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After six years at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs, DJ Day has decided it’s time for his popular weekly ¡Reunion! party to come to an end.

He recently announced that the sixth-anniversary edition of ¡Reunion! on Thursday, March 31, will be the final show.

“Honestly, after six years every week, which is something like 320 nights, it begins to take its toll,” DJ Day said during a recent interview in Palm Springs. “Long story short, I just got burnt out on the whole nightlife thing. It’s run its course, and I’d like to start doing something else. I want to get back into recording music, and I’m ready to move on as a person and just take a different path in my life. It’s been great, but it’s also a very trying thing.

“When I first started out, I talked to someone who had a weekly in Portland, and she said, ‘It’s not easy. You’re going to have stretches of good times and stretches of bad times.’ It’s been up and down lately, but it’s on an upswing right now, so I figured it was time for me to leave on a good note.”

For the past few months, DJ Day’s good friend and regular guest at ¡Reunion!, Aimlo, has not been present.

“(Aimlo) is moving away and hasn’t been coming since the end of last year. For the past three months, he’s been doing his own thing and gearing up for the move,” DJ Day said.

DJ Day, whose birth name is Damien Beebe, said the decision was completely his own, and that Ace Hotel management was surprised to learn about his decision, yet was supportive and understanding. He said he will continue his last-Saturday-of-the-month Highlife party at the Ace.

“The Ace Hotel didn’t even see this coming. I’ve been kicking around the idea for a year, and in my gut, something told me it was time to move on and do something different,” he said.

DJ Day said one of the things he enjoyed the most about ¡Reunion! was the vibe that could often be felt in the room—something I experienced myself many times.

“Trying to Rolodex through six years’ worth of shit is insane. There have been some crazy times, from people dancing on tables to trying to put money in my underwear,” he said. “The best times were (when the crowd was) willing to take a chance and trust me musically, and it creates this reciprocal feeling in the room where everyone is on the same vibe together. It’s a church-like vibe, and everyone has the same spirit going through them. It’s the best feeling I can get through music and playing other people’s music.”

¡Reunion! has featured many amazing guests. The first ¡Reunion! I attended was in 2013 during Coachella, when Flying Lotus showed up and performed a surprise set in the Amigo Room.

“There have been times when I didn’t even know who was in the room just hanging out,” DJ Day said. Lykke Li was in there chillin’ one night in a booth; Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine was there one night, and just other random people. You never knew who would be at the Ace.

“During the first two years, we’d have special guests once a month. Jeremy Sole (of KCRW radio) put together this flier, and I was trying to remember all of the people who came through, but it’s a pretty big list of folks. I just wanted it to be a place where people could come and hang out … and be comfortable. That’s why it’s ‘¡Reunion!’—it’s a place for people to come together. I wanted to create a good vibe, and I’m proud to say we never had any fights or dumb shit happen in six years.”

Along with Aimlo, the aforementioned Jeremy Sole was a regular guest at Reunion, and other local DJs such as Pawn, Pedro Le Bass, JF//Discord and Independent resident Alex Harrington often joined the party. There has always been a spirit of collaboration and openness.

“I’m very happy to be part of anyone else’s success, or give people a platform to do their art of playing their music when they never had (a platform) before,” DJ Day said. “I love being part of the community here and being part of the future of young people. For me to give a hand to anybody, it’s a great thing.”

Despite DJ Day’s busy touring schedule—including various international trips—he always came back home to play at ¡Reunion!

“I was on tour in Europe, and I remember coming back one night (and) getting off the plane at LAX,” DJ Day said. “I went home and showered, and went right to ¡Reunion!, because DJ Nu-Mark was playing that night. I wanted to go and just make sure everything was cool. My wife was like, ‘What the fuck you doing?’ And I was like, ‘Hey, I gotta be there.’

“What has taken its toll, in an emotional sense, is going overseas and playing for like 4,000 people in Tokyo, and coming back home to no love. It’d be like, ‘Where the fuck is everyone?’ I felt like people were starting to take this shit for granted, and it was like old reliable: ‘Oh, I’ll go next week,’ and next week becomes next month and on and on. Then you’re relying on the hotel guests, and that can fluctuate.”

DJ Day said ¡Reunion! has been a true learning experience, because he never knows what kind of crowd and vibe each Thursday night will bring.

“I have to be on my toes for whoever is there,” he said. “Some nights, it’s been straight party shit; other nights, I’m playing Portishead at fucking midnight. It just depends.”

DJ Day has talked about how much effort he put into his record Land of 1000 Chances, which was released in 2013. He said he’s a much different artist now than he was back then.

“Whatever music I choose to make now is coming from a totally different perspective, life-wise and internally, than where I was at that time,” he said. “That was a culmination of events that were going on behind the scenes both within myself and other areas of my life. That record addressed some of them, and I put my heart and soul into that record. I’ll still do that with the next one, but it’ll be from a different place. … I think I’ll be more of an optimist, and my taste has evolved and changed.”

What does DJ Day see himself doing on Thursday nights after the final ¡Reunion! show?

“Watching Better Call Saul on the DVR,” he joked. “No, actually, I don’t know. It’s going to be weird, and it’s going to be an adjustment. I’d like to spend more time with my family. That’s what I really want.”

DJ Day said he’s not sure what the future will hold for Thursday nights at the Ace.

“I’ve been there since Day 1—I used to do sets by the pool, so I’ve actually been there seven years,” he said. “I offered to find a replacement for me, whether it was Aimlo or Pawn, to continue that night, given they know it, but they might go in a different direction and do something completely different.”

DJ Day said he feels very thankful as six years of ¡Reunion! come to a close.

“I couldn't have done this without my man Aimlo, who's been there from Day 1, and my Ace Hotel family who have been nothing short of awesome,” he said. “I also want to give a tremendous thanks to all of the artists who've played ¡Reunion! and everyone who's come out and supported us throughout the years. Much love to you all.”

The Reunion Six-Year-Anniversary Farewell will take place at 9 p.m., Thursday, March 31, at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-325-9900, or visit www.acehotel.com/palmsprings. Below: DJ Day with Alex Callego.

Before I dive in to all of the great February goings-on around the Coachella Valley, I want to pay tribute to two big names in music we just lost.

