CVIndependent

Sun02252018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Former Dish Chef Lands at Azucar; Alebrijie Lands in Former Dish Space

As the saying goes: When one door closes, another opens—and such is definitely the case in the restaurant industry.

A door closed, literally, for Joane Garcia-Colson last fall, when she shut down Dish Creative Cuisine, her well-regarded restaurant at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs; she cited conflicts with others involved with the business as the reason. I don’t use the phrase “well-regarded” lightly: Dish, which originally opened more than five years ago in Cathedral City, made many “Best Of” lists thanks to Garcia-Colson’s amazing blend of classic technique and whimsy.

Given Garcia-Colson’s talent, it was inevitable that another door would open for her—and it did at Azucar, the restaurant at the La Serena Villas, at 339 S. Belardo Road, in downtown Palm Springs. She’s taken her former Dish sous chef with her, and we can’t wait to see what she does at Azucar; watch laserenavillas.com/azucar-restaurant-and-bar for updates.

Meanwhile, at the old Dish location, a door opened for Alebrije Bistro Mexico. The restaurant debuted on Valentine’s Day, featuring upscale Mexico City-style cuisine. That Valentine’s Day menu featured tasty treats like lamb stew, rib eye with mole de cadera, and—as an appetizer—a bone marrow thyme emulsion and shaved Parmesan.

Wow. We can’t wait to check out Alebrije ourselves. Watch the Alebrije Facebook page for updates.


New: The Craft Rancho Mirage Comes to The S at Rancho Mirage

The Desert Island Country Club, located at 71777 Frank Sinatra Drive, in Rancho Mirage, is now called The S at Rancho Mirage—and the restaurant inside the country club has been revamped and is now open to the public.

The restaurant is now The Craft Rancho Mirage. It’s being run by executive chef/partner Erick Hernandez, formerly of Escena and the Indian Canyons Golf Resort; and veteran food/beverage director John Trad.

“We are excited to invite folks into The S at Rancho Mirage Country Club to be able to have a ‘taste’ of the club life without the membership,” said John Trad in a press-release quote. “While there are so many fabulous restaurants in the valley, this specific area of Rancho Mirage is lacking in options, and we are thrilled to be able to open our doors to the general public to join us in an incredible setting.”

The menu features “fresh, high quality and locally sourced ingredients,” and includes entrées like shrimp scampi, sugar-and-spice salmon, and “The Gatsby”—blackened ahi tuna, zucchini pasta, heirloom tomatoes and wasabi beurre blanc. You’ll pay between $24 and $36 for your main course—or you can enjoy happy hour every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the bar.

For more information, call 760-328-2111, or visit www.thesresort.com/dining.


In Brief

Help a new nonprofit organization get up and running, from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 23, at Pirch, 71905 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Not only can you learn about Alzheimer’s Coachella Valley’s mission, programs and services; you can enjoy hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine and Pirch signature cocktails. Admission is $50; RSVP by March 9 at 760-776-3100 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. … Every year, TRIO Restaurant throws its much-anticipated “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” party during the Academy Awards, to benefit AAP-Food Samaritans. This year’s event starts at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 4; for $125 (bar seating) to $175 (VIP/premium seating), you’ll get a prix-fixe six-course dinner, well drinks, wine, champagne and the satisfaction that comes from helping out a great cause. Get tickets at aapfoodsamaritans.org or by calling 760-325-8481. … Coming soon to 170 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in the curve area of Palm Springs: Kreem Artisanal Ice Cream and Coffee. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening date here soon; watch www.facebook.com/ilovekreem for updates. … Newish to Indio: La Michoacana Real, serving up ice cream, raspados, juices and more at 81673 Highway 111; call 760-347-3939 to learn more. … Support the kids in Rancho Mirage High School’s CAFÉ Culinary Arts Department while trying their delicious creations from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 15. Admission is $10, and attendance is limited to 250 people—and these popular fundraisers often sell out. The school is located at 31001 Rattler Road; call the Thousand Palms Chamber of Commerce at 760-343-1988 to RSVP. Awesome! … And now for something else that’s awesome, albeit quite a bit more expensive: Citi Taste of Tennis takes place at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells from 7 to 10 p.m., Monday, March 5. For $200, you can enjoy cocktails and great cuisine while mingling with tennis greats and culinary giants, including Top Chef Richard Blais and Iron Chef Jose Garces, and local luminaries including Andrew Copley (Copley’s, AC3) and Engin Onural (The Venue, Sandfish). Get tickets at www.tasteoftennis.com/iw.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Some 75 attendees enjoyed fantastic cocktails, noshed on delicious food and learned a lot about mixology at the second annual Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, held at the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Restaurant on Thursday, Jan. 25.

The five competing bartenders were given the task of making a special, brand new drink with the sponsor liquor, Crown Royal Bourbon Mash Blended Canadian Whisky. First, they had to make one-ounce sips for attendees, and then they had to make five full-sized drinks from the judges and the host, Jimmy Boegle, of the Coachella Valley Independent.

