CVIndependent

Wed12132017

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

What: The Tillamook cheddar beer soup

Where: Ein Brathaus, 117 La Plaza, Palm Springs

How much: $5.95 for a bowl; $4.50 for a cup

Contact: 760-300-3601; www.einbrathaus.com

Why: It’ll warm you up and please your taste buds.

On Ein Brathaus’ menu, next to the listing for the Tillamook cheddar beer soup, it says—rather adorably—“seasonal item.”

The calendar says it is late fall, with winter just around the corner. But we live in the Coachella Valley, and to nobody’s surprise, it was damn near 90 degrees outside as I enjoyed this “seasonal item” at Ein Brathaus.

Yes, a warm, hearty soup has a definite utility when the weather outside is frightful—and the odds are decent that we will, at some point, have a coldish day or three here soon ’round these parts. When those days are here, I suggest that you waste no time in getting to Ein Brathaus, located in the newly renovated space that formerly was home to Delicatesse in downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza.

Not only will this cheese-beer soup warm you up; it’ll elate your taste buds. It’s everything a soup like this should be: rich and creamy, with a ton of flavor thanks to the beer and seasonings. It’s not too salty; it’s juuuust right. The soup can also, as our friendly server pointed out, make a great dip for Ein Brathaus’ soft pretzels ($4.50). I’ll take that a step further and say that it’d serve as a great dip for everything on the menu (including various German sausages, hot dogs, a pastrami sandwich, a buffalo chicken sandwich, etc.), except for perhaps the desserts and the buttermilk waffles. (Upon further reflection, I am not ruling out the waffles, either.)

This soup is so delicious that I’ll eat it whether the temp is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Perhaps the good folks at Ein Brathaus will consider making it a soup for all seasons.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: El Cubano

Where: Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, 706 S. Eugene Road, Palm Springs

How much: $9.50

Contact: 760-832-9007; cheftanyapetrovna.com

Why: It is a tasty creation all its own.

As I ordered my El Cubano sandwich at gourmet vegan restaurant Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, the woman taking my order asked if it was my first time at the restaurant.

“Yep!” I said.

“Oh, you’re going to love it!” said the woman behind me.

As I waited for my to-go order—all of the limited seating space was taken—we chatted a bit. I told her I was trying Chef Tanya’s Kitchen—the newest endeavor of Tanya Petrovna, the founder of the Native Foods Café—even though I am a confirmed meat-eater, because so many people had raved to me about the place. The woman explained she’d recently become vegan, and was losing a lot of weight as a result.

We then talked about the menu—salads, sandwiches and specials, like tacos on Tuesdays, and dinner items on Wednesdays—and I asked if she’d ever ordered the Pastrami Mami sandwich. No, she responded; she’s not a fan of sauerkraut.

“Oh, that sandwich is what made me start to like sauerkraut!” another diner exclaimed.

I thought to myself: Wow, the customers here are really gung-ho about the food at Chef Tanya’s Kitchen!

When I got home and took a bite of my sandwich, I began to understand why. When done right, a Cuban sandwich is one of my favorite foods. Chef Tanya’s version subs out the usual ham and pork for slow-roasted citrus and garlic seitan, and while I can’t say the seitan made me forget about the absence of those meats, it made for a damn tasty sandwich. It melded with the tomatoes, pickles, onions, lettuce, mustard, mayo and freaking amazing bread to create a hot-pressed delight. To my palate, this El Cubano didn’t taste exactly like a Cuban sandwich; instead, it tasted like something different—but equally delicious.

I may still be a confirmed meat-eater—but I’ll certainly be a regular at Chef Tanya’s Kitchen. Her vegan fare is simply fantastic.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The tower of avocado and tuna tartare

Where: Lulu California Bistro, 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; also at Acqua California Bistro, 71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

How much: $14.99; $9.99 at the bar (all-day happy hour)

Contact: Lulu: 760-327-5858, www.lulupalmsprings.com; Acqua: 760-862-9800; www.acquaranchomirage.com

Why: It is a delicious deal!

Barbara and Jerry Keller have created an undeniably successful restaurant formula: Take a large space; make that space gorgeous (including great patio seating); offer a variety of consistent, decently priced food; also offer some great prix-fixe and happy hour deals; and be fantastic members of the community.

It worked for a decade at Acqua Pazza California Bistro in Rancho Mirage. It’s been working for six years at Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs. And now it’s working again at the slightly renamed and renovated Acqua California Bistro in Rancho Mirage.

I live a short walk from Lulu. I eat there regularly, and I am going to let you in on a secret: The bar is the place to sit. Not only is there often seating available in the bar area when there’s a wait for a regular table; the “happy hour” prices at the bar, offered every day from 11 a.m. to close, are drastically lower for many items than they are in the rest of the place.

This means that I can almost always walk in to Lulu (and now, Acqua)—weekday or weekend, season or off-season—and get one of my favorite items at a steep discount: The tower of avocado and tuna tartare is just $9.99 at the bar, while it’s $14.99 elsewhere in the restaurant.

Whