CVIndependent

Wed07172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

What: The Merguez lamb sausage

Where: Cuistot Restaurant, 72525 El Paseo, Palm Desert

How much: $9.50

Contact: 760-340-1000; cuistotrestaurant.com

Why: It’s affordable and delicious.

A round of applause, please, for the bar menu.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to a restaurant and eschewed the main dining room in favor of the bar—and as a result, presumably had a superior experience while saving a few bucks to boot.

My most recent amazing bar-menu experience came at Cuistot, the much-loved, longstanding French restaurant at the western end of El Paseo in Palm Desert. The hubby and I had stopped in for the restaurant’s Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week drink, an amazing (and gorgeous) gin-based beverage called the Aviation, so we headed for Cuistot’s bar area—cleverly named BARcelona. We were a bit peckish, so we decided to also get a small bite from the BARcelona menu. Our choice: the Merguez lamb sausage.

The sausage wound up being so delicious that we had to talk ourselves out of getting a second order. The reddish meat was impeccably flavorful—slightly spicy and pleasantly earthy. My only quibble is that the menu said the dish came tzatziki; it would have added a delightful creaminess, but it was nowhere to be found. On the plus side: The arugula beneath the sausage, doused with lamb jus, was no mere garnish; it was also delicious. We devoured every bit of it.

Bonus: From 4 to 6 p.m. in the bar, Cuistot also offers a happy hour menu. From that menu, an endorsement within an endorsement must go to the homemade pate, which was an utter steal at $9.50.

It was an amazing experience: The food, the drink, the affordable prices, and the conversation with Fernando the bartender were all impeccable.

Another round of applause, please, for the bar menu!

What: The Stuffed French Toast

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

How much: $11.95

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

Why: It’s sweet yet surprisingly nuanced.

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

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

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

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

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

I wish were using this space to discuss the results of the third annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll—and explain how we received an all-time-high number of votes, and gush about how proud I am that our list of winners and finalists represents all parts of the valley.

I wish I were using this space to discuss the inaugural Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week—and tell you all about how the week was an amazing success that featured amazing cocktails, lots of fun and thousands of dollars going to two amazing charities.

However, I feel compelled to instead discuss the president-elect of the United States.

Barring something freaky coming out of the proposed recounts and challenges, and despite the popular-vote results, it’s undeniable: Donald Trump won, fair and square. He deserves significant credit for confounding the experts and the establishment, and for tapping into and exploiting the serious concerns and pain being felt by many people across this great country.

However, that does not mean that his behavior during the campaign can or should be forgotten or forgiven.

Just like it’s undeniable that Trump won, fair and square, it’s also undeniable that he said and did some despicable things on his way to that win. He mocked the disabled. He demeaned women. He threatened the rights of LGBT individuals. He said things about Mexicans, Muslims and African Americans that were flat-out racist. He demonized the media. And by doing all of these awful things, he sent a message to racists, sexists and other haters across the country that it’s OK to feel and act that way.

As a small-business owner, I am petrified about what Trump could do to the economy. As a caring human, I am fearful of what he, his surrogates and his fans could do to Muslims, women, refugees and anyone else who is not a straight white man. As a reporter and journalist, I am downright pissed about the crap he’s said about the media—specifically newspapers that have exposed his lies, his deception and his wrongdoing.

However, I am not just petrified, fearful and pissed off. I am also motivated.

Since we published our first articles online more than four years ago, the mission statement of the Coachella Valley Independent has included this statement: We believe in true, honest journalism: We want to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.

We and the rest of the country’s alternative media are on alert. We realize that our work is more important than ever. We’re watching.

By the way, pick up the December 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets all across the valley this week. As always, thanks for reading.

BEVMO! Opens in Downtown Palm Springs—but I'm Still Going to Total Wine for the Better Prices

Fans of booze and spirits who reside in the western portion of the Coachella Valley got good news in November, when BevMo! opened at 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, in part of the building that formerly housed The Alley.

This is the second valley location for BevMo! The other is located at 79715 Highway 111, in La Quinta.

