CVIndependent

Sun01192020

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

What: The carne asada tacos

Where: Baja Springs, 1800 N. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs

How much: $1.69 separately; $8.99 combo plate (as shown)

Contact: 760-322-9988

Why: They’re packed with yummy meat.

Tacos … is there a more popular food in the United States today? When you have the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James, making “Taco Tuesday” a social-media sensation—to the point where he actually tried to trademark the term, but the application was denied because the phrase is too ubiquitous—that says something.

Did you know, however, that tacos were not the first Mexican food to become popular in the United States? Friend of the Independent Gustavo Arellano, now a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, literally wrote the book on the subject: Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. In 2012, he spoke with KCRW about how tacos became popular thanks largely to the food scene in Los Angeles—especially the birth of the taquito at Cielito Lindo on Olvera Street in 1934. This happened, however, well after chili became huge in San Antonio, and tamales were a craze in San Francisco.

While the Coachella Valley’s restaurant scene has its pluses and minuses, we’re blessed with a lot of good Mexican food—especially tacos. It’s often said that the best tacos can be found in unexpected, hole-in-the-wall places, and while this is not always correct, it is in the case of Baja Springs: This small market, tucked away on Sunrise Way just north of Vista Chino in Palm Springs, has been churning out great tacos (and other Mexican fare) for years—but I only recently discovered it when the place came up on a food-delivery app.

Pretty much every imaginable meat is stuffed into corn tortillas at Baja Springs, from chicken to fish to tripe to cabeza. While I haven’t been able to try all 12 of the tacos on offer, I can vouch for the fantastic carne asada tacos. They’re delicious—and only $1.69 each.

All hail the great taco!

What: The Taca tacos

Where: The Sandbox Kitchen, 72301 Country Club Drive, No. 110, Rancho Mirage

How much: $3.50 each

Contact: 760-565-6044; www.facebook.com/TheSandboxKitchen

Why: Perfect meats.

At first, there was Taca Tacos, run by a young couple named Daniel and Aimie.

Taca Tacos catered various parties and events—and began earning rave reviews. “Our food quality is something that we pay close attention to, and we serve nothing but the best!” Daniel wrote on Facebook. “Even our meats are cut by hand (by me!) to reduce as much fat as possible and ensure top quality. Our salsas are made with the freshest ingredients, and our tortillas are made the day of the event.”

Then, in mid-2019, came The Sandbox Kitchen, a brick-and-mortar restaurant owned by Daniel and Aimee, in the strangest of spots—at the back of a medical/office building near the Eisenhower Medical Center campus. The Sandbox Kitchen offers breakfast items, salads, sandwiches—and those acclaimed tacos.

I love a good taco, so I decided I needed to check out The Sandbox Kitchen. After one failed attempt (I tried to go on a day the restaurant was closed for a private party), I finally managed to make it for a post-holidays lunch.

I ordered three tacos, Taca-style (which means they come with minced cabbage, crema fresca and chipotle aioli, and quesito)—one each with carne asada, chicken and al pastor. (Cauliflower tacos are available, too.)

After a 20-minute wait—I arrived just after several other parties had ordered, apparently—I had my tacos … and I instantly understood what the Taca Tacos buzz was all about: The chicken was juicy and delicious; the carne asada was flavorful with a variety of textures; and the al pastor was fantastic—with a hint of a spicy kick.

In summary … all three meats were perfectly prepared—and The Sandbox Kitchen has a new fan.

A few notes as we kick off Volume 8 here at the Independent:

• Am I the only one having a hard time grasping the fact that it’s almost 2020? When I first saw Beth Allen’s design for the new print-issue cover, and I saw the date “January 2020,” I just stopped and stared at it for a while.

Yeah, I know I’ll get used to it soon enough. But for now, it really seems weird.

• We’ve recently published pieces by two new-to-the-Independent scribes: You’ll find Carlynne McDonnell’s inaugural pets column here, and here, you’ll find Andrea Gomez’s first piece for us—an interview with the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s new artistic director, Coachella Valley native Liliana Rodriguez.

