CVIndependent

Fri04262019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

After meeting numerous famous and powerful people during almost 25 years in journalism, I’m rarely star-struck or intimidated these days.

In fact, it’s happened to me just twice since I’ve called the Coachella Valley home. The first time was when I met Joyce Bulifant—semi-regular on the classic Match Game back in the 1970s, and co-star of one of my favorite movies ever, Airplane.

The second time was when I met Barbara Keller.

For the life of me, I have no idea why I was starstruck when I met Joyce Bulifant—I love her, but I’ve been left unflummoxed by bigger stars before. But I do understand why I was intimidated by Barbara Keller, when I somehow found myself sitting next to her at an Equality California Awards host committee meeting: I knew I was in the presence of a person who was truly great.

Barbara Keller passed away at the age of 75 on Monday, April 15.

Barbara was as kind and welcoming as a person could be, but I was star-struck by her reputation, her gravitas, her works. I knew how many local nonprofits and charities she supported—with her money and a whole lot of her time. I’d heard tales about her extreme kindness from friends. And I’d known, by seeing her with my own eyes at various events (almost always with her fantastic husband, Jerry), how simply fabulous she was.

It’s common when someone well-known dies for them to be showered with exaggerated levels of praise and accolades. However, regarding Barbara Keller, there’s no exaggeration: She deserves each and every bit of the love and appreciation she’s received. She was truly a giant of the Coachella Valley. Her death is a huge loss to the community.

“This morning we lost our one and only Barbara Keller. The love she brought to the Desert AIDS Project family changed us forever,” said Desert AIDS Project CEO David Brinkman, in a statement on the day she passed away. “She had been our board’s leader, the Steve Chase’s chief and our clients and mission’s ultimate champion. Words fail to express the gratitude I have for having been the recipient of her friendship, love and mentorship. Barbara Keller equals humanitarian.”

My sincere sympathies go out to Jerry and the rest of her family, as well as her work family at Lulu California Bistro and Acqua California Bistro.

We’ll have more on the life of Barbara Keller in the Independent soon. In the meantime, I invite you to pick up the May 2019 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting the streets this week. As always, thanks for reading.

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week Returns May 31, With More Than 115 Participants

The bad news: Summer is almost here, meaning 100-degree temperatures will soon be a daily thing.

The good news: This also means Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is almost here.

The annual event will return for 10 days—that’s seven days shorter than Restaurant “Week” was last year, alas—of great deals at restaurants valley-wide, starting on May 31. Here’s how it works: Participants offer special prix-fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner. Lunches, with at least two courses, cost $15, $20 or $25, while dinner, with at least three courses, costs $29, $39 or $49.

As of now, 117 participating restaurants are listed on the Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week website—a record, I believe. And this year, there’s a very cool charitable hook: A lot of the participating restaurants are offering reservations to be made through the Restaurant Week website, and $1 from each reservation made via the website will be donated to the FIND Food Bank, thanks in part to the generosity of the week’s sponsors, Agua Caliente Casinos and Sysco Riverside.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll leave you with just a little advice: Go to the Restaurant Week website; do your research by perusing the participants’ menus; and plan your visits. A lot of the restaurants offer truly amazing deals; others … not so much. Remember: This year, you’ll only have 10 days rather than 17 to enjoy Restaurant Week!

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week takes place Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 9. For more information, including menus, visit www.visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/dinegps/restaurant-week.


Opening This Week: Tac/Quila, From the Owners of Farm Palm Springs

Liz and Mark Ostoich are lawyers by trade—but they’ve proven themselves to be amazingly good restaurateurs with Farm, located in downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza. Therefore, it’s very good news that they now have a second restaurant: Tac/Quila, located at 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive, which most recently housed Watercress Vietnamese Bistro.