Hunter Broggi, a relative desert newcomer who works as a restaurant manager at Lulu California Bistro, was named this year’s champion thanks to his drink, Lulu’s Smokin’ Crown, beating a talented field that included Rob Nightingale, of Moxie Palm Springs; Bryan Palmer, of the Purple Palm; and last season’s champion, Sherman Chan, of TRIO Restaurant.

Rob Learned, of Giuseppes Palm Springs, was voted the Audience Favorite.

The judges—Leslie Barclay, of Southern Glazer/Pacific Wine and Spirits Of California; Brad Fuhr, of Gay Desert Guide; Chris Reutz, of the Desert AIDS Project; and Mike Thompson, of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert—gave high marks to all of the bartenders’ creations.

The event was sponsored by the Purple Palm Restaurant, Crown Royal Bourbon Mash Blended Canadian Whisky and Gay Desert Guide. The event’s beneficiaries are the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week continues at 12 bars and restaurants across the valley through Saturday, Jan. 27.

Scroll down to see some photos from the event, by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival Debuts on Feb. 17

The large and increasingly renowned Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival is set for March 23-25. So … is there a need for yet another food and wine festival happening just five weeks before and just a few miles away?

According to festival organizer David Fraschetti, the answer is a resounding yes—hence the brand-new Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival, featuring food from 15 Rancho Mirage restaurants, and sips from more than 40 wineries, on Saturday, Feb. 17.

Fraschetti is the man behind the popular VinDiego Wine and Food Festival—but he resides here in the Coachella Valley. He wanted to start a festival locally, so he started looking for places to do so. It just so happens that he and his wife were playing tennis at Rancho Mirage Community Park one day, he said; she mentioned it would be a fine place for a food and wine festival. At first, he thought it would be too small, but they decided to take a closer look. An art fair was also going on that weekend—and that helped him realize he’d found a potential site.

“I was amazed at how large that park really is,” he said.

Fraschetti said he partnered with the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce—hence the inclusion of only Rancho Mirage restaurants, at least this first year—and the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival was born. But what sets this festival apart from others … like, you know, that one happening down the street five weeks later? He said he learned a lesson from talking to the winery reps at other festivals, and asking what they’d change.

“They said, ‘Get rid of the beer. Get rid of the spirits. We’re tired of all the drunks, ’” Fraschetti said. “When you mix alcohols, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

So this festival has no beer, no booze and no cooking demonstrations. Instead, Fraschetti said, the focus is strictly on the wine.

“This is a marketing event for our wineries,” he said. “… We’re not trying to be everything to everyone.”

The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival takes place on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park, at 71560 San Jacinto Drive. Tickets start at $75; some of the proceeds will benefit the Desert AIDS Project. Visit www.ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.com for those tickets or more information.


The Palm Desert Greek Festival Returns on Feb. 17 and 18

For some reason, I’ve really been craving good grape leaves lately. Because of this (and all sorts of other edible reasons), you’ll probably find me at the 22nd Annual Palm Desert Greek Festival, taking place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 17 and 18.

Not only will grape leaves (six tubs of them!) be for sale; all sorts of authentic Greek food will be available at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, along with entertainment including Greek music and dancers.

Admission is just $3, or free for children 12 and younger, as well as active-duty public-safety officers and members of the military. The church is located at 74109 Larrea St.; some shuttle service is available. Find those details and more by calling 760-568-9901, or visiting www.pdgreekfest.org.


In Brief

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey is now open at 1556 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s the latest venture by Engin Onural, the owner of The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge in Palm Desert. Get more info at www.facebook.com/pg/sandfishsushiwhiskey. … Cello’s Pantry, at 70225 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, has closed its doors for good following a death in the owner’s family. We send our best wishes. … Carousel Bakery is now open at 440 S. El Cielo Road in Palm Springs. We’ve been hearing good things; call 760-699-5006 for more details. … The ever-popular TRIO Restaurant, at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has a new executive chef: Nestor Ruiz. His previous employers include Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Palm Desert and The Chateau at Lake La Quinta. … Brand-new at 73655 El Paseo: Domo Sushi El Paseo. While we have not yet had a chance to try Chef Jin’s food, it sure does look beautiful. See for yourself at www.facebook.com/domosushielpaseo. … Speaking of beautiful food: New to Cathedral City, at 34041 Date Palm Drive, is Lala’s Waffles, Crepes and Shakes. See the pretty pics at www.facebook.com/eatlalas. … Now open in the old Clementine’s building at 72990 El Paseo: Wildest Greens, serving up raw, vegan, gluten-free and paleo options, plus more. Get more details at www.wildestgreens.com. … Also new, at 73900 El Paseo: Le Fe Wine Bar. You’ll find beer, wine, small plates and a fantastic happy hour. Learn more at www.facebook.com/pg/LaFeWineBar. … 716 on 111, which had been slated to open in the old Dickie O’Neal’s building at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, may not ever happen, thanks to mold. Visit www.facebook.com/716on111 to learn the latest news on what has become a rather ugly tenant-landlord dispute.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Best Local Album

Thr3 Strykes, CMNCTN-BRKDWN

When I interviewed them last year, the members of Thr3 Strykes told me that putting together the album that would become CMNCTN-BRKDWN was a proving to be difficult task—and taking a long time.