Rest in peace, Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be holding a Modernism Week-themed event at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13: There will be a screening of Visual Acoustics in the Commune. The film is a celebration of modernist architecture and a joyful portrait of renowned architecture photographer Julius Shulman. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The McCallum Theatre is fully booked with great stuff in February. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5 and Saturday, Feb. 6, Frank Sinatra Jr. will be performing. The son of the Chairman of the Board is a great singer and will be singing in celebration of his father’s 100th birthday. Tickets are $61 to $111. Continuing with the Sinatra centennial celebration: At 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, crooner Steve Lawrence will take the stage. Lawrence was a close friend of Sinatra—in fact, when Sinatra retired, Sinatra gave Lawrence a book of his arrangements. Tickets are $67. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24, get ready for a night of awesome country music: Wynonna Judd will be performing. After starting out as part of a smash-hit duo with her mother, Wynonna has been quite successful on her own. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa obviously made a wise choice when it booked with Johnny Mathis, considering his Feb. 13 show is sold out—but cheer up, because at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12, you can rock out to Air Supply, or whatever it is crazy fans of Air Supply do. The Australian duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock has been soft-rocking since the ’70s and recently had a hit with “Desert Sea Sky,” which was remixed and played in dance clubs. Tickets are $40 to $60. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fine slate of February events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, the original Jersey Boy himself, Frankie Valli, will be performing. He was a member of the Four Seasons, and he had a spectacular solo career, so you won’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, there will be a double bill with The Commodores and The Jacksons. Both groups have continued on without their famed frontmen, and to an extent, it’s worked for them both. The Jacksons’ reunion since Michael Jackson died in 2009 has come with mixed live reviews, though. Lionel Richie is currently not joining The Commodores, and it doesn’t look like he will anytime soon. Nonetheless, if you’re a real fan, you will enjoy both. Tickets are $39 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of great events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6, easy-listening superstar Engelbert Humperdinck will be coming back. The ballad singer has spawned numerous legends, including one that claims he’s bagged an impressive number of women—a number that puts Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and Gene Simmons of KISS to shame. Whether or not that’s true, there’s one thing he gave to us millennials … Fly with me, lesbian seagull! Tickets are $45 to $65. Are you a fan of the ’70s? Did you live through the ’70s but don’t remember it? Either way, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, the ’70s Time Machine Tour will take you back. Featuring performances by Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, and Denny Laine of Wings, the show will happily invoke the decade of leisure suits, pet rocks, shag carpet, van living and waterbeds. Yay! Tickets are $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

As for Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace: I’m sure we’ll be hearing some very big announcements soon regarding outdoor shows for the spring and summer, especially with Coachella right around the corner. But in the meantime, the February schedule is wonderful. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5, Joshua Tree locals Gene Evaro and the Family (right) will be appearing. Gene is one of the most talented musicians in the Coachella Valley; Alf Alpha has told me stories about Gene’s production skills in the studio as well. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, it will be time for local rock fans to rejoice and celebrate Eddie Spaghetti’s victory over throat cancer, because The Supersuckers are back! Funny story: I saw The Supersuckers in 1995 in Cleveland; the band was opening for White Zombie and the Ramones. Let’s just say The Supersuckers didn’t get a welcome reception that night—and I was one of the hecklers. But over time, The Supersuckers grew on me; they’re an excellent rock ’n’ roll band. Also worth mentioning: My friend Charlie Overbey will be opening. His new record The California Kid is awesome. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has one event we know about worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend—at a prom out of a John Waters film, that is—with Shannon and the Clams (below). Desert Hot Springs’ finest, Slipping Into Darkness, is also on the bill. Shurpadelic, dude! Admission is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews

The first Coachella Valley Beer Week—which I helped create—recently wrapped up after 10 days of craft-beer events all over the valley. On Nov. 14, the Indio BBQ and Beer Competition took place, and on that same day, La Quinta Brewing celebrated its second anniversary.

Now that these excellent events are over, where in the Coachella Valley can you go to enjoy the ever-expanding craft-beer revolution?

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club keeps up with trends in music, art, food and drink, and the folks in charge have updated the Amigo Room to carry more craft beer again. You can enjoy them in the dim, cavernous space, or brighten up by the pool.

In the northernmost reaches of Palm Desert, you’ll find the beloved La Quinta Brewing Co. and its taproom. On any given evening, you may find a local band playing, or women enjoying Koffi Porter ice cream floats during Ladies Night. The Heat Wave Amber and Tan Line Brown Ale beers recently returned, and the Napoleon barrel-aged beer was released for the brewery’s second anniversary. The biggest news of all: La Quinta Brewing just opened a taproom in Old Town La Quinta!

In Rancho Mirage, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse has been serving up barbecue (just voted as the valley’s best by Independent readers) and craft beer since 2002. Try the award-winning Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale, brewed with raisins and whole Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans. Babe’s also offers new, seasonal brews and a nice selection of other Southern California beers in the restaurant bar. Keep an eye out for the recently released DIPA, a hoppy pilsner, as well as an apricot tripel.

Babe’s neighbor at The River, the Yard House features 155 beers on tap. I’ve recently met knowledgeable bartenders there who will guide you in the right sudsy direction.

Schmidy’s Tavern is a favorite in Palm Desert among the younger crowd. Live music is a constant, and the pool tables are typically full. Enjoy beers on tap like Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale, Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale and Ironfire Outcast Dead Barrel Aged Imperial Red Ale.

Up Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs is a restaurant offering a farm-to-concrete-table dining experience that’s industrial chic and progressive. While the menu at Workshop Kitchen + Bar is heavy with cocktails and duck fat, the spot also offers a nice selection of beer. With a 34-foot-long concrete communal table and lofty wood-trussed cathedral ceiling, you may feel as if you’re sharing beer steins in Bavaria.

A little closer to the heart of downtown Palm Springs is Bar. The street-art-friendly, chalet-inspired watering hole serves classic cocktails and a nice sampling of Southern California craft beers. Try the Picnic Eggs—deviled eggs with Sriracha and wasabi—with the War Gin beer cocktail, with gin and lemon honey pale ale.

The spirit of Sinatra is alive at the Purple Room Restaurant and Stage—but unlike hangouts of the ’60s, this swanky supper club offers a great selection of craft beers. In bottles, you can enjoy San Diego beers like Ballast Point Longfin Lager and Stone Pale Ale. On tap, enjoy CVB’s Desert Swarm, Babe’s Blackfin Lager, La Quinta’s Poolside Blonde and many other brews

Fame Lounge is an upscale cigar, wine and microbrew lounge located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. At the bar, you’ll find a rotation of beers on tap. Recent finds: Stone Wootstout 2.0 and North Coast Indica IPA.

On Indian Canyon Drive, check out the progressive Vietnamese-American beer bar Rooster and the Pig. Try the banh mi burger with one of the California craft beers on draft. Chef/owner Tai Spendley also has a nice variety of Vietnamese beers in bottles.

What happens when you combine traditional Tokyo cuisine with American and Japanese craft beer? You get the upscale-casual Gyoro Gyoro, at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive. The spot offers a nice selection of craft beers from the states and Japan, along with a variety of fantastic sake.

Beloved farm-to-table brewery Coachella Valley Brewing Co. also celebrated its second anniversary recently. Sustainability, creativity and passion are key ingredients in these exceptional beers. Be sure to check out head brewer Chris Anderson’s sour program, as well as the brewery’s Profligate Society, which features rare beers. Palms to Pines, the ever-popular Triple IPA brewed with locally foraged spruce tips and coconut palm sugar, will be released around mid-December.

On Highway 111 in Indian Wells, you’ll find So Cal chain Eureka! Currently, Eureka! boasts 20 impressive taps ranging from Stone’s Barrel Aged Brown Ale with Balaton Sour Cherries to Mother Earth’s Imagination Land. Watch for great beer-pairing events.

The Stuft Pizza locations in Palm Desert and La Quinta have become hot spots for watching the game and sipping your favorite suds. The “not just pizza” joint in Palm Desert has 15 taps, two of which rotate with the latest craft seasonals. There’s a reason why pizza and beer are a match made in heaven: The acids and tannins in wine tend to amplify the acidity of tomato dishes.

Wherever you go … take time to savor your beer and enjoy the craft-beer revolution! 

Published in Beer

On the surface, this “Best Of” package may seem pretty simple: It’s a list of winners and finalists in more than 115 categories, as voted on by Coachella Valley Independent readers, along with a handful of staff picks and photos—with a feature on the Best Local Band thrown in for good measure.

But if you look a little deeper, you’ll see these results paint a fairly interesting picture of the Coachella Valley as it stands today. For example: The fact that such varied and diverse local bands, musicians and DJs were chosen by our readers as winners and finalists points to an increasingly varied and diverse local music scene. If you peruse the places selected as winners and finalists in the various food and restaurant categories, you’ll discover the vast majority of them are locally owned places—pointing to an increasingly good local food scene.

On the flip side, you can find hints of deficiencies in the valley as well. For example: Because there are only three finalists in the Best Indian food category, one can guess there aren’t all that many Indian-food joints in the Coachella Valley. (In fact, you can guess there are probably three, give or take.) And a chain won in the Best Chinese category. ’Nuff said.

I could go on and on, but I won’t; I’ll simply leave you to the results instead.

Oh, one more thing (maybe two): Thank you to all of the many, many readers who voted—and congratulations to all of the winners and finalists. And mark your calendars: The Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 Awards Party will be on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Details coming soon.

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene

 

Runners up:

2. Heather James Gallery

3. CODA Gallery

4. Archangel Gallery

5. Hohmann Fine Art

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. The Show at Agua Caliente

5. Fantasy Springs Special Event Center

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Coachella Valley Art Scene

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Palm Springs Art Museum

4. La Quinta Arts Foundation

5. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

 

Best Local Band

The Flusters

 

Runners up:

2. IIIZ (formerly The Yip Yops)

3. War Drum

4. Thr3 Strykes

5. R. Buckle Road

 

Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha

 

Runners up:

2. DJ Day

3. Alex Harrington

4. House Whores

5. One4All/Tommy Locust

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika Von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. EeVaan Tre

3. John Robbins

4. Steve Madaio

5. Kal David

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Sofia Enriquez

 

Runners up:

2. Michael Murphy

3. Elena Bulatova

4. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

5. Michael Weems

 

Best Movie Theater

Century Theatres at The River

 

Runners up:

2. Cinemas Palme d’Or

3. UltraStar Mary Pickford Stadium 14

4. Camelot Theatres

5. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum

3. La Quinta Museum

4. Coachella Valley History Museum

5. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Empire Polo Club

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. La Quinta Civic Center

 

Best Theater Company

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Coyote Stageworks

5. Dezart Performs


Life in the Valley

 

Best Alternative Health Center

Palm Springs Healing Center

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Hot Springs Health and Wellness Center

3. Neuro Vitality Center (formerly the Stroke Recovery Center)

 

Best Farmers’ Market

Old Town La Quinta Certified Farmers’ Market

 

Runners up:

2. College of the Desert Street Fair

3. Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market (Saturday)

4. Palm Desert Certified Farmers’ Market (Wednesday)

5. Palm Springs VillageFest

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

4. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

5. Mizell Senior Center

 

Best Gym

World Gym Palm Desert

 

Runners up:

2. In-Shape Cathedral City

3. EOS Fitness Palm Springs

4. Palm Springs Fitness

5. World Gym Palm Springs

 

Best Public Servant

Congressman Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans

3. Palm Springs City Council Member Ginny Foat

4. Palm Springs City Council Member Paul Lewin

5. La Quinta City Council Member Robert Radi

 

Best Yoga Studio

Bikram Yoga University Village

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. Urban Yoga

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes Bowling at Morongo

 

Best Auto Repair

Desert Classic Cars

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Andy’s Auto Repair

Palms to Pines Automotive

4. European Auto Service

5. OMAG Automotive Machine

 

Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. TIE

Airport Car Wash

Desert 100% Hand Car Wash

5. Red Carpet Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Moorten Botanical Garden

4. Bob Williams Nursery

 

Best Pet Supplies

PetSmart

 

Runners up:

2. Cold Nose Warm Heart

3. Petco

4. Bones ‘n’ Scones

5. Pet Oasis

 

Best Annual Charity Event

La Quinta Arts Festival

 

Runners up:

2. Paint El Paso Pink (Desert Cancer Foundation)

3. Evening Under the Stars (AIDS Assistance Program)

4. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards Gala (Desert AIDS Project)

5. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

 

Best Place to Gamble

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

 

Runners up:

2. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

3. Morongo Casino Resort Spa

4. Spa Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. Ginger Jeffries, KMIR Channel 6

3. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

4. Jenifer Daniels, CBS Local 2

5. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Radio Station

KCRW 89.3 FM

 

Runners up:

2. Q102.3 Classic Rock

3. Mix 100.5

4. The Bull 98.5

5. K-News 94.3

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Jim "Fitz" Fitzgerald, 103.9 FM The Breeze

 

Runners up:

2. Jeff Michaels, Big 106 (KPLM)

3. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

4. Dan McGrath, 103.1 Sunny FM

5. Joey English, K-News 94.3

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble

 

Runners up:

2. Crystal Fantasy

3. The Book Rack

4. Just Fabulous

5. Revivals

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley

 

Runners up:

2. Best Buy

3. Barnes and Noble

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Barnes and Noble

3. JB Sports and Varsity Jackets

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. Riviera Palm Springs

3. Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa

4. La Quinta Resort

5. The Saguaro

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Red Panties Boutique


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s

 

Runners up:

2. Grayse El Paseo

3. Wil Stiles

4. R&R Men’s Wear

5. Glossy

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

TIE

Angel View

Revivals

 

Runners up:

3. Gypsyland

4. Resale Therapy

5. The Fine Art of Design

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Misty’s Consignments

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Scandinavian Designs (formerly Plummers)

 

Best Antiques/Collectibles Store

The Estate Sale Co.