“Farm allowed us to bring our love of the French countryside to a charming little courtyard, chock full of flowers and tucked away from the hustle and bustle,” reads a message from Liz and Mark Ostoich on the Tac/Quila website. “We love everything that has become Farm, but there was more to be said. So part of our life story involves food—but it also includes travel, history and, of course, tequila! Tac/Quila is our made-up word for combining gourmet Jalisco style cuisine with specialty tequilas and mezcals, in an effort to transport our guests south of the border and into a culture rich in flavor, color, art and authenticity.”

The pictures posted on the Tac/Quila Facebook page and website show a gorgeously renovated space—and the menu posted on the website made my mouth water. Three different kinds of ceviche? Yes, please.

Tac/Quila is slated to open Wednesday, April 24. For more information, including the menu, visit www.tacquila.com.


In Brief

Taco fans, take note: Plan on being at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa on Saturday, May 18, from 11 to 6 p.m., for the annual Morongo Taco Fest. Admission is $10, and 30 or so vendors will be selling $2 tacos. Lucha libre wrestling and live music will entertain, while tequila and margaritas will provide the buzz. Get information and tickets at morongocasinoresort.com. … New to Palm Springs: Glitch, a Southeast Asian restaurant and ’80s-style arcade. Wait, what? Let me check my notes … yep, that’s right. Wow. Enjoy items like num pang—that’s a Cambodian-style pork sandwich—while playing classic arcade games and table games. If you’re looking for something completely different, you’ll find it at 2080 N. Palm Canyon Drive; get more information at www.glitchpalmsprings.com. … New to Cathedral City: Romano’s, offering pizza, subs, salads and other goodies at 27800 Landau Blvd., at Vista Chino. Find more information and photos of the menu at www.facebook.com/Romanos-Pizza-373313373264165. … New to Rancho Mirage: Maria Jose Peruvian Gourmet, inside The Atrium at 69930 Highway 111. Check out the menu (including photos that made me very hungry) at www.mariajoseperuviangourmet.com. … Sad news: Desert Wines and Spirits, which had been located inside Go Deli at 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is no more. Happy news: In the whole space starting sometime in May will be Bouschet, a “wine and gourmet food experience.” Watch www.bouschet.com for updates. … New to Palm Desert, from the folks at longtime sushi restaurant Musashi: Ramen Musashi. Find it at 44491 Town Center Way, and get more information at ramenpalmdesert.com. … New to La Quinta: Palm Tree Palace. We couldn’t find an online presence for this new Chinese restaurant, so we recommend stopping by 79660 Highway 111 to get the details.

What: The Southwest Benedict

Where: Louise’s Pantry, 73155 Highway 111, Palm Desert; also at 47150 Washington St., La Quinta

How much: $14.99

Contact: 760-837-3900 (Palm Desert); 760-771-3330 (La Quinta); louisespantry.com

Why: If you like chorizo, you’ll love this dish.

I love a good breakfast … but let’s face it: Many restaurants don’t exactly offer a lot of exciting or unusual options for the so-called most important meal of the day.

Fortunately, Louise’s Pantry—with locations in both Palm Desert and La Quinta—does a better job at this than most. Yeah, you’ll find the bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, French toast and omelets you’d expect—but there are also a few somewhat unusual offerings, including the entrée our server recommended on my recent visit there: the Southwest Benedict.

Really, this is a Benedict in name and geometry only. The only holdover ingredients from classic eggs Benedict are poached eggs and hollandaise sauce—and here, the hollandaise has a hint of tomatillo. In place of the English muffin is a warm pupusa (cornmeal flatbread); instead of ham/Canadian bacon, you’ll get chorizo … and a lot of it.

It all comes down to this: If you like chorizo, you’ll love the Southwest Benedict, because the chorizo dominates both the flavor and texture of the dish. That’s not to say the other ingredients don’t make their mark; the pupusa adds a nice softness to the mouth-feel, and some sweetness to the flavor, while the tomatillo hollandaise provides both creaminess and tartness. But, really, this dish is all about the chorizo.

If you aren’t a chorizo fan, you won’t want to order this—but you still have plenty of reasons to dine at Louise’s Pantry. The service is great; the décor is comfortable and homey; and the menu has a lot of options, prepared well by the talented kitchen staff. Check it out.

