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A sold-out crowd of 150 people enjoyed 10 amazing cocktails—all made with George Dickel Rye or DeLeon Tequila Platinum Blanco ... or, believe it or not, both—at the Fourth Annual Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, held Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Moxie Palm Springs.

Carlos Argumedo, of Farm, came in as the defending champ, and became the event's first-ever competitor to win two awards, when he earned the Audience Choice Award. The night's top honors went to Jake's Juan Hurtado, who blew the judges away by making an amazing drink using both the rye and tequila.

Ten bartenders competed in the event, which sold out for the second year in a row. Each competitor made tastes of their drinks for each attendee, before making full drinks for the judges: liquor sponsor Leslie Barclay; Brad Fuhr, of media sponsor Gay Desert Guide; and representatives of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week’s beneficiaries: Desert AIDS Project rep Jeffery Norman, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Raul Rodriguez.

The event was hosted by Independent publisher Jimmy Boegle. However, Jeffrey Norman and Shann Carr took over when Boegle fell and was unable to continue.

The championship is the highlight of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, a production of the Coachella Valley Independent. During the week, which continues through Saturday, Feb. 8, participating restaurants create a special drink for the week, or highlight an existing drink from their menus, and donate at least $2 from each drink sold during the week to the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. A complete list of drinks and participants can be found at PSCraftCocktails.com.

Below is a collection of photos from the event, taken by the Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

Conventional wisdom says that it takes at least four years to assess whether a startup business is viable, and seven to 10 years to make a business the success you had in mind when you began.

By those standards, Jenny and Oscar Babb have beaten the odds. The Babbs own four restaurants, three in the Coachella Valley, with the oldest being more than eight years old—and doing well.

Oscar Babb, 41, was born in Barcelona and describes himself as a “culinarian” (otherwise known as a chef) who cooked his way around the world—including working with Starwood Hotels in various countries—after leaving his native Spain in 2004. He cooked in the United States, originally in Seattle and then San Diego, before coming to the Coachella Valley six years ago.

“The Coachella Valley is the complete opposite of Barcelona,” says Oscar. “It has a special charm of its own, which is the greatest reason people have been coming here to vacation and retire for so long.”

Oscar has a sister, and he describes their mother as “a lovely woman and a fantastic therapist, hard-working, with a thirst for life and accomplishment.” He says his father loves discipline and order in his life (“He liked everything where it was supposed to go!”), but his passion is cars. Oscar recalls that after his father’s business career, he dedicated himself to auto classics, like his ’65 Dodge convertible.

“He would even polish the key!” Oscar says.

Jenny, 34, first remembers coming to the desert in 1985.

“I’ve always loved the Coachella Valley culture,” she says.

The eldest of three, she was born and raised in San Diego. Her parents have been married for 36 years, and her father is also a native San Diegan.

“My dad was very hard-working,” she says, “and a real leader of the family. He is stoic, even shy, and very ethical. His message was, ‘Do the right thing.’

“My mom was the bubbly free-spirit. I got that from her. Her message to me, way back while I was in high school, was, ‘Don’t let people get your goat.’ I’ve taken that to heart.”

Jenny earned a degree in business and marketing from San Diego State University, while waiting tables to help support herself.

“After school, I worked for a while at my aunt’s travel company doing sales management,” she says, “and then moved to The Broken Yolk, where I was managing by the time I left.”

Now married for seven years, Oscar and Jenny met in 2008 while both were working at a Broken Yolk location in San Diego. After helping other locations of the breakfast/lunch restaurant open, they decided they wanted to open some restaurants of their own: The Babbs agreed to take on Riverside County, to which The Broken Yolk wanted to expand. They opened their first franchise in Temecula. They later opened a Broken Yolk in La Quinta in 2014, and the Palm Springs location in 2016.

The downtown Palm Springs location, at 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, includes an upstairs bar/restaurant space that has seen various owner/operators come and go. When the Babbs decided to open The Broken Yolk on the lower level of that location, they decided to open Moxie Palm Springs on the upper level.

“I always wanted to open a bar named to honor our beloved dog,” laughs Jenny, “and I think the name fits well with the Palm Springs spirit. We wanted the space to tell us what it wanted to be, and we came up with a neighborhood bar that reflects Palm Springs culture. We have bar food, are known for our craft cocktails, and have a very diverse offering of live entertainment every Thursday through Saturday, including acoustics, jazz, rock and Top 40 cover bands. We sometimes have a DJ—and it can get loud.