 

Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. Antique Galleries of Palm Springs

4. Victoria’s Attic Antiques

5. The POP Shop

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Leeds and Son

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. The Jewelry Bar

4. Hephaestus

5. B. Alsohns Jewelers

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Dishwater Blonde

3. Brien O’Brien Salon

4. Razors

5. Revive Salon Spa

 

Best Spa

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Resort

3. Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa

4. Studio M

5. Miracle Springs

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Rancho Mirage Florist

3. Palm Springs Florist

4. The Flower Company

5. Vaso Bello Celebrations

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

The Tattoo Gallery

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

Strata Tattoo Lab

4. Art and Ink Tattoo Studio and Design

5. Contrast Tattoo Studios

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Ooh La-La de Paris

4. Desert Eyecare Center

5. Old Town Optometry


Outside!

 

Best Urban Landscaping

Sunnylands

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo

3. Palm Springs (downtown)

4. Rancho Mirage (general)

5. Palm Springs International Airport

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. El Paseo

4. Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at the PS Art Museum Palm Desert

5. Palm Desert Community Gardens

 

Best Place for Bicycling

Palm Springs (general)

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta (general)

3. Frank Sinatra Drive

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Idyllwild

3. Indian Canyons

4. Whitewater Preserve

5. Tahquitz Canyon

 

Best Hike

Indian Canyons

 

Runners up:

2. Bump and Grind Trail

3. Painted Canyon

4. Palm Springs Art Museum Trail

5. South Lykken Trail

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Demuth Park

5. Francis Stevens Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Big 5

3. Yellow Mart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Cyclery

3. Tri.A.Bike

4. Mike’s Bike Truck

 

Best Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Big 5

3. The Sports Authority

 

Best Public Golf Course

Indian Wells Golf Resort

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Willow Golf Resort

3. Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

4. SilverRock Resort

5. The Lights at Indio GC


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Demuth Park

5. Cathedral City Town Square

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys “R” Us

 

Runners up:

2. Target

3. Mr G’s For Kids

4. Big Lots

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Crazy 8

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Islands

4. Ruby’s

5. Burgers and Beer

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Wet ’n’ Wild

3. Children’s Discovery Museum

4. Boomers

5. Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum

3. TIE

Boomers

Chuck E. Cheese’s

5. Peaks Restaurant (Top of the Tram)


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

Eureka!

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Stuft Pizza

4. Bill’s Pizza

5. Pho 533

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Lavender Bistro

3. Dash and a Handful

4. Desert Cities Catering

5. Lynn Hammond

 

Best Diner

Keedy’s Fountain Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Elmer’s

3. King’s Highway at the Ace

4. John’s

5. Bit of Country

 

Best Organic Food Store

Whole Foods

 

Runners up:

2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Harvest Health Foods

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Cafe

4. Real Italian Deli

5. It’s a Deli

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Exquisite Desserts

 

Best Desserts

Manhattan in the Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s

3. French Corner Cafe and Bakery

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Pastry Swan Bakery/Fix a Dessert House

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Great Shakes

 

Runners up:

2. Cold Stone Creamery

3. Ben and Jerry’s

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Lappert’s Ice Cream

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Palm Greens Cafe

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Beach House

 

Runners up:

2. Tutti Frutti

3. Yogurt Island

4. Jus Chillin

5. Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt

 

Best Bakery

Aspen Mills

 

Runners up:

2. Nothing Bundt Cakes

3. French Corner Cafe and Bakery

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Jackalope Ranch

4. Smoke Tree BBQ Bar and Grill

5. CV BBQ

 

Best Burger

Eureka!

 

Runners up:

2. Grill-A-Burger

3. Woody’s Burgers

4. Burgers and Beer

5. Smokin’ Burgers

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Grill-A-Burger

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Woody’s Burgers

 

Best Sandwich

Sherman’s

 

Runners up:

2. The Sandwich Spot

3. TKB Bakery and Deli

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills

 

Best Pizza

Stuft Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Bill’s Pizza

3. Piero’s PizzaVino

4. Matchbox

5. Giuseppe’s

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Upper Crust Pizza

3. TIE

Bar

The Village Pub

5. Lulu California Bistro

 

Best Bagels

Einstein Bros. Bagels

 

Runners up:

2. New York Bagel and Deli

3. Townie Bagels Bakery Cafe

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Sherman’s

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Juice It Up!

4. Koffi

5. Nature’s Health Food and Café

 

Best Buffet

Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

 

Runners up:

2. Emperor Buffet

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Coffee Shop for Coffee

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Old Town Coffee Company

3. Starbucks

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Teavana

3. Koffi

4. Starbucks

5. Ristretto

 

Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s Cafe

 

Runners up:

2. Elmer’s

3. John’s

4. TIE

Lulu California Bistro

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Trio

Zin American Bistro

4. Tropicale

5. Copley’s on Palm Canyon

 

Best Brunch

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Escena Lounge and Grill

4. Vue Grille and Bar

5. Tropicale

 

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. City Wok

3. Wang’s in the Desert

4. China 8

5. New Fortune

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

3. TIE

Miro’s Restaurant

Nina’s Greek Cuisine

5. Santorini Gyro Hamburger/Greek Food and Grill

 

Best French

Le Vallauris

 

Runners up:

2. La Brasserie

3. Pomme Frite

4. Cuistot

5. Chez Pierre

 

Best Indian

India Oven

 

Runners up:

2. Monsoon Indian Cuisine

3. Naan House

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Sushi Domo

 

Best Italian

Ristorante Mamma Gina

 

Runners up:

2. La Bella Cucina

3. Mario’s Italian Cafe

4. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

5. Trilussa

 

Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise

3. The Venue

4. No Da Te

5. Sushi Domo

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

3. Ruben and Ozzy’s

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5.Oceans Seafood Restaurant

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Sullivan’s Steakhouse

3. The Steakhouse at Spa Resort Casino

4. Outback Steakhouse

5. Chop House

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Thai Smile of Rancho Mirage (now in Palm Desert)

3. Blue Orchid

4. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

5. Le Basil

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Rooster and the Pig

3. Pho 533

4. Pho of the Desert

5. Le Basil

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

 

Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Wally’s Desert Turtle

3. Lavender Bistro

4. Jillian’s

5. Tropicale

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. Lavender Bistro

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Le Vallauris

5. Tropicale

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. King’s Highway at the Ace

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Alicante

5. Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise

 

Best Mexican

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. El Mirasol

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Pueblo Viejo Grill

5. La Tablita

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Pueblo Viejo Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Loco Charlie’s Mexican Grill

5. Los Pepes Mexican Grill and Bar

 

Best Burrito

Chipotle

 

Runners up:

2. El Ranchito Taco Shop

3. El Gallito

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. La Tablita


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Bart Lounge

4. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

5. Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Bart Lounge

3. Hunters

4. Neil’s Lounge

5. Palm Springs Lanes

 

Best Cocktail Menu

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Bar

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Tropicale

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Toucan’s

 

Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Chill

4. Tool Shed

5. Streetbar

 

Best Happy Hour

La Quinta Cliffhouse Grill and Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Wang’s in the Desert

4. Hunters

5. Tropicale

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Red Barn

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Score

5. Toucan’s

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Armando’s Dakota Bar and Grill

3. El Mirasol

4. TIE

Los Pepes Mexican Bar and Grill

Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

 

