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Thu06272019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

More and more restaurants and bars are offering amazing craft beers in the Coachella Valley—and now there’s a new, responsible way to sample these tasty brews in Palm Springs.

Introducing the Buzz Crawl.

The concept behind the Palm Springs Buzz is simple: It’s a trolley that allows locals and visitors alike to explore Palm Springs for free. The bus is bright and retro, with vintage lettering, plush seats and wood paneling. The Buzz runs every 15 minutes from Via Escuela to Smoke Tree Lane, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., every Thursday through Sunday—again, for FREE!

And, yes, there’s an app for that.

According to city officials, from Feb. 5-8, the Buzz picked up about 4,500 people. The following week—which included Valentine’s Day and Modernism Week’s kickoff weekend—that number rose to nearly 6,000.

John Raymond, the director of community and economic development for the city of Palm Springs, is keeping a finger on the pulse of the Buzz. He’s hopeful that the Buzz is reducing the number of people who are driving under the influence.

“People are fanatical about it. They think it’s great,” he said about the Buzz. “We figured tourists would catch on … but what’s been really great is the number of locals who are into it—Thursday night, especially.”

Because the Buzz is free and runs all weekend, you don’t need a defined schedule—but here are my recommendations on spots to hit for craft beer.

One of the first places is on the south end, near stop No. 18: The Legendary Purple Room at Club Trinidad has a “Rat Pack” heritage, but owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen are now offering modern fare and amazing Southern California craft beers. Head chef Jennifer Town graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and was the executive sous chef at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club before coming over to the Purple Room. She’s a craft-beer lover and appreciates the culinary art of pairing rich dishes with perfect craft beers.

Speaking of the Ace Hotel and Swim Club: It’s a great launching point, with amazing spaces at which to soak up the sun and/or people-watch. The closest Buzz stop is just across the street, No. 16. Check out The Amigo Room and its artisanal cocktails, hippy party vibe and fantastic variety of craft beers. Enjoy them in the dim, cavernous space—or better yet, have one by the pool. Choose among 21 taps from Southern California breweries including Babe’s, Coachella Valley Brewing, La Quinta Brewing, Stone and Hangar 24.

At the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club (pictured below), near stop Nos. 14 and 20, soak in more rays by the pool or try your hand at bocce ball—or the largest game of beer pong ever (pictured below). While the Hacienda’s craft beer selection isn’t extensive, there are a few nice choices, and the $5 poolside menu is not to be ignored: Enjoy a Racer 5 IPA, Stone Pale Ale or Ballast Point Sculpin IPA with a braised short rib and Hacienda chorizo empanadas. Want really to get the party started? Have one of some 75 tequila flights, starting at only $3.50.

Not in the mood for Mexican-style food? Check out the new hip sushi spot in town. Gyoro Gyoro is in the middle of downtown, near stop No. 8. The restaurant opened last May and not only serves fantastic fish, but offers unique microbrewery beers from around the world—yes, even Japanese craft beer!—as well as a fine selection of sake.

Feeling like some fresh, delicious pizza? Get off at stop No. 9 or 11 and stroll over to Matchbox, which not only offers artisanal brick-oven pies amid a flame-lit balcony overlooking La Plaza; the restaurant also has a nice selection of craft beer, with a dozen or so on tap and about 20 different beers in bottles. Expect popular beers from breweries like Allagash, Green Flash, Stone, BearRepublic, Alaskan, LostCoast and Rogue. Matchbox typically has at least one local beer on tap, too.

Right around the corner is my favorite cigar lounge, which won over my heart because of its impressive selection of wine and craft beer: Fame Lounge is a masculine and comfortable place, also near stops No. 9 and 11. Try the cigar and beer pairing for $10.

Bar is located at 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, near stop No. 7. With its dark surroundings and extensive whiskey menu, Bar is a great stop at night. Try the picnic eggs—deviled eggs with Sriracha and wasabi—and pair them with the War Gin (gin and lemon-honey pale ale) beer cocktail. Bar offers about 20 bottled beer choices, including Blazing World and Black House from San Diego’s Modern Times; the beers on tap rotate.

For upscale, neo-retro dining, head over to Trio, near Buzz stop No. 5, in an historic midcentury building in Palm Springs’ sophisticated Uptown Design District. Trio serves a fine selection of craft beers and delicious cocktails, and offers a three-course $19 prix-fixe menu 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Happy hour brings $3 well, $5 call, $8 premium and $5 bar bites at the bar and on the patio.