If you’re a data geek like I am, you can have a lot of fun with Pollstar magazine’s annual list of the Top 200 theater venues in the world.

For example: The Coachella Valley’s McCallum Theatre—considered a small- to medium-sized venue—in 2018 came in at No. 70 in the entire world, with well more than 100,000 tickets sold. No theater in Southern California sold more tickets than the McCallum did, even though the venue is only open for half the year.

That’s right: The McCallum had more butts in its seats in 2018 than any theater in Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the country.

Mitch Gershenfeld, the McCallum’s president, CEO and show-booker, said 2019 has been even stronger—and that he has high hopes for the 2019-2020 season. Tickets for all shows in the upcoming season go on sale online today (April 11) at 6 p.m., with box-office and phone sales beginning tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

The 2019-2020 season includes the big names—Melissa Etheridge (Nov. 14), anyone?—that people have come to expect to be on the McCallum schedule, along with valley favorites like the Ten Tenors (Feb. 19-23, 2020) and Pink Martini (March 4-8). However, Gershenfeld said he’s particularly thrilled about the Broadway shows he’s booked; five of them have never been to the McCallum before, kicking off with the musical adaptation of A Christmas Story (Nov. 26 and 27).

“It has all of the key things that are in the movie,” Gershenfeld said. “There’s a whole number with dancing leg lamps.”

That will be followed by Waitress (Dec. 6-8) and The Play That Goes Wrong (Jan. 21 and 22), a critical darling that just closed on Broadway earlier this year—and is still going strong on London’s West End.

“It’s the quintessential British farce,” Gershenfeld said.

Escape to Margaritaville (Jan. 30-Feb. 1)—a musical featuring the songs of Jimmy Buffett, but you probably figured that out already—will be followed by Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Feb. 7-9), which has become a Broadway fixture, recently celebrating its fifth anniversary there.

“It’s really nice to get another musical that’s still on Broadway,” Gershenfeld said.

Those new-to-the-McCallum shows will be joined by returnees Chicago (March 13-15) and The Illusionists (April 7 and 8).

Mitch’s Picks—a series of a shows by unheralded performers that Gershenfeld personally recommends—are back, starting off on Nov. 22 with a double-bill of performers who perform traditional Latin music with a twist: the all-women Mariachi Flor de Toloache and The Villalobos Brothers. They’ll be followed by a Christmas show on Dec. 16 by YouTube a cappella sensation Voctave.

“They’re an amazing group who primarily performs at Disneyworld,” Gershenfeld said. “The core members have beautiful voices, and the arrangements are extraordinary.”

Other Mitch’s Picks include the Derina Harvey Band, a Celtic-rock group (Jan. 14); Wicked alum-turned-soul singer Shoshana Bean (Feb. 4); and Mnozil Brass (March 24), a brass septet that melds original tunes, classics and a lot of humor.

The National Geographic Live series will be back at the McCallum for a second year with three shows. Gershenfeld admits he was concerned about how a science series would do—and he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of McCallum audiences this year.

“They love it, and they point out that it’s so different,” Gershenfeld said. “It’s also a program that attracts children, which is great. During the Q&A sessions, the kids are always asking questions.”

This year’s shows are On the Trail of Big Cats (Jan. 6), Photography Without Borders (March 2) and View From Above (April 5) with astronaut Terry Virts.

Gershenfeld said the new season’s highlights include some tribute shows that are quite special. First and foremost is A Toast to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé (April 4). The two were most successful act to regularly appear at the McCallum before the Ten Tenors came along, Gershenfeld said.

“Frank Sinatra would show up to hang out backstage,” he added.

Gormé passed away in 2013, and Lawrence has retired from performing; this show will feature their son, David Lawrence, and Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte, along with a 32-piece orchestra and vintage video clips.

“We have all of their original music charts,” Gershenfeld said. “… This is the first place this show is going to play. There’s no place (Steve Lawrence) would want to do the first show other than (here).”