Best Martini

Mastro’s Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Melvyn’s

3. The Falls (no longer in business)

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Tropicale

 

Best Nightclub

Bart Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Copa

3. Chill

4. Hunters

5. Bardot Nightclub

 

Best Sports Bar

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. The Beer Hunter

3. Burgers and Beer

4. Playoffs Sports Bar and Lounge

5. Score

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. La Rue Wine Bar

3. Sullivan’s Steak House

4. La Brasserie

5. 12th Floor Cocktail Lounge and Wine Bar at Fantasy Springs

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. LQ Wine

4. Desert Wines and Spirits in the Go Deli Market

5. Fame Lounge

 

Best Bar Ambiance

Bart Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Melvyn’s

4. Tropicale

5. Chill


Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016: Staff Picks

Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016: Best Local Band: The Flusters

Best of Coachella Valley 2014-2015

Published in Readers' Picks

Best Pastries

Peninsula Pastries

The cute little shop at the end of Palm Springs’ Sun Center strip mall isn’t a place to go for a co-worker’s last-minute birthday sheet cake, nor is it a place that serves trendy cupcakes.

No, this place is something much more unique.

Owners Helene and Christophe Meyer import flour from France to make classic French baked goods like croissants, turnovers, tarts and baguettes. Yes, there are cakes, but they’re on the fancy side—think chocolate ganache, lemon-raspberry and Grand Marnier.

On most days, bread is available fresh from the oven at 1 p.m., but on Saturdays and during the peak of season, you may want to order ahead to avoid the disappointment of arriving at the bakery—and finding your favorite variety sold out.

—Jeff Clarkson


Best Local Musical Collaborator

DJ Day

DJ Day (Damien Beebe) has been holding down Thursdays in the Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club with his ¡Reunión! nights for several years now. While the DJ and producer is probably best known for ¡Reunión!, he’s gained a worldwide fan base due to his travels.

He’s also well-known for one other thing: He truly believes in the spirit of collaboration. For starters, he often shares his for ¡Reunión! night with other local DJs, such as Aimlo, Pawn and Pedro Le Bass.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Aloe Blacc, who has worked with DJ Day in the past. “He’s a great human being, and working with him is very easy,” Blacc said about DJ Day. “We both love the same music, and we speak the same language. He sends me examples of music and songs he’s really interested in, and I try to make music that he’ll like. One of the markers I use in the studio is, ‘Do the musicians I’m working with really like this, and will my real friends like this?’ It’s not all the time that I hit that mark; sometimes I take a lot of risks, but for the most part, I think I’m making my buddies and DJ Day proud.”

Far too many DJs these days have a “me first” attitude. DJ Day does not—and that’s a beautiful thing.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Band Transformation

CIVX

It’s been a turbulent couple of years for local band CIVX.

The group played its first show in early 2014, and basically achieved overnight success: CIVX won a slot at the downtown Palm Springs Tachevah Block Party in 2014, and found itself playing Coachella just a few days later.

But all good things eventually come to an end. Earlier this year, CIVX parted ways with frontman and bassist Nick Hernandez. Guitarist Dillion Dominguez took over lead vocals—a move that forced CIVX to reshape its sound and write new material. The remaining members recruited Dominguez’s jam buddy, Clay Samalin—originally a guitarist—to replace Hernandez on bass.

The results of all these changes: CIVX came out on top, playing a session for Jam in the Van, releasing a cassette that included new single “In Trance,” and turning in some fantastic live performances. Dominguez has come a long way since stepping into the role of frontman, while Joel Guerrero’s drumming has become tighter and more intense.

Our prediction: CIVX will continue to make great strides in 2016. We can’t wait.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Community Ambassador

Clifton Tatum, Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2015

The leather community is full of sort-of-but-not-really contradictions: On one hand, the community has a very sexual and kinky focus. On the other, it’s service-oriented; you’d be hard-pressed to find many groups that do more fundraising for fantastic local causes.

On one hand, the community is dominated by gay men; on the other, the Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert recently held a brunch for women during Leather Pride.

Here’s what I mean by sort-of-but-not-really contradictions: Why can’t a group that focuses on kink and sex also focus on helping others? Why can’t women be at home in the leather community?

Until this year’s Leather Pride, which took place in early November, the local leather community’s official ambassador was Clifton Tatum—a strikingly handsome, muscled, 57-year-old retired Department of Corrections counselor. Tatum perfectly represented the not-really dichotomy of the local leather community: He is sexy as all hell, and looks mighty fine in a jock strap—and he cares, deeply, about the Coachella Valley. He cares so deeply, in fact, that he spent his title year tirelessly raising funds for four local LGBT-youth charities.

In the end, he raised more than $20,000—and bemoaned the fact that he didn’t raise more—all while representing the leather community with class and style in both mainstream and not-so-mainstream circles. (Full disclosure: I helped him at several fundraising events.)

Christopher Durbin, the newly crowned Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2016, has big shoes to fill—figuratively and literally.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Attention to Detail

Shabu Shabu Zen

A confession: I was disappointed that Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen, the 2014-2015 Best Japanese winner, did not repeat its first-place finish in this year’s Best of Coachella Valley. I mean no disrespect to Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, this year’s winner—a restaurant at which I have had numerous wonderful experiences over the years—when I say that Shabu Shabu Zen is my go-to Japanese restaurant in the valley.

Here’s why: The attention to detail at Shabu Shabu Zen, presided over by the always-gracious Miho Suma, is unparalleled. The quality ingredients that go into the various Japanese hot-pot preparations look and taste amazing. The service offered by Suma and her staff is flawless. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a speck of dust anywhere in her restaurant.

I remember being blown away one day when she talked to me about making her own ponzu sauce. Ponzu sauce is generally just soy sauce and citrus; if Shabu Shabu Zen bought pre-made ponzu sauce, Suma would probably save both time and money—and 99.999 percent of her customers probably would neither notice nor care. Yet she makes her own—because details matter.

As a result of this fantastic attention to detail, not only is Shabu Shabu Zen one of the best Japanese restaurants in the valley; it’s one of the best restaurants, period.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Way to Spend a Monday Night

Trivia With Bella da Ball at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

If you’re looking for the staff of the Coachella Valley Independent after 9 p.m. on any given Monday night, chances are you’ll find us in the Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, sipping cocktails and scribbling answers to random trivia questions on a dry-erase board.

The weekly trivia nights are presided over by Palm Springs’ hostess with the mostess, the fabulous Bella da Ball (aka Brian Wanzek). The crowd varies from week to week, depending on whatever’s happening at the Ace (and whatever’s happening in town in general); the mix is roughly 50 percent locals, and 50 percent out-of-towners. Some nights are calm and breezy; other times, the crowd can get a little rowdier than you’d expect a crowd to get at a trivia contest.

Then there was that time a bunch of liquored-up employees of a So Cal brewery wandered into the Amigo Room for trivia after a company meeting. It’s probably a good thing Bella wasn’t armed.

