CVIndependent

Thu12122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When you’re at Splash House, you have a choice: Should you focus your attention on the world-class DJs and EDM artists, or should you watch what’s going on in the pools?

The answer, if possible, is to do both. All three participating venues this past weekend—the Hilton Palm Springs, the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, and the Saguaro—featured both crowds and music that were quite entertaining.

As for the crowds: Splash House attendees go all out when it comes to wild choices regarding pool floaties. I saw them in the shape of everything from slices of pizza, to an ice cream sandwich, to a pig—an even an alpaca. The body paint, swimsuits and T-shirts worn by attendees are also often quite creative, and the dancing ranges from silly to downright mesmerizing.

When the DJs demanded attention, the crowd was there to give it to them—if attendees were into it, of course. There were moments at all three venues when the crowd was not feeling what was being played, meaning the DJs were ignored—or attendees hopped on a shuttle to go to another venue.

On Saturday at noon at the Hacienda, Aaron C, was the first of the local DJs to kick things off. Meanwhile, Lee K’s 1 p.m. set at the Saguaro was … repetitive. She essentially looped the same beat for an hour, and unsurprisingly, many attendees didn’t appear to be interested.

Following Lee K. was former Hacienda resident DJ Colour Vision. It wasn’t long before people were coming out of the Saguaro pool and making their way to the dancing area. His tropical house tracks got people moving—and kept them dancing until the end.

At the Hilton in the late afternoon, Anna Lunoe turned in a lively set for a large crowd that had gathered for her performance. She didn’t stick to a specific sound, instead playing a variety with heavy bass sounds and interesting rhythms. Close to the end of her set, she declared into a microphone: “I ALWAYS DELIVER!” This earned her a loud ovation.

18-year-old Justin Jay closed out the day at the Hacienda, from 5 to 6 p.m. He is reportedly a piano prodigy who found a love for DJing, and his set consisted of retro feel-good music that went all the way back to the soul era. He wasn’t afraid to include some amusing tracks such as the 69 Boyz’ “Tootsee Roll,” which was a big deal if you grew up in the ‘90s. Another amusing pick: Quad City DJs’ “Space Jam,” from a 1996 movie with the same title featuring Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes.

During Viceroy’s 6 p.m. set at the Saguaro, it highly evident that the Saguaro was definitely the place to be: The entire pool was full of people to see this big name in the DJ world.

Over at the Hilton, house music DJ and Grammy Award-winning producer Gigamesh was the second-to-last performer for the night. His set consisted of many of his own remixed tracks, such as Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” and Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” Gigamesh put on a delightful set, and people were grooving all over the place. At the end of his set, he thanked the crowd and closed with his remix of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place” as the legendary RAC began transitioning over to his set.

Speaking of RAC (Remix Artist Collective): It was just André Allen Anjos. The collective, which used to include four additional members, has been known for creating remixes that go beyond the typical remix norm. Their takes on various songs made the collective quite popular. Anjos’ set was a lot of fun and was a great way to close out the first day of Splash House.

On Sunday at noon at the Hacienda, Independent resident DJ Alex Harrington started things off, and was followed by Luca Lush, who appeared to have technical problems: The Pioneer CDJs didn’t seem to be working correctly and threw off the beat of the tracks he was playing; the sound began to skip and repeat itself.

Throughout the day at the Hilton, it was quieter than it had been on Saturday. During Vanilla Ace’s late-afternoon set, not many people were in the pool or dancing in front of the stage. Turns out many of the attendees were over at Saguaro, taking in sets by Hippie Sabotage and an encore performance by Justin Jay—or they were at Hacienda getting ready for a closing set by Bakermat.

During Bakermat’s set, his sexy version of house music had a good-sized crowd dancing; he even brought out a saxophonist who played with one of his tracks.

Over at the Saguaro, things were quite chaotic as Thomas Jack transitioned over from a set by SNBRN. While I thought the Saguaro’s pull area was full on Saturday, it was even more crowded on Sunday, with wet bodies fresh out of the pool standing shoulder to shoulder—and so many people in the pool that you could barely see the color of the water, which was just plain disgusting at that point.

During some of the late afternoon/evening acts at the Hilton, trap music and DJs that played with heavier bass and drum-style sounds ruled the day. Wave Racer and Cashmere Cat were both into the heavy bass sound, and when Cashmere Cat closed out the Hilton, the first track he played sounded like an engine going faster and then slowing down.