Nearby is Birba, a modern outdoor pizzeria. Birba translates from Italian to “little rascal.” Enjoy a carefully crafted cocktail like the “Hello Nancy” in the courtyard, surrounded by white-light-wrapped trees. While the eight signature cocktails are delicious, Birba also offers a selection of local craft beer.

Get off at Buzz stop No. 4 to enjoy the friendly and chic Workshop Kitchen + Bar. The popular spot has a nice selection of craft beer, but also specializes in cocktails inside the restored 1926 Spanish colonial revival building. I have been known to be a cross-drinker—and you might become one, too, among the cool concrete tables and souring wooden ceilings. Gourmet farm-to-table restaurants like Workshop are no stranger to the craft-beer “revolution,” and Workshop offers sublime pairings with locally sourced ingredients. The rich herbes de Provence fries are cooked in duck fat; pair them with a crisp Belgium beer. On tap, you’ll find brews from Salzburg, Colorado, San Diego and the Coachella Valley, as well as a great bottled-beer selection. Don’t be afraid to check out the spirits menu, showcasing “underdog” whiskeys, vodkas and gins. My personal favorite handcrafted cocktail here is the “Palm Springer,” with vodka, fresh pineapple juice, house-made grenadine, angostura bitters.

The Buzz has four buses, ensuring that riders can hop on at any of the 30-plus stops every 15 minutes. Check out the new fun and responsible way to catch a buzz in Palm Springs—and Tweet to @TheBeerGoddess if you’re checking out the #PSBuzz!

For more information and a route map, visit buzzps.com.

Published in Beer

Out of the Ashes: Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club Begins Rebuilding Process

At Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, it was supposed to be a Christmas day to celebrate. The year-old restaurant, located at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, had dinner reservations for 170 people on the books.

However, on the morning of Dec. 25, while a couple of employees began preparing in the kitchen for the busy night, something went terribly wrong: An electrical fire began in the ceiling over the dining room.

Within a couple hours, the restaurant had burned to the ground. Bernie’s owners Rand Howell and Geoff McIntosh, while in shock, scrambled to find new reservations for their customers, and new jobs for their employees.

The only saving grace: The two employees made it out of the building unharmed.

“Initially, it was very devastating,” McIntosh said.

One month later, the feelings of devastation have largely faded, McIntosh said, and the owners are now working on the rebuilding process. There’s also another silver lining in the dark cloud.

“Everybody who wanted a job was able to find one within two to three weeks,” McIntosh said, praising his fellow local restaurateurs who stepped in to help his staffers.

At first, McIntosh and Howell looked into reopening Bernie’s in an existing building at another location. However, those plans fell through.

“We just couldn’t put it together,” he said.

McIntosh and Howell are now planning on rebuilding Bernie’s in the same location, which they own, he said. There’s another, smaller building on their property that they may demolish to build a new Bernie’s that’s bigger and better than ever.

“We had outgrown our space by the second month we were open,” McIntosh laughed.

McIntosh said the current plan is to expand both the lounge and dining areas just a bit. The biggest changes, though, will involve improving the traffic flow by widening aisles and fixing the fact that in the old building, there was only one, hard-to-access door in and out of the kitchen—which led to constant traffic jams.

When can customers expect the new Bernie’s to rise from the ashes? McIntosh said that optimistic estimates say the new building’s doors could open within seven or eight months, but he thinks a year is more realistic.

“All the layers of government approval we’ll need will take two to three months, probably, by themselves,” he said.

McIntosh praised the restaurant’s insurance company, Farmers Insurance, for moving quickly thus far. In fact, the business-interruption insurance is paying key management employees to stay on while the restaurant is rebuilt, McIntosh said.

Keep your fingers crossed for the good people at Bernie’s. Follow the rebuilding progress, and get updates on former Bernie’s employees, at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans.