Speaking of Frank Sinatra … he’ll be returning to the McCallum, sort of, thanks to the talents of Bob Anderson, on Feb. 14 and 15. Gershenfeld explained that the Sinatra impressionist sounds exactly like Ol’ Blue Eyes, and to add to the impression, he has a prosthetic mask of Sinatra’s face. When you add in a 32-piece orchestra playing Sinatra’s original arrangements … the likeness is eerie and amazing.

The other big names coming to the McCallum zigzag across genres—Mandy Patinkin (Nov. 16), The Beach Boys (Dec. 1), Itzhak Perlman (Jan. 20), Ricky Skaggs (March 12), the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (March 15), and so on.

“Last season (2017-2018) was the most successful in our history,” Gershenfeld said. “This year (the just-concluding 2018-2019) surpassed it.” And 2019-2020 has a great chance of continuing that trend.

Tickets for the McCallum Theatre’s 2019-2020 season go on sale online at mccallumtheatre.com at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 11; and at 9 a.m., Friday, April 12, at the box office, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, and by phone, at 760-340-2787. For the complete schedule, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

What: The meatloaf (Mondays only)

Where: Paul Bar/Food, 3700 E. Vista Chino, Palm Springs

How much: $17

Contact: 760-656-4082; paulbarps.com

Why: It’s great meatloaf, pure and simple.

When Paul Bar/Food opened a year ago, it became popular seemingly overnight due to the tasty eats, the amazing service (helmed by the bow tie-rocking Paul O’Halloran, a former Mister Lyons bartender who is adored in the Palm Springs service industry), the swanky East Coast vibe, the now-famous frozen sidecar, and the stunningly gorgeous wooden bar area—all found in a small shopping center, located at the northeast corner of Vista Chino and Gene Autry Trail, that is not exactly what you’d call “posh.”

Look for the sign that says BAR/FOOD. Find it, and you’ve found Paul.

O’Halloran could have rested on his figurative laurels … but he didn’t. In recent months, he’s worked to make the food at Paul even better—including daily specials, such as a soft-shell crab sandwich on Sundays, mussels on Saturdays, and pot roast (!) on Thursdays. I am sure all those specials are quite yummy … but I’d be stunned if any of them are as fantastic as the meatloaf, served with carrots and mashed potatoes, only on Mondays.

Now, I am not exactly a meatloaf aficionado. If a friend invites me over for a meatloaf dinner, I won’t say no … but if meatloaf shows up on a restaurant menu, the chances I’ll order it are between slim and non-existent. However, when I met my friend Eric at Paul for a happy-hour dinner on a recent Monday, the formally dressed bartender recommended the meatloaf with such passion that I couldn’t say no.

That passion was justified: The meatloaf was amazing. Its defining characteristic is that it’s, well, meaty. This is a dense yet juicy, perfectly seasoned, expertly prepared brick o’ meat.

The hubby is a meatloaf aficionado, and when I took him to Paul a couple of Mondays later for it, he agreed with my assessment—that this is some of the best meatloaf you’ll have anywhere.

At Long Last: O’Caine’s Irish Pub Is Finally Open in Rancho Mirage

It seems like as long as there’s been a city called Rancho Mirage, O’Caine’s Irish Pub has been under construction.

OK, I am exaggerating here, but I do so to make a point: The bar and restaurant at 36101 Bob Hope Drive—that’s the shopping center Gelson’s is in—has been “coming soon” for a really long time. But finally, the wait is over: O’Caine’s opened in March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

You’ll find the beer and cocktails one would expect to find at an Irish pub, and O’Caine’s menu offers tasty-sounding fare like sausage rolls, king salmon, bangers with mashed potatoes, fish and chips—and, of course, corned beef and cabbage (with bacon, too!) and shepherd’s pie.

“Chef Gavin’s menu offers high-quality, freshly crafted dishes, which reflect the authentic flavors of Ireland. We work with local vendors to procure the freshest ingredients and to source organic, non-GMO, sustainable items for the menu,” the website says.

