017,” the restaurant’s Facebook page says the opening date is close enough that the restaurant is now hiring. Visit www.facebook.com/veneziapalmsprings for more info. … Just in time for the scorching temps: Vinny’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard, at 190 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, is open for business. Get info at www.facebook.com/vinnysitalianiceandfrozencustard. … Popular La Quinta poke joint Pokehana, at 78742 Highway 111, is opening a second location in Palm Desert this summer—and we’re hearing rumors that yet another Pokehana could come to the valley by the end of the year. Watch www.pokehana.com for updates.

When Desert Rose Playhouse opened David Dillon’s Party last year on June 24 for a six-week run, the circumstances surrounding Desert Rose—the valley’s only LGBT theater company—and the LGBT community as a whole were rather bleak.

Desert Rose’s future was up in the air, thanks to a substantial financial loss caused by the company’s critically lauded yet poorly attended production of Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches earlier in the year. Meanwhile, the LGBT community was reeling from the Pulse Nightclub massacre, which had taken place just 12 days before.

Party turned out to be just what Desert Rose needed: The raucous comedy, about a “Truth or Dare”-style game played by seven gay friends at a house party, was such a box-office smash that the production was extended from six weeks to nine, returning Desert Rose to firm financial footing. The playhouse also took up a collection for Pulse Nightclub-related charities at each show—and raised more than $7,000 during the run.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that Desert Rose is reprising Party for a six-week, non-extendable run this summer, opening Friday, June 23. The playhouse will again be passing the hat to raise money for various charities at each show.

Artistic director Jim Strait, who directs the play, said the show was written by David Dillon in the early 1990s because the playwright couldn’t find a positive, uplifting gay play.

“Everything was about AIDS or coming out,” Strait said. “He thought of a party he was once at where everyone at the end of the night ended up naked and dancing. So he wrote the play, and it had this wonderful, positive message.”

Take note: Everyone onstage indeed winds up naked by the end of Party. In other words, the play is meant only for mature audiences.

Robbie Wayne played James, a butch, leather-wearing party attendee, in last year’s show—and he jumped at the chance to play the role again this year, he said. In fact, five of the seven actors from last year’s production returned to their roles.

“We were pressing Jim: ‘Please, we hope we can do it again,’” Wayne said.

Acting is a hard enough thing to do while fully clothed, so I had to ask: How difficult is it to perform while buck-naked in front of a room full of strangers?

“Being in front of strangers is actually the easy part,” Wayne said. “The hard part is when your neighbors come to see the show, or your best friend’s mom is there. The people we knew in the audience made it scary—not the people we didn’t.”

The LGBT community was still in shock following the Pulse shooting when Party opened last year. This year, circumstances are different—but still disconcerting, given the less-than-LGBT-friendly presidential administration now in place. Strait promised that Party will make attendees feel better about things, if only for a couple of hours.

“We are, first off, having a good time and selling tickets,” Strait said. “But we are also spreading the gospel of a positive gay lifestyle. It’s such a wonderful bonding experience (for the characters), and the audience feels that, too.”

Wayne said that for a lighthearted play, Party has a surprising amount of depth.

“There are a lot of layers to this play,” he said. “There are some punch lines that are a lot more meaningful this year.”

Party will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, July 30, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 69620 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $34 to $37. For tickets or more information, call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

What: The Don Veto sandwich

Where: Larry’s Gourmet Market, 2781 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $7.99 (8 inches); $12.99 (12 inches).

Contact: 760-832-7188; larrysgourmetmarket.com

Why: It’s a damn good sandwich.

From North Palm Canyon Drive, Larry’s Gourmet Market does not look like much.

I’ve zoomed by the reddish brick-walled building many times and have never really given it a first thought, let alone a second one. However, I once overheard someone raving about the sandwiches there. Then a friend sang those sandwiches’ praises to me. Thus, I decided it was time to check out Larry’s for myself.

I was the only customer inside the cute market (which, by the way, features a great selection of liquor and wine). I went up to the deli and asked the pleasant woman behind the counter what sandwich she recommended; she suggested the Don Veto, with roast beef, capicola, mortadella, salami, provolone, veggies and Larry’s “famous” vinaigrette dressing. As my side, I picked the house-made pasta salad over potato salad and coleslaw.

She said several sandwich orders had come in before mine, so I’d have a brief wait. I sat down at one of a very small handful of tables and chairs … and watched and listened as a steady stream of orders got called in. I may have been the only customer actually at the market at the time, but I was far from the market’s only customer.

Turns out Larry’s—which also offers pizzas, salads, hot dogs and some Mediterranean specialties—does a lot of call-in business, and also offers delivery, for a $15 charge or more, depending on your Coachella Valley location.

After a brief wait, my sandwich was ready, and I took it home to eat it. It was splendid—the roll was crispy and flavorful, and that “famous” vinaigrette added a perfect tangy and sweet complement to the salty and savory meats.

