CVIndependent

Thu11212019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

What: The meatloaf (Mondays only)

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

How much: $17

Contact: 760-656-4082; paulbarps.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In Brief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can people expect from your White Party performance?

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

How did you become a gay dance great?

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

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

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

You’ve never been to Palm Springs?

No, this is my first time.

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

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

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

What are expecting from your first time to Palm Springs?

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

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

What: The famous truffle tots

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

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

Contact: 760-773-2233; heirloomcraftkitchen.com

Why: The crispiness, the seasoning and the sauces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What: The Reuben

Where: Wexler’s Deli at Arrive Palm Springs, 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $17

Contact: 760-507-1640; wexlersdeli.com/wexlers-arrive-palm-springs

Why: It’s a top-notch sandwich.

When it was announced that Wexler’s—a Jewish-style deli with three popular Los Angeles-area locations—would be taking over the main restaurant space at the Arrive Hotel, I was excited. After all, there’s a serious demand here for the type of food served at Wexler’s

“Have you ever tried to get a table at Sherman’s in Palm Springs at noon on a Saturday during season?” I wrote.

Since the fall 2018 opening, however, I have neither seen nor heard much about Wexler’s. Therefore, I decided to go in for lunch one recent day to check things out—and I found a restaurant that’s wasting a ton of potential.

The food at Wexler’s is not the problem—hence its inclusion in this column. While the menu is much more limited than what you’ll find at Sherman’s or Manhattan in the Desert, the Jewish-deli staples are all there, and the Reuben sandwich I had was excellent all around, from the delicious and thick slices of corned beef, to the perfectly toasted rye bread, to the tasty potato salad and pickles on the side.

However … the sandwich costs $17. That’s about what you’ll pay elsewhere in town—but elsewhere, you can get fries, whereas at Wexler’s, if you want fries instead of coleslaw or potato salad, you’ll have to get a side for $5. And strangely enough, the Wexler’s locations in L.A. charge $2 or $3 less for this Rueben.

Also: As I mentioned, I haven’t seen or heard much about Wexler’s since it opened, and it seems to be out of mind for many locals. Advertising and/or community involvement is needed here.

I say this, because despite a gorgeous space at Arrive, and despite great food, Wexler’s was basically dead during my weekday lunch visit. When I drove by Sherman’s on my way home—after the “lunch rush,” about 1:30 p.m.—there was a throng of people waiting outside.

I was dismayed by a recent post someone made in a local Facebook group. The gist of it was that this man was lonely and unable to find a partner, decent Chinese food and enough good friends in the cliquish town of Palm Springs—and he was debating moving somewhere else.

While I am complete agreement with him regarding the Chinese food, the rest of his post … well, it bummed me out and confused me.

First, my heart goes out to him; loneliness is one of the worst feelings a human can experience. Second … I’ve had the exact opposite experience in the Coachella Valley: This is one of the most wonderful, welcoming and exciting places in which I’ve lived.

Because I was partnered when I moved here, I can’t speak to the dating portion of his experience—but I have not found the Coachella Valley to be cliquish at all. A clique is defined as “a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.” While there are, in fact, many small groups of people with shared or other features in common who spend time together here, I’ve been welcomed with open arms into numerous groups I’ve endeavored to join. I’ve forged lasting friendships through my softball league. I’ve made friends and contacts through the business groups I’ve joined. I’ve made countless buddies via my work, and the nonprofits I support, and simply by being an active member of this community.

I think the Independent adequately represents the vibe of the Coachella Valley—and I can’t imagine any reasonable person would fail to be charmed and welcomed by the community reflected within these pages, online and in print. Looking at recent coverage: From Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” columns on a young writer who overcame a debilitating illness and a young radio host who says movies saved his life, to Robert Victor’s implorations in his astronomy column to join him and the other members of the Astronomical Society of the Desert, to Stephen Berger’s exploration of the community effort that led to Desert X, to Brian Blueskye’s ongoing coverage of the amazing talent within our local music community, to our food and drink writers’ continuous tough but fair coverage of our slowly growing culinary scene … considering all of this coverage, how could the Coachella Valley possibly be the closed-minded, unwelcoming place this person sees?

I hope this man finds happiness and companionship in his next place of residence—the kind of happiness and companionship the Coachella Valley has bestowed upon me.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions, criticisms, compliments or comments. Also, be sure to pick up the March 2019 print edition, hitting the streets this week.

The Palm Desert Food and Wine Fest Returns

It’s March in the Coachella Valley—and that means it is time for the ritziest, fanciest food fest the desert has to offer: The Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival will take place Friday through Sunday, March 22-24.

Actually, the classes, tastings and various events start several days before that, but the biggest event of them all is the Grand Tasting, which takes place at the Gardens on El Paseo, 73545 El Paseo, from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday the 23rd. Tickets start at $100 and include tastes of food from 40 restaurants, as well as all sorts of wine and spirits samples. If you want to get in early for the VIP portion, or attend an exclusive chef demo even earlier than that, it’ll cost you a little bit more.

