CVIndependent

Thu04272017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Jimmy Boegle

One of the biggest issues of the Palm Springs city election back in 2015 was the ever-increasing amount of homelessness in downtown Palm Springs.

While I think the Palm Springs City Council has done an admirable job, more or less, since that November 2015 election, the City Council has done a flat-out awful job of addressing homelessness.

Make sure you read Brian Blueskye’s excellent piece on the state of the homelessness problem in the Coachella Valley. As Brian notes, the problem is getting worse—especially on the west side of the valley—and it’s going to become a full-blown crisis when Roy’s Resource Center, the only west side shelter for the homeless, closes its doors at the end of June.

That means 90 people are going to lose their only shelter—in the midst of the summer heat.

In other news: I also recommend you read Baynard Woods’ recent “Democracy in Crisis” dispatch. It’s a wonderful piece of writing, and one point that Baynard makes has haunted me ever since I first read it: Many critics of President Trump heaped effusive praise on him—for the first time—after he ordered an April 7 missile strike in Syria, following the use of chemical weapons in the town of Khan Shaykhun three days prior. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria even went so far as to say that the missile strike marked the moment when “Trump became president of the United States.”

Putting aside the question of whether or not the missile strikes were the right thing to do: What does it say about our country when a violent act of war, justified or not, is the ONE thing that made Donald Trump suddenly become “presidential”?

I’ve been pondering that question now for almost three weeks. I am not at all happy about any of the answers I’ve been able to come up with.

Anyway … for those of you dismayed by the troubling nature of the aforementioned stories, never fear: As always, the Independent has plenty of happy, positive arts, food and music coverage that’ll make you feel a bit better about things.

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and be sure to pick up the May 2017 print edition, being distributed valley-wide this week

Mark Your Calendars: Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week Happens June 2-11

It’s the favorite time of year for many Coachella Valley foodies: Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is almost here! This year, it will take place from Friday, June 2, through Sunday, June 11.

Why is the week so fantastic? Well, when else can one have a full, three-course dinner at Wally’s Desert Turtle for just $39?

For the uninitiated: During these 10 days, restaurants valley-wide offer special, discounted prix-fixe menus. In the past, the event has been dinner-focused—but this year, restaurants can offer special lunch menus, too. Three-course dinner prices are $29, $39 or $49, while two-course lunch prices are $15, $20 or $25. Participating restaurants should offer their regular menus during these 10 days, but emphasize the special Restaurant Week offerings.

As of our press deadline, the new Restaurant Week website had an ever-growing list of participating restaurants, along with the prices of their menus—but only a few of the actual menus had been posted. However, that handful of posted menus looked inviting. For example, Vicky’s of Santa Fe, in Indian Wells, is offering entrées including a 10-ounce flat iron steak, boneless beef short ribs or New Zealand lamb chops, among other offerings, plus an appetizer and dessert, for just $29. That’s one hell of a deal.

Check out visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/restaurantweek for more information.


Pho 533 Is Now 533 Viet-Fusion

Chad Gardner, the man behind the successful Dash and a Handful catering business, purchased Pho 533—then a longtime family-owned pho joint in Palm Springs’ Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center—back in 2015.

Ever since, Gardner has been guiding the restaurant through a series of changes. First, he revamped the menu. Next, he expanded the restaurant into an adjoining space, and completely revamped the décor—including the addition of a spring roll bar. Now he’s making even more changes to the menu—and to the name as well.

In fact, the only significant thing remaining from the old Pho 533 are those numerals: The restaurant is now called 533 Viet-Fusion.

“I had a vision of what it would be even before I first heard Pho 533 was for sale,” said Gardner in a press-release quote. “I have always wanted to blend classics with contemporary Vietnamese.”

New menu items include a Maine lobster-claw spring roll; ahi Viet-nachos (wonton chips and topped with avocado, spicy ahi tuna, cilantro, Fresno chili and various sauces); tamari-glazed Atlantic salmon; red curry “ramen”; and chile-braised osso bucco.