Good stuff. Sandwiches are one of my favorite foods … and Larry’s is now one of my favorite local sandwich places.

What: The kimchi jji-gae

Where: Umami Seoul, 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. A-105, Cathedral City

How much: $14.99

Contact: 760-202-0144; www.umamiseoul.com

Why: The variety of flavors and textures.

I’ve had many good meals at 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. A-105, in Cathedral City. For years, that was the home of Thai Kitchen 1, my favorite neighborhood Thai restaurant. I was heartbroken last summer when I tried to call in an order of food to go—and got the “this number has been disconnected” recording.

However, the fact that Umami Seoul is now occupying the space is making me feel just a little better about things.

The original owners of longtime Palm Springs restaurant Wasabi are the folks behind Umami Seoul, which serves up a nice selection of Korean and Japanese fare, including sushi. The hubby and I stopped in for a recent lunch, and while one of the Korean-barbecue lunch specials caught his eye, I had to order a Korean entrée which is one of my all-time favorites: the kimchi jji-gae.

For the uninitiated: This is a soup/stew in which kimchi is the star of the show. Therefore, the soup is tart and spicy, with the kimchi complemented by whatever the other ingredients are—in this case, pork and tofu. The dish is flavorful, filling and unique.

As an added bonus, the kimchi jji-gae (as well as the other Korean entrées) comes with rice and various side dishes (bahn-chan)—including pickled sprouts, a potato salad, pickled daikon radishes and a tofu concoction. The meal as a whole contains pretty much every flavor profile imaginable, as well as a bunch of different textures and temperatures.

Yeah, I still miss Thai Kitchen 1, its delicious basil chicken and its delicious tom yum soup. However, I’m thrilled that I can now get delicious kimchi jji-gae at a place not too far from home.

We are living in unprecedented times, as far as national politics is concerned.

This thought kept coming to mind as I read the latest installment of Democracy in Crisis published by the Independent. Writer Baynard Woods, simply and briefly, lays out 13 anecdotes that show how authoritarianism is on the rise in our country.

Reporters arrested. Protesters arrested. Conflicts of interest being flouted and going unchecked. Sigh.

However, there’s at least one silver lining I’m finding in all the chaos: It’s clear that great journalism is alive and well in the United States.

Some of the reporting we’ve seen from The New York Times and the Washington Post, just for starters, has been amazing. In recent weeks, these papers exposed the fact that our president apparently revealed classified information to the Russians—jeopardizing, at the very least, relationships with countries with whom we partner on intelligence. They reported that our president apparently asked our FBI director to lay off of an investigation of him—before the president would go on to fire that very FBI director.

Closer to home, the Los Angeles Times in April published an unprecedented six-part editorial series titled “Our Dishonest President,” which made the clear case that Donald Trump is unfit for office.

As always, smaller news outlets are doing great work, too. Take Democracy in Crisis as an example; it’s a joint project of alternative papers around the country, including the Coachella Valley Independent.

While it’s inspiring and amazing to see all of this great journalism, it’s important to point out that these aforementioned newspapers are operating with a fraction of the resources they had, say, 10 or 15 years ago.

That’s why it’s vital that you support great journalism: Buy a newspaper subscription, or two, or three. Advertise. Pay for online articles. It costs money to do well-reported, well-written, well-edited stories.

In that vein, if you like what the Independent is doing, consider throwing a few bucks our way. Both our print version and CVIndependent.com have always been and always will be free to all—but you can join our Supporters of the Independent program for just $10, or even less. Find details at CVindependent.com/supporters.

By the way, pick up the June 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets this week and early next week. As always, thanks for reading—and if you have thoughts or feedback, email me anytime.

What: The build-your-own pizza

Where: Blaze Pizza, 201 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; also at 73393 Highway 111, Palm Desert

How much: $7.95

Contact: 760-318-2529 (Palm Springs); 760-895-4259 (Palm Desert); www.blazepizza.com

Why: It’s delicious, and it’s a great deal.

In the almost five years that the Independent has been around, we’ve written 116 Indy Endorsements. Only a half-dozen or so have been written about chain joints—and most of those were about smaller, California-based chains. In other words, the Indy Endorsement is a feature that almost exclusively touts locally owned restaurants.

Therefore, it really means something that we’re endorsing the make-your-own pies at Blaze Pizza.

Why are we endorsing food at a large, national chain, pretty much for the first time? For one thing, the make-your-own 11-inch pizzas at Blaze are truly make-your-own—you can have as many cheeses, sauces and toppings on your pizza as you want. There’s no limit. For example, the pizza in the picture here has mozzarella cheese, goat cheese, bacon, smoked ham, mushrooms, olives and tomatoes, with classic red sauce and just a little garlic pesto underneath. That’s two sauces, two cheeses and five toppings—for one price. If I wanted to double those numbers, the price would stay the same.

