CVIndependent

Thu06202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

As the Independent officially begins its seventh year, I want to talk about something important: Charts.

Yes. Charts.

Our January 2019 print edition is hitting streets this week, and we originally had a different cover story planned for it. However, the piece got delayed, so we went to Plan B: an intriguing piece we had posted at CVIndependent.com about the California School Dashboard (caschooldashboard.org), the recently updated school-ratings system from the California Department of Education.

The story came to us from our partners at CALmatters, “a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.” (It’s a fantastic organization, and I highly recommend supporting CALmatters with a few bucks if possible; we run one or two stories from them per week at CVIndependent.com.) However, the piece was written for a statewide audience—and as you may have noticed, California is kind of big, what with the 39.5 million people and stuff.

Therefore, we decided to take the statewide piece; add local data from the California School Dashboard; and figure out a way to present said data in a compelling, easy-to-understand way. I called Beth Allen, our fantastic cover/cover story designer, to discuss the matter.

That’s where the charts come in.

Making charts like this is no easy task. The data has to be pulled from the website, checked, compellingly designed, and checked again. Given there are 78 schools within the three local school districts, and the state measured four to six criteria for each, that means there were about 350 data points we had to track. (In order to keep our sanity somewhat in check, we pulled and presented the data from only the schools within the three school districts here.)

The most taxing portion of this work fell to Beth—and not only did she refuse to complain; she was excited about it, because she understood how compelling and important this data is. As we discovered, 37 percent of the schools within our local districts had the lowest rating in at least one category. That’s not good.

We felt this is information our readers should know. That’s why we spent all the time pulling the data, crunching the numbers, getting the extra print space to present the data, laying it all out, and checking it all. This is not easy work—but good journalism isn’t supposed to be easy, is it?

See the results for yourself with the revised version of the story, charts included, here.

As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions, concerns or feedback—and be sure to check out the January 2019 print edition.

Purple Room Palm Springs Launches ‘Frank’s Bourbon Bar’

Since it’s an oddly slow month as far as restaurant news is concerned, I am going to take some space to discuss something near and dear to my heart: delicious, heart-warming bourbon. Specifically: The Purple Room Palm Springs, at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has introduced Frank’s Bourbon Bar, with more than 50 premium bourbons on offer.

The bar—named after Frank Sinatra, a well-known lover of bourbon—is offering bourbon flights starting at $25. The crown jewel of flights, however, will set you back $55: It includes Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year, Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year, and the Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year bourbons. (You can sub in other premium bourbons if you so choose.) That’s actually a pretty good deal.

If you’re a fan of whiskeys that aren’t bourbon, two things: 1. Get your head examined, because something’s wrong with you; and 2. Head to the Purple Room anyway, as the good folks there are offering non-bourbon whiskey flights, too, also starting at $25.

Get the full list of Frank’s Bourbon Bar offerings at www.purpleroompalmsprings.com/liquor.


New: The Del Rey Restaurant Inside the Villa Royale

New to Palm Springs: The Del Rey restaurant, which is already gaining some fantastic buzz inside the Villa Royale hotel, at 1620 S. Indian Trail.

The former Europa Restaurant has been transformed into a gorgeous dinner/bar space, featuring food from chef Louis Martinez. Check out this amazingly flowery description on the Del Rey website: “Housed inside stucco walls accented with original, large format oil paintings produced by Juan Casas, Villa Royale’s intimate bar and eatery, Del Rey, offers up a 12-seat oak and marble bar, tufted green vinyl booths and an outdoor patio equipped with a firepit for long nights under the desert moonlight. Inspired by Spanish and Mediterranean flavors, Del Rey’s playful menu is served in a small-plate format akin to taperías that flourish near the Mediterranean Sea.”

Fun! More info at delreypalmsprings.com.


In Brief

Last month, we reported that Bongo Johnny’s—closed by a fire that destroyed the kitchen at 214 E. Arenas Road back in March—“could be open by January” in its new digs at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive (which was recently occupied by Café Europa/jusTapas). Well, here’s a shocking development: As of our press deadline, Bongo Johnny’s was planning a soft opening earlier than we expected, on Dec. 29. Watch www.facebook.com/bongojohnnys for more information, including a date for the “official” grand opening. … New to Palm Springs: Monster Shakes, at 425 S. Sunrise Way, No. H-7, in the spot formerly occupied by Yogurt at Its Best. If you like big shakes served in mugs, dairy-free desserts or Dole Whip, head on over to the Ralph’s shopping center to check it out; more info at www.monstershakesps.com. … Wexler’s at Arrive, located at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, just began dinner service. You’ll find some of the offerings from the breakfast and lunch menus, plus brisket, schnitzel, matzo ball soup and more. Watch wexlersdeli.com/wexlers-arrive-palm-springs for updates. … Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive, has closed. The proprietor, the fabulous Felix Tipper, sold the storefront to focus on his catering business. I am already missing his amazing breakfast sandwiches. … L’Atelier Café, at 129 La Plaza, in Palm Springs, has new owners. Charlotte and Raphael Farsy, the original proprietors, decided to move back to France—but only after handing off the restaurant to new French owners, Angelique and Christophe Robin, who are tweaking the menu and hours, but keeping the spirit of the lovely spot alive. Watch www.facebook.com/Lateliercafe for updates. … New to downtown Palm Springs: Lolli and Pops, a fancy chain candy store, at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Details at www.lolliandpops.com.

More than 80 people came to the Copa Nightclub on Wednesday, Dec. 12, with one goal: to celebrate the people, businesses and organizations that make the Coachella Valley a fantastic place to call home.

The Coachella Valley Independent and Copa Nightclub sponsored the fifth annual Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show and Party, an event that honors the winners of the Independent's yearly readers' poll, which features almost 130 categories ranging from the best place to hike, to the valley's best restaurants, to the valley's best sex-toy shop. (Our readers say it's Skitzo Kitty, by the way.)

The biggest contingents at the party—hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle, with help from assistant editor Brian Blueskye—came to celebrate Barbara Carpenter, voted Best Real Estate Agent for the second year in a row, and Augustine Casino, which took the top spot in a whopping seven categories.

After the awards were given out, Best Local Band winner Avenida Music delighted the audience with a full set.

Below is a gallery of photos from the event, taken by Kevin Fitzgerald. In the media section, find the welcome video from Rep. Raul Ruiz, as well as a video of the event, courtesy of Tantalum Films. (Originally published on Dec. 13; updated with video Jan. 3.)

What: The Meatloaf Sandwich Meal

Where: The Desert Queen. 35400 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $10.99

Contact: 442-615-0344; thedesertqueen1.com

Why: It mended my broken heart.

When the server came to take my order, she broke my heart.

My heart was set on having biscuits and gravy. I’d seen a couple of online raves about this down-home dish at The Desert Queen, a new Southern-style restaurant in Cathedral City, and as lunchtime approached, biscuits and gravy sounded freaking amazing. So I put The Desert Queen’s address in my GPS, and off I went.

After I arrived and seated myself, I perused the menu and instantly spied what my heart desired: the biscuit and sausage-gravy meal ($11.99). Then the server came to take my order. I said what I wanted; she politely pointed at a line on the menu my eyes had heretofore not seen: BREAKFAST ENDS AT 11 A.M.

It was 11:46 a.m.

As my heart sank, I looked over the handful of lunch options. I quickly selected the meatloaf sandwich (which came with a drink and a side; I chose coffee and the homemade chili, respectively).

After my order came, I poked at the chili before unenthusiastically taking a bite of the sandwich. As I chewed … my broken heart began to take notice.

I took another bite. The meatloaf was dense enough to stand up to being inside a sandwich, while being neither dry nor greasy. It tasted great, and the wheat bread was perfect for such a sandwich: It was crispy on the outside, but still soft enough on the inside to hold things together. The word that comes to mind when I think about each bite is pleasing.

By the time I finished my meal, my heart was no longer broken; the delicious meatloaf sandwich had mended it. That’s not to say I wasn’t still craving biscuits and gravy … but I was OK with waiting to have that on my next visit to The Desert Queen.

What: The cinnamon brown sugar breakfast tart

Where: Wilma and Frieda’s, 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; also at 73575 El Paseo Drive, Palm Desert

How much: $4.95

Contact: 760-992-5080 (Palm Springs); 760-773-2807 (Palm Desert); wilmafrieda.com

Why: They’re delicious—and very affordable.

When I heard that Wilma and Frieda’s was going to be taking over the former location of The Falls—one of the most beautiful restaurant spaces in the valley, overlooking the La Plaza area in downtown Palm Springs—I was elated.