Welcome, Carlynne and Andrea! If you want to join them in the pages of the Independent, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’re still looking for people to write (paid!) freelance pieces focused on marijuana, hiking/the outdoors, event previews, and more.

• Our signature event, Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, is back for its fourth year! The week starts Friday, Jan. 31, and goes through Saturday, Feb. 8. During those nine days, bars and restaurants valley-wide will highlight special craft cocktails—and give a portion of the proceeds from the sales of those cocktails to our beneficiaries, the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

The highlight of the week is the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, taking place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Moxie Palm Springs. Up to 10 of the valley’s best bartenders will battle for the coveted Audience Choice Award and the Craft Cocktail Championship—and, yes, attendees get to taste all of the competing cocktails! Presale tickets, through Jan. 10, are $35; they’ll be $40 after that, and $45 at the door if we don’t sell out (and we probably will).

Pick up next month’s issue for our special Cocktail Week program—and head to PSCraftCocktails.com for updates and/or to buy championship tickets!

• Finally, I’d like to kick off 2020 by offering my sincere appreciation to everyone who has supported the Independent—readers, advertisers and members of our Supporters program—as we enter our eighth full year.

This is not a great time for most newspapers, as you know. In fact, one of my favorite alternative publications, the OC Weekly, was shuttered by its (lazy, non-innovative) owners just before Thanksgiving.

That same week, we were putting the finishing touches on our December issue—which, revenue-wise, was our best ever.

Do we still need to do better here at the Independent, in terms of bringing in revenue? Yes, we do; I am dying to add more writers/reporters so we can better tell the valley’s stories—and we have some things in the works that will hopefully help us do just that. (And I’d like, one day, to be able to pay myself a living wage … but that’s a discussion for another time.) Watch this space for details in the upcoming months … and again, thank you for your support. Please, please keep it up.

As always, thank you for reading. Happy New Year, and be sure to pick up a copy of the January 2020—yep, still seems weird—print edition, hitting the streets this week.

Wes Winter started his new job as the executive director of the Mizell Senior Center last March—but before he officially began, he got a taste of what he was getting himself into at the 2019 Stars Among Us gala.

“It was my first exposure to Mizell. It was my introduction to the community. My eyes were spinning in opposite directions at that point,” Winter said with a laugh. “I really didn’t know much about what was going on … so I’m really looking at this year as my first year.”

This year’s gala will take place on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Palm Springs Air Museum. We recently spoke with Winter about his first year on the job, Mizell’s future—and, of course, what people can expect at this year’s Stars Among Us.

It’s fascinating that your first exposure to Mizell was at Stars Among Us last year. What impressions did the gala leave with you?

There were a couple of things. One was the breadth of support that Mizell has in the community. There were folks at that gala—now I them well, but at that point, I didn’t have a clue who they were—and they represented just about every niche you can imagine throughout the Coachella Valley. That was incredibly impressive to me. Another was the sense of philanthropy that folks here in the valley seem to have. There has been so much support, not just for Mizell, but for all of the social-service organizations that exist here in the valley.

How have your first 10 months gone at Mizell?

Well, it’s been a whirlwind—but it’s been pretty wonderful. I have a very supportive board of directors, and they are, each one in their own way, very plugged into the community. So they’ve been just a wonderful asset. … Then we have so many people who come in the door here at Mizell. We receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 60,000 visits a year—and those folks who come in that door are not the slightest bit shy about coming into my office and introducing themselves. So that’s been really helpful.

Let’s talk about Stars Among Us. What can attendees expect this year?

Well, I can’t tell you what it is, but we’re rolling out a new initiative that is sort of reframing the community’s look at Mizell. I’m profoundly excited, and we’re going to talk a little bit about that at the event. We won’t spend a lot of time talking from the stage, but we will put it out there, and I think folks are going to be pleasantly surprised. So that’s exciting.