In Brief

Bontá Restaurant and Bar is now open and serving modern European and Latin fare at 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City, in the spot formerly occupied by Picanha Churrascaria. More info at bontarestaurant.com. … Loco Charlie’s Mexican Grill opened in January at 1751 N. Sunrise Way, near World Gym in Palm Springs. The restaurant’s website promises “one of a kind, authentic Mexican cuisine” that is “made with the freshest ingredients possible.” Visit that website, mylococharlies.com, for more info. … King’s Highway, the diner at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, launched all-new, expanded menus in mid-January. The restaurant is following in the footsteps of the Ace Hotel L.A., which recently revamped its restaurant with the help of the folks behind Five Leaves in Brooklyn, N.Y.—meaning Five Leaves influences can be found on the Palm Springs menus, too. Highlights include the avocado toast for breakfast, and the Five Leaves burger (including grilled pineapple, pickled beets and a sunny-side-up egg) for lunch and dinner. … Want to get out of the house to enjoy the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22? Trio Restaurant, at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is hosting its annual “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” party, to benefit the AIDS Assistance Program. Get tickets, starting at $125, at aidsassistance.org. If you’re closer to Indian Wells, consider the Red Carpet Oscar Party at Vicky’s of Santa Fe, at 45100 Club Drive. Tickets are $85, and the event benefits Variety—The Children's Charity of the Desert. Call 760-345-9770 to reserve. … Congrats to Shanghai Reds, the popular back-area bar and restaurant at Palm Springs’ Fisherman’s Market and Grill, located at 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, for completing an expansion of the patio. There’s now more seating and a better music stage. ... If you haven’t heard already: The Asian-cuisine scene of the Coachella Valley is now worse off due to the apparent closing of Jiao, the Foundation 10-owned restaurant that was located at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Hard Rock Replaces Sessions With Simon Kitchen + Bar

Another celebrity chef is coming to the Coachella Valley.

Simon Kitchen + Bar, a restaurant under the direction of Kerry Simon, is slated to open in mid-September at the Hard Rock, located at 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s replacing Sessions, which had occupied the Hard Rock’s restaurant space since the remodeling of the former Hotel Zozo.

“Palm Springs is hot right now,” Simon said in a news release. “I’m very excited to be a part of this laid-back, hipster getaway. The menu that I’ve developed for Simon Kitchen + Bar is a little edgy, a little fun and full of contemporary takes on the comfort foods we all love.”

As for that menu: It will include “an emphasis on sharing,” with “sandwiches, entrées and stone-oven flatbreads. Social plates include tempura green beans made with pepper jelly and cream cheese; bacon jam served with baked brie and toasted baguette; and ‘devil’s eggs’ complete with crispy pancetta and caviar.”

Sounds tasty to us. Simon should be a good fit for the Hard Rock; after all, Rolling Stone once called him the “Rock ’n’ Roll Chef.”

Watch www.hrhpalmsprings.com for updates and more information.

Cactusberry Getting a Remodel and a Concept Tweak

Cactusberry, the popular frozen-yogurt shop in the Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is going in a slightly new direction following a change in ownership.

Johnny Ramirez Jr. and Dale Sutherland are the new owners. After they got the keys, they closed the shop for remodeling. Ramirez tells the Independent they hope to reopen around Oct. 1.

“We are taking ‘Cactusberry Frozen Yogurt’ and expanding the brand, but keeping the same great tastes, as well as adding new items like gelato and frozen custard,” Ramirez said via email. “Our new name in honor of this expansion is ‘Cactusberry+ Frozen Treats.’ We hope to become the Coachella Valley’s go-to shop for frozen treats and drinks!”

Watch Cactusberry’s website (cactusberryplusps.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CactusberryPlus) for updates and more information.

TRIO, Purple Room Shaking Things Up Just a Bit

Trio and the Purple Room, the popular restaurants in Palm Springs owned by Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen, are both going through some minor yet welcome changes.

At TRIO, located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, executive chef Van Laanen recently introduced weekly specials to complement the tried-and-true menu. Every week, TRIO is offering an all-day drink special and three new dinner dishes.

“We love pairing fresh ingredients with distinctive flavors, and we are thrilled to cook up these new specials,” Van Laanen said in a news release.

For example, the specials ending the week of Sept. 4 are seared Cajun ahi tuna and carrot cucumber slaw with pickled ginger wasabi; a USDA New York strip steak with caramelized onions and sautéed wild mushrooms; and pan-roasted barramundi with mango pico de gallo and sweet saffron butter sauce. The drink special is the “TRIO Fizz,” featuring muddled orange, Absolut Mandarin, orange juice, lemon juice and soda.

Watch www.triopalmsprings.com for a list of specials throughout September.

Meanwhile, the Purple Room, inside Club Trinidad at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, was slated to reopen after a month off on Thursday, Aug. 28. The slightly rebranded Purple Room Restaurant and Stage also has a new chef and a new menu; a “peek” was posted on the Purple Room Facebook page shortly before the Independent’s press deadline. The new menu includes a wide variety of modern cuisine, ranging from a Brussels sprout salad as a starter ($10) to filet Oscar ($36) and chicken paillards ($23) as main courses.