By the way, there’s a good reason Gardner is keeping “533” as part of the name: That was the number on the side of the USS Cheboygan County, an old Navy tanker that transported nearly 300 Vietnamese refugees who were fleeing the fall of Saigon in 1975. One of those passengers was 10-year-old Anh Ho Rock—the founder of the original Pho 533.

533 Viet-Fusion is located at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 625. For more information, call 760-778-6595, or visit 533VietFusion.com.


In Brief

Coming soon to the under-construction downtown Palm Springs redevelopment project: a Tommy Bahama restaurant. … Also coming soon to downtown Palm Springs: Urban Crates, an indoor farmers’ market sort of thing at 358 S. Indian Canyon Drive, just a door or two down from Rooster and the Pig. There’s a sign up in one of the windows that says vendor stations are available by calling 760-808-3756. We’ll watch and see what develops. … Oops! We missed the opening of the Wine Emporium in Old Town La Quinta last September. Well, better late than never! The restaurant and live-music venue features a big retail wine room, and seems to have lots of cool stuff going on. Stop by 78100 Main St.; call 760-565-5512; or track down the place on Facebook for more information. … Add UberEATS to the growing list of services offering restaurant deliveries in the Coachella Valley. While I am morally opposed to the company’s management, I tested out the delivery service recently; I got some breakfast delivered from one of my favorites, the Broken Yolk Café. Pros: The delivery was fast, and the food came hot and fresh; it only cost 99 cents for the delivery itself. Cons: There’s no way to tip the driver via the app. Yeah, the app emphasizes that driver tips are neither necessary nor expected, but I still felt like a major ass when I realized I had only $1 in cash on me to give for a tip. Lesson learned.

What: The shredded pork with garlic sauce

Where: Cie Sichuan Cuisine, 45682 Towne St., Indio

How much: $8.50 as a lunch special; $9.50 as an entrée

Contact: 760-342-9888; ciesichuancuisine.com

Why: It was worth the wait.

I’ve been hearing raves about Cie Sichuan Cuisine for months now. Some friends have even gone so far as to say that Cie serves some of the best—if not the best—Chinese cuisine in the Coachella Valley. Seeing as I love good Chinese food, and am generally unimpressed with the Chinese restaurants ’round these parts, I looked forward to dining at Cie Sichuan.

One problem: Cie Sichuan is a 28-mile drive from both my home and my office. While I do get to the East Valley often, my schedule is usually slammed, so I don’t often have time to go explore new restaurants and such. Ugh.

However, on one recent weekday, I turned lemons into lemonade: A client was a no-show for a meeting in Indio. I suddenly had an open hour around lunch time—so off to Cie Sichuan I went.

I would have loved to try Cie for the first time with several other people, so we could have sampled a variety of dishes. However, it was just me. Hmm … should I try something rather unique-sounding like the cold dressing beef slice and lung ($9.50)? Or the ribs-with-radish soup ($7.95)? The divine-sounding stir-fried pork belly ($10.50)?

I couldn’t decide, so I asked the server for advice; he recommended the shredded pork with garlic sauce lunch special. I took his advice—and was glad I did.

After a lovely cup of egg drop soup, the entrée arrived. The pork was not shredded like you’d find in a burrito at a Mexican joint; instead, it was sliced into thin strips and coated with a splendid garlic sauce that included sprouts, carrots, green onions and peppers. While my breath after lunch was probably dreadful, my taste buds were enthralled.

I’m looking forward to trying more of Cie Sichuan’s cuisine … and with the rise of all the new delivery services here locally (Yelp’s Eat24, UberEATS, etc.), it looks like I may be able to get Cie’s food delivered to my home soon, if not already. Awesome.

Even though Mitch Gershenfeld has been booking shows at the McCallum Theatre for 18 years now, he admits he gets nervous whenever subscriptions for a new season go on sale—as they did on Tuesday, April 4, for the theater’s 30th anniversary 2017-2018 season.

“I get this pain in the pit of my stomach, thinking: What if nobody buys tickets?” he told me on Tuesday as we talked in his office. Of course, he had nothing to worry about—there were dozens of people at the box office snapping up season subscriptions.

