CVIndependent

Wed08052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Adam Borowitz

The folks at the Desert Sun Resort say there are only a few spots left at their clothing-optional champagne-tasting and dinner next month.

The event takes place at the resort, at 1533 N. Chaparral Road, on Saturday, March 2. The lady working the desk at the resort on Friday said the event takes place every year, seats about 50 and was “about 85 percent” sold out.

The dinner will be served buffet-style and features lobster bisque, salmon with mango salsa fresca, shrimp scampi, chicken piccata and a number of other dishes. Four different champagnes will be available for tasting.

Tickets are $50 per person, and reservations are required.

The resort also holds a number of other clothing-optional events. A St. Patrick’s Day dance and lunch, and an Easter-egg hunt and brunch are on deck for March, and numerous other events take place throughout the year.

Call 322-5800, or visit www.desertsunresort.com for a full list of events or more information. 

Andie Hubka was five years into running a successful gourmet cooking school when she had an idea: What if she offered a dinner of seasonally driven, creative dishes once a week? Would people come?

“I just started getting the itch to do a restaurant night,” said Hubka, co-owner of the new restaurant Cork and Fork in La Quinta. “So we put together an underground supper club, for lack of a better word, and became really well known for that, and before we knew it, we were turning people away, because we had more people coming than we could seat on any given night.”

With the dinner nights an obvious hit, Hubka saw a craving for interesting, wine-paired dishes. She decided it was time to leave the quiet classroom of her cooking school and enter the fast-paced world of restaurant ownership, which happened officially when Cork and Fork opened to the public on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

“We’re packed every night. We just can’t believe it,” says Hubka. “We knew we were going to be busy, because we had an existing clientele, but the big surprise has been the people from out of town and people we’ve never seen before, who are super-excited about it. We’re sold out and actually oversold every night.”

Cork and Fork is not that big of a place—it seats about 50 people—but packing the house night after night is quite a feat for any new restaurant. But it helps, says Hubka, that there are precious few places in the area that serve the type of cuisine her team creates.

“I come from Los Angeles, where you have lots of options and lots to choose from, but out here in the desert, it’s pretty devoid of interesting food,” said Hubka. “There are a lot of steakhouses and a lot of meat-and-potato places, but there isn’t a lot of ethnic or creative cuisine.”

Not that Hubka is beating her guests over the head with unapproachably complex dishes. Her tactic is to take things people recognize and give them a twist. Add to that a well-trained staff who can suggest appropriate wine-pairings, and you have what is turning out to be a concept people get excited about.

The menu is broken down into snacks, salads, pizzas and favorites that are holdovers from the restaurant’s former life as an underground supper club. Baby-back ribs, Thai shrimp cakes, tamales, mac-and-cheese and a good amount of salads and other dishes take diners on a winding road without delving into anything too strange or unknown.

“You’ll notice there really isn’t a common denominator,” says Hubka. “The only theme is that everything has to be really good.”

The most popular items thus far have been dates stuffed with Point Reyes blue cheese and topped with toasted almonds and chive-infused oil. Guests have also been crazy about the wood-fired “Coachella” pizza—think dates, applewood bacon, goat cheese and pickled onions—and the french fries made with local sweet potatoes.

“We make food that people recognize, but that are all small plates, all shareable,” says Hubka. “The focus is on wine and food pairing, trying a lot of different foods with wines. We call it a ‘unique wine and food experience.’”

The wine list is also a bit different than what many local diners may be used to, since there are few California wines. Instead, the emphasis is on wines from other renowned wine-producing regions such as South Africa, Oregon and others.

“I still run the cooking school, and the teacher in me wants to expose people to different things,” says Hubka. “We’re constantly having to explain our wine to people, but we’re excited to do it because we want people to experience it.”

Hubka says the restaurant is currently open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday. Happy hour, which includes specials on drinks and bar snacks, happens all night on Wednesday and Sunday and from 4 to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

Cork and Fork is located at 47875 Caleo Bay Drive, Suite A106, in La Quinta. Call 777-7555, or visit corkandforkwinebar.com for reservations or more information.