I reside in Palm Springs, within walking distance of the new BevMo!, and I was looking forward to no longer having to drive to the Total Wine and More at 72339 Highway 111 in Palm Desert when I needed to stock my personal bar.

Then I tried to get a bottle of my go-to bourbon at the Palm Springs BevMo!—and found it was about three bucks more expensive than it is at the lovely Palm Desert Total Wine.

Hmm. That made me wonder: Which of these two mega-booze chains have better prices? Might it still be financially prudent for those of us in Palm Springs and La Quinta (and beyond) to head to Total Wine?

I decided to do a little experiment. I checked the prices at each place of eight spirits and two wines that I happen to have at home: Maker’s Mark bourbon (750 milliliters); Evan Williams bourbon (750 ml); Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin (1.75 liters); Tanqueray gin (750 ml); Herradura reposado tequila (750 ml); Don Julio blanco tequila (750 ml); Fireball (don’t ask why I have it; 750 ml); Ketel One (750 ml); Bogle Vineyards merlot; and Toasted Head cabernet sauvignon.

The verdict? I’m still going to be making the drive to Palm Desert.

The tally (before taxes) for the nine items both BevMo! and Total Wine had—BevMo! does not stock the Toasted Head cabernet, according to the website—came to $179.39 at Total Wine, while it came to $204.91 at BevMo! That’s a substantial difference of $25.52, or more than 14 percent.

Total Wine’s prices are basically lower across the board: Eight of the nine items were between $1 and $5 cheaper at Total Wine. There was one tie: The Herradura reposado was $38.99 at both places.

Check the prices on your own favorite liquors at www.totalwine.com and www.bevmo.com.


Cello's Bistro Closed; Cello's Pantry, Catering Remain Open

Cello’s Bistro, a cute restaurant with yummy food at 35943 Date Palm Drive, in Cathedral City, is no more.

The owners announced the news in an email on Nov. 8.

“After seven seasons, we have decided to close the restaurant,” the email said. “This was not an easy decision, but every year when we are off during the summer, we ask ourselves the same question: ‘Do we want to open the restaurant this season?’ Unfortunately, the answer this year was no. We want to thank all of our lovely and gracious guests who were so supportive to us over the years.”

The owners will now focus on Cello’s bustling catering business, as well as serving grab-and-go meals at Cello’s Pantry, at 70225 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Customers can get breakfast at Cello’s Pantry on the weekends, too.

For more information, call 760-328-4200, or visit www.cellospantry.com.


In Brief

Gelson’s Market, at 36101 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, is offering several free wine-tastings this coming weekend! Stop in between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, to try Catena malbec and Fat Bastard chardonnay, and/or Saturday, Dec. 3, between 2 and 5 p.m. for three different Donati wines. Again, tastings are free—and everyone who attends will be entered into a raffle to win a $25 gift card. Call 760-770-0010 for more information. … Mark your calendars: Draughtsman, the “renderer of fine foods and craft beer” from the team behind the Arrive hotel, will mark its for-real grand opening on Monday, Dec. 5. The venue is located at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs; get more details draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The long-delayed and much-anticipated reopening of Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club at 69830 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage is close enough that management held a job fair just before Thanksgiving. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening around Christmas. Ironically, it was on Christmas day in 2014 when a fire doomed Bernie’s at its old location at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Watch for updates at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans. … More good news: Rocky’s New York Style Pizzeria and Restaurant, at 12856 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs, finally reopened in November. Some folks (myself included) feared Rocky’s was gone for good after a “summer closure” drifted well into the fall—especially since the building that houses Rocky’s was at one point gutted. Peruse the menu at www.rockyspizzadhs.com. … Rubio’s, a chain known for its fish tacos and other “coastal” fare, will open another valley location on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 73399 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. … Coming soon to the West Elm building in downtown Palm Springs: Blaze Pizza. The first valley location of the chain can be found in Palm Desert, just down from that new Rubio’s. … I was startled to see the building that houses beloved Palm Springs Italian restaurant Johnny Costa’s, at 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive, listed for lease on a commercial real estate website. Turns out Johnny Costa’s is slated to move sometime in the new year to 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive, the same building the aforementioned new BevMo! calls home. … Village Pub, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, is celebrating its 21st birthday with a new menu. Find details at www.palmspringsvillagepub.com.