All that hard work and time was worth it: The final result is awesome, and I can’t think of another album put out this year by a local band that matches its energy and insanity. The track with J. Patron and Christina Reyes of Caxton, called “The Colony,” is a must-hear.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Re-established Band

Sunday Funeral

Sunday Funeral was a worthy Best Local Band finalist this year—and what a year it’s been.

The band that Justin Ledesma has fronted for more than a decade has made a remarkable transformation. At the end of 2016, the members set the foundation by cutting back from a four-piece to a trio; meanwhile, Andrea Taboada took over bass duties.

The members found themselves in the finals of CV Weeklys Battle of the Bands in 2017, and have been playing more shows while putting together some great new original material. They’re a definite contender for Best Local Band honors next year; keep your eye on ’em.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Local Live Music Event

The 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener featuring The Flusters and The Yip Yops

The days between the two Coachella weekends are simply packed with great music events throughout the valley—but the one held this year on April 20 at The Hood Bar and Pizza may have topped them all.

The Flusters and the Yip Yops packed The Hood for the 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener, with the bar having to turn away patrons when the venue reached its capacity. Both bands put on spectacular co-headlining sets—after collaborating on marketing materials that were genius and went above and beyond.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Benefit Show

The Concert for Autism

Josh and Linda Heinz, the husband-and-wife duo in Blasting Echo and 5th Town, have now been producing the Concert for Autism for 10 years—and every year, it continues to grow.

Because Josh and Linda are the parents of autistic children, this is a cause that is very near and dear to their hearts—and their efforts to help others facing the same challenges that their family faces are simply remarkable.

Of course … the show is always fantastic, too.

—Brian Blueskye; photo of Josh Heinz by Cory Courtney.


Best Customer Service for Those Quitting Smoking

Desert Vapors

I recently transitioned from cigarettes to vaping—I tried to quit cold-turkey, but needed help with the transition away from cigarettes. I had a lot of questions, and I went to a few shops to get some information and ask questions.

Desert Vapors, with locations in Palm Desert and Indio, had by far the best customer service of the vape shops I went to—and I wound up purchasing my first vaping kit from them. I went back a few days later after having some problems and got service that went above and beyond.

Also, the flavors that they offer are fantastic.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Pet Grooming

Desert Pet Grooming

Let’s face it: When a pet groomer is named something like Royal Canine Resort and Day Spa, and the cutesiness level of the place is off the charts, that fluff is for human companions. All Fido cares about is that the potentially stressful grooming experience goes quickly and without a hitch. As for us human companions … if the grooming shop is welcoming, clean and safe, who needs to feel as though our pet is in the line of succession for the British throne?

Desert Pet Grooming, in Cathedral City at Vista Chino and Landau Boulevard, offers everything you need in a quality pet groomer—without the silliness and added cost of massaging the human companion’s ego. The functional shop is spic and span, and all the grooming is done out in the open. The groomers we’ve tried there have all been great, but Brenda in particular will treat your furry friends like her own.

—Jeff Clarkson


Best Great (but Unpretentious) New Restaurant

Justin Eat and Drink

We like this restaurant on Highway 111 in Cathedral City for the very reason that it’s unpretentious. The Coachella Valley can always use more restaurants like this—serving tasty, interesting food, at reasonable prices, in a simple but hip atmosphere.

This place doesn’t go over the top like some of the restaurants geared toward tourists here in the valley. It’s just a casual, contemporary setting where one can enjoy a relaxed dinner. The portions aren’t huge, but they’re price-appropriate, and while the menu is not extensive, everything we’ve ordered has been delicious.

Although the service is sometimes slow, it’s always friendly—and the food is definitely worth the wait. Now that the restaurant is becoming more popular, reservations are recommended. Justin, the owner/chef, may even pop out and greet you at your table.

—Jeff Clarkson; photo courtesy of Justin Facebook page


Best Local Restaurants (on a National Scale)

TKB Bakery and Deli

Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar

It’s simple math: If there’s a list of, say, 100 top places to eat in the United States, that means the average state will be home to two places on the list. Right? Right.

That means if, say, a not-huge community like the Coachella Valley by itself were home to two places on the list, that would be freaking amazing. Right? Right!

Well, that’s exactly what happened in the case of Yelp’s 2017 list of the Top 100 Places to Eat for 2017. Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar, long an Independent staff favorite, was No. 78 on the crowd-source review website—an amazing accomplishment. However, what Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli has accomplished is even more fantastic: It came in at No. 5 on the list—making the Top 5 for the third straight year, something no other restaurant in the whole country has done.

TKB and Shabu Shabu Zen prove that despite some deficiencies, the Coachella Valley dining scene has much to be proud of.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Quail

Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

I grew up eating quail—not all the time, or even regularly, but often enough that I knew what to expect whenever one of these gorgeous but silly small birds wound up on my dinner plate.