Monday, 04 February 2013 15:00

Wolfgang Puck Pizza Joint Coming to El Paseo

A new casual-dining spot named after a well-known celebrity chef will be opening its doors in Palm Desert in the coming months.

Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar is currently under construction at 73130 El Paseo. Representatives for the Wolfgang Puck family of restaurants say the opening is tentatively set for late March or early April.

The celebrity chef’s family of restaurants includes fine-dining establishments such as his flagship restaurant Spago—which originally opened in 1982 in West Hollywood but now has four locations—and the Cut steakhouses, which have been touted as some of the top steak joints in the country. His holdings also include more-casual eateries and a handful of bars, cafés, express eateries and lounges in cities across the country. The Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar concept falls soundly in the casual category.

“These comfortable and casual restaurants offer a full bar and an extensive menu featuring delicious pastas, salads, oven-roasted dishes and, of course, the master chef's famed signature pizzas,” reads the description of the Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar at wolfgangpuck.com.

Offerings start in the $8 to $9 range for appetizers and top out at $25. A lengthy list of wines, beer and other drinks—including a selection of specialty cocktails—will be featured. 

A large selection of gluten-free and vegetarian items will also be available.

The first Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar opened last summer in Charlotte, N.C., followed later in the year by another location in Greensboro, N.C. An additional location is currently under construction in San Diego.

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A new Asian restaurant has started serving a selection of Chinese, Thai and Japanese food out of a spot on Palm Canyon Drive.

Jane Zou, manager of the new Asian Bistro at 362 S. Palm Canyon Drive, says the restaurant opened Tuesday, Jan. 1. Zou says the owners of Asian Bistro formerly ran a restaurant in Indiana called Exotic Thai, but this is their first restaurant in the Palm Springs area.

The restaurant encompasses the cuisine of several countries, so it stands to reason that the menu is somewhat lengthy. There’s a little of just about everything in there—Thai beef jerky, noodle dishes, traditional dumplings and so much more—with attention paid to well-known dishes and seldom-seen items alike.

In the sushi category, Asian Bistro offers traditional and specialty rolls. Zou says the Indiana roll made with spicy salmon, eel, avocado, crab and cream cheese has been one of her top sellers thus far.

The restaurant also offers boba tea—a beverage served with gelatinous edible pebbles bobbling around in it—as well as hot tea and a number of smoothies.

Prices fall in the $10 to $15 range, but a huge assortment of lunch specials are also available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., weekdays, for around $8.

Asian Bistro offers dine in and carry out, and the restaurant does catering, too. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

Call 322-9998, or visit asianbistroca.com for more information.

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What will be more savored at this year’s Food and Wine Festival Palm Desert? Fine food and drink, or the impossibly handsome visage of a soap-opera star who writes cookbooks?

Either way, this year’s event, which takes place Friday, March 22, through Sunday, March 24, in the El Paseo shopping district in Palm Desert, is shaping up to be a world-class culinary shindig that organizers say is their biggest and best yet.

Luciano Pellegrini, winner of the prestigious James Beard Award and executive chef of Piero Selvaggio Valentino restaurant in Las Vegas, will be there. So will Sharone Hakman and Alejandra Schrader, finalists from the hit television show Master Chef.

According to Jeff Hocker, the event's executive producer, award-winning chef Bradley Ogden, the driving force behind numerous big-name restaurants in California and beyond, will also be in attendance, as will Sean Kanan, who wrote a cookbook during downtime from his day job as an actor on General Hospital, The Bold and the Beautiful and The Karate Kid, Part III.

As for food and wine, expect a serious deluge of good things to eat and fine things to sip. More than 30 restaurants from the area are participating, as are more than 20 chefs, many from well-known eateries from across the country.

As for wine, Hocker says officials are putting more of an emphasis on that portion of the event than ever before. In the past, the event focused largely on wines from Napa and Sonoma counties, but this year, wineries from Argentina, Italy and other renowned wine-producing regions are coming as well.

New to the event this year are special wine seminars that have yet to be finalized. Hocker expects there to be between four and six classes which will be offered for an additional $25 during the Grand Tasting events.