Head over to www.facebook.com/purpleroomrestaurantstage to get gobs more information on the Purple Room, including a list of upcoming shows.

In Brief

After a seemingly endless construction period, Pho Vu is finally open at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. … The transformation is complete: The former Chop House Palm Desert has been converted into the Kaiser Grille Palm Desert. The moderately priced restaurant at 74040 Highway 111 is now open. … Tell your beer-loving friends in Arizona that offerings from Coachella Valley Brewing Company will soon be available there, thanks to a distribution deal with Young’s Market Company. … The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, which opened in June with the first 2014 Splash House, closed with the second 2014 Splash House in August. However, management says the closure is only temporary, and that the Hacienda will reopen on Friday, Sept. 26. … The Bootlegger Tiki bar is slated to soon debut at 140 W. Via Lola, Suite 1101, in the back of the building occupied by Ernest Coffee. … Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill, which has been a La Quinta staple for almost a decade, recently opened a second location in the Westfield Palm Desert at 72840 Highway 111. Get more info at www.stuftpizzabarandgrill.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Crave Dessert Restaurant Re-Opening in New Digs

Crave, which its owners tout as Palm Springs’ first dessert restaurant, is reopening in a bigger space at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18.

The restaurant—which opened in 2011 at 390 N. Palm Canyon Drive—has a new home at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 200. The new spot is on the second story and features two patios. Customers will now be able to enjoy tasty dessert treats, coffee, beer and wine while overlooking the goings-on at the Amado Road intersection.

Crave does not only have new digs; it also has some new owners: Original owner Davy Aker has been joined by Raymond McCallister and Larry Abel, co-owners of businesses including Abel McCallister Designs and the Party Lab.

Crave will be open Wednesday through Sunday. Watch www.craveps.com for more info.

Fantasy Springs Launches Cupcake Challenge

Cupcakes for a good cause—has there ever been a sweeter clause?

Forgive the bad poetry (or whatever the heck that was); we’re excited about the second annual Fantasy Cupcake Challenge, taking place from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio.

Here’s how it works: Pros and non-pros alike can enter (by Sunday, Oct. 20) for prizes up to $750. Entrants then bake up a whole bunch of cupcakes (including four full-size entries and at least 300 tastes) and bring them in. The general public is invited to enjoy those tastes—tickets are $30, or $10 for kids age 3 to 11—and vote for their favorites while perusing a silent auction and enjoying live music.

Best of all: Proceeds go to Well in the Desert. In that spirit, anyone bringing three canned/nonperishable goods to the box office on the day of the event gets $5 off admission.

Yum. And yay!

Get more details at www.fantasyspringsresort.com/cupcakes.

Purple Room Update: Opening Planned for Oct. 24

More details have emerged about the revival of the Purple Room at Club Trinidad.

As we’ve previously reported, TRIO owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen have taken over management of the space at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, which has had a controversial year. Well, we now have an opening date: Thursday, Oct. 24, at 3 p.m.

The supper club and lounge will offer live music booked by Gary and Joan Gand, of the Gand Band, and will feature food service until midnight Tuesday through Thursday, as well as Sunday—with service going until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

“Our Continental menu will have a mix of everything,” Van Laanen said in a news release. “From deviled eggs and Sloppy Joe sliders to fresh seafood and steaks, we’ll have delicious options for every palate.”

Get more details at purpleroompalmsprings.com.

In Brief

The Miramonte Resort and Spa, 45000 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells, is launching a series of wine events for the season. “Le Serate di Vino” events will feature wines complemented with the food of executive chef Robert Nyerick; the first event, on Friday, Oct. 25, will be the Oyster Bay progressive wine dinner, with five New Zealand wines paired with hors d’oeuvres, three savory courses and dessert, all for $75. Call 760-341-7200 for reservations or more info. … Dragon Sushi, in the 68300 block of East Palm Canyon in Cathedral City, is now open. As reported in this space before, it’s the sister restaurant of the much-loved Dragon Sushi in Indio. … Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta, 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, held a Make My Pizza Challenge contest last month. Almost 200 folks entered, and the finalists were vetted on Sept. 19. The winning pizza: Christopher Giusto’s eggplant Parmesan pizza, featuring red sauce, breaded eggplant medallions, roast garlic, basil and ricotta cheese (pictured above). That’s not the only news from the Funkey family, which owns Giuseppe’s (as well as Bar in downtown Palm Springs): Next to Giuseppe’s is their soon-to-open Smoke Tree Supper Club. Watch for further details. … Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, featuring food by chef Jason Moffitt, will be opening soon at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. … Earlier this year, a Kickstarter campaign went live with this pitch: “My name is Kelly McFall. With the help of my brother Kreg and my mother Jan, we are opening a restaurant in the El Paseo shopping district of Palm Desert." It went on: "Wilma and Frieda’s Cafe will be a full service breakfast and lunch farmhouse cafe with an urban twist.” The needed $50,000 was raised, and now the café, at 73575 El Paseo Drive, is open; details at www.wilmafrieda.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The Purple Room Returns to Its 1960s Roots

After a quite a turbulent year, the Purple Room, located at the Club Trinidad (1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) is getting a renovation and new management that could turn it into one of the valley’s coolest spots.

TRIO owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen have taken over the spot. They are keeping mum on some specifics, but they have set up a Facebook page and a website featuring a swanky logo and the tagline “Supper club, drinks and live music. It’s where Palm Springs plays.” We hear that a late October opening is in the works.

The website offers this description: “In the early ’60s, Palm Springs’ Purple Room at Club Trinidad became the sweet spot of the swinging supper club scene. Cats like Frank and Dino hung with their pals to eat, drink and play.

“The Purple Room reopens with its pedigree legacy in mind. Swanky décor and state-of-the-art sound for the best live music in town.”

It’s official: I am excited!

Head to the website to apply for a gig, join the newsletter list, or get more information.

Help People Help the Blind

The Desert Blind and Handicapped Association has two fantastic food-related events coming up—during which you can help out the organization just by having a good time.

First up: On Wednesday, Sept. 18, the organization—which offers transportation for those who are disabled—will be having a fundraising dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. at Nicolino’s Italian Restaurant, 35325 Date Palm Drive, No. 111, in Cathedral City. Tickets for the meal—which include salad, a soft drink, garlic bread, carrot cake and one of four entrées—are just $25.

Next up is one of the first events of the social/charity event season: The Fall Garden Party takes place from 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, at Copley’s on Palm Canyon, 621 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The event will feature wearable fine art fashions by Lon Michels, and jewelry by Alexis Hunter (a Independent) contributor, modeled by local celebrities. Add in music by cellist Ray Kelley, emceeing by the incomparable Brian Wanzek (you may know him better as Bella da Ball), hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, and a swanky good time should be had by all; tickets are $50.

For tickets to either event or for more information, head to www.desertblind.org, or call 760-440-7720.

Have a Slice to Help a Great Woman With a Terrible Disease

Andie Jaeger—the mother of three (ages 2, 6 and 11), and the wife of Kurt Jaeger, of Indio’s Jaeger Metal—is in the midst of one hell of a fight.

According to publicist Tim O’Bayley, here’s the story: “Andie suffered a seizure while out with her husband and two of her three children. She was rushed to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. … After two spinal taps, (various) MRIs, and a biopsy, on Aug. 23, the doctors confirmed the worst, and Andie was diagnosed with Glioblastoma. Gliobastoma is the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans. Her treatment protocol is still being decided but will likely include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.”

Friends and loved ones have rallied behind the Jaeger family by organizing a series of fundraisers intended to help the Jaegers with what will be one horrible medical bill. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 5 p.m. to close, The Slice, at 72775 Dinah Shore Drive, in Rancho Mirage, will donate 20 percent of each purchase (except for happy-hour menu items) to Andie.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., various local Zumba instructors will team up to teach a class—limited to 35 people—at Inspired Fitness Studio, 78078 Country Club Drive, in Bermuda Dunes. Admission is $10, and $5 raffle tickets will be available; email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in advance for tickets.

Finally, on Sunday, Oct. 6, the Classic Club, located at 75200 Classic Club Blvd., in Palm Desert, will host the Thinking Happy Thoughts for Andie Golf Tournament. Registration begins at 7 a.m., and costs $150, or $500 for a foursome. Lunch will be provided.

Register for the tourney or get more info on these events at www.thinkinghappythoughts.org.

In Brief

The New York Company Restaurant, 1260 S. Palm Canyon Drive (a space formerly occupied by Brushfire), is opening this Friday, Sept. 20. (The restaurant announced an opening date several weeks earlier, too, only to take it back due to “processing” delays. More info at www.thenewyorkcompanyrestaurant.com. … Dragon Sushi, located at 82451 Highway 111 in Indio, is opening another location, in the shopping center in the 68300 block of Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City that once was home to Frickleburgers.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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