Well … at least I thought I knew what to expect.

That all changed the first time I enjoyed the codorniz estilo Ernesto at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill in downtown Palm Springs. The grilled quail with sautéed tomatoes, potatoes, Anaheim peppers, garlic, green onions and cilantro is very, very good by itself. However, when it’s paired with Chef Ernesto’s diablo cream salsa, which is served on the side … well, let’s just say that none of the quail dishes I had while growing up were anywhere near this good.

A plate of codorniz estilo Ernesto, paired with a Rio Azul house margarita, is about as close as one can get to culinary nirvana here in the Coachella Valley, as far as I am concerned. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Prime Rib

TRIO Restaurant

TRIO is one of my favorite restaurants—but the place used to frustrate the heck out of me.

Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.

Several years ago, TRIO would occasionally offer prime rib as a special—and after ordering it a time or two, I was hooked: It was the some of the best prime rib I’ve ever had. (Considering I grew up on a cattle ranch, this is high praise, indeed.)

Problem is … because it was a special, the prime rib wasn’t always on the menu. Therefore, there was a time or three that I got a hankering for prime rib, went to TRIO with my fingers crossed … and got frustrated when the server told me prime rib was not on offer that particular night. However, that’s no longer an issue: Every Tuesday at TRIO is now Prime Rib Tuesday—and the meal costs a downright-reasonable $26.

This system is not perfect—a prime-rib hankering can occur on non-Tuesdays, after all—but at least now I know precisely when I can go to Trio to get that hankering satisfied. And that is a very good thing.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

TRIO Closed Indefinitely After Early-Morning Fire

Sometime around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2, a fire broke out in the parking lot behind TRIO Restaurant, located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The ever-popular restaurant suffered significant smoke and water damage during the fire—and is now closed indefinitely.

In the aftermath of the blaze—which also devastated the neighboring Shag Store—TRIO owner Tony Marchese said he hoped Trio would reopen by Labor Day weekend. However, in late August, he announced via TRIO’s Facebook page that the cleanup and other work would not be completed by then.

Keep your fingers crossed for a reopening date sometime in mid-late September.

Authorities deemed the fire “suspicious,” but had not released any further concrete details as of our press deadline.

Watch www.facebook.com/TrioPalmSprings for updates.


Village Pub Closed for 'Rehab' After Liquor-License Violations

Whoever is in charge of the spin effort regarding the month-long closure of the Village Pub—at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—deserves a raise.

Here’s what happened: The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control suspended the Village Pub’s liquor license for 30 days due to a couple of major violations: A now-former employee “battered” a customer, and the pub had a bar manager who did not meet the state’s qualifications.

Oops. Well, how did the Village Pub handle the mess? The brilliant answer: Management ’fessed up and embraced the punishment.

Managers did TV interviews. Owners answered reporters’ questions. They announced the closure—which was cleverly branded as the bar’s “Rehab”—would take place starting Thursday, Aug. 24. They said that between then and a planned Saturday, Sept. 23, reopening, they’d “clean, refresh and retrain.” And they announced some great parties—some pre-“Rehab”-themed—before the closure.

Bravo for the PR effort … but not so much for the rules violations.

Watch www.facebook.com/villagepubpalmsprings for updates.


In Brief

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is holding its sixth annual Craft Beer Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9 and 10. A craft-beer festival, a beer brunch and all sorts of other events are on the docket; get details, tickets and reservations at www.acehotel.com/palmsprings. … Congrats to our friends at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill. On Sunday, Aug. 20, the restaurant, at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, celebrated the two-year anniversary of its wildly popular Desert Divas Drag Brunch. The Sunday brunch and the show are a steal at $16.95; get info at rioazulpalmsprings.com/drag-brunch. … When Johnny Costa’s Ristorante, at 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, reopens for its 42nd season on Friday, Sept. 1, it’ll have a new look. “The new concept has a modern feel with exotic woods and soft earth-tone colors,” according to a news release. “The beautification of the dining room will feature new carpet, all new upholstery and seating, and new paint throughout the restaurant. Custom angled framed mirrors will showcase the walls; new chandeliers, sconces and other enhancements will allow the dining experience to be more intimate.” Visit johnnycostaspalmsprings.com for more info. … After a series of violent incidents at The Block Sports Bar and Grill, 68955 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City, the city shut down the restaurant on Aug. 10, apparently due to an expired business license. However, management jumped to resolve the paperwork issues, and reopened two weeks later. Watch www.facebook.com/theblocksportsbar for updates. … Coming very soon to the space at 68525 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City, that most recently housed Mike’s American Bistro: Bubba’s Bones and Brews. Watch this space for more information. … Coming soon: The valley’s fourth Koffi, to Tahquitz Plaza, at 600 Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs. It’ll be the third Palm Springs location for the popular hangout; watch www.kofficoffee.com for more information. … Fans of the Desert Fox Bar, which called downtown Palm Springs home until closing in 2015, have cause to celebrate: The bar is making a return, at 44750 San Pablo Ave., in Palm Desert. Watch www.facebook.com/desertfoxbar for an exact opening date. … New to Palm Desert, specifically the Westfield Palm Desert mall: Burgerim, a “gourmet” chain burger joint. Customers who sign up can get all sorts of free food during a grand opening celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 13; visit www.facebook.com/BurgerimPalmDesert for info and signup details. … Grocery-delivery service Instacart has come to the Coachella Valley. For $5.99, you can get your grocery order of $35 or more—from stores including Stater Bros., Ralph’s, Smart and Final, Petco, Whole Foods and Costco—delivered to your door. Get more info at www.instacart.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Three New Places Coming Soon From Local Restaurant Greats

In the coming months, at least three new restaurants are slated to open their doors in the Coachella Valley that are owned by veteran local restaurateurs.