On Sunday, there’s another grand tasting, also from noon to 3 p.m.—this one called “North to South: Food of the Americas.” It promises “a menu of inspired dishes, influenced by the different spices and foods native to the Americas and infused with each participating chef’s signature style.” This tasting also starts at $100 and includes spirits, wine, craft beer and cocktails.

Beyond the tastings, there are a dozen or so other events featuring local talent, as well as celebrity chefs you’ve seen on TV. Best of all: The whole thing benefits FIND Food Bank and the James Beard Foundation. In other words, you can splurge and engage in a bit of high-brow gluttony with a completely clear conscience!

For tickets and more information, visit www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com.


In Brief

Coming soon to downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza: French Miso Café, “A romantic and modern French café with wonderful Japanese influences,” according to the café’s Facebook page. It could open any day now, if it hasn’t already; look for French Miso Café on Facebook, and watch for updates. … Mark your calendars: On Saturday, April 6, La Quinta Brewing Co.’s Palm Desert location, at 77917 Wildcat Drive, will host the CountryFest 2019 parking-lot party. It’s a fundraiser for the Desert Cancer Foundation, and $15 gets you a souvenir party cup along with a day of beer, barbecue and country music from Rick Shelley and headliners Leaving Austin. The parking lot opens at 2 p.m., with Leaving Austin taking the stage at 6:30 p.m.; get tickets at the Palm Desert taproom or at lqbccountryfest2019.bpt.me. … Something very cool is coming to the city of Coachella: The Coachella Food Truck Park will set up shop at 1609 Fourth St., and is celebrating its grand opening on Saturday, March 16. The night before, Coachella Magazine will be hosting its Poets and Provocateurs party there; it’s an open-mic event featuring DJ Big Cali. Get more info and watch for updates at www.facebook.com/CVFoodTrucks. … Morongo Casino Resort, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon, will again be the spot for monthly live broadcasts of Chris Carter’s Breakfast With the Beatles radio show. The broadcasts take place along with a buffet on Sundays at the Cielo Steakhouse, located on the 27th floor of the resort. According to the news release, KLOS 95.5’s Breakfast With the Beatles is “a living encyclopedia of all things Beatles. Carter’s shows feature stories about the band, rare interview tracks with the boys, as well as loads of hit music, live performance recordings and deep tracks from the Beatles musical library.” Tickets for the 21-and-older broadcast and brunch are $45; get tickets and more info, including a schedule, at www.morongocasinoresort.com. … New to Palm Desert: Coachella Pho, serving Vietnamese food at 72286 Highway 111. More details at www.coachellapho.com. … Also new to Palm Desert: Solano’s Bar and Grill, at 37029 Cook St. It’s the sister restaurant to Solano’s Bistro in La Quinta; details at solanosbarandgrill.com. … Loco Charlie’s Mexican Grill, which has earned a lot of fans in Palm Springs at 1751 N. Sunrise Way, just opened a second location in Indio, at 42250 Jackson St. Get the scoop at www.facebook.com/lococharlies.

What: The French onion soup

Where: Bongo Johnny’s Patio Bar and Grill, 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 200, Palm Springs

How much: $3.95 for a cup; $6.95 for a bowl

Contact: 760-318-3960; www.bongojohnnys.com

Why: It’s delicious, pure and simple.

Before I begin extolling the deliciousness of the French onion soup at Bongo Johnny’s, I should explain that this restaurant holds a special place in my heart.

You see, Bongo Johnny’s supports many of the same causes I do—the Desert AIDS Project, for example, via Dining Out for Life. It’s also an active member of the Desert Business Association (of which I am on the board) and even one of the primary sponsors of my softball team. (Go Palm Springs Heat!) Therefore, I was crushed when an early-morning kitchen fire on March 7 of last year shuttered the restaurant—and, due to a dispute with the landlord over the rebuild, forced it to move several blocks northwest, to the space most recently occupied by Café Europa/jusTapas.

In the nearly 10 months that Bongo Johnny’s was closed, I missed it … and I especially missed one menu item—the French onion soup.

Bongo Johnny’s isn’t known for fancy fare—it features the burgers, sandwiches and breakfast items one would expect from something called a “patio bar and grill”—but its kitchen also produces some items that go well beyond standard bar fare. For example, the macaroni-and-cheese options are among the town’s best … and then there’s the French onion soup. Served with melted cheese and a crostini, as it should, this soup is simply delicious. It’s rich, packed with fresh onions and perfectly seasoned.

On my first visit to the reopened Bongo Johnny’s—for a softball team meeting, actually—the first thing I ordered was the French onion soup. When it was brought to the table and placed in front of me, I couldn’t help but smile … because one of my favorites was back.