Anyway, admission is free, and the top teams always win prizes—usually a $50 gift certificate to the Ace. Try it … and see if you can knock off the Independent and Friends Team. Good luck with that.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016: Readers’ Picks

Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016: Best Local Band: The Flusters

Best of Coachella Valley 2014-2015

Published in Staff Picks

What: The Buttermilk Fried Jidori Chicken

Where: King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $24

Contact: 760-866-6180; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings/kings-highway

Why: It’s a mouth-watering, nuanced delight.

And now, here’s a little glimpse at how the sausage is made. (“The sausage,” in this case, means “food journalism.”)

Not too long ago, the King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club invited media folks to a family-style tasting of a bunch of stuff on the restaurant’s new menu, which was developed with the help of the people at the renowned Five Leaves restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The food, as one would expect, was tasty across the board. (After all, the kitchen is most definitely going to be on its “A” game when feeding a bunch of writers and reporters.) However, two dishes really got my attention: The shepherd’s pie, and the fried chicken. Well, on subsequent visits to the Ace (the Independent has a contingent there most Monday nights for trivia, for the record), I decided see if the food I received as a regular ol’ customer matched the food I received as a vaunted member of the media. (Please, no snickering at that last statement.)

Upon further review, the shepherd’s pie was indeed very good—but the fried chicken was out of freaking sight.

I want this fried chicken all the time now. Jidori chickens are a trendy, free-range sort of bird known for their yumminess—and this chicken is indeed juicy and delicious. However, the coating/skin is important, too: It’s sweet from honey, spicy from habañero, and splendidly crispy as a result of the talents of the folks in the King’s Highway kitchen.

My mouth is watering as I write this. Your mouth should be watering as you read this. This chicken is that good.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Top Chef Comes to Palm Springs

During its 12 seasons, Bravo’s Top Chef has spent time in great food cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas and, most recently, Boston.

Now we can add Palm Springs to the list … sort of.

For the show’s 13th season, producers decided to mix things up by returning to California—but hopping around, with stops in L.A., San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Santa Barbara and the Coachella Valley.

While not a lot of details on the Palm Springs stop have been released, here’s what we do know: On Wednesday, May 20, the chef-testants were tasked with cooking for a mass same-sex wedding/renewal-of-vows ceremony. We also know that Over the Rainbow’s Roman Blas was asked to make a wedding cake for the show. (He shared that tidbit on Facebook.)

If any more Top Chef news makes its way to our desk, we’ll be sure to pass it along.

Johannes Stops Offering Tap Water in Favor of Bottles ... to ‘Preserve the Environment’?

OK, we’re confused here.

Johannes Restaurant—for my money, one of the top restaurants in the valley—has announced that as of June 15, it will no longer serve tap water, and will instead offer bottled water from New Zealand.

Why, you ask? It’s being done in an effort to “preserve the environment.” Yeah, we don’t get it, either.

Here’s the scoop, straight from the news release:

“The restaurant will offer Waiwera Organic Artesian Still Water, a New Zealand treasure for centuries, for $1. Waiwera water is carbon neutral and bottled at the source in BPA-free PET bottles. If a guest doesn’t finish the bottle of water, they can take it with them.

“Serving tap water with ice has become wasteful, and in order to conserve water, Johannes has made this decision to convert to a new concept. Restaurants in other cities are adopting this same concept. During the course of a year, the restaurant uses over 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of ice and 15,000 gallons of water, which converts to an average of over 75,000 glasses of water and ice per year.”

The news release goes on to say: “We hope more restaurants in the Coachella Valley will consider doing the same and that our guests will understand and support our concept.”

OK. We understand that less water will be coming out of California’s aquifers as a result of this move, perhaps … but shipping water all the way in from New Zealand!?

If we figure out how that works, we’ll let you know. For more information, visit www.johannesrestaurants.com.

Babe's Joins Forces With The Venue for a Special Dinner

It’s being touted as “the desert’s first five-course sushi and craft beer pairing dinner.”

It is taking place at The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge, 73111 El Paseo, in Palm Desert, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 3. The Venue’s sushi will be combined with the great beer—and a little bit of the barbecue—from Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, in Rancho Mirage. The dinner starts with tempura-style stuffed zucchini blossoms (with spicy tuna!) being paired with Babe’s Honey Blond Ale—and it goes from there. As for the third course: We’re dying to find out what hickory-smoked tri-tip sashimi is! It’s being paired with Babe’s Bin 1214 Imperial Red Ale.

The dinner is $65 per person. For reservations or more details, call 760-346-1500.

In Brief

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge is closed—again. After getting back on its figurative feet after two recent fires, the restaurant, at 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, quite suddenly shut its doors on May 17. We’re told that serious maintenance issues within the building could not wait any longer to be fixed, so management decided to bite the bullet and address them, all while keeping fingers crossed for an Aug. 1 reopening. Here’s hoping that’s the case, as we’re already hankering for a bowl of Twin Palms’ amazing gumbo. Watch www.facebook.com/twinpalmsbistro for updates. ... Jersey Mike’s Subs is now open at 79174 Highway 111, in La Quinta. It’s the second Jersey Mike’s in the valley; there’s already one on Highway 111 in Palm Desert, and a third is supposedly coming to Palm Springs. … Wasabi, a Japanese/sushi joint that had for years been located at 333 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has closed, and an Italian restaurant is taking its place. More details to come. … The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has again tweaked its menus with help from Five Leaves restaurant out of Brooklyn, N.Y. We recently joined other media folks at a tasting of the new fare at the Ace’s King’s Highway, and found the food to be quite tasty. In particular, we were blown away by the shepherd’s pie! We’re also intrigued by the fact that the Ace is now serving some special cocktails out of taps and bottles. We’ll share more boozy details when we get ’em; in the meantime, head to www.acehotel.com/palmsprings to check out the new menus.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Mark Your Calendars: Dining Out for Life Is on Thursday, April 30

Every year, dozens of area restaurants agree to give a chunk of one special day’s proceeds to the Desert AIDS Project, and that sacrifice makes a big financial difference: Last year, more than $175,000 was raised for DAP’s client services, thanks to about 10,000 diners and 43 participating restaurants.

This year, DAP has even higher hopes for Dining Out for Life, which will take place on Thursday, April 30: As of this writing, 47 restaurants had pledged to participate, with each giving at least 33 percent of the day’s proceeds to DAP.

That’s fantastic. Even better: Two restaurants have committed to giving 100 percent of the day’s take to DAP: Ristretto (500 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) and Pho 533 (1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 625, Palm Springs; more on Pho 533 later).

By the way: The Independent is a sponsor of Dining Out for Life, and we have agreed to “adopt” three restaurants during the day; follow us on Facebook to watch as we eat breakfast at King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club (701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs), lunch at Alicante (140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs), and dinner at Bar (340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs). Or better yet—join us at these great restaurants; have a great meal; and help the Desert AIDS Project surpass last year’s $175,000 take.