The atmosphere at Splash House is quite fun; it feels like you’re at one of those wild house parties from a comedy film. Splash House offers a more relaxed and “chill” atmosphere as an electronic music festival—and the charm of Palm Springs makes it work.

Published in Reviews

New: Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant has opened at 330 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in the downtown Palm Springs space occupied until recently by Kimy Sushi.

While we have not yet had a chance to check out Pho Lan, the restaurant’s Facebook page offers some details about the place: The restaurant opened in September, and offers the appetizers, pho dishes and entrées one would expect to find at a Vietnamese joint—at reasonable prices. For example, a large bowl of pho will only you back $8.50.

We’ll offer a more detailed report when we have a chance to try out the restaurant in person. In the meantime, call 760-778-1473, or visit the aforementioned Facebook page for more information.

Hacienda Hosts a Benefit for Meals on Wheels

The newish Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, located at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, will be the location of Playa de los Muertos—a Dia de los Muertos Celebration, at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 1.

The event will feature an open sangria bar, tray-passed appetizers, great DJ music poolside, and all sorts of Day of the Dead-themed activities, like sugar-skull face-painting.

Sounds fun, yes? Well, there’s even better news: The event is a benefit for Meals on Wheels Coachella Valley.

“We wanted to honor and capture the color and vibrancy of Dia de los Muertos celebrations and combine it with a beach party like only Palm Springs can offer,” said event coordinator George Nasci-Sinatra in a news release.

Admission to the event is $45. Visit playadelosmuertos.brownpapertickets.com, or call 760-323-5689, ext. 112, for tickets or more info.

Citron at the Viceroy Gets a New Executive Chef

The Viceroy Palm Springs has hired a French-born chef with impeccable credentials to lead up the hotel’s well-regarded Citron Restaurant.

Patrice Martineau is a native of Champagne, France, who trained at several Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming the No. 2 chef at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Daniel, in New York City. He also served as the executive chef at London’s Savoy Hotel, and was most recently at the Belmond El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara.

“I look forward to adding some international flair to Citron’s menu and sharing my interest in regional California cuisine with Viceroy Palm Springs’ gastronomically minded guests,” said Martineau in what has to be one of the most ho-hum press-release quotes in recent memory.

New menus should have been launched by the time you read this.

For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings.

Restaurant Musical Chairs in Cathedral City

The spot they optimistically call “downtown Cathedral City” will soon be the home of two new restaurants.

Bontá, a Latin-European restaurant, is slated to soon open in the space that used to house Picanha Churrascaria at 68510 Highway 111. Practically next door, in the spot once occupied by Big Mama’s Soul Food, Taqueria Los Arcos is scheduled to open.

Watch this column for details.

Also: Last month in this space, we noted that a new “art bar and live music” venue called Bart Lounge was coming to the valley, perhaps in Cathedral City. Well, a lease has been signed, and Bart Lounge is indeed coming to Cathedral City—specifically, the old Level 2/Elevation/Sidewinders space, at 67555 E Palm Canyon Drive. Watch www.facebook.com/bartlounge for updates.

In Brief

Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at 71800 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. The valley’s oldest microbrewery took home a silver medal from Denver’s 2014 Great American Beer Festival for Babe’s Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. … Dish Creative Cuisine remains on hiatus as its new home at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—next to Ernest Coffee and Bootlegger Tiki—gets constructed. A Facebook-page update from Oct. 20 states that restaurant management is keeping its fingers crossed for a mid-November opening. … Also in downtown Palm Springs: Brandini Toffee just celebrated the grand opening of a store at 132 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Brandini is in the spot formerly occupied by the Red Black Café; last year, the prospective owners of what was to be the Gin and Juice Bar announced they’d be taking over the space, but that obviously never happened.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: The Desert Jewel

Where: Citron, inside the Viceroy Palm Springs, 415 S. Belardo Road, Palm Springs

How much: $14

Contact: 760-318-3005; www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings

Why: It’s a perfect craft cocktail.

Regular readers of this feature know that your humble scribe likes—no, loves—a good craft cocktail.

Regular readers between the lines of this feature know that your humble scribe is pretty frustrated at the relative dearth of great craft cocktails in this valley.

Thankfully, more and more bars and restaurants are moving beyond Cape Cods and Jack-and-Cokes—and Citron at the Viceroy is undeniably one of the leaders of our valley’s emerging craft-cocktail scene.