For another thing … that price is a deal: just $7.95. Where else can you get an 11-inch pizza with unlimited ingredients for less than eight bucks? Nowhere, you say?

That’s why we’re endorsing a large, national chain, pretty much for the first time.

The process is easy: You get in line, pick your crust (gluten-free and high-rise/thicker options cost a bit extra), pick your sauces, pick your cheeses and pick your toppings. You watch as the employees put the toppings on your pie—and if you want more or less of an ingredient, tell ’em, and they’ll happily make it so. You then watch as they put the pizza in the oven; a couple of minutes later, they take it out, put it on a metal plate, and call your name.

Simple. Inexpensive. Delicious. Endorsement-worthy.

The New York Company Restaurant Closes After Three-Plus Years

After more than three years in business, The New York Company Restaurant, at 1260 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has closed its doors for good.

“We know you enjoyed dining at The New York Company Restaurant,” said a note sent to the restaurant’s email list on April 25. “So, we want you to know that our last day serving our guests was at Sunday’s champagne Brunch on April 23rd. It was a great run while it lasted … three-plus years of spending wonderful evenings together. Our party is over despite all we could do to create success. We know that we will miss you!”

This closure saddened me for several reasons. For one thing, one of the finest meals I’ve had in the Coachella Valley occurred last year at The New York Company Restaurant. For another, I got to know some of the folks there due to the restaurant’s participation in the inaugural Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, during which New York Company bartender Joey Tapia won both the Audience Choice Award at the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, and top honors at the Non-Alcoholic Craft Cocktail Championship.

While the closure saddened me, it certainly didn’t surprise me. I don’t know all of the things Neil Castren, Ken Misa and Wally D’Agostino did to get the word out about the restaurant, but I do know the place escaped my consciousness, more or less, for most of the time it was open—even though I live just a five-minute drive away. I rarely saw advertisements for the restaurant, and its social-media presence was nearly non-existent. If someone like me—a media-savvy person who writes about food on a regular basis—was never somehow motivated to check the place out, what chance did The New York Company Restaurant have with other potential customers?

Perhaps there’s a lesson here: Marketing and publicity, or a lack thereof, can make or break a restaurant.

So long, New York Company. You’ll be missed.


Coming Soon to Palm Springs: 716 on 111

After the sudden closure of the beloved Dickie O’Neals due to the death of its owner in the spring of 2015, the building at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, sat vacant until Frenchy’s Sports Bar and Grill came along in late 2016.

But within months, Frenchy’s was gone. However, the building won’t be vacant for long.

Keep your fingers crossed for an August opening of 716 on 111. The restaurant, owned by couple Christopher Krayna and David Hoffman, already has a Facebook page that’s full of useful information. For example, the page tells us that 716 on 111 will use “always fresh, never frozen” ingredients, often from local purveyors; that the menu will include “real deal” chicken wings, as well as a cast iron-prepared filet over a crisp wedge iceberg salad; and that a life-sized buffalo sculpture will somehow be involved.

Watch the 716 on 111 Facebook page for updates.


In Brief

We’re getting more and more information about the restaurants coming to the big downtown Palm Springs redevelopment project along Palm Canyon Drive north of Tahquitz Canyon Way. A press release issued in mid-May by Grit Development—formerly known as Wessman Development, before John Wessman, y’know, got indicted—revealed that Il Corso, a longtime Palm Desert restaurant, will open a spot in the development. Other restaurants will include Stout Beer and Burgers, a Tommy Bahama and a Starbucks Reserve. … New to Cathedral City: Justin Eat and Drink just opened its doors at 68784 E. Palm Canyon Drive. The menu of the “upscale casual” restaurant includes appetizers (“Snack Time,” says the menu header), tacos (“Taco ’bout It”), salads (“Rabbit Food”), sandwiches/burgers (“Things on Bread”) and entrees (“Grown Up Stuff”) including a prime hanger steak and a mushroom risotto. For more info, call 760-904-4093, or visit www.facebook.com/justinrestaurantcc. … A few doors down is another new place: Pollo Doky’s, at 68718 E. Palm Canyon Drive. Peruvian fare—most notably rotisserie chicken and chicharron (pork) sandwiches—is what you’ll find at this fast-casual joint. For more information, call 760-832-6878, or head over to the restaurant Facebook page. … The Reef is now open in the bar area at the Caliente Tropics, at 411 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Rory Snyder’s bar/restaurant replaces The Congo Room, which fled the property amidst claims of leaky roofs and storm damage. Visit www.thereefpalmsprings.com to learn more. … Now open: Blackbook, in the old Café Palette space at 315 E. Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs. The stylish-looking joint serves appetizers, sandwiches, chicken wings, salads and tacos; call 760 832 8497 or visit www.facebook.com/blackbookbarandkitchen for more info.