Yet another reason Gershenfeld had no reason to worry: Every year, the McCallum is one of the busiest theaters in the world. Despite being dark for almost half of the year, and having a modest 1,100-seat capacity, industry publication Pollstar ranked the McCallum as the No. 58 theater in the world in terms of 2016 ticket sales.

Finally, there is one more reason Gershenfeld has no reason to worry: Seeing as he’s been booking shows at the McCallum now for 60 percent of the time its doors have been open, Gershenfeld knows what shows work, and what shows don’t work at the Palm Desert theater. As a result, about 86 percent of the seats available during 2016-2017 season were sold, he said.

As for the upcoming season, Gershenfeld said he’s happy with how it turned out, adding that he thinks the Broadway-show lineup is one of the theater’s strongest ever.

“Three shows we’re bringing in have been on Broadway within the last 12 months,” he said: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Nov. 24-28), Motown the Musical (Jan. 16-21, 2018) and Kinky Boots (Feb. 2-4).

Gershenfeld expressed excitement about another Broadway show, Circus 1903 (March 27-April 1). You may have seen a performance from the show recently on The Late Show With Steven Colbert. (Scroll down to see a clip.) The show is exactly what the title says: It’s a circus-style show from 1903—except the elephants are products of puppetry, not real animals … although they sure do look realistic.

Other Broadway shows include the legendary A Chorus Line (Jan. 26-28), Dirty Dancing (Feb. 16-18), MAESTRO: The Art of Leonard Bernstein (March 20-21, in conjunction with the Leonard Bernstein centennial) and a concert performance of the music from West Side Story (March 9-11).

“I think it’s the best musical ever written,” Gershenfeld said about West Side Story, adding that a 40-piece orchestra, assembled by conductor Richard Kauffman, will join Broadway-level cast members as assembled by the McCallum’s own Chad Hilligus, himself a former member of the Ten Tenors.

The 30th anniversary season kicks off with a bang on Oct. 7, when acting and comedy legend Bill Murray will take the stage in a show called New Worlds … with a bunch of musicians?

“Bill Murray is one of those guys you just want to meet, and hope he’s cool,” Gershenfeld said.

Yeah, of course. But … with a bunch of musicians?

“The show is the result of a friendship with (cellist) Jan Vogler,” Gershenfeld explained. “They got together to do the show as a one-off in Germany … as a corporate thing.”

Turns out New Worlds features Murray reading from the works of Hemingway, Capote, Twain and other American literary icons, while Vogler, violinist Mira Wang and pianist Vanessa Perez perform classical music. The goal is to showcase American values in literature and music. Oh, and Murray is going to dance a tango, too.

Speaking of American values: In these … uh, deeply interesting political times, the Capitol Steps—a long-touring humor group consisting of former and current congressional staffers—will perform an afternoon show at the McCallum on Sunday, Jan. 14.

“I thought that if there were ever a time to have fun with politics, on both sides of the aisle, now is the time to do it,” Gershenfeld said.

About a month or so later, the McCallum will become the week-long home of classical/jazz/everything-else-you-can-imagine band Pink Martini, for eight shows from Feb. 9-15. The group, featuring singers China Forbes and Storm Large, was here for five shows last year—all-sellouts. What makes this band such a Palm Desert favorite?

“They’re very unpredictable and very diverse in what they do,” Gershenfeld said. “They do songs in eight different languages. … (Bandleader) Thomas Lauderdale is brilliant at finding these great songs from all over the world.”

All of the series for which the McCallum is known—including Fitz’s Jazz Café at the McCallum, curated by desert radio icon Jim Fitzgerald, and Keyboard Conversations With Jeffrey Siegel—are back, as are Mitch’s Picks, a series of shows by performers who may not be well-known, but who have earned the endorsement of the McCallum president and CEO. Mitch’s Picks are now in their fourth year, and Gershenfeld said the series has allowed him to book great acts that he may have hesitated to book before.

“We’re saying, ‘You know, if you trust me to make good decisions, try these,’” he said. “Fortunately, it’s worked.”