In order of anticipated opening:

Acqua California Bistro—at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Palm Desert—finally opened its doors to customers on Thursday, July 27.

A little history: Jerry and Barbara Keller got into the local restaurant business with Acqua Pazza California Bistro, located at The River, well before they opened their wildly popular Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs in August 2011. However, when the lease for Acqua Pazza expired in December 2014, the Kellers decided to walk away after 10 years, citing a desire to slow down and focus on Lulu.

BB’s at the River, owned by Jack Srebnik—who also owns The Slice and Maracas—soon opened in the space, but closed last year due to a lack of business. The owners of The River then did a very smart thing: They talked the Kellers into returning, and last September, they announced that Acqua California Bistro would open sometime in the winter.

Winter then turned to spring, which then turned to summer, without an opening date; Keller cited construction issues, in part due to the restaurant’s expansion, as one reason for the delay. However, opening time is finally here; to work out kinks, the restaurant served invited “pre-opening” guests July 22-24. (I was fortunate enough to be one of the guests, and the service and food were both top-notch—a good sign for a pre-opening meal, when the staff is still learning.)

If you know the menu at Lulu, then you know what to expect at Acqua, including the popular three-course menu for $19.99, and the all-day happy hour at the bar. As for the décor, the Kellers bumped things up a notch, including a sculpture featuring various colored forks out front, made by Karen and Tony Barone.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/AcquaRanchoMirage.

• A mile or two away in Palm Desert, crews are hard at work preparing AC3 Restaurant + Bar, at 45400 Larkspur Lane—just off El Paseo—for an anticipated fall opening.

AC3 is a joint project by some of the minds behind two of Palm Springs’ most popular restaurants: Tony Marchese of Trio Restaurant, and Andrew Copley and Juliana Copley from Copley’s Restaurant. The description on the AC3 Facebook page sums things up nicely: They’re “teaming up to pair the distinctive style of Trio’s hip local vibe with Chef Andrew’s vibrant progressive cooking.”

While no menu information has been posted yet, we know the décor will include the colorful work of young Rancho Mirage artist Nicholas Kontaxis.

Visit www.facebook.com/ac3palmdesert for more information, including pictures of some of Kontaxis’ art. Head on over to ac3palmdesert.com to sign up for emailed updates.

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine has gained an increasing number of fans since opening early this year at 72695 Highway 111, Suite A6, in Palm Desert—and owner John Tsoutis delighted his restaurant’s west valley devotees when he announced in mid-July that a second Evzin would be opening in Palm Springs in October.

Despite serious grilling from friends and fans on Facebook, Tsoutis—as of our press deadline—had not revealed the location of the Palm Springs Evzin; he did, however, say it would be part of a hotel. Hmm.

Watch www.facebook.com/Evzinrestaurant for updates.


Details Revealed Regarding Restaurants at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs

The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, at 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way—part of the huge and controversial downtown redevelopment project—will be opening sometime in the fall, and we now have information about the restaurants that will call it home.

According to the news release: “Juniper Table, a casual all-day Mediterranean café, and 4 Saints, an intimate hideaway on the rooftop, will serve bold, chef-driven cuisine under the direction of executive chef Stephen Wambach, along with an extensive cocktail, beer and wine program. … Prior to joining Juniper Table and 4 Saints, he led the Four Seasons Chicago as executive chef, revamping Allium to receive three stars from the Chicago Tribune, in addition to being awarded the esteemed Esquire ‘Best New Restaurant’ award for his work at Epic in Chicago.”

Juniper Table “will be a vibrant upscale-casual eatery featuring rustic, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine spotlighting seasonal and organic ingredients,” according to the release, while 4 Saints’ menu “includes sharable plates that reflect internationally inspired ingredients, such as foie gras bread and butter, paring autumn flavors with salted caramel apple, Thai long pepper and gingerbread.”

Sounds fancy!

Watch the restaurants’ respective websites—www.junipertable.com and www.4saintspalmsprings.com—for updates.


In Brief

If you somehow missed the social media freak-out surrounding the news: A Krispy Kreme is supposed to come to Rancho Mirage in a yet-to-be-built development near Dinah Shore Drive and Monterey Avenue. The opening date, however, is at least a year away. … Our friends at Dish Creative Cuisine, 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, have launched new menus both in the bar and dining room. The new creations by Joane Garcia-Colson and team include fried langoustine ravioli ($9) in the bar. Yum! Visit www.dishcreativecuisine.com for more information.