Then we have two awardees that we’re recognizing. One is BIGHORN Cares; we’ll be recognizing all of the philanthropic work that they do here in the valley. They are just amazing. They not only help Mizell out; they help the whole community of organizations. We’ll also be honoring Tim Jochen and Lee Erwin, from Contour Dermatology. They’ve been wonderful to Mizell, but they also are so plugged into all of the community-service organizations that are here.

Tell me about the fun part of the gala.

We’re going to have a pretty incredible dance band there called The Zippers. There’s going to be an auction. This year, we’re not having a silent auction, because we really wanted to put that energy into the live auction. Those, for me, are always fun. People really seem to enjoy getting into it and bringing the money in. For the program, like I said, we’re going to keep people talking onstage to a minimum, because I know people’s eyes start to glaze over if you talk too much. I think it’s going to be really interesting to folks when we roll out our new initiative.

You’re sure you can’t tell me just a little bit more about it? Give me a hint, maybe?

Well, our theme for the evening is “Take Off With Mizell.” We’re holding the event once again at the Air Museum. This year, we’re moving it to the new hangar, which we haven’t been in before, so that’ll be interesting in and of itself. With the theme, we wanted to really play both on the idea of being at the Air Museum, and this idea of our new initiative, and how we’re moving into the new decade, and what’s going to look new and different.

Tell me about how important Stars Among Us is, in terms of the fundraising aspect, and also the attention that it brings to Mizell.

The dollars we’ll be bringing in that evening, from sponsorships and ticket sales and auctions, all of that goes to help us with our Meals on Wheels program. Meals on Wheels is funded (by the government) at the 80 percent level, so we need to raise that additional 20 percent to make the program whole. Because of that program, working with the County of Riverside Office on Aging, we’re able to ensure that a little over 200,000 meals are served to valley residents in an average fiscal year.

Every one of those meals is made in Mizell’s kitchen, correct?

Every one of them … and (our kitchen) is absolutely tiny. One of the things that we’re looking at doing, hopefully sooner rather than later, is remodeling that kitchen to make it a little more state-of-the-art, more energy-efficient, and better for the folks who actually produce the meals that come out of the kitchen. We’ve actually received a significant gift from a donor who is also a participant here in Mizell activities. We’re going to be looking for other funds to match with that gift so we can redo that whole kitchen.

The 15th Annual Stars Among Us Gala will take place at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $350. For tickets or more information, call 760-323-5689, or visit mizell.org.

New to El Paseo: Chef Eric Wadlund’s Wildest Restaurant + Bar

Wildest Restaurant + Bar, the latest project from chef Eric Wadlund, was slated to celebrate its grand opening on Dec. 26 at 72990 El Paseo, No. 3, in the space that used to house the late Denise DuBarry Hay’s Wildest Greens.

An announcement, posted on Nov. 30 at the Wildest Restaurant + Bar website, compared the effort to the restaurants of the great Joel Robuchon, who passed away in 2018. (The announcement didn’t quite spell Robuchon’s name right, but, hey, mistakes happen.)

“Following in the footsteps of French ‘Chef of the Century’ and restaurateur Joel Rubichon (sic), who believed healthy food was the future of fine dining, one of the most celebrated chefs in the desert, Eric Wadlund, with his partners Bill Hay and Charissa Farley, are introducing the first restaurant in the valley committed to continuing this vision,” the announcement said. “Old World style fine dining upon which Robuchon built his legacy and trained the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Eric Ripert with caviar and truffle-studded cuisine is facing the difficult challenge of taste versus health: adapt or die.”

Wildest’s Facebook page includes photos of some downright-delicious-looking dishes, including turmeric-glazed roasted cauliflower, water melon “ahi” poke, and pan-roasted wild white bass.

“Wildest’s dynamic food originates in wild-caught fish, (and) local pasture-raised and grass-fed poultry and beef, as well as plant-based meals that promise to be flavorful options to those who choose to eat meat-free,” the website explains. “There are zero hormones and steroids in their proteins, as the restaurant strives to be cruelty-free and supports local organic, biodynamic and sustainable farms. Provisions not made in house will be sourced from the coolest epicureans.”