Consider the Desert Jewel, Citron’s signature drink. The ingredient list: Absolut Mandarin, Aperol, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and Veuve champagne.

Great ingredients, yes, but the result of their combination is, as the saying goes, greater than the sum of the parts. The Desert Jewel is sweet, but subtly so. It’s citrusy, but not acidic. None of the ingredients overwhelm—which was a concern I had after reading the menu, because grapefruit tends to dominate. The cocktail is simply a refreshing, flavorful, slightly savory delight.

Of course, there’s a downside to craft cocktails at places like the Viceroy: They tend to be expensive, and this $14 drink is not an exception to that rule. One way to lessen the financial blow is to head to Citron’s oddly lit bar during Happy Hour—that’s 4:30 to 7 p.m., Sunday through Thursday—when some nice appetizers (including a revelatory watermelon gazpacho) and great cocktails can be had for just $6 each.

Sadly, the Desert Jewel is not one of those $6 cocktails. However, I’d take one $14 Desert Jewel over two $7 Cape Cods anytime. Life’s just too short for crappy cocktails. 

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Splash House, like every other large-scale music festival these days, is inevitably compared to Coachella.

The two festivals both feature a variety of acts—including a mix of locals, up-and-comers and superstars—spread over a three-day period. However, that’s where the similarities end.

For one thing, the culture surrounding the festivals is completely different. EDM culture features many musicians who work with a DIY ethic, yet have played to large crowds around the world. However, these DJs are often not the focus of attention during their shows: Attendees and their crowd participation is often more of a spectacle.

Oh, there’s one other huge difference: Swimming pools!

It’s a popular joke that all it takes for a DJ to be successful is to “push play.” However, a true DJ doesn’t just “push play.” Instead, he or she has the job of selecting the right music to set the vibe; manipulating the mixing board to create a unique sound; and merging it all together.

This was all on full display at the most recent Splash House, held Friday, Aug. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 10, at the Hard Rock Palm Springs, The Saguaro and the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club: While most DJs had crowds hopping, others didn’t create the right vibe—and the crowds around the pool would lose a reason to dance.

A great example of a unique EDM act performed at the Hard Rock in the early evening on Friday. (The Hard Rock was the only venue to have an official schedule on Friday, and the festivities were pretty low-key, especially compared to the other two days.) Tone of Arc is a duo featuring Derrick Boyd, who has a haircut similar to a mullet, and who wore a tanktop and yoga-style pants above his bare feet; and Zoe Presnick, a female vocalist who looked like she was almost in a trance as she provided backup vocals. The music featured a heavy beat that included Boyd providing some bass and electric guitar here and there. The lyrics referenced UFOs and metaphysical mumbo jumbo. It was bizarre, to say the least—but those in attendance enjoyed it, because Tone of Arc offered something to dance to and provided the right kind of vibe.

When the pool and patio shut down, and the festivities moved inside to the Hard Rock lobby, the place filled up as people watched sets by Gorgon City, and then Oliver Heldens. Gorgon City and Oliver Heldens are both world-class acts that draw crowds and sell records. They brought out hardcore EDM fans who had illuminated sunglasses similar to Daft Punk’s helmets. Beach balls flew around, and bodies jumped up and down in the air—creating as much of a show as the music did.

Viceroy, who performed at the Saguaro on Saturday, is an artist like many others on the Splash House lineup: He doesn’t have a record deal; he releases remixes independently through Soundcloud and uses social media to promote himself; and he has a large following.

“It’s just the vibe about it,” Viceroy told the Independent before the set, when asked to explain the EDM culture. “It gets you to dance and have a good time and let loose, and that’s what it really is—just having a good time. It’s not worrying about the normal things on the weekdays. The babes are out; DJs are playing sets; and you’re drinking beers. There’s nothing better than that.”

Viceroy has performed around the world, and he said that every crowd has a different vibe.

“The Aussies are the craziest; they know how to fucking party,” he said. “I saw a guy over there run around without pants in a club once. Two pantsless guys at shows in Australia had me wondering, ‘Is this a normal thing in Australia? Guys get pantsless in the club and run around?’ It’s funny.”

Viceroy’s set started with an early ’90s hit from Del Tha Funkee Homosapien called “Mr. Dobalina,” which got the growing crowd in a party mood. He proved that he could play the right kind of music to establish the tone—yet remain consistent through his entire set.