Go out and eat for a good cause; it’s literally the least you can do!

For more information, including a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings.

Dash and a Handful Owner Buys Pho 533

Chad Gardner, the brains (and the culinary talent) behind the Dash and a Handful catering company, is in the process of buying Pho 533, the Vietnamese restaurant that calls the Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center in Palm Springs home.

In a news release, Gardner said he had no immediate plans to make big changes at the restaurant; in fact, he said he is a longtime fan of Pho 533.

“I’m extremely excited to take the reins of this great restaurant and its loyal following that has been lovingly cultivated by its current ownership,” Gardner said, in the type of awkward quote that could only be found in a press release. He continued: “You may see some new specials introduced here and there, but the current menu will remain virtually intact.”

According to that news release, Gardner has long wanted to own a restaurant. “I started my career in restaurants, and I love all types of Asian food, but since I was trained as a French chef, I particularly love Vietnamese food,” he said.

Escrow is expected to close sometime in early April.

Congratulations to Gardner! Watch pho533palmsprings.com for updates.

In Brief

Serious Food and Drink has moved in to the space at 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive that was the longtime home of Hamburger Mary’s. The restaurant’s website describes Serious as a “new American restaurant with a fun, relaxed atmosphere that is great for all occasions,” and there is some serious talent behind the place. Expect compelling appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrées for lunch, while dinner brings a lot of tasty stuff—with price tags topping out at $28. I personally can’t wait to try out the Quack Stack appetizer ($13.95): Take duck fat fries, and add shredded duck confit and duck-egg hollandaise. I gained four pounds just reading that—but my mouth is watering. Learn more at seriousfoodanddrink.com. … With the change in seasons comes changes in menus—and such is the case at Simon Kitchen + Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. On Monday, March 30, the restaurant—which carries the name of celebrity chef Kerry Simon, and is led by executive chef Jeremy Saccardi—added new “social plates” (read: appetizers) that include veal meatballs Parmigana with rapini and burrata; and wok-charred edamame with togarashi. That sounds good, but it was the steak addition that got our attention: a 22- or 36-ounce bone-in rib eye prepared with marrow butter and special steak sauce. Yes, marrow butter. More info at www.hrhpalmsprings.com/simon.htm. … Finally, sad news: Michael Farber, the proprietor at Dickie O’Neal’s Irish Pub, at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, passed away due to heart problems. Following his death, Dickie O’Neal’s closed its doors indefinitely. Both Farber and Dickie O’Neal’s Irish Pub will be greatly missed.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

More and more restaurants and bars are offering amazing craft beers in the Coachella Valley—and now there’s a new, responsible way to sample these tasty brews in Palm Springs.

Introducing the Buzz Crawl.

The concept behind the Palm Springs Buzz is simple: It’s a trolley that allows locals and visitors alike to explore Palm Springs for free. The bus is bright and retro, with vintage lettering, plush seats and wood paneling. The Buzz runs every 15 minutes from Via Escuela to Smoke Tree Lane, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., every Thursday through Sunday—again, for FREE!

And, yes, there’s an app for that.

According to city officials, from Feb. 5-8, the Buzz picked up about 4,500 people. The following week—which included Valentine’s Day and Modernism Week’s kickoff weekend—that number rose to nearly 6,000.

John Raymond, the director of community and economic development for the city of Palm Springs, is keeping a finger on the pulse of the Buzz. He’s hopeful that the Buzz is reducing the number of people who are driving under the influence.

“People are fanatical about it. They think it’s great,” he said about the Buzz. “We figured tourists would catch on … but what’s been really great is the number of locals who are into it—Thursday night, especially.”

Because the Buzz is free and runs all weekend, you don’t need a defined schedule—but here are my recommendations on spots to hit for craft beer.

One of the first places is on the south end, near stop No. 18: The Legendary Purple Room at Club Trinidad has a “Rat Pack” heritage, but owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen are now offering modern fare and amazing Southern California craft beers. Head chef Jennifer Town graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and was the executive sous chef at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club before coming over to the Purple Room. She’s a craft-beer lover and appreciates the culinary art of pairing rich dishes with perfect craft beers.

Speaking of the Ace Hotel and Swim Club: It’s a great launching point, with amazing spaces at which to soak up the sun and/or people-watch. The closest Buzz stop is just across the street, No. 16. Check out The Amigo Room and its artisanal cocktails, hippy party vibe and fantastic variety of craft beers. Enjoy them in the dim, cavernous space—or better yet, have one by the pool. Choose among 21 taps from Southern California breweries including Babe’s, Coachella Valley Brewing, La Quinta Brewing, Stone and Hangar 24.

At the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club (pictured below), near stop Nos. 14 and 20, soak in more rays by the pool or try your hand at bocce ball—or the largest game of beer pong ever (pictured below). While the Hacienda’s craft beer selection isn’t extensive, there are a few nice choices, and the $5 poolside menu is not to be ignored: Enjoy a Racer 5 IPA, Stone Pale Ale or Ballast Point Sculpin IPA with a braised short rib and Hacienda chorizo empanadas. Want really to get the party started? Have one of some 75 tequila flights, starting at only $3.50.

Not in the mood for Mexican-style food? Check out the new hip sushi spot in town. Gyoro Gyoro is in the middle of downtown, near stop No. 8. The restaurant opened last May and not only serves fantastic fish, but offers unique microbrewery beers from around the world—yes, even Japanese craft beer!—as well as a fine selection of sake.

Feeling like some fresh, delicious pizza? Get off at stop No. 9 or 11 and stroll over to Matchbox, which not only offers artisanal brick-oven pies amid a flame-lit balcony overlooking La Plaza; the restaurant also has a nice selection of craft beer, with a dozen or so on tap and about 20 different beers in bottles. Expect popular beers from breweries like Allagash, Green Flash, Stone, BearRepublic, Alaskan, LostCoast and Rogue. Matchbox typically has at least one local beer on tap, too.

Right around the corner is my favorite cigar lounge, which won over my heart because of its impressive selection of wine and craft beer: Fame Lounge is a masculine and comfortable place, also near stops No. 9 and 11. Try the cigar and beer pairing for $10.

Bar is located at 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, near stop No. 7. With its dark surroundings and extensive whiskey menu, Bar is a great stop at night. Try the picnic eggs—deviled eggs with Sriracha and wasabi—and pair them with the War Gin (gin and lemon-honey pale ale) beer cocktail. Bar offers about 20 bottled beer choices, including Blazing World and Black House from San Diego’s Modern Times; the beers on tap rotate.

For upscale, neo-retro dining, head over to Trio, near Buzz stop No. 5, in an historic midcentury building in Palm Springs’ sophisticated Uptown Design District. Trio serves a fine selection of craft beers and delicious cocktails, and offers a three-course $19 prix-fixe menu 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Happy hour brings $3 well, $5 call, $8 premium and $5 bar bites at the bar and on the patio.