For five years, Wilma and Frieda’s, located on El Paseo in Palm Desert, has been serving up some of the valley’s best breakfasts and lunches. Not only was I excited about the fact that one of the area’s most renowned restaurants was expanding to the west valley; I was intrigued by what the owners would do with the large, second-story space.

Well, it seems my excitement was justified: The new Wilma and Frieda’s is gorgeous, and the owners have expanded the offerings at the Palm Springs location beyond 3 p.m.: The bar is currently open until 9 p.m. most nights, and full dinner service is coming soon.

I stopped in one recent Saturday after an early-ish dinner to see the new space and try a cocktail. Since it was after dinner, I was craving dessert … and Wilma and Frieda’s (at both locations) has an amazing selection of housemade sweets, including brownies, bars, cookies, cakes and “breakfast tarts”—you know, like those store-bought frosted pastries that you pop into the toaster, but presumably a lot better.

Being a fan of all things containing brown sugar, I decided to try the cinnamon brown sugar breakfast tart. Not only did it sound delicious; it was only $4.95—and where else can you get a fresh-baked dessert for that price in this town?

The tart exceeded my expectations: It was warm, crispy out the outside and gooey on the inside—and it was yummy.

Welcome to Palm Springs, Wilma and Frieda’s. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

It’s been a fascinating month of November here at the Independent, with the election and, of course, the Best of Coachella Valley. But I get to all of the greatness that is the Best of Coachella Valley stuff, I need to bring up a couple of stories we posted last week, because they have to do with one worst tragedies in modern California history—and the fact similar tragedies are likely to keep happening over and over again due to our new reality.

As of this writing, the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County has claimed 88 lives—a number that is sure to rise, since more than 150 people have not yet been accounted for. More than 18,700 buildings—the majority of those homes—have been destroyed, including almost the entire town of Paradise.

Let’s put that in perspective: Paradise and Desert Hot Springs are about the same size in terms of population. Paradise is larger than Rancho Mirage. And it’s essentially gone.

One of the stories came to us compliments of our friends at the Chico News & Review. It starts out with one of the most harrowing, terrifying and heartbreaking stories of survival and loss that you’ll ever read. It concludes with a link to a GoFundMe page for Chico News & Review staffers who lost their homes in the Camp Fire. This one holds a special place in my heart—not only are these fellow newspaper people; I started my career working for the News & Review company, so I ask you to contribute if you can. Thank you.

Meanwhile, life goes on here in our amazing Coachella Valley—and that brings me to the Independent’s fifth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll.

A record number of people voted in this year’s two rounds of polling, and we’re excited to present the results of that vote, along with features on some of the winners, and some additional “Best Of” selections by Independent staff and contributors.

I have a lot of people to thank here, including Beth Allen, who did the layout for the whole Best of Coachella Valley section in the print edition; and Brian Blueskye and Kevin Fitzgerald, who contributed our features. Huge thanks also go to all of our fantastic advertisers—and most of all, to the readers who navigated nearly 130 categories on our ballot to vote.

Please join us to celebrate all of our winners at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show, taking place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Copa Nightclub in Palm Springs. After we give out the awards, Best Local Band winner Avenida Music will perform; admission is free.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. I encourage you to pick up the December 2018 print edition, on newsstands now. Finally … have a fantastic and fruitful holiday season!

Bongo Johnny’s Moving Into Former Café Europa Space; Antigua Opens in Former Gyoro-Gyoro Spot

When it comes to some restaurant spaces in downtown Palm Springs, the only constant is change.

Witness the second-floor space at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, across from the Hyatt. In recent years, it’s housed both Crave and Plate | Glass; about two years ago, restaurateur Mike Stoltz moved his popular Café Europa in there during the daytime, and introduced a bar/small-plates concept, jusTapas, for the nighttime.

The move turned out to be a mistake, it seems: Café Europa/jusTapas recently closed its doors. However, the space will not be vacant for long: Bongo Johnny’s, the Arenas Road mainstay which has been closed since a fire destroyed its kitchen back in March, is moving in, and could be open by January. Owner Robb Wirt had originally planned to remain in the space at 214 E. Arenas Road, but abandoned those plans, he says, due to a lack of responsiveness from his landlord.