“Two Prides ago, our manager was talking about what we could do that would be different for the community—not just having rainbow flags. We threw a ‘Flamingo Party’ with lots of pink flamingos everywhere and a massive drag show. It was such a great party! Then Ross Mathews, from RuPaul’s Drag Race, heard about it, and some RuPaul ‘girls’ appeared that night. We now have a drag show every Sunday, along with a Bubbly Brunch.”

Oscar jumps in: “As a couple, we’ve always been around other people, making friends and experiencing new things and styles. The idea was to have everybody from every culture welcome—American, Mexican, LGBTQ. We’ve had an Irish fiddler, and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.”

The Babbs expect to have children someday, but for now, they’re focusing on their business and their two English mastiffs. They describe themselves as huge animal lovers, and have bird-feeders all around their house. They love to hike with their dogs, and have already conquered Mount Whitney and Mount Everest (to the base-camp area). Amazingly enough, they also love going to new restaurants.

Jenny and Oscar Babb are having the time of their lives. They’re busy, successful and still expanding their horizons into new business ventures—like a partnership in a brewery in Mexico City.

“I really do enjoy the work,” says Jenny. “I’m a people-pleaser. I hate conflict, and that’s where Oscar comes in; he’ll confront things I don’t want to. Also, my friendships are important. We spend so much time together, it’s good to have some separate time. Sure, we want to (eventually) slow down. It would be nice to be able to go to bed early once in a while. We bit off so much so fast.”

Then both Oscar and Jenny agree: “But it’s our community and our friends—this is what we do,” Jenny says.

And they’re doing it well.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

A sold-out crowd of more than 100 people enjoyed nine fantastic cocktails—all made with Ketel One Botanical vodka—at the Third Annual Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, held Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Moxie Palm Springs.

Carlos Argumedo, of Farm, was declared the champion of the event, earning an amazing 92 points (out of 100 possible) on the judges’ scoresheets. The tally was close—three points separated first place from fourth place. Argumedo follows in the footsteps of 2018 winner Hunter Broggi, of Lulu California Bistro (who also participated in this year’s event), and 2016 winner Sherman Chan, of Trio Restaurant.

Trio’s Garrett Spicher was the Audience Choice winner.

Nine bartenders competed in the event, which sold out for the first time in its three-year history. Each competitor made tastes of their drinks for each attendee, before making full drinks for the judges: Ketel One’s Leslie Barclay; Brad Fuhr, of media sponsors Gay Desert Guide and KGAY 106.5 FM; and representatives of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week’s beneficiaries: the Desert AIDS Project’s Darrell Tucci, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Alexis Ortega.

The championship is the highlight of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, a production of the Coachella Valley Independent. During the week, which continues through Saturday, Feb. 2, participating restaurants create a special drink for the week, or highlight an existing drink from their menus, and donate at least $2 from each drink sold during the week to the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. A complete list of drinks and participants can be found at PSCraftCocktails.com.

Below is a collection of photos from the event, taken by the Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

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

After an off-season back East, I’m back in the Coachella Valley, with a new bar gig and more-reliable transportation—meaning I am ready to search once more for the tastiest drinks in the area!

Sadly, most of the places I visited this month were a bit … disappointing. In particular, there were two cocktails I tried at a “high-end” establishment that were actually tough to finish (and $20 each!).

Fortunately, I had much better luck at Window Bar at the brand-spankin’ new Kimpton Rowan Hotel Palm Springs. Not only is the design of the place pretty breathtaking; this diminutive bar in the lobby also makes a mean drink. After looking over the menu for a bit (there are some interesting ingredients on there, including local dates), I went with the Dealer’s Choice. Bartender Bryan Bruce was in a classical mood and made me an excellent martinez cocktail with a nice chinato, an aromatized Barolo wine with a pleasant bitterness that makes beautiful cocktails. If you’re wondering what a martinez is … well, it’s basically gin and Italian vermouth with bitters and a spoon full of sweetener (usually Boker’s and Maraschino respectively). Some folks think it’s the martini’s absentee dad, but I respectfully disagree—and Maury Povich doesn’t have the paternity results yet.