After getting on the shuttle to the Hard Rock Hotel, I arrived as a young man called Trippy Turtle was in the middle of his set. He was clad in a hoodie with turtle eyes on the hood, and a shell on the back. He pumped up the crowd and played a set of heavy dance music with an audio sample of a video, repeated a handful of times throughout the set, that was popular on YouTube, of a little boy responding to a newscaster’s question with a random reply of, “I like turtles.” Attendees were dancing in front of the stage, partying in the pool and occasionally splashing water as the beat got heavier.

After Trippy Turtle, GoldLink took over. GoldLink is a hip-hop artist who is also taking the EDM world by storm.

“I’m from the East Coast, so we don’t get too many events like this going on,” said GoldLink’s DJ Kidd Marvel, with a laugh. “I’ve never been to a pool party like this with all these acts like Trippy Turtle, A-Trak, or Chromeo, and it’s a great event.”

He also made reference to the monikers, symbols and references to retro-cultures that some EDM artists use. The symbol of GoldLink is a tribal African mask.

“It’s like the tag, you know?” he said. “It’s what people are going to remember you by. They know your songs, but you need to have a stamp for them to really remember who you are. An example, Trippy Turtle has a great one.”

The resurgence of the retro pool party has become a key element in bringing millennials to Palm Springs. However, Splash House elevates the pool party to an entirely different level.

“You can program out a pool, but multiple pools?” said founder Tyler McLean. “It gives you a different air and more excitement, because it’s a bigger event than just one pool party. Above all, I think when everyone is on vacation together, and each of the rooms in each of the hotels is here for the same party, I think that automatically gives you a different atmosphere.”

So why is EDM so popular? The reaction of those in attendance at events like Splash House makes the answer obvious—it’s fun. Whether the performer is trying to create a metaphysical vibe and referencing UFOs, or whether the DJ seems obsessed with turtles, it’s all in the name of fun and having a good time. Add to that the Palm Springs pool culture, and it’s easy to see why Splash House has been such a massive success.

Published in Reviews

The first Splash House, in 2013, proved that Tyler and Kelly McLean’s theory was correct: Summer events can be quite successful in Palm Springs.

The second Splash House, held in June of this year, was also a rousing success—so much so that Splash House No. 3 is taking place just two months later, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 8-10.

The pool party/EDM festival will return to the Hard Rock Palm Springs, The Saguaro and the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club with a lineup including A-Trak, Chromeo, Cut/Copy, Viceroy and many others.

“The first one was a lot of learning lessons,” said Tyler McLean, who dreamed up the concept with his sister, Kelly. “It was our first foray into this concept of a pool festival. The details that go into hosting an event through three different venues and transporting people to each venue—it was an interesting project, for sure. I think we learned a lot; above all, our goal going into the first one was to bring people out during the summertime to Palm Springs, and to have people leave saying that they had a good time and that they want to come back to Palm Springs.”

So what if it’s hot—very hot—’round these parts in the summer?

“Not one single person complained about the heat,” Tyler McLean said.

The first Splash House gained 1,500 attendees to The Saguaro, Caliente Tropics and The Curve Palm Springs. The reviews were generally positive and paved the way for the Hard Rock and the Hacienda, both of which have opened since the inaugural Splash House, to sign on in 2014 and accommodate larger crowds.

Splash House has been able to expand quickly for another reason: Promoters Goldenvoice and LED joined forces with the McLeans.

“Having Goldenvoice and LED come on board really gave us the opportunity to grow in a way we haven’t been able to on our own,” Tyler McLean said. “It’s a big venture to take on your own company. There’s a lot of risk and a lot invested. Having Goldenvoice on board gave us the opportunity and the tools we needed.”

Although event promoters don’t get much bigger than Goldenvoice—the AEG subsidiary puts on Coachella and Stagecoach, after all—Tyler McLean insisted that Splash House remains close to the original vision he and his sister had.

“There was definitely the thought of expanding our marketing and taking the lineup up a notch. All of those things put us into a different realm, but we still provide the same atmosphere and experience,” Tyler McLean said. “We had 2,000 people attend the event each day in June, and … people loved the experience. Even with all of those things that go into planning a big event, you still accomplish what made your event special to begin with, and I think that’s what happened. The experience itself is unique, and it is something that people enjoyed and will come back for again and again.”