After we created the Facebook event page for the Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Championship, a well-meaning friend commented: "I'm confused. Non-Alcoholic? Why bother?"

Here's why: There are many, many people who do not drink alcohol—for a variety of reasons. Yet all of those people still go into bars and restaurants with friends who do imbibe—and their drink choices are often severely limited, to soda, juice, coffee, tea and perhaps a really bad nonalcoholic beer. 

It does not have to be this way: Non-drinkers deserve tasty cocktails, too—and it's indeed possible to create cocktail-style drinks without alcohol.

This point was illustrated masterfully on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Gelson's in Rancho Mirage, during the Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Championship, a production of the Independent's Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week. While a couple of contestants dropped out at the last minute due to work commitments, the two contestants—Kevin Carlow of Seymour's/Mr Lyons (and, it should be noted, an Independent contributor) and Joey Tapia of New York Company—proved with their delicious cocktails that alcohol is not needed for a drink to be downright tasty.

The judges—the Independent's Garrett Dangerfield; Kristin Stahr of Gelson's; Alexis Ortega of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert; and Doug VanSant of reigning Best Local Band (according to readers voting in the Best of Coachella Valley) The Flusters—had split opinions on which drink was best. However, Tapia—who won the Audience Choice Award two nights before at the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship—and his watermelon-based drink edged out Carlow and his deliciously sweet, vinegary cocktail.

Below are photos from the event.

Five of the Coachella Valley's top bartenders met Thursday night, Nov. 17, at the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel to battle for the first Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship.

The event was one of the highlights of the Coachella Valley Independent's first Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, which ends tonight (Saturday, Nov. 19). 

One week before the event, the five contestants met at the Purple Palm for a draw to determine the order in which they would compete, and which of the five sponsor liquors they would use. The sponsor—Pacific Wine and Spirits of California—is donating $500 to each of Cocktail Week's charity beneficiaries: The LGBT Community Center of the Desert's Community Food Bank, and the Desert AIDS Project's Food Pantry.

Fernando Gonzalez of Cuistot Restaurant (using Nolet's Silver Dry Gin), Kevin Helvie of Chill Bar Palm Springs and Scorpion Room (using Crown Royal Vanilla), Sherman Chan of TRIO Restaurant (using Bulleit Bourbon), Michael Phillips of FIX a Dessert House (using Ketel One Oranj) and Joey Tapia of The New York Company Restaurant (using Captain Morgan White Rum) made tastes of their drinks for all attendees, who then each turned in a ballot with their favorite cocktail circled. Then the competition began in earnest, with each bartender mixing full-size drinks for each judge live while bantering with host Shann Carr.

The judges were Jonathan Heath of F10 Creative, Darrell Tucci of the Desert AIDS Project, Mike Thompson of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, and Brad Fuhr of Gay Desert Guide.

After all of the drinks were made and tasted, and the results tabulated, Shann Carr announced the winners: Joey Tapia of the New York Company Restaurant won the Audience Choice Award, while Trio's Sherman Chan won the Championship.

Below is a gallery of photos by Independent photographer Kevin Fitzgerald.

When it started to sink in late Tuesday night that Donald Trump—racist, misogynist, media-basher—was going to clinch enough Electoral College votes to become the next president of the United States, editors and art directors at many of the Independent's alternative-weekly brethren started thinking: How in the hell are we going to properly convey what has just happened?!

Below is a sampling of the amazing work they came up with.

What: The “Benedict” Sopes

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

How much: $13

Contact: 760-507-1640; reservoirpalmsprings.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I became a fan of craft cocktails about five years ago thanks to a little speakeasy-style bar in Tucson, Ariz., called Scott and Co.

Before I visited Scott and Co., I didn’t really know—or, frankly, think—much about cocktails beyond whether I wanted my martini dirty or not, and what type of whiskey tasted best when mixed with Coke. But Scott and Co. opened my eyes to the fact that drinks can have just as much flavor and nuance as any well-prepared entrée.

I learned that ice matters—both in shape and size. I learned that ingredients don’t have to be rote: One can create amazing syrups, bitters and spice mixtures to pair with good liquors. I learned that things like smoke and herbs and gratings and oils can do wondrous things when mixed in the right portions. I learned that truly talented bartenders don’t even need liquor to concoct delicious drinks; after all, non-drinkers deserve good cocktails, too.

In short, I fell head over heels in love with craft cocktails.

That’s why we here at the Independent decided to create Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week: We want to spread the word about our area’s amazing craft cocktails, being created and tweaked and honed by bartenders and mixologists at bars and restaurants large and small, in every part of the Coachella Valley.

However, we also think that with good cocktails come big responsibility: All Craft Cocktail Week participants were required to agree that they would “promote safe and responsible alcohol consumption throughout the week by offering special non-alcoholic drinks, encouraging designated drivers and the use of taxis/ride-share services, and doing all (they) can to make sure customers are enjoying Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week responsibly.”

We also think it’s important to give back to the community. That’s why at least $2 from every special cocktail offered during Craft Cocktail Week at participating bars and restaurants will be split between two amazing local nonprofits that make sure ALL of our valley’s residents never go hungry: The LGBT Community of the Desert’s Community Food Bank, and the Desert AIDS Project Food Pantry.

At PSCraftCocktails.com, you’ll find information on what this year’s Craft Cocktail Week participants are offering—and what they’re giving back. You’ll also find details on the week’s two big cocktail competitions. Keep an eye on the website for updates, late-joining participants and information as it develops.

While we're talking about cocktails, make sure to check out the debut of the Independent’s new monthly craft-cocktail column, written by Kevin Carlow.

Join us from Nov. 11-19 at these amazing bars and restaurants to celebrate the art of the craft cocktail. Enjoy.

When residents of the Coachella Valley joined many, many thousands of visitors from around the globe last year to celebrate Greater Palm Springs Pride, the mood was decidedly mixed.

On one hand, the year 2015 had brought us arguably the greatest LGBT-rights legal victory ever: full marriage equality in all 50 states.

On the other hand, we were reeling from the news that just days before Pride—mere feet from the site of the Pride enclosure on Arenas Road—George Zander, a prominent LGBT-rights activist that so many of us knew and loved, had been gay-bashed along with his husband, Chris, after leaving Hunters Nightclub.

Fortunately, George’s prognosis was good, although he faced a lengthy and grueling rehabilitation process after injuries including a broken hip.

As 2016’s Greater Palm Springs Pride approaches, the mood of locals and visitors alike is decidedly less joyous than it was a year ago.

In the months since last year’s Pride, the LGBT community has found itself under attack. Horrifying new laws in some states are targeting the rights of transgender men and women to simply be able to go to the bathroom safely. The Republican presidential ticket has come out staunchly against the nationwide marriage equality we all celebrated so joyously when we gained the right a year and a half ago. And most horrifically of all, a shooter—perhaps conflicted by his own sexuality—killed 49 revelers, and injured dozens of more, late one June night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

As for George Zander: Many of us gathered earlier this week in downtown Palm Springs for a candlelight vigil to mourn his passing last December. That good prognosis we all clung to with hope during last year’s Pride turned out to be woefully incorrect. 

As we get together for Greater Palm Springs Pride 2016, we’ll deal with all of the emotions of the last year—sadness, mourning, anger and, yes, joy, too—with the help of art, just as our fellow humans have done for millennia.

We’ll march. We’ll play and listen to music. We’ll dance. We’ll revel in art. We’ll act and become engrossed in story at the theater.

And we’ll hope that by the time Greater Palm Springs Pride 2017 rolls around, we’ll have a lot less to mourn—and a lot more to celebrate.