We’ll be in soon to check things out with our own eyes. For more information, call 760-202-3311, or visit ocainesirishpub.com.


Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta Opens in La Quinta, Boosting the Local Craft-Beer Scene

In 2013, the valley’s nascent craft-beer scene got a boost when the number of local breweries tripled—that is, went from one to three—with the openings of Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and La Quinta Brewing Co. The future of craft beer in the Coachella Valley was looking bright and promising.

Today, in 2019, the number of local breweries is … still three.

Yeah, there have been endless rumors about other breweries popping up, and La Quinta Brewing has expanded its footprint by opening two taprooms in addition to its flagship Palm Desert location. Revel Public House has started the Palm Springs Brewing Company—although the handful of beers with that moniker are actually as of now brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works. In other words, there has been some progress in the local beer world—but the fact, is the number of companies actually making beer locally has stayed the same for almost six years.

However, that number will finally be increasing. Desert Beer Company will be opening this year in Palm Desert, according to its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/desertbeerco). And then there’s Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta.

The restaurant and brewery recently opened at 78772 Highway 111, in La Quinta—a site that has some local beer history, as it was once the site of Lamppost Pizza and Backstreet Brewery. It’s a project of two Yucaipa-based businesses: Tuscano’s Pizza and Pasta, and Brewcaipa.

As of now, Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta aren’t brewing any beer onsite. However, according to the Coachella Valley Beer Scene (CVBeerscene.com), that will soon change.

“In the early days, they’ll be bringing beer in from Yucaipa, brewed by none other than our local valley friend and beer writer, Aaron Ramson,” writes CVBeerscene.com. “Aaron has been the head brewer at Brewcaipa for a little over a year, and was formerly the assistant brewer at Babe’s. They plan to put a brewery in the La Quinta location within six months.”

This is all very exciting news for the local beer scene—and we’ll keep you updated as it develops.

For more information on Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta, call 760-625-1129, or visit www.facebook.com/TuscanosBrewQuinta.


In Brief

The Ingleside Inn, at 200 W. Ramon Road, in Palm Springs, has changed management—and that means so, too, has Melvyn’s Restaurant. Out is the PlumpJack Group, owned by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s family; in is the team that also runs the nearby Avalon Hotel. Executive Chef Jennifer Town has departed, and Melvyn’s is now being run by Jason Moffitt, the executive chef at the Avalon. … Congrats to Chelsi Bishop, the manager of the Ben and Jerry’s store at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage: She has been named by the corporate office as the nationwide Manager of the Year. Congrats! … The Steakhouse at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has a new executive chef. Kenneth Williams’ resumé includes a stint at Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas, where he helped open the Bellagio; most recently, he worked as the executive chef of theme park operations at Universal Studios Hollywood. Get more information at www.hotwatercasino.com/steakhouse. … New to 73130 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Kitchen 86 + Bar, a “modern eclectic small plate restaurant.” The menu includes all sorts of “sharables” including various dumplings, rosemary lamb chops and boom-boom shrimp, while “mains” include a cowboy rib eye and a house curry. View the menu and more at www.kitchen-86.com.

Darrell Tucci is the chief development officer for the Desert AIDS Project, and he spearheads D.A.P.’s annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser, taking place this year on Thursday, April 25.

“Last year, we challenged people to become part of the B.L.D. Club—to commit to having breakfast, lunch and dinner at Dining Out for Life restaurants,” Tucci said, adding that D.A.P. is issuing the same challenge this year.

I am proud to say I was part of last year’s B.L.D. Club … and then some. In fact, I went a little crazy (in a good way) last year during Dining Out for Life: I wound up dining—or, at the very least, buying a drink or a snack—at 11 different participants last year, starting with coffee and a scone at Ristretto, and ending my night with a Maker’s Mark and Coke at the Tool Shed.

A lot of people joined me in meeting D.AP.’s challenge, and then some: Due to the generosity of the 75 participating bars and restaurants, Dining Out for Life last year raised a whopping $280,000 for D.A.P.—$50,000 more than the year before.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dining Out for Life, here’s how it goes: Local bars and restaurants agree to donate at least 33 percent of their sales on Thursday, April 25, to D.A.P. It’s that simple. Really. While D.A.P. volunteers will be present at most of the participating venues during the day—offering “I Dined” stickers and giving people the opportunity to make extra donations if they’d like—all people need to do to help D.A.P. is dine and/or drink at one of the participating restaurants and bars.

Find a complete and constantly updated list of participants at www.diningoutforlife.com/city/greater-palm-springs.

Dining Out for Life is held on behalf of HIV/AIDS service organizations in 45 cities across North America on the last Thursday each April. Even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smallest markets—if not the smallest market—that participates, last year’s $280,000 was the second-largest amount raised in any city. Only Denver, which had three times as many restaurants participating, raised more money.

Why is Dining Out for Life so successful in the Coachella Valley?

“We have a secret sauce that’s a combination of a few important ingredients,” Tucci said. “First, the restaurateurs in our valley really embody our valley’s philanthropic nature.

“Second, this valley has been at the forefront of the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic since day one, and today’s inhabitants embody that. At Dining Out for Life, we see a dedication from attendees that’s almost like the dedication people have when going to vote.

“People wore that ‘I Dined’ sticker as a badge of honor, just like the ‘I Voted’ sticker on Election Day,” Tucci said about last year’s Dining Out for Life event. “We’d never ran out of stickers before.”

Tucci isn’t exaggerating when he touts the generosity of local restaurateurs; last year, the top three fundraising restaurants in North America—yes, the entire continent—were all located in Palm Springs: Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu California Bistro and Trio Restaurant.

Then there are the smaller restaurants that give literally everything they have, and then some, on Dining Out for Life day. Tucci said he was amazed, for example, by the generosity of the Holiday House Palm Springs last year: Not only did the restaurant give 100 percent; the owner then matched that 100 percent donation. And at Rooster and the Pig, the restaurant gave 100 percent—and the staff donated all of their tips for the day, too. Other 100 percent participants last year included The Barn at Sparrows Lodge, Ristretto and—at 110 percent—Townie Bagels.

“All of these restaurants that participate, whether they’re giving 33 percent or 100 percent—not one of them is making money that day,” Tucci said.

This incredible generosity is needed more than ever by the Desert AIDS Project. While the origination remains one of the top HIV/AIDS service organizations in the world, D.A.P. is now also much more: As a Federally Qualified Health Center, anyone in need of primary medical care can walk in D.A.P.’s doors and become a client, getting access to doctors, prescriptions, dental care and behavior-health care. In fact, roughly half of D.A.P.’s clients today are not living with HIV.

Seeing as more than half of the Coachella Valley’s residents now live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, D.A.P. is struggling to make sure everyone who needs quality health care in the valley can get it. To meet the demand, D.A.P. is in the midst of a $20 million expansion, slated for completion in 2020, that will more than double the organization’s patient capacity. When the expansion is complete, D.A.P.’s 60,490-square-foot campus will be able to serve 8,000 patients, up from 3,900 in 2017. The dental clinic will be able to help 1,700 people, compared to 814 in 2017, while the behavioral-health-patient capacity will rise from 583 to 1,200.

Every dollar raised during Dining Out for Life makes a huge difference. As for the aforementioned scone and coffee at Ristretto I bought to kick off Dining Out for Life last year … with Ristretto giving 110 percent of that sale to D.A.P., that $8 purchase wound up paying for three safer-sex kits. I went to Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill for dinner with two friends; we spent $120, and with the restaurant giving 50 percent, $60 went to D.A.P. to pay for three free, confidential HIV tests. I dropped in and had a drink with a party of about a dozen or so friends, most of whom were dining there, at Zin American Bistro; seeing as Zin donated about 75 percent of that check, about $340 went to D.A.P.—enough to house a low-income client for a whole month.