For my friend who was on a vodka-soda kick (I know, I know), Bryan indeed made a vodka soda—but it was a pretty cool vodka soda: The soda water was infused with local juniper branches and lemon zest, and carbonated à la minùte in a plastic soda bottle. (You have to see this glass contraption they use to infuse things; it’s straight out of Harry Potter.) The drink itself occupied a nice middle ground between a gin-and-tonic and a vodka soda. There are two more bars on the property, but I saved those for my next visit.

I also checked out the new offerings at Moxie, where they’ve created a pretty extensive list of cocktails these days. Bar-manager Blake gave us a sneak peak at his “poptails,” which combine a cocktail with a popsicle on a skewer, which serves as a garnish and/or snack. We tried the Pretty in Pink Pop Drop first. This is not intended for whiskey-swilling bearded dudes like me. It certainly was pretty, and pink, and will definitely appeal to less-hardcore drinkers, thanks to its flavors of vanilla and the super-fragrant Combier Liqueur de Rose, replete with sugared rim and strawberry basil lychee pop.

Next, the Desert Sun was reminiscent of an Oaxacan old fashioned, with mezcal, tequila and sweeteners, but served up. The mango-serrano popsicle, when it was mostly dissolved, added some needed brightness. Blake responded: “It’s a drink that rewards patience.” In any case, it’s nice to see someone having some fun designing their cocktails.

While we’re on the subject, let’s discuss that deceptively simple drink, which is perfect for winter get-togethers—the old fashioned.

First of all, what the heck is an old fashioned, anyway? The old fashioned is a callback to the early days of cocktail—booze, bitters and sugar. The cocktail, without getting too bogged down in historical details, was consumed in the morning as a hangover cure. Later, cocktails moved in a more-elegant direction, but certain drinkers still wanted that old standby.

Notice that I have mentioned nothing about a cherry or an orange slice—or muddling, or even ice. That doesn’t make those additions “wrong,” per se (certainly not the ice!), but they’re not necessary. So we’re going to strip things down here and go back to basics.

Here’s what you need:

• Rye whiskey, or bourbon

• Sugar (white or raw—no brown sugar)

• Bitters (Angostura, in the brown bottle with the white label)

• Ice (cubed—large cube for extra credit, but certainly not necessary)

Take the sugar, and mix it equal parts with water. You can heat it to mix, and then cool the mixture; or you can shake it in a bottle and let it sit. That’s the only “hard” part here. (I won’t get into the sugar-versus-syrup debate here, because this is the 101 class; we can get nerdy some other time.)

Take a short, wide glass, and lash in a couple of good slugs of those bitters. (Don’t be shy.) Then put that sugar syrup in there; until you know just how sweetened you like it, start with one teaspoon. Then add 2 ounces of the whiskey—just pour it right in. Add plenty of ice, and stir until seasoned. You’re done.

Of course, you can make it look and taste better with a little citrus oil. Do you have a lemon, an orange or even a grapefruit? Take off a nice swath of zest with a peeler or a knife, and squeeze the oils over the drink; then rub it on the outside glass. Toss it in … or don’t. (Just be careful with that peeler; I don’t need any lawsuits. You can peel a bunch ahead of time, and keep them in a damp paper towel to prevent Ramsay Bolton-ing yourself after a few drinks.) As for the cherry, either get good ones (like Luxardo brand), or don’t bother. Stick the cherry on a skewer so you can enjoy it; it does little good smashed under the ice.

There you go—it’s the perfect get-together drink for Dad, Grandma or your buddies. But when you see a bartender “making it wrong,” keep it to yourself; that’s between us.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, 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

What: The ahi nachos

Where: Moxie Palm Springs, 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $15

Contact: 760-318-9900; www.moxiepalmsprings.com

Why: It’s a big plate of yumminess.

It was Saturday, and we’d had a late and rather massive lunch. When dinnertime came around, we weren’t all that hungry; we wanted drinks and small bites.

What better time to try out Moxie Palm Springs, on the second story above the Broken Yolk Café, overlooking downtown Palm Springs? I’d been hearing raves about the great cocktails, the fun vibe and the—as the Moxie website calls it—“creative cuisine served social style in the form of bar bites, shareable plates and salads.”

The Hive Minds were playing as we were seated at our table. There were seven in our party, and we got all sorts of things to sample and share. While everything we had was decent or better (especially the toasted brie bread, $12, which was endorsement-worthy itself), my selection became the star of the table: I picked the ahi nachos, and they were fantastic.