LED, known for its club-based events, has also proven to be beneficial to the Splash House festival.

“For a first time promoter, some of the artists (we’ve had), like Moby and Cut/Copy, you kind of have to work your way into getting their trust,” Tyler McLean said. “Goldenvoice and LED have certainly given us the resources to go for the big fish and book the artists who are going to bring a lot of people here to Palm Springs.”

The McLeans make a point to include local artists in each Splash House lineup. Local DJs Aaron C, Colour Vision, Alf Alpha and All Night Shoes all played at the June festival.

“Having locals is a win/win. They get a chance to play in a lineup that has Moby and Cut/Copy,” Tyler McLean said. “These local DJs are the ones playing every weekend in front of the crowds and are really entrenched in what the local music scene is. For us, it gives us some trust of the locals, because we’re not just some outside promoter coming in and throwing a party for outsiders. We really wanted to be engrained and allow locals to come. That’s why we book local DJs and offer local discounts.”

Splash House has obviously moved beyond being just an annual event. Tyler McLean explained why Splash House is holding its second festival this summer.

“We can’t really grow the event into a major music event like Coachella or Lollapalooza,” McLean said. “… I think the vision for us is growing as a series versus an annual event. Every summer, there will be this party that happens once every month or every other month at these venues with a different lineup each time.”

Splash House will take place Friday, Aug. 8, through Sunday, Aug. 10. Pre-sale tickets cost $60 to $99. For tickets or more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club Offers a Taste of Santa Fe

Last month in this space, we wrote these somewhat prophetic words about the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs (emphasis newly added): “If everything goes according to plan, the Hacienda … will quietly open its doors the weekend of May 30. It’ll be a baptism-by-fire sort of opening for the Hacienda: Just two weeks later, the new restaurant/beach club/events space will be hosting thousands of people as one of the three venues that are part of the second annual Splash House.”

Well, guess what? That May 30 soft opening didn’t happen, because … well, things didn’t go according to plan. In fact, even the first day of the Hacienda’s Splash House lineup had to be moved to The Saguaro because of delays.

That meant that the Hacienda finally opened its doors for the second (and heaviest) day of Splash House on Saturday, June 14.

And it was executive chef Robert Wepplo’s job to make sure his brand-new crew and brand-new kitchen were up to the task. How’d it go?

“That was a really fast learning curve, that’s for sure,” he said in what we’re going to call the Understatement of the Month.

Of course, Wepplo and his crew now have several weeks of serving the Hacienda’s decidedly Mexican-inspired menu under their figurative belts, and the kinks are being worked out.

What led Wepplo to create lunch, dinner and brunch menus with such a Mexican/Southwestern theme?

“I moved here from Santa Fe, New Mexico,” said the veteran of Piero’s PizzaVino on El Paseo. “I love green chiles and red chiles, and really lean on those two sauces.”

When I asked him what his go-to dishes are, he picked the shrimp adobo taco for lunch, and the fresh catch with his cilantro-saffron sauce for dinner; on the day I talked to him, he said the restaurant had gotten in some nice barramundi.

And more food’s on the way at the Hacienda: He said he’s in the process of developing a small, taco stand-like kitchen for the Hacienda’s pool area, which will serve simple yet tasty fare such as empanadas and tacos. He’s also honing the late-night bar menu.

The restaurant at the Hacienda is currently open from Wednesday through Sunday; call 760-778-8954 to confirm hours, and visit www.haciendacantina.com for more information.

Summer Specials in Abundance!

We keep finding out more news about various summer specials being offered by local restaurants. Here’s just a small sampling:

Cello’s American Bistro, at 35943 Date Palm Drive in Cathedral City, is offering $5 specials each week during the summer to celebrate the restaurant’s fifth birthday.

• Each weekday in the Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, from 3 to 6 p.m., enjoy half-off “small plates” as well as drink discounts.

• A number of restaurants on El Paseo are teaming up to offer great summer specials, including Café des Beaux-Arts (happy hour every day in the bar from 4:30 to closing), and Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar (happy hour every day from 3 to 6 p.m.).

Know of any other amazing summer specials? Share the details by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

PS Underground Gets ‘Light’

The people responsible for the wandering supper club known as PS Underground continue to innovate.