Given the restaurant’s pedigree, we’re looking forward to checking it out. We’re also happy to see the tribute to Denise DuBarry Hay in the name, as well as her husband’s involvement.

For more information, call 760-636-0441; head to WildestRestaurant.com; or visit www.facebook.com/wildestrestaurant.


Coming on Jan. 18: The Palm Springs Pinot Noir Festival

It seems like every other month or so, there’s a new wine festival popping up in the Coachella Valley … and this is a very good thing.

The latest: The Palm Springs Pinot Noir Festival, which will take place on Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Ritz-Carlton (which is in Rancho Mirage, not Palm Springs, but whatever). It’s a project of David Fraschetti, who for two years has put on the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival (which will return for year No. 3 on Feb. 28 and 29—yep, it’s a leap year!), and for many years has produced the VinDiego Wine and Food Festival.

Of course, at this new fest, pinot noir is the star. On Friday, Jan. 17, the Ritz-Carlton will host two seminars—“Exploring the Neighborhoods of the Russian River Valley” and “Anderson Valley Pinot Noir: Under the Radar and a Cut Above.” Those cost $55 each, or $90 for both. As for the main event, the “A Passion 4 Pinot” festival: Doors open at 2:30 p.m. for general admission, and tickets are $95; if you want to get in at 1:30, you can pay $125. The festivities go until 5 p.m.

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, is located at 68900 Frank Sinatra Drive. For tickets and more information, visit palmspringspinotfest.com.


In Brief

Congrats to La Perlita Mexican Food, at 901 Crossley Road, in Palm Springs, on the restaurant’s expansion! The good folks there are expanding into the space next door; watch the restaurant’s Facebook page for updates. … New to La Quinta: RD RNNR Libations, Pints and Plates (you can pronounce that “roadrunner”), at 78075 Main St. What is RD RNNR? It’s “a craft American restaurant using local farm-to-table ingredients, (offering) refreshing craft cocktails and a well-balanced selection of hops and rotating craft taps, all set in a casual and hip vibe right in the heart of Old Town La Quinta,” so says the website. As if that’s not cool enough, the restaurant also features the work of local artists! RD RNNR is open for lunch and dinner daily; visit roadrunnerlq.com for more info, including the menu and a look at those aforementioned artists. … New to Cathedral City: Barrel District Pizza, Bar and Kitchen, at 35939 Date Palm Drive, in Cathedral City. The menu includes tasty-sounding starters (like house-made hummus), salads, tacos, a handful of entrées and, of course, intriguing pizza choices. To check out the menu and learn more, visit barreldistrictpizza.com.

A crowd of more than 80 people battled cold weather and a baffling lack of parking on Wednesday, Dec. 18, to head to Copa Nightclub to celebrate the winners of the sixth annual Best of Coachella Valley, as voted on by the readers of the Coachella Valley Independent.

It was the third time in four years that Copa has hosted the event—an honor bestowed upon Copa due to its win in the Best Nightclub category. The event honors the winners of the Independent's yearly readers' poll, which features almost 130 categories, ranging from Best Chiropractor, to Best Vegan/Vegetarian Cuisine, to Best Marijuana Dispensary.

The biggest contingents at the party—hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle—came to celebrate Augustine Casino, which took the top spot in a whopping eight categories; Paul Zapala's win as Best Real Estate Agent; and KGAY 106.5's victory as Best Radio Station.

Below is a gallery of photos from the event, taken by Kevin Fitzgerald.

What: The machaca con verduras

Where: Asadero Los Corrales, 425 S. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs; also locations in La Quinta and Coachella

How much: $13.80

Contact: 760-992-5107

Why: It brought up delicious memories.