This year’s Mitch’s Picks include All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, a play/concert about a moment when Allied and German soldiers in World War I stopped fighting to celebrate the holiday together (Dec. 3).

“It’s an amazing story, but it took place in such a terrible time,” Gershenfeld said. “I wasn’t going to book it, but I kept coming back to it.”

Australian diva Meow Meow will bring her combination of cabaret music and physical comedy to the McCallum on Jan. 31. On March 2, Davina and The Vagabonds will share the stage with swing-band greats the Squirrel Nut Zippers. On March 6, the fourth Mitch’s Picks show is Gobsmacked!, an all-a capella show featuring seven singers and beat boxers. Finally, on March 12, MozART Group, a string quartet that combines classical music and comedy, will make the trip to the McCallum from Poland.

While season-subscription sales have been brisk since Tuesday morning, putting Gershenfeld’s mind at ease, he expressed frustration about a growing number of ticket brokers and re-sellers that are gobbling up tickets and then re-selling them with high mark-ups—that is, if the tickets are real at all. Some of these re-sellers use deceptive names and URLs to make it appear that the tickets are being sold directly by the McCallum—so make sure you’re only getting tickets from mccallumtheatre.com.

Gershenfeld said he’s honored that so many people keep coming back to the McCallum year after year.

“Our subscriptions and series are one reason that people have been keeping the same seats for 30 years,” he said.

For more information, or to purchase season subscriptions, visit mccallumtheatre.com.

A few weeks back, a fantastic discussion ignited in one of the alternative-newsmedia e-mail groups to which I belong. The topic was readership campaigns—advertising campaigns by newspapers to promote themselves to their own readers.

Some of the slogans being used in these campaigns are brilliant—especially the ones created by our friends at The Austin Chronicle in Texas.

You need us. We need you. Support free press. Read us, follow us, advertise with us.

No news is bad news. We need each other.

Truth is truth. Whether you like them or not, facts aren’t fake. We report the news at no cost to you, and no matter the cost to us.

We here at the Independent will be, uh, “borrowing” some of these ideas (with The Austin Chronicle’s blessing, of course).

These truly are unprecedented times in which we’re living. The attacks on the press by the Trump administration are simply shocking. Beyond the insults and slights, Trump and other members of his administration are picking and choosing which reporters get basic access—of course, less-critical media sources get dibs—that is, if any reporters get access.

(The same thing happens on the local level. We recently reached out to Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon to talk about the downtown redevelopment project and its current entanglements; we got a response from the city PR person saying Moon and other city officials were not giving any interviews regarding the criminal proceedings involving the downtown redevelopment project. Three weeks later, Moon and others sat down with KMIR for a special regarding these very topics. Apparently, Moon and the city PR folks feared what types of questions we’d ask. Read more here.)

On the positive side, these unprecedented times have forced many media sources to drop the outdated, dishonest myth of “objectivity,” and instead start calling, as the saying goes, a spade a spade. It’s been downright refreshing to see CNN, The New York Times and other mainstream media sources start calling lies, well, lies. Sometimes, there is no “other side” to a story. Truth is truth. Whether you like them or not, facts aren’t fake.

As another of those Austin Chronicle ads says … we really do need you. Without our readers, the Independent is just paper or pixels. I hope you feel like you need us, too. Please, tell your friends about us. Give us feedback. Support our advertisers—and tell them you saw their ad in the Independent. And if you’re feeling particularly generous, please go to CVIndependent.com/Supporters and sign up for our Supporters of the Independent program.

The April 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent—our special Music Issue—is hitting streets valley-wide this week. As always, thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to contact me.

Dining Out for Life Benefits the Desert AIDS Project on Thursday, April 27

Dining Out for Life day is one of my favorite days of the year. Why, you ask? Well, when else can you eat at one or two (or, uh, like seven?) of many, many Coachella Valley restaurants—and say you’re doing so not due to gluttony, but instead to benefit a great cause?