The next event being put on by Michael Fietsam and David Horgen, called “Light,” has already been extended from two dates to four due to the extensive demand. The $150-per-person event, held at a location not disclosed to attendees until the day of the event, is shrouded in even more secrecy than some previous PS Underground events: All the briefs for the event say simply that it’s “an avant-garde dinner experience,” and that attendees should wear white; a Vimeo teaser video for the event includes a lot of pictures of light bulbs, and little else.

Hmm.

PS Underground is currently taking “Light” reservations for Friday, July 18, and Saturday, July 19. Make said reservations or sign up for updates at www.psunderground.com.

In Brief

The folks at the Kaiser family of restaurants—which includes the Kaiser Grille, Chop House and Grind Brgr Bar in Palm Springs, as well as Jackalope Ranch in Indio—are continuing to mix things up. A couple of months after closing the Hog’s Breath Inn in La Quinta, they announced they will convert the Palm Desert Chop House, located at 74040 Highway 111, into a Kaiser Grille. … Level 2, the LGBT bar located at 67555 Highway 111 in Cathedral City, has closed, about a year after the latest ownership change. Who knows what will come of the spot previously known as Sidewinders and Elevation? … Citron at the Viceroy, located at 415 S. Belardo Road, is offering special summer cocktails using No. 209 barrel-aged gin. If you’ve never tried barrel-aged gin, you’re in for a treat. Call 760-318-3005 for more details.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Hey, Locals: Give Thai House Another Shot

Nisa Hennecke, the new owner of the Thai House in downtown Palm Springs, doesn’t think her personal story is all that special—but she thinks her food is.

Well, I’ve got some news for Hennecke: Both her food and her personal story are pretty gosh-darned special.

Hennecke, a native of Thailand, had worked for years at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, as a poker dealer. But last year, she decided to make a huge change: In June, she purchased Thai House, at 246 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs.

Why?

“My whole family owned a restaurant, everybody, in Thailand,” she told me.

Indeed, Thai House is a family affair: Hennecke’s sister and brother-in-law moved to the Coachella Valley from Thailand to cook at the restaurant, and her children help out as well.

Hennecke said she and her family completely revamped Thai House’s menu, and that they cook food the way people cook at home back in Thailand.

“My sister is the best cook you will see,” she said.

Hennecke emphasizes freshness, and that was apparent when she treated me to lunch: The tom yum soup was some of the best I’ve ever had.

While Thai House is doing well with tourists, Hennecke said, she’s had a difficult time attracting locals, perhaps because they are unaware that the food has changed. So, Thai-food-loving locals, take it from me: Give Hennecke and Thai House another shot.

For more information, call 760-778-1728, or visit www.thaihousepalmsprings.com.

Viceroy Introduces a New Handcrafted Cocktail Menu

David Nepove knows his cocktails—and residents of the Coachella Valley should be elated that he’s sharing his knowledge with local bartenders.

Nepove is the president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, as well as the director of mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits in California. He was recently in town for a couple of days to help the good folks at the Viceroy Palm Springs’ Citron Restaurant revamp their cocktail menu for the season.

The goal of the Viceroy’s new menu: To use fresh ingredients that are locally sourced, if possible—and to include something for everyone. The results are refreshing and delicious.

I spoke to Nepove as I sipped on a rosemary gimlet, made with 209 gin, fresh lime and rosemary syrup—made from rosemary grown on-site at the Viceroy. Nepove said it’s his goal to make sure all of the bartenders he works with get inspired to take their craft to the next level, and to think of new ways to present lovely ingredients to their customers.

“My job is to steal information from friends and peers, and show that to the people I work with,” Nepove said. “… The staff here at the Viceroy was extra-receptive to this training. They walked in here as bartenders; now they’re craft bartenders.”

The drinks aren’t cheap—the specialty drinks at Citron cost $14—but they’re also a lot more complex and better-thought-out than the drinks you’ll find almost anywhere else.

Citron is located at the Viceroy, 415 S. Belardo Road, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings.

Now Open: Shabu-Shabu Zen

I was first introduced to shabu shabu in Tucson, Ariz.—and I was instantly smitten.

It was at a restaurant (which, alas, has since closed) called Shabu Shabu Takaka, and if memory serves, here’s how shabu shabu works: Diners are brought a soup broth, along with sauces and a variety of raw veggies and meats. The broth is brought to a boil at the table—think fondue, sort of—and the diners cook the raw meats and veggies themselves in that broth. The cooked veggies and meats can be dipped into the sauces and eaten; when they’re all gone, noodles can be added to the broth, and the concoction can be eaten as soup.