Nearby is Birba, a modern outdoor pizzeria. Birba translates from Italian to “little rascal.” Enjoy a carefully crafted cocktail like the “Hello Nancy” in the courtyard, surrounded by white-light-wrapped trees. While the eight signature cocktails are delicious, Birba also offers a selection of local craft beer.

Get off at Buzz stop No. 4 to enjoy the friendly and chic Workshop Kitchen + Bar. The popular spot has a nice selection of craft beer, but also specializes in cocktails inside the restored 1926 Spanish colonial revival building. I have been known to be a cross-drinker—and you might become one, too, among the cool concrete tables and souring wooden ceilings. Gourmet farm-to-table restaurants like Workshop are no stranger to the craft-beer “revolution,” and Workshop offers sublime pairings with locally sourced ingredients. The rich herbes de Provence fries are cooked in duck fat; pair them with a crisp Belgium beer. On tap, you’ll find brews from Salzburg, Colorado, San Diego and the Coachella Valley, as well as a great bottled-beer selection. Don’t be afraid to check out the spirits menu, showcasing “underdog” whiskeys, vodkas and gins. My personal favorite handcrafted cocktail here is the “Palm Springer,” with vodka, fresh pineapple juice, house-made grenadine, angostura bitters.

The Buzz has four buses, ensuring that riders can hop on at any of the 30-plus stops every 15 minutes. Check out the new fun and responsible way to catch a buzz in Palm Springs—and Tweet to @TheBeerGoddess if you’re checking out the #PSBuzz!

For more information and a route map, visit buzzps.com.

Published in Beer

February is the shortest month of the year—but it’s also the high season in the Coachella Valley, which means there’s a wealth of great shows you should keep in mind.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be hosting a performance by L.A. Witch at 10 p.m., Friday, Feb. 6, in the Amigo Room. The psychedelic female trio has been playing shows with the likes of the Black Angels, The Melvins and Blonde Redhead. Admission is free. The Ace is also hosting a special Valentine’s Day weekend put on by The Do-Over, known as the Lovers x Heartbreakers Palm Springs Weekender, on Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15. There will be a special lineup of surprise musical guests hosted by Haycock, Strong and Blacc. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

Local DJ duo The Deep Ones have started an open-mic night for DJs. What does this concept involve? Well, if you ever wanted to try your skills on a turntable and a mixer, you’ll get your chance at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 26. Get more info on The Deep Ones’ Facebook page. Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails, 32025 Monterey Ave., Thousand Palms; 760-343-2115; www.myplanbbar.com.

The McCallum Theatre has a solid schedule for February—with shows on 24 of the month’s 28 days! At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3, A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor will be bringing his show featuring anecdotes from the American Midwest and other amusing portions of his life. Tickets are $45 to $75. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, Great American Songbook singer Michael Feinstein will perform while sharing the history of these famous tunes. Tickets are $65 to $95. If you’re looking for something to enjoy with the whole family, the Vienna Boys Choir will be performing at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 19. The choir is split into four touring choirs of boys between the ages of 10 and 14; many are from Austria, but kids from other countries are included, too. Tickets are $25 to $65. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has great shows scheduled throughout the month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, it will be hip to be square with Huey Lewis and the News. True story: I asked for a Metallica album for Christmas one year during my childhood—and my mother bought me Huey’s Sports album instead. Needless to say, I was not happy. Huey has been going since the late 1970s and has had quite a career. One of his more memorable moments was a cameo in Back to the Future, to which he contributed “The Power of Love.” Tickets are $40 to $80. If you had a great time at Air Supply’s Valentine’s Day performance at The Show last year, you’ll be happy to know they’ll be back to soft-rock your face off again, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28, Mexican musician and composer Espinoza Paz will be appearing. Paz went back and forth between Mexico and the United States in the late ’90s when he was an aspiring songwriter and musician. He eventually found his calling and released his first album, El Canta Autor Del Pueblo, in 2008. Tickets are $65 to $85. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s February lineup is packed with great shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, you can relive the short reggaeton era (remember that?) with Yandel. He is half of the duo Wisin and Yandel, and he released his second solo album, De Lider a Leyenda, in 2013; a brand new album, Legacy, is slated to drop just before this show. Tickets are $39 to $69. Natalie Cole (above right) will be performing on Valentine’s Day, 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14. The daughter of Nat King Cole was a big success in the ’70s before falling into drug addiction. She made a remarkable comeback in the late ’80s and has been going strong ever since. Tickets are $39 to $79. The great Burt Bacharach will be returning at 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 22. Bacharach has had 48 Top 10 hits over a 50-year period, and his songs have been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Linda Ronstadt, Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin. Tickets are $29 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a star-studded lineup this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, former Saturday Night Livewriter John Mulaney will be appearing. Mulaney was responsible for writing the “Weekend Update” portion of the show and created the character of Stefon! Tickets are $30 to $50. If you want a little edge on your Valentine’s Day, former Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14. He also performed with the members of Queen for five years. Tickets are $45 to $75. Martina McBride will be bringing her “Everlasting Tour” to Spotlight 29 at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 26. The country vocalist has had a long and successful career, and her latest album, Everlasting, features duets with Kelly Clarkson and Gavin DeGraw. Tickets are $79 to $139. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will be busy during the month of February. At 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 10, Pappy’s will be hosting the first performance in 18-plus years of Babes in Toyland. The Riot Grrrl trio has had a rough go of it since disbanding. Frontwoman Kat Bjelland suffered a schizophrenic episode and had to be hospitalized in 2007; bassist Maureen Herman has written about a sexual assault that resulted in a pregnancy; and drummer Lori Barbero suffered from Lyme disease. Babes in Toyland is an intense band that will take you back to the days of grunge and alternative rock. Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21 singer-songwriter Brett Dennen (below) will be appearing. The Northern California folk singer has a unique voice, and his deep lyrics have landed him on the bill at the Newport Folk Festival, at Coachella and on various TV soundtracks. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Copa has had a steady season, and that trend continues in February. Leslie Jordan will be appearing at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 13, and Saturday, Feb. 14. Leslie may be short, but he’s a larger-than-life performer, guaranteed to be funny. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21, actress and cabaret singer Emily Bergl will perform. You may remember Bergl from her appearances on Gilmore Girls, CSI: Miami and Law and Order: Criminal Intent, among other shows. Tickets are $20 to $40. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554; www.coparoomtickets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza is hosting a couple of notable events. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15, metal goddess and poet Otep will appear. Not only is Otep a poet and metal singer; she’s also a painter and writer. She’s been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry series. She also spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Advance tickets are $10, available at The Hood, and they’ll be $15 at the door. Word to the wise: Buy your tickets in advance. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28, there will be a special birthday party for local hip-hop artist MC Manny G featuring EeVaan’ Tre and the Show, Thr3 Strikes and others. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews

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