At first, I wondered whether the $15 price tag for a “shareable plate” was too high, but when the nachos arrived, I wondered no more: If anything, $15 is a bargain, given the quantity of delicious fish and other goodies on the large plate. As for those other goodies: The wonton chips were nice and lighter than, say, tortilla chips would have been; the amazu sauce added a nice bit of sweetness; the avocado offered up a pleasing soft texture and richness.

While my fellow diners sampled the nachos liberally, I ate the bulk of them, and I was definitely full afterward—and I have a hunch that would have been the case even if I hadn’t had a gargantuan lunch. 

Published in The Indy Endorsement

New in Downtown Palm Springs: Moxie Palm Springs

For several years, Grind Brgr Bar languished on the second floor at 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs. I went to the Kaiser Restaurant Group-owned restaurant fairly frequently, because the burgers were good, and I loved the view. However, the place seemed constantly understaffed, and there was no vibe whatsoever.

Well, Grind is gone, as is its downstairs sister restaurant, The Chop House. In Grind’s place is Moxie Palm Springs—and it appears the charming second-story space (above what is now the Broken Yolk Café) is finally getting the treatment it deserves.

Don’t go to Moxie expecting a big, honking meal; instead, you’ll find salads, $4 bar bites (such as a single slider or a jicama shrimp taco) and “sharables” such as papas bravas ($8) and a charcuterie platter ($15). On the drink side, Moxie offers an innovative selection of “crafty cocktails” and “classy cocktails” for $11, and well drinks for $6—and you can knock a buck or two off those prices during happy hour, between 4 and 7 p.m.

Just as exciting as the food and drink, however, is the list of special events: A quick gander at Moxie’s Facebook page shows goings-on such as wine-tastings and live entertainment.

Moxie is open at 4 p.m. daily, and closes no later than midnight. For more information, call 760-318-9900, or visit www.facebook.com/moxiepalmsprings.


The Ace Looks to Taco Maria to Spice Up King's Highway Offerings

Forgive me if you’ve heard this before: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has enlisted the aid of a highly regarded out-of-town restaurant to improve the food offerings at the King’s Highway restaurant.

This time, the help is coming from Taco Maria, the Costa Mesa restaurant that’s earned chef Carlos Salgado many awards; in fact, our friends at the OC Weekly have named it the best Orange County restaurant three years in a row.

It was just two years ago that I was telling you that the Ace had brought in Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant Five Leaves to shore up the King’s Highway menu. Some of those changes were great—the Five Leaves burger was tasty, while the buttermilk fried Jidori earned a coveted Indy Endorsement from the rag you’re reading right now.

Despite these bright points, however, I’ve never really enjoyed eating at King’s Highway all that much—even though I would definitely qualify as an Ace regular. What came out of the kitchen over the last couple of years was inconsistent, while some of the prices were simply outrageous: Chips and salsa will set you back $9 in the Amigo Room. If you want the add “crushed avocado,” your total tab is $15. Really?!

So far, the changes I’ve seen to the menu have been encouraging. I’ll be curious to see what Salgado ultimately does as part of this culinary partnership. (Here’s hoping more-reasonable prices are among the changes!)

Visit www.kingshighwaydiner.com for more information.


In Brief

If you 1) love great food, 2) love great beer, 3) love a gorgeous restaurant atmosphere and 4) are reading this column fairly early, take note: You’ll want to be at the Purple Palm Restaurant, at the Colony Palms Hotel at 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, for the Winter Food and Beer Fest. According to this here news release, Purple Palm executive chef Nick Tall “has created a festive dinner of shared plates, all expertly paired with beer” from Coachella Valley Brewing Co. The evening—which starts with a reception at 6 p.m. and is followed by a sit-down dinner—costs $70. Call 760-969-1818 for reservations or more information. … Breakfast is becoming big in down Palm Springs: We recently heard a rumor that a veeeeery popular Palm Desert-area breakfast/brunch joint may be soon moving into the second-story space that The Falls Steakhouse used to call home, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive. We have not confirmed the rumor, so we won’t share any further details, but keep your eyes open and your fingers crossed. … Frenchy’s Sports Bar and Grill is now open at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in north Palm Springs, in the space the late, lamented Dickie O’Neal’s used to call home. Live entertainment and karaoke are in the mix along with the food and sports. Call 760-424-8765, or visit www.facebook.com/FrenchysPalmSprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News