Meanwhile, a couple of blocks away, Antigua Kitchen and Bar has opened at 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in the spot most recently occupied by Gyoro-Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise. It’s a new venture by the owners of L’Olivo Palm Springs—an Italian restaurant that’s called 333 N. Palm Canyon Drive home for years—offering “quality American dishes, with locally sourced ingredients and a casual desert dining vibe.” A recent visit revealed tasty food, a décor largely unchanged from Gyoro-Gyoro, and a bar only serving beer, wine and low-alcohol cocktails, since a full liquor license had not yet been obtained.

Oh, and adjacent to Antigua—in the space occupied for years by Starbucks before it moved into new, fancier digs across the street—El Patron Taqueria and Bar is supposed to be coming soon.

Got all that?

All of these changes and moves, naturally, lead to some questions about whether these restaurants can succeed where others have failed. I have no idea what will happen with El Patron—although I am discouraged by the fact that a sign has been up for weeks encouraging people to follow the restaurant’s progress on Instagram and Facebook pages that don’t seem to yet exist—but I am cautiously optimistic about the chances for Antigua and Bongo Johnny’s.

As for Antigua: Gyoro-Gyoro, despite a fantastic location, seemed to be poorly managed throughout its run—including an embarrassing and lengthy closure by the health department. Given the location, and the fact that the owners have a proven track record with L’Olivo, Antigua seems primed for success.

As for Bongo Johnny’s … I do have some concerns. The restaurant had a good, long run on Arenas, but it really flourished when Wirt deftly expanded the hours until 3 a.m. on weekends—taking advantage of its location in the midst of bars and clubs—and started offering delivery. Will he be able to duplicate that success in a location that’s blocks away from all those clubs? I am concerned … but optimistic.

Stay tuned.


In Brief

The Shop Café, the family-owned restaurant located at the Aqua Soleil Hotel at 14500 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs, has closed. Management announced the closure on the restaurant’s social media on Nov. 19, but said the family would continue to offer catering services. … New to Palm Desert: Trattoria Mezzomondo, at 73850 Highway 111. Owner Elio Cavallari formerly owned Mezzomondo in Studio City; he closed it, moved to Palm Desert and opened the new place. Get details at mezzomondopd.com. … New to Palm Springs: Taka Shin Japanese Cuisine, at 641 N. Palm Canyon Drive. We have not yet been able to visit this authentic sushi joint ourselves, but our friend Miho Suma, the incredible owner of Shabu Shabu Zen, raves about the place—a worthy endorsement indeed. Call 760-600-5806 for more details. … New to Cathedral City: The Desert Queen, a café serving Southern fare at 35400 Date Palm Drive. All three meals are offered at this cute little place, and we can’t wait to try the homemade meatloaf, as well as the fried chicken … with cornbread! More info at thedesertqueen1.com. … New to La Quinta: The Roblero Pit, serving up “Santa Maria-style” barbecue, Napa Valley dishes and other fare at 79410 Highway 111. View the menu and get details at www.robleropit.com. … And now for something completely different: The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort, at 74855 Country Club Drive, in Palm Desert, has opened T&T Innovation Kitchen. From a news release: “Dishes change daily, inspired by both time and temperature, encouraging the team to get creative with everything from their produce choices to their preparation process. Furthermore, there’s an unconventional entrance through the restaurant that takes guests through the massive resort kitchen and in through the back of the restaurant—a nod to the anticipation and mystery of speakeasy restaurants.” T&T offers five-course dinners every Friday and Saturday; learn more at www.facebook.com/timeandtemp.

What: The spiced Jurgielewicz duck

Where: 4 Saints, inside the Kimpton Rowan Hotel, 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs

How much: $37

Contact: 760-392-2020; www.4saintspalmsprings.com

Why: The nuance.

Sometimes when I’m hungry, I want to head to the civilized human equivalent of a feed trough and eat. Other times, I want something a little more refined … nuanced … special.

Enter 4 Saints, the gorgeous restaurant on the top floor of the year-old Kimpton Rowan Hotel in downtown Palm Springs. I’ve dined there twice now—twice a year is about what my finances will allow—and both times, I have been blown away by the quality of the food coming out of executive chef Stephen Wambach’s kitchen.

On my most recent visit, the hubby and I sat at the bar and shared the hamachi crudo ($19) and foie gras ($24) as starters. Both were fabulous; in fact, I doubted that either of our entrées would surpass them.