Updated July 27

Published in Restaurant & Food News

When Trio Restaurant’s Sherman Chan walked into the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel to compete in the first Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship on Nov. 17, she brought with her a secret weapon: an extensive culinary pedigree, including stints in the kitchens of multiple Michelin-star restaurants.

“I really appreciate cocktails’ flavor aspect,” she said. “It’s not just about booze; it’s about aromatics, everything.

Chan, 29, was born in Hong Kong, and has lived most of her life in big cities—Toronto, New York and the like. She’s always been intrigued by food, and was all set to study at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, she said. However, before she left, she was challenged by her mother to work in a kitchen for a month to make sure she enjoyed it.

“I was working with an old-school chef, and he said that I didn’t need culinary school; he’d teach me,” she said.

Chan wound up working at some of the world’s most renowned restaurants: L’atelier de Joel Robuchon (three Michelin stars); Caprice in Hong Kong (two Michelin stars); and the Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley (three Michelin stars).

She came to the Coachella Valley in January 2012 to take a temporary job at the Parker Palm Springs, because the Restaurant at Meadowood was going through a month-long closure.

“I didn’t want to be on unemployment for a month,” she said.

She was only planning on staying for three months—in fact, she had her next job lined up in San Francisco. However, she became smitten with the desert.

“I love the weather, and it’s waaaaay cheaper to live here,” Chan laughed. “It’s a great place to live.”

She helped open the late, lamented Jiao, where she was a consultant and sous chef. Shortly thereafter, she started hankering for a chance to be in the front of the house, and she decided to take a job tending bar at Palm Desert Country Club.

“I thought I might as well start working the front of the house and see how it was,” Chan said, adding that the money is often better in the front. She actually started the process of moving behind the bar while she was in Napa, taking an online course from BarSmarts.

After Jiao, Chan spent time at a variety of well-respected local restaurants, in both the kitchen and at the bar—Escena, Tonga Hut, the Westin Mission Hills, Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise, So.Pa at L’Horizon and Mastro’s Steakhouse.

In December 2015, she started working part-time at Trio. Turns out she’d found a home: The fun energy at Trio, she said, made her eventually quit another part-time job to work full-time there.

“In hospitality, it’s really easy to work in a lot of places where you don’t feel like you belong,” Chan said. “I am so happy I got the opportunity to work here. Plus, the business is expanding, and they treat the staff really well.”

At Trio, she’s added a lot of variety and nuance to the cocktail menu. She brought the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship trophy to Trio with her “Bulleit Proof” drink, a combination of Bulleit Bourbon, grapefruit juice, honey syrup, lime, Peychaud’s bitters, ginger beer and rosemary.

“I really enjoy the whole bartending thing,” she said. “I get to create something and have guest interaction. It’s fun being a conductor of someone’s evening.”

Trio Restaurant is located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 760-864-8746, or visit triopalmsprings.com.

Published in Features & Profiles

I know harried parents are going to roll their eyes at this statement, but here it is: I love going to the supermarket.

When life gets a little too hectic, when the world at large seems a little too hopeless, I have the joy of walking up and down aisle after aisle of options, just sitting there waiting for me. There’s need to till the soil or pluck a chicken—my privileged First World butt can just stroll around, putting things in my cart, to the smooth sounds of No Jacket Required-era Phil Collins. It’s a beautiful thing, a little adventure.

In many ways, it’s similar to residing in Palm Springs. I can just start walking around and have a unique experience without planning or getting behind the wheel: Just walk around, maybe a little farther than you normally would, and you’ll find something unexpected. (Phil Collins is strictly optional.) If you’re lucky, you might find rye-whiskey cocktails.

A disclaimer: There is nothing wrong with bourbon. America should be proud to have it as our most-famous spirit. We can hold our own with Scotland or any other place that wants to have an argument about spirit supremacy. But it’s been stealing the spotlight for too long: While $250-retail bottles of bourbon sell on the secondary market for thousands of dollars or get collected like so many Ted Williams rookie cards, most ryes have gone under the radar (with a few expensive and notable exceptions). Thanks to the noble efforts of craft bartenders all over the country, however, that is beginning to change.

I have been on a rye-whiskey kick for a little while (OK, for several years), and I love seeing it on menus. I love working with it, too. When a customer orders a Manhattan or an old fashioned, and I ask, “Bourbon or rye?” he or she often hesitates and looks like he or she is trying to figure out the correct answer. There is no correct answer, of course, but—dirty little secret here—when the answer is, “Uh, rye?” I offer a little half-smile and a nod of approval.

Rye has a lean and spicy profile that (especially the 100-proof stuff) makes a great foil for unctuous and herbal vermouths and barky bitters. As a bonus, it’s pretty good for keeping warm on chilly winter nights in the desert. With this in mind, I gathered a motley crew of merrymakers and set out on an impromptu adventure down Palm Canyon Drive.