It was, in a word, delicious.

Anyway, flash-forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I was driving down Highway 111 through Rancho Mirage. I spotted a sign for a new restaurant, called Shabu-Shabu Zen, with the description “Japanese hot pot, tapas and sake bar.”

Ooh.

The restaurant opened in late January, at 71860 Highway 111, and has been getting rave reviews on the citizen-review websites ever since. My schedule has not allowed me to visit Shabu-Shabu Zen for a meal yet; after I stop in, I’ll share the details here.

As of this writing, there’s no info other than a logo at the restaurant’s website, www.shabu-shabu-zen.com; presumably, more details will show up there eventually. Watch this space for details, too.

In Brief

Tonga Hut, at long last, is open. The tiki bar and restaurant, located at 254 N. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, celebrated its grand opening on Valentine’s Day. … Smoothie fans, take note: Juice It Up! has opened at 79775 Highway 111, No. 102, in La Quinta. It’s the second valley location of the Irvine-based chain, joining the store at 72877 Dinah Shore Drive, No. 101, in Rancho Mirage. … Morgan’s in the Desert, located at the La Quinta Resort and Club at 49499 Eisenhower Drive in La Quinta, is kicking off its Spring Peak Harvest Festival. Expect a series of three-course prix-fixe meals highlighting seasonal ingredients—from blue mussels from Puget Sound, Wash., to morel mushrooms from Mesik, Mich.—between now and early June. Get details at www.morgansinthedesert.com. … Congrats to the folks at Las Casuelas Terraza, the humongous restaurant at 222 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. The restaurant celebrated its 35th anniversary in February. … Appetito, a “Cal-Italian Deli” restaurant featuring the food of chef Chad Shaner, is expected to open any day now next at 1700 S. Camino Real, No. 2, in Palm Springs. That’s the spot right next to the Koffi across from the Ace Hotel and Swim Club.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

There’s no better way in the Coachella Valley to cool off and have a good time than a pool party—and Splash House is putting on the biggest pool party of the summer in Palm Springs on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10-11.

However, Splash House is not just a pool party; it will also have a music-festival atmosphere. The event will be held at three locations located within five minutes of each other in Palm Springs: The Saguaro, Caliente Tropics and The Curve Palm Springs. Attendees will be able to move between the three venues by shuttle.

The founders of Splash House are Palm Springs locals Kelly McLean and her brother, Tyler.

“Palm Springs is trying to capture this up-and-coming market of young people who are looking for something to do,” said Kelly McLean. “This demographic of people doesn’t mind that it’s hot: They love the music, and they love our Palm Springs culture.”

The McLeans are also working with three Southern California promotion companies to promote the event: LED, Private Label, and Pacific Festival.

“Besides Palm Springs having this amazing, glamorous history of pool parties, as well as being popular because of Coachella, there’s a concentration of hotel pools in Palm Springs to make this type of event feasible—and not feasible anywhere else,” said Kelly McLean. “It actually makes this event possible, and that’s what’s going to be great about it. We can move between these three hotels in less than five minutes’ time; people can pool-hop and do it without having to spend 30 minutes in a shuttle.”

If you need another reason to attend, consider the prominent DJs who will be performing, such as Viceroy, Neon Indian, Poolside, and others.

However, there’s going to be much more to Splash House than just pools and DJs.

“There are going to be food trucks, art installations, different activities and lots of things going on,” said Kelly McLean. “We’re not just putting up a tent and putting a DJ under it. Everything is being designed to provide a unique experience so people feel like they were there and attended something, and not just a pool party.”

The event is gaining the attention of people around the world, she said.

“We have a couple who e-mailed us from Germany who are flying in for the event,” said Kelly McLean. “During the summer time, we have a lot of European tourists who come here because they love the heat. A lot of people are e-mailing us from the U.K. who actually want to come. We’re really excited about it.”

In other words: There’s no need to go to Las Vegas or Los Angeles for a VIP style pool party; Splash House is bringing that here. And who knows? Perhaps Splash House will become yet another popular annual event for the Coachella Valley.

Splash House takes place on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10 and 11. Doors open at 11 a.m. each day. Two-day passes are $99; one-day passes are $55; room-and-festival packages start at $247. For tickets, a complete schedule and more information, visit splashhouse.com. 

Published in Previews