The great cause in this case is the Desert AIDS Project, and this year’s DOFL date is Thursday, April 27. On that day, participating bars and restaurants will donate anywhere from 33 percent to 100 percent (!) of the day’s sales to DAP.

Earning special mention are the four (as of our press deadline) restaurants giving their entire days’ sales to DAP: The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, Pho 533, Ristretto and Townie Bagels.

You must participate in this. I mean, you dine out anyway, right? We’ve said it before, and we’ll say again: It’s literally the least you can do.

For more information, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings—and on that special day, follow the Independent’s Facebook page as we chronicle our various visits to Dining Out for Life restaurants.


New: Truss and Twine, Sister Bar/Restaurant of Workshop Kitchen + Bar

When Michael Beckman’s Workshop Kitchen + Bar restaurant opened in the historic El Paseo building at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, in 2012, it earned a lot of much-deserved buzz thanks to its innovative menu, its stark industrial décor and its fantastic craft-cocktail offerings.

Now Beckman has a second buzz-worthy restaurant in that building. Truss and Twine opened March 13, offering “classic cocktails broken down by era, alongside a desert-inspired menu using ingredients from the Coachella Valley,” according to a news release.

Wait … cocktails broken down by era? Very cool! According to that news release, bar managers Dave Castillo and Michelle Bearden broke down their menu into five eras of cocktail culture: the “Golden Age,” “Prohibition,” “Tiki,” “Dark Ages” and “Originals” (featuring new in-house creations).

As for the food, expect upscale bar/snack offerings, including jamon iberico, the amazing ham that caused me to put on several pounds the last time I was in Spain.

We had not checked out Truss and Twine in person as of our press deadline—but trust me, we will soon.

Truss and Twine is open at 4 p.m. daily, and stays open late. Details at trussandtwine.com.


In Brief

Early readers of this column, here’s an event you won’t want to miss: The lovely Purple Palm Restaurant and Bar, at the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is hosting the Pink Party. It takes place from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, March 29. The event, featuring chef Nick Tall’s cuisine and a variety of rosé wines, is a benefit for the Annette Bloch Cancer Care Center at the Desert AIDS Project. Admission is $50; call 760-969-1818 for reservations. … Pete’s Hideaway, at 665. S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is the home of the new Club Rouge. The “secret underground nightclub and showroom” is a joint product of PS Underground, the group that puts on various themed dinners at top-secret locations around the valley. Club Rouge is currently hosting the Lost Cherry Cabaret every Saturday at 10:30 p.m.; $47 will get you “gourmet appetizers and sinful desserts” as well as the show, featuring performers Francesca Amari, Robbie Wayne and Siobhan Velarde. A full bar is available, of course. Get tickets and info at www.rougepalmsprings.com. … Coming soon to Rancho Mirage: Haus of Poke, a restaurant serving the raw-fish salad in various forms. It’ll be at 42500 Bob Hope Drive, Suite B; info at www.hausofpoke.com. … The old Café Europa space at The Corridor, at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will soon be the Mod Café. A menu at ToastTab.com shows it’ll offer all three square meals, with salads, stuffed pitas, burgers, melts and bowls as the main lunch and dinner fare. Visit www.toasttab.com/mod-cafe for more. … The Noodle Bar, our favorite place to eat at the Spa Resort Casino, 401 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, has closed. … Coming soon: Vinny’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard, to 190 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Attendees of the LGBT Center of the Desert’s recent Red Dress Dress Red Party got to sample some of Vinny’s frozen fare; expect an opening around May 1. Details at www.vinnysitalianice.com. … The L Fund, a local nonprofit that helps out lesbians in crisis, is having its Gumbo Gala fundraiser at noon, Sunday, April 2, at the Palm Springs Pavilion, 401 S. Pavilion Way, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $75; get details at www.facebook.com/Palmspringslfund. … Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza has opened its doors in the West Elm building in downtown Palm Springs, at 201 N. Palm Canyon Drive. It’s the second valley location of the highly regarded pizza franchise. Details at www.blazepizza.com/locations/palm-springs. … Brunch has returned to The Saguaro, at 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Outside of El Jefe, the hotel’s culinary offerings have been in flux since the departure of Tinto. People can now enjoy weekend brunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends on the courtyard patio; get menus and more info at thesaguaro.com/palm-springs.