Food can be an intimate, emotional thing. We experience food with all five of our senses, and many of life’s important moments are focused around, or at least include, meals. As a result, we’ve all had the experience of taking a bite of food and being flooded with memories—sometimes good, sometimes bad—of an event or time from our past.

This happened to me during a recent breakfast at Asadero Los Corrales, which opened in Palm Springs not long ago inside the old Maxcy’s Grill space in the Ralph’s shopping center at Sunrise Drive and Ramon Road. I ordered the machaca con verudas—dried, shredded beef with sautéed tomatoes, onions and peppers.

The plate came; I placed the meat inside a fresh corn tortilla; I took a bite—and memories of Tucson, Ariz., came rushing forth.

I spent 10 years of my life in Tucson, and one of my favorite dishes in that city is the carne seca at El Charro Café, a restaurant which has been in business since 1922. The dish has some degree of fame, both because of its unique preparation—it is shredded beef, dried in the sun on El Charro’s roof, as it has been for close to a century now—and because it’s quite delicious.

Well, the machaca con verduras at Asadero Los Corrales looks, feels, smells and tastes a lot like El Charro’s famous carne seca. (Four of the five senses ain’t bad!) While I can’t say that Los Corrales’ machaca is as good as El Charro’s carne seca, I can say that it is fantastic.

The machaca con verudas may not lead to an emotional experience for you like it did for me—but it will make your taste buds very happy.

What: The giant cinnamon roll

Where: Rick’s Restaurant, 1973 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $5.99

Contact: 760-416-0090; ricksrestaurant.biz

Why: It’s sweet comfort.

Sometimes, you just need comfort food.

It had been a rough couple days for my friend. His father was recovering from emergency surgery at Desert Regional Medical Center, and my friend wanted to meet somewhere not too far from the hospital for breakfast and a nice chat. I was having a stressful workday, and I was more than happy to take a break and oblige.

I knew exactly where to go: Rick’s Restaurant. It’s long been one of my favorite places to go for a nice, chill breakfast or lunch. It’s not fancy; instead, it’s comfortable and appealing, with friendly service and a menu full of Americana (plus some Cuban favorites as well).

This wasn’t a meal where calorie counts and carb intakes were concerns; we just wanted good, filling, comfort food. We both ordered the chicken-fried steak and eggs … and, of course, we had to split one of Rick’s fresh, house-made cinnamon rolls.

The chicken-fried steak was good. The cinnamon roll was out of this world. It was everything a classic, fresh cinnamon roll should be: sugary, warm and oh-so-pillowy. It was the perfect starter to pick at and enjoy while chatting—with occasional pauses to say “Yum!” or “Wow” in reference to the cinnamon roll.

The breakfast at Rick’s didn’t solve any problems; afterward, my friend needed to go back to the hospital to spend time with and advocate on behalf of his father. I had to go back to the pile of work and annoyances I faced. But for that hour or so … life, genuinely, was good—thanks to a great friendship, a welcoming and unpretentious atmosphere, and the type of delicious, down-home food that only fantastic places like Rick’s Restaurant can offer.

On Dec. 7, the folks with Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services will transform the Pacific Hangar of the Palm Springs Air Museum into a “winter wonderland.” The goals: Raise money for the organization’s vital services—and have one heck of a good time while doing so.

CVSAS’ Inaugural Winter Wonderland Gala will feature hosted drinks from Tito’s Vodka—drinks with other spirits will be available for purchase—and food from the chef at the Arrive Hotel. Entertainment will include music by Lisa and the Gents.

“Our goal is to keep all our services free of charge,” said Winette Brenner, the program director at CVSAS. “We usually do mini-fundraisers and stuff. … We do free events; we just had our Anti Human-Trafficking Conference, and we’ve made that free, because we want to educate the public. But at some point, we had to do something to have a bigger fundraiser, so we can continue to do those free services.”

The event is being held on Dec. 7—which is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, marking the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941—and the event is being held in the Air Museum’s Pacific Hangar, which includes exhibits and items from the war in the Pacific during World War II. Therefore, CVSAS is honoring all veterans during the event, and offering them free admission, as well as $50 guest tickets.