The first stop was Dish Creative Cuisine, which wasn’t on my cocktail radar at the time; we were just going to meet some people there. As I took my seat at the semi-subterranean bar, I did my obnoxious size-up-the-bar-program thing. Some quality products are back there. Wait … are those homemade syrups? I ordered a rye concoction with housemade brown butter-infused Crater Lake rye, maple syrup and lemon juice, from bartender Morray. My first sip was good, and as the drink diluted a little bit, the flavors really started to express themselves. The nose is kettle corn, which increases on the palate. The maple syrup is subtle, and the lemon is just enough to balance the drink without intruding. The rye spice comes on the tail end. Whiskey sours include egg white partly to soften astringent flavors that lemon brings out of whiskey. The butter infusion (we call this process a “fat wash” in the business) does much of the same. I found out that chef Joane Garcia-Colson makes the infusions and syrups for the bar program. Nice!

A short walk got us to Trio, which even on a Tuesday was packed during happy hour. I resigned myself to exile at a high-top table. The downfall of traveling in a group is rarely finding enough bar seats, meaning I can’t bother the bartender with endless questions about ingredients and whatnot. The drink list was sizable, though, and I decided to keep the rye party going with a “Green Walnut Boulevardier”: Knob Creek rye, Campari, walnut liqueur, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and an orange peel. The addition of walnut to a classic boulevardier was a nice touch; walnut and rye are beautiful together. The drink starts sweet and spicy, with a hint of walnut in the middle, and it’s bitter and citrusy on the finish. Basically, it’s the classic drink with a subtle twist. The orange bitters and peel together with Campari could be a bit intense for some tipplers, but if you like a bittersweet flavor profile, give it a try in place of a Negroni or Manhattan.

Now that the whiskey train was running full-steam, it was time to visit the brown-liquor emporium which is Bar, just another short walk away. I grabbed an open bar seat, blatantly disregarding my cohorts, and said: “Make me something with rye!” Proprietor Donovan Funkey popped out of seemingly nowhere, gave the aforementioned half-smile and approving nod, and made me “The Chancellor”: a mix of Rittenhouse rye, Luxardo amaro and crème de cassis. It has black currant and baking spice on the nose, which is nice this time of year. On the palate, it’s slightly sweet and oaky up front, with a spicy and bitter finish. It’s on the menu as a bourbon drink, so make sure to ask for the rye version if you want to re-create the experience.

Several more rye whiskies were tasted in the name of research, and that was about it for the night’s adventure; I was fully warmed up and satisfied.

If you are looking for a little more of a rye-whiskey adventure, poke your head behind the heavy black velvet curtain at Mr. Lyons to check out Seymour’s, where we do a drink called the “Little Owl.” Since that’s a long walk from downtown, here’s the recipe, courtesy of Steen Bojsen-Moller:

• 2 ounces of Rittenhouse rye

• 1/4 ounce of Charbay black walnut liqueur

• 1/4 ounce of IPA syrup (boil down your favorite India pale ale, and add sugar to taste)

• a few dashes of Angostura amaro (not Angostura bitters; you can sub a different amaro)

Stir; serve on the rocks with a twist of orange.

The next time you stroll around downtown in Palm Springs, think about how nice it is to have so many options laid neatly, up and down in a row. Gather a crew of revelers, and set out on your own whiskey-fueled adventure. It’s just as convenient as a supermarket—but with better drinks and music.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Seymour’s/Mr. Lyons and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Bartending competitions … are they a test of ability, or just a sideshow full of tricks and gimmicks?

This is a question I have debated for years—and now that I reside in California, I see bartending competitions everywhere. This isn't to say they don't exist back in my former home, Boston, but during my bar “upbringing,” the competition came every night behind the stick: We were earnest (mostly) tradespeople—just a little wilder, perhaps—and competitions seemed alien to us. We were drink-slingers, masters of ceremonies, psychologists and peacekeepers, and we had the final word on all debates. Then something happened all over the world: Bartenders started caring more about knowing obscure recipes, using showy techniques and developing complex cocktails. We rediscovered the craft, and—for better or worse—everything changed.

So this is 2016, and bartending is a sport—get used to it. It can be a pretty fun sport, too. I did my first bartending competition right here in Palm Springs. The first round included a mystery basket (basically like on the TV show Chopped), and I got knocked out early. To rub salt in the wound, it was on my home field, Seymour's, and I was the hyped “new guy in town.” That said, I had a great time and met some fantastic bartenders and enthusiasts, and I got to nerd out about drinks and techniques all night. Fast-forward to October, when I was invited to compete in a competition at Village Pub hosted by Templeton Rye Whiskey. This time, I did really well in the cocktail-creation round and moved on to the exhaustive final round against 11 other bartenders from all over the area. Five hours of events later, I finished fourth behind three of the best in the valley (David from Workshop; Chad from Bootlegger Tiki; and Patrick from Workshop). It was a blast hanging out with some great bartenders over (too many) shots of Jameson.