What: The Philadelphia-style cheesesteak

Where: Apong’s Philly Steak, 68444 Perez Road, Cathedral City

How much: $8.49

Contact: 760-770-0229; www.apongsphillysteak.com

Why: It’s delicious simplicity.

I walked up to the counter at Apong’s Philly Steak, and I was greeted by a smiling employee. I told him I wanted a cheese steak, and asked what specifically he recommended.

Hoagie-style, perhaps, with lettuce, tomato and “special sauce”? With bacon, maybe, or jalapenos, or multiple kinds of cheese?

“Just Philadelphia style,” he said—meaning just meat, cheese and grilled onions on the bread. Nothing more, nothing less.

He made the right call: My cheese steak was delicious.

Tucked into one of those industrial-ish Perez Road centers—this particular center also features an all-American combination of a strip club, a bakery and a marijuana dispensary—Apong’s is not a place you’ll go for the atmosphere (though it’s perfectly pleasant inside). You’ll go there for the food, which includes an unusual mix of sandwiches, salads, Mexican specials and Krispy Krunchy-brand Cajun fried chicken. Apong’s also offers a lot of Filipino fare, including breakfasts, noodle dishes, soups, meat entrées and desserts; I’ll order from the Filipino portion of the menu the next time I’m there. (I am dying to find out more about “sweet Filipino style” spaghetti.)

But for this visit, since “Philly Steak” is part of the restaurant’s name, that’s what I ordered—and I loved every bite. The combination of piping-hot beef, grilled onions and melted provolone (American and whiz are also available; the aforementioned man behind the counter selected the cheese for me) on the bun were all this sandwich needed. It was warm, meaty, gooey goodness. Any other additions would have been needless at best, or detracting at worst.

Don’t let the odd, off-the-beaten-path location of Apong’s Philly Steak deter you; it’s worth your time and effort to check out this family-owned joint … especially if you like a simple, damn tasty cheese steak. 

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. 

We put the finishing touches on the March print issue on Thursday, Feb. 16. (Yeah, it was a little earlier than normal, because February is a short month, and we have a narrow window with our printer.)

That particular day was, to say the least, a completely bonkers news day. On a local level, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin announced he was filing corruption charges against former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney. According to Hestrin, Pougnet took in $375,000 in bribes. All of a sudden, the status of Palm Springs’ big downtown redevelopment project is very much up in the air.

Meanwhile, on the national level, the president held a press conference during which he sounded completely unhinged—a term I do not use lightly.

He claimed he inherited a mess from the previous administration. He said his administration was a “fine-tuned machine.” He viciously attacked the press for reporting on various leaks from his administration. He called reports that his campaign advisers were in contact with Russia “fake news.”

The New York Times, which is generally rather restrained, put it this way: “The session was marked by an extraordinarily raw and angry defense the likes of which has never been seen in a modern White House. At times abrupt, often rambling, characteristically boastful yet seemingly pained at the portrayals of him, Mr. Trump seemed intent on reproducing the energy and excitement of his campaign after a month of grinding governance. He returned repeatedly to his contest with Hillary Clinton and at one point plaintively pleaded for understanding.”

Holy shit.

This brings us to this March 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, which is hitting streets now. While the news on the Palm Springs corruption charges broke too close to deadline for us to cover them in any meaningful way—watch for that later—we did include two features in our expanded news section about the mess that is the 45th president’s administration, which you can read online here and here.

Meanwhile, for the second straight month, we’re featuring art—in a big way—on our cover. Why would we do this two months in a row? Well, this month’s subjects—the La Quinta Arts Festival, and the brand-new Desert X—are fantastic. Just for starters, did you know the La Quinta Arts Foundation has given out $1.23 million in scholarships to local young artists over the years? Wow.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent, and be sure to pick up March 2017 print edition at one of 380-plus valley locations.