“We reached out to the Riverside County Education Academy, and their students are going to come and do a salute in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. We’re very excited about that,” Brenner said.

While the event is happening in December, it’s also happening in Palm Springs, where we really don’t have “winter.” So I had to ask: How will the Air Museum be transformed into a “winter wonderland” of sorts?

“One of our sponsors is Enchanted Memories, and they are going to be giving us a winter-wonderland feeling with decorations and with balloon displays and snow effects,” Brenner said. “We’ll have a picture booth, and we’re going to have a wonderful dessert table. The hangar is going to be open, and it’ll be in the evening—so hopefully, we can have kind of a winter feeling.”

The larger-scale fundraiser is just the latest move by CVSAS to have more of a public presence. The organization operates the local portion of a national 24-hour hotline (800-656-4673) for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking, and offers counseling, advocacy, referrals and other help to both victims and their families. CVSAS is working hard to spread the word about its services, and raise awareness.

“We are talking to anyone who will listen. It’s just so important,” Brenner said. “We’re trying to really educate our community and spread the word about what’s going on in our backyards and in our surroundings. We want to educate parents. It’s important that parents are educated and know what’s going on, so they can protect their children and look for red-flag warning signs as well.

“That also goes with school educators. …  This affects all ages. Unfortunately, sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence—at this point, it has no color. It has no age. It can affect all of us.”

The Inaugural Winter Wonderland Gala, a fundraiser for Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services, will take place at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $100; veterans are admitted for free, with $50 guest tickets. For tickets or more information, call 760-568-9071, or visit www.eventbrite.com/e/inaugural-winter-wonderland-gala-tickets-76283055673.

I’ll be honest: As I write this column, I am exhausted. November has been one hell of a month here at the Coachella Valley Independent. Here are a few highlights:

• We were again fortunate enough to have a booth at the Greater Palm Springs Pride festival, this year on Nov. 2 and 3. During the two-day fest, we gave out 500 magnetic chip clips with the Independent’s logo, as well as many hundreds of newspapers. Thanks to all of you who stopped by and shared a kind word or three. Also, a personal thank you to Kevin Fitzgerald and Matt King, who helped me out at the booth.

• The following weekend, the Independent hosted the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual Publishers’ Retreat at the Colony Palms Hotel. Our group of publishers—from newspapers in locales ranging from Santa Barbara to Milwaukee, and from Boston to Little Rock—gathered for two days to discuss the media landscape, share ideas, and commiserate over great meals and a cocktail or two. Thanks to all of my fellow publishers who came to Palm Springs; to all of the wonderful people at the Colony Palms; to Willie Rhine and Lucy Kent at Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, which hosted our Friday happy hour; and to our friends at Palm Springs Speaks, who provided tickets to Robert Reich’s speech.

• Finally … we put together our Best of Coachella Valley issue. While I could thank many, many people who helped us produce the fun and informative issue, I have limited space here, so I’ll limit my expressions of gratitude to just two.

First: Beth Allen, our fantastic graphic designer, is the true Best of Coachella Valley MVP. Not only did she design this year’s excellent Best of Coachella Valley logo; she laid out the entire BOCV package for the print edition (which is NOT easy, given the number of moving parts), and she even designed a few late-arriving advertisements. Heck, she wrote three of our staff picks, too. Thanks, Beth; we couldn’t have done this issue without you. Literally.

Second: We also couldn’t do the BOCV issue without you, our amazingly astute and community-minded readers. Thank you for taking the time to head to CVIndependent.com and vote in the two rounds of balloting; I know it can be daunting to face down a slate of almost 130 categories. But you did—and the result is, by far, the valley’s best “Best Of” slate of winners and finalists. Your support is why, as the Independent enters its eighth full year of existence, we do what we do.

Happy holidays, and as always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.—and be sure to pick up our December/Best of Coachella Valley print edition, hitting the streets this week.

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