Follow me via the Coachella Valley Independent’s Facebook page on Thursday, April 25, as I try to match or even surpass my 11 stops from last year—and join me in visiting as many Dining Out for Life participants as possible. After all, the Coachella Valley has a lot of work to do this year to match the giving of last year.

For more information, including a complete list of Dining Out for Life participants, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/city/greater-palm-springs. If you know of a restaurant that you’d like to see participate in Dining Out for Life, get information at www.desertaidsproject.org/2019-dining-out-for-life.

April is, in my mind, the weirdest month of the year in the Coachella Valley.

April is a series of contradictions. It’s the craziest month of the year in terms of visitors, thanks to Coachella, Stagecoach, The Dinah and the White Party … yet the snowbirds are starting to leave, and we know May will all of a sudden bring relative calm (and blazing heat). The hotels are all full … yet during Coachella, in the west valley, the nights are fairly quiet.

Here at the Independent, if it’s April, that means it’s time for our annual Music Issue, and that means Brian Blueskye has been crazy-busy working on all of our extra coverage. This year’s issue, however, is a little different from previous Music Issues: Rather than focusing exclusively on the two big festivals, Brian decided to tie things to the local music scene, including the increasing popularity of Latin music. Read all of Brian’s fantastic coverage in the print edition and/or here at CVIndependent.com in the upcoming days.

Our coverage, of course, isn’t all about music; as always, our great columns, news stories, food coverage and arts writing are here, too—and I’d like to draw your attention to one story in particular, because it’s near and dear to my heart.

A couple of weeks ago, we published a story from our partners at CALmatters about the mental-health crisis in California. At the heart of the story is the heartbreaking tale of Elizabeth Brown, a brilliant, gifted college student who killed herself last year. The piece, in gut-wrenching detail, illustrates how our medical system often fails to properly care for people dealing with mental illness, and examines (so far futile) efforts by the state government to fix the problem.

This story hits close to home for me, because I suffer from depression. (What I have to deal with, thank goodness, pales in comparison to the severe problems Elizabeth Brown had.) My life serves as a perfect example of the insidiousness of depression and other mental illnesses: On the outside, things are going well for me. I have an amazing husband, great friends, an exciting social life and a rewarding career with purpose. Yet there are days when it takes every ounce of willpower I have to get going.

I bring this all up not because of me—I am fine, thanks to an amazing support structure, the fact that my illness is not that severe, and access to medication if needed—but because of you: If you often feel down, or anxious, or if you tend to isolate yourself, please get help. Talk to someone. If things get really bad, please use the resources mentioned at the end of the aforementioned story.

If you don’t feel down or anxious … well, someone you love probably does feel that way. Make sure you’re there for your depressed friends and loved ones—and understand that depression often just happens, no matter how things seem to be going in a depressed person’s life. Like I said, mental illness really is insidious.

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. Email me with any feedback you may have, and be sure to pick up the April print edition, hitting newsstands this week.

The gay circuit party that helped revitalize Palm Springs is celebrating a milestone.

The White Party will be marking its 30th anniversary this year when it returns to the Palm Springs Convention Center and—in a move away from its longtime host hotel, the Renaissance—arrives at the Palm Springs Hilton. The weekend of almost-nonstop parties kicks off at the Hilton pool at noon on Friday, April 26, and concludes the following Sunday night (actually, Monday morning) with the Papa Tribal party at the Convention Center.

However, the weekend’s big event is the White Party itself, taking place at the Convention Center Saturday night. This year’s theme is “House of Gods”—and a featured performer will be Beth Sacks.

If you like dance music, you’re familiar with Sacks’ songs—often with DJ Aron—such as her cover of “Voulez Vous” and their newest song, “Hey Hey Hey.” I recently had a chance to talk to Sacks about her music—and how she wound up becoming one of the most popular names on the gay pride/party circuit.

What can people expect from your White Party performance?

A good time! They’re going to want to sing along, because they’re familiar with all of our music that I’ve done with DJ Aron. It’s a good time—a lot of energy, and a lot of uplifting songs that will make you want to dance.

How did you become a gay dance great?