New: Chop House at Jackalope Ranch

I must confess: Before I walked into the new Chop House for a media preview dinner on Jan. 31, I thought the move by Lee Morcus and his Kaiser Restaurant Group to re-open the steakhouse inside of Jackalope Ranch was a gimmick.

I am a big fan of the Chop House. If memory serves, the first meal I ever ate in the Coachella Valley was at the old Palm Desert Chop House (which is now a Kaiser Grille), and I had many special meals at the downtown Palm Springs Chop House before it closed last year. I was sad to see the Chop House go, and I feared Morcus and co. were simply taking a room inside the sprawling, 660-seat Jackalope Ranch; calling it “Chop House”; throwing some old Chop House items on the menu; and calling it a day.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not only did Morcus revamp and bring back the full Chop House menu; he completely renovated one of the spaces inside the Jackalope Ranch complex, and created a new, dedicated kitchen specifically for the Chop House. He’s treating the restaurants as separate entities: A special occasion here or there aside, diners can only get the Chop House menu in the Chop House area, and can only get the Jackalope Ranch menu in the other areas.

I liked what I saw and tasted. The ahi tuna tartare ($16) was amazingly fresh, and the heirloom tomato and buratta salad ($12) was excellent. Unfortunately, I had to leave early due to other commitments, so I didn’t get to sample any of the main courses, like the 36-ounce Tomahawk rib chop for two ($98, with two sides).

Morcus is clearly taking the new Chop House seriously. He spoke at great length about all of the work he and his team have put into the new space, and talked passionately about the quality of meat he serves—aged at least 28 days, and never pre-sliced.

He also hinted at future plans for the Jackalope Ranch complex: He mentioned the possibility of a separate microbrewery/restaurant concept taking over a third kitchen in the building, and noted that Indio could perhaps use a hotel on some of the adjacent vacant land.

The Chop House at Jackalope Ranch is located at 80400 Highway 111, in Indio. For more information, call 760-342-1999, or visit www.thejackaloperanch.com/chop-house.


In Brief

Do you have your tickets yet for the Palm Desert Food and Wine festival? If not, now is the time: The foodie-dream weekend takes place Friday, March 24, through Sunday, March 26. Chefs’ demonstrations, wine dinners and other special events are on the schedule, along with the Grand Tasting main event. Grand Tasting tickets start at $100. Get them and more info at www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com. … If you have not yet tried the new menu at the Village Pub, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, do so. PR goddess Chris Martelo invited me to lunch there one recent weekday, and I was impressed by chef George Gonzalez’s food. The menu offers entrées from locales world-round, and my mouth now waters whenever I think of the fantastic gorgonzola, chicken and pear salad. Mere bar food, this ain’t. Visit palmspringsvillagepub.com for more info. … The downtown Palm Springs Pho Vu is no more. The restaurant, at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has changed ownership and is now called Fuzion Five Vietnamese and Lao Cuisine. We’ll share more details after we check the place out; in the meantime, visit www.facebook.com/fuzionfive. … Congratulations to La Quinta Brewing Co., which nabbed two medals in the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Ore.: a gold for the Heatwave Amber Ale, and a silver for the Tan Line Brown Ale. … Congratulations are also in order for two beloved local restaurants which are among Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2017: Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar came in at No. 78, while Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli is No. 5. Amazing! … Happy Sushi Ro Ba Ta, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has seen a change in focus in recent years—and now, it has a different name, too. Kaikou highlights ramen and poke in addition to sushi offerings; more info at www.facebook.com/KaikouRamenPokeSushi. ... Speaking of sushi: You can now get more of it in Desert Hot Springs, thanks to the debut of Best Sushi and Grill. It’s located at 13525 Palm Drive, No. 3. Visit www.bestsushigrill.com for a menu and more info. … At long last, the relocated Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club is open, at 69830 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. More info at bernies.club. … After closing rather suddenly back in September due to the death of the owner, Morongo Valley’s Willie Boys appears to be on the path toward reopening: The restaurant’s Facebook page says the restaurant is hiring for all positions. More info at www.facebook.com/willieboyssaloon.

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