Then came my spiced Jurgielewicz duck. (Jurgielewicz is the name of the Pennsylvania family farm that produces the duck—raised humanely and free-roaming—used at 4 Saints.) It’s not hyperbole when I say it was one of the tastiest dishes I’ve ever had.

Three slices of duck sat on a bed of spatzle and puréed autumn squash, next to red cabbage. It sounds simple—but every single element was perfectly seasoned, cooked and prepared. It seemed like a true sacrifice to spare just one bite so my husband could try it. Truthfully, I am having difficulty coming up with words to describe the flavors, so I’ll just say this: My mouth is watering as I write this.

Some may scoff at the price tags and modest portions … but trust me: The food being offered at 4 Saints is worth it. That’s where you’ll find me come the next special occasion.

Thursday, 08 November 2018 13:00

The Indy Endorsement: Lunch at Emperor Buffet

What: The weekday lunch buffet

Where: Emperor Buffet, 69600 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

How much: $9.99

Contact: 760-328-9200

Why: It’s cheap with a lot of delicious stuff.

I know that some of you have read the headline and instantly determined that I must have lost my damn mind.

Is he really giving the high honor of an Indy Endorsement to a free-standing Asian buffet in Rancho Mirage?! Why, yes, indeed I am. Here’s why.

I concede that not everything available at Emperor Buffet is great … or even good. The desserts, for example, are bleh, and the sesame chicken—one of my favorite gringo-ized Asian entrées—somehow approaches flavorless. However, similar things can be said about the menu items at many restaurants: You’ll have hits, and you’ll have misses.

And there are some definite hits—home runs, even—on offer at Emperor Buffet. On the plate above, at the top, you’ll see some pork with snow peas. This dish is flat-out fantastic: The peas are crisp; the pork is tender; and it’s all delicious. If I went to any restaurant, paid $9.99 and got a whole plate of this, I’d be a happy camper.

But instead, for $9.99, I got that and a whole lot more: serviceable sushi rolls, tasty potstickers, compelling crab Rangoon, moist teriyaki chicken, etc.

Look, I get it: Buffets aren’t for everyone. Some people are squicked out by self-serve food at steam tables. Others are food snobs, pure and simple. But for foodies who aren’t paranoid or snobbish—especially us foodies on a budget—trust me: There’s some truly great stuff to be found at Emperor Buffet. You may find some duds among the dozens of options … but you’re also going to find some true gems—and you’ll do so in a way that leaves you money left over for your next foodie adventure.

The November 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent—our annual Pride Issue—is hitting streets this week.

But before I discuss all of the great stuff you’ll find therein … an apology: Election Day 2018 is almost here—and I am not happy with how we’ve covered things this year.

It’s not a matter of quality; I am satisfied with the coverage that we have done. The amount of election coverage we’ve published has been substantial. Locally, we’ve covered the Desert Hot Springs city election; the Palm Desert city election; the District 28 Senate race between Joy Silver and Jeff Stone; the already-decided District 4 Riverside County Board of Supervisors seat; and the already-decided Rancho  Mirage city election. We’ve also done some coverage on election matters involving Desert Healthcare District and the city of Indio, and soon, we will have coverage of the Cathedral City election posted. Finally, we’ve published a fair amount of state election news from our partners at CALmatters.

While that is a lot of election coverage … it’s not enough. As the calendar turned from 2017 to 2018, we set an internal goal of covering all local city elections taking place this year, and we failed. I am embarrassed that we didn’t get to covering the city elections in La Quinta, Coachella and Indian Wells. I also wish we’d have been able to do more state coverage—but we just ran out of time and resources.

For that, I apologize. We need to do better, and we are exploring ways to improve moving forward.

Now, on to the good stuff.

Our special Pride print section includes two stories directly relating to the Greater Palm Springs Pride events taking place in November, and two stories regarding fantastic LGBT-related events happening later in the month. (Speaking of Palm Springs Pride: We’ll be at the festival both days—Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4—giving out newspapers and swag, so please stop by and say hello.)

Beyond the Pride stories, we have been doing a lot of other great stuff, from our annual list of Censored Stories—important national and international stories that were under-covered by the mainstream press—to fantastic arts, food and music coverage.

I hope you enjoy what we’re doing. As always, thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or input.

One more thing … Happy Pride!