After all that, it was nice to just take it easy at the Coachella Valley Independent’s Craft Cocktail Championship on Thursday, Nov, 17. I was excited to meet some bartenders from outside of my usual circuit—and thrilled about visiting the Purple Palm at the Colony Palms, which had been on my list of places to visit for months. What a beautiful venue—exactly what I thought Palm Springs would be like before I ever came here. Sadly, the event and other obligations kept me from fully exploring the drink list (I will be back), but I managed to try the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week special: The very busy bartender, Jeff, made me the Bangkok Sling (created by bartender Brandon), and with a name like that, I looked forward to a combination of gin, liqueurs, citrus and soda. I was right about the gin (TRU Gin) and citrus (lemon), but the rest of the ingredients were guava purée, Thai basil, pink peppercorn and Fruitlab Hops Organic Liqueur. I tend to avoid drinks with purées, because they can easily overwhelm a cocktail, and I generally don't like the texture. However, this drink avoids that pitfall by bringing strong flavors to the party. The gin and hops hit first while the guava lingers, and the basil finishes strong. I am a pepper junkie, so I wish I’d gotten more of that, but all together, it was an unexpected and tasty cocktail.

The competition itself involved five local bartenders, each using a randomly assigned sponsor spirit. Fernando González (Cuistot) led off with his “Carolus’ Cobbler.” This was a blend of Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin, homemade peach purée, cinnamon and aromatic bitters. Two drinks with a purée in one night is a record for me, but this, too, was done well; Fernando put a lot of effort into the product and did his homework on the gin. Nolet’s has a fruitier and sweeter profile than a traditional London dry, with the addition of … guess what … peaches! I think a dash of something to temper the gin a bit (maraschino liqueur?) might have helped bring it all together, but he earned extra points for the homemade element, the research and the horse’s neck garnishes.

Kevin Helvie (Chill Bar and Scorpion Room) had the toughest spirit to work with, in my opinion. He mixed Crown Royal Vanilla, lemon, blueberry sour, tarragon and simple syrup into the “Royal Blue XL.” One of the judges put it best, saying it was “a good time in a glass.” It had the party-drink trinity of boozy, sweet and sour. It was also the favorite of many attendees. I was wondering the whole time what I would do with that spirit. Honey? Lemon? Ginger? Egg white? Heck, port? Luckily, I was just observing this time.

Michael Phillips (Fix a Dessert House) prepared a drink called “Citrus Rose” using Ketel One Oranj, fresh orange juice, local honey, homemade rose water, orange flower, rose sugar, a lime wedge and an edible flower. I wouldn't advise drinking it near a hive of killer bees, but I thought the floral focus was an intriguing and unique choice. It could have been overwhelming, but I found it to be nicely balanced and tasty. I also enjoyed hearing his story and about his passion for making drinks, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next time.

The audience favorite was Joey Tapia (New York Company) and his “Mellow Melon.” Joey is relatively new to bartending, and he smartly kept it simple, with Captain Morgan White Rum, cantaloupe, fresh lime, muddled mint and sugar. The drink was light and tasty. From an aesthetic point of view, I might have fine-strained the mint out, but the Mellow Melon is the kind of drink that pushes bar sales. Simple can be good, too.

The champion was Sherman Chan (Trio), who came ready to rumble. Her spirit was Bulleit Bourbon, which some would say was the luckiest pull because of the wealth of bourbon cocktails from which to draw inspiration. Luck only gets you so far, though, and she clearly knew her stuff. She made a chimera of a “Brown Derby” (bourbon, honey syrup and lemon) and a “Kentucky Mule” (bourbon, ginger, citrus), with Peychaud’s Bitters and rosemary “straight out of Trio’s parking lot!” Despite the potential for a spit-take from the judges after that remark, Sherman rolled with emcee Shann Carr’s increasingly “blue” commentary with confidence and humor. She also brought “dragon balls”—round ice balls with herbs frozen into them. Word to the wise: Behind the bar, “the show” is almost as important as what you make. The drink itself, “Bulleit Proof,” was not just smoke and mirrors, though; it was extremely tasty. It’s debatable whether the “dragon balls” would be feasible for a busy bar program, but the drink itself would sell for sure.

How much does a contest truly reflect one’s worth as an elite bartender? Winning can get you fame, money, magazine features, gigs shilling for spirit brands, Instagram followers, guest spots on reality shows and so on, so I understand why some people devote so much time and energy to competing. Frankly, it's pretty much the only way to get noticed in our new culture of “Rock-Star Bartending” (unless you happen to work at a world-famous establishment), but that shouldn't be what it's all about. I guess it all comes down to staying grounded and having fun—taking it seriously, but not tying one’s worth to winning or losing.

My advice to bartenders: Give it your best if competing, and cheer your hardest if attending. Realize it's not always fair, that it's subjective, and that no contest will determine accurately how good a bartender is in one’s natural environment. Winning a competition and actually tending bar are two different skill sets. As with any skill, you have to practice. I will be better the next time I compete, if and when I do, and so will all of these competitors.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to practice flipping bottles and breathing fire.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Seymour’s/Mr. Lyons and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

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.

Published in Snapshot

Page 1 of 2