I started singing as a child, listening to disco music; Donna Summer was my idol along with Gloria Gaynor. Later, I got involved in musical theater. I did many Broadway musical productions, and I toured with Phantom of the Opera. I moved to New York to pursue Broadway; I studied opera as well. … However, back in the days of Limelight and Roxy, I discovered Peter Rauhofer and Junior Vasquez.

As a child, always wanted to make the sounds that Donna Summer was making. I’ve always had a love, behind the musical theater that I was doing, for dance music. It just always felt very healing and free. Watching my friends struggle through coming out—you didn’t come out when I was in high school. You didn’t do that. It was a secret. It was not as open as it is today, and I always felt like the music, especially in the gay community, was about celebrating positive messages.

I’ve just always had a love for that type of music, because it’s very uplifting. It gives you hope. … I have to sit back and be amazed at how blessed I feel. I’ve had the opportunity to meet people who were down on their luck or might have been going through something. … They tell us, “Your music gives me hope for another day.”

You’ve never been to Palm Springs?

No, this is my first time.

I have to ask: How can you be a circuit-party singer and never have been to Palm Springs?

(Laughs.) I remember when bringing a female singer (to a gay dance party) wasn’t always very popular. … It’s a boys’ night, if you will. But that’s changed. … Because of my work and because what (DJ Aron and I) have done together, I’ve been able to get recognized.

I’ve worked with (White Party promoter) Jeffrey Sanker before. … He invited me to come. I just said, “I will be there with bells on.”

What are expecting from your first time to Palm Springs?

I’m expecting it to be incredible. I’ve watched many videos from the party. I know it is the biggest party in the United States. So, I’m expecting a huge party—a huge turnout.

The White Party Palm Springs, part of White Party Weekend, takes place at 10 p.m., Saturday, April 27, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $150. For tickets or more information, visit www.jeffreysanker.com/white-party-palm-springs.

What: The famous truffle tots

Where: Heirloom Craft Kitchen, 49990 Jefferson St., No. 100, Indio

How much: $6; $4 when added to an entrée

Contact: 760-773-2233; heirloomcraftkitchen.com

Why: The crispiness, the seasoning and the sauces.

Andie Hubka is one of the valley’s most talented restaurateurs. More than six years ago, she opened the fun and stylish dinner restaurant Cork and Fork in La Quinta; then early last year, she opened Heirloom Craft Kitchen, a fast-casual joint serving brunch, lunch and dinner in Indio.

As justifiably acclaimed as Cork and Fork is, Hubka really outdid herself with Heirloom: It’s more accessible than Cork and Fork—and the food served there is every bit as delicious.

Heirloom offers “craft sandwiches,” “crafted salads,” starters, a handful of entrées, fun brunch items and an impressive selection of vegan offerings. Everything on the menu is thoughtful and unique—so much so that on a recent lunch visit, I had one hell of a time deciding which delicious-sounding thing to order. I finally decided on the shrimp and grits with andouille sausage ($14)—and because I have a policy of trying anything on a restaurant menu that includes the word “famous,” I added on the famous truffle tots as a side.

The shrimp and grits were excellent—elevated, surprisingly enough, by the inclusion of small pieces of pickled jalapeños, which added a much-needed brightness to the otherwise-earthy dish. However, the highlight of the meal was the add-on: The “famous” truffle tots were downright revelatory.

Truffle oil has become such a ubiquitous ingredient on menus that it’s received a not-entirely-unjustified bit of backlash from some chefs, but the way Hubka uses it here is a perfect illustration of why it became ubiquitous in the first place: The truffle flavor doesn’t overwhelm the tots, but instead just makes them more interesting. Then there are the sauces served with the tots: The fantastic homemade ketchup (lighter and fresher-tasting than the bottled stuff) and the dill aioli (which I apparently received by mistake) were perfect matches. (I got some of the sauce I was supposed to receive, too: a truffle aioli, and while it was decent, I preferred the other two.)

Heirloom Craft Kitchen is truly a special place. And the famous truffle tots are pretty special, too.

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