Hocker says organizers have also made an extra effort to organize the event so the food is located near wines that pair well, essentially converting the entire event into one enormous wine-paired affair.

Also new to the event this year: A stage committed entirely to desserts. Hocker says it will be done up bistro-style, with coffee, cognac and other treats.

Hocker expects this year’s festival to be the biggest and best since organizers moved the event from Palm Springs to Palm Desert four years ago. Last year’s event drew 3,000 guests, he said, and he expects at least that many to attend this year.

The weekend kicks off on Friday, March 22, with a sit-down, four-course, wine-paired luncheon hosted by celebrity chefs. That event will set you back $125. Saturday and Sunday are all-out foodie extravaganzas, with cooking demonstrations, wine and liquor tastings, book signings and seminars. Tickets are $75 per day.

A portion of the proceeds from the event benefit the Culinary Institute of America’s Endowed Scholarship Fund. Tickets and more information are available at www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com.

With a menu of traditional Latin America-inspired fare and an interior filled with colorful Mexican folk art, one of Palm Springs’ newest restaurants strives to offer a dining experience that’s as vibrant and authentic as the artist it’s named after.

Casa de Frida, which takes its name from well-known Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, deals largely in homemade dishes from regions across Mexico, but there’s cuisine from Cuba, Venezuelan and other countries to be had as well. One dish is even described as "a Latino version of the French classic beef bourguignon."

The restaurant itself is somewhat of a shrine to Mexican art, with hand-painted tiles adorning many surfaces. Visitors are greeted at the entrance by a large papier-mache skeleton straight out of a traditional Day of the Dead celebration. Wooden masks, a huge stylized glass portrait of Frida Kahlo and other decorations complete the south-of-the-border vibe.

The food, however, is a far cry from what many diners think of when Mexican food comes to mind. There are no chimichangas covered in cheese and red sauce, nor are there quesadillas. At Casa de Frida, the focus is on dishes with items like rich mole sauce, or chile en nogado, a dish that hails from the city of Puebla and features pasilla chiles, walnut-cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.

"What we do here is a combination of recipes that my grandmother and my mother and basically all the women in my family have been making for years," says chef and part-owner Victoriano Rodriguez, who is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico. "Because of our heritage—French, Mexican and Spanish Castilian—the dishes are both traditional and, at times, unique."

Other dishes like tortilla soup, ceviche, enchiladas and several salads and starters are also available, as is a full bar and a medium-sized, yet ample, wine list.

Chef Rodriquez says the menu will change every three months and that he will be bringing in dishes from Peru, Brazil and other Central and South American countries.

"We’re trying to give American diners a chance to see how we really eat in Mexico," said Rodriguez. "We aren’t a restaurant with piñatas or tequila shots and beer signs. We try to be a little more gourmet and a little more aristocratic, without being pricey."

Casa de Frida, located at 450 S. Palm Canyon Drive, also has a weekday happy hour with drink specials and $6 small plates. Brunch is available on Sundays. For more information, call 459-1681, or visit www.casadefrida.com.

A resort and spa just west of Palm Springs along Interstate 10 is welcoming two new restaurant concepts this week.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, located at 49500 Seminole Drive in Cabazon, is holding a grand opening for Tacos and Tequila and the Natural 9 Noodle Company today, Friday, Dec. 21, according to Lisa Kaufman, who handles media relations for the restaurants.

Tacos and Tequila is a 7,000-square-foot Mexican restaurant just steps from the resort’s Oasis Pool. Its design is said to be inspired by the “cool modernism of Mexico City, as well as the traditional elements of Mexican beach style,” according to a press release. The menu of various Mexican offerings is accompanied by an upbeat bar area and a large selection of pure blue-agave tequilas.

Natural 9 Noodle Company deals chiefly in the cuisine of China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Expect dishes such as stuffed crab legs, wonton soup, bi bim bap and traditional dim sum, as well as numerous other dishes from across Asia.

The restaurants are the work of Michael Frey and Craig Gilbert, owners of Drive This! Entertainment. The company started in 2006 with restaurants in Las Vegas, including the first Tacos and Tequila location and the well-received Lynryd Skynrd BBQ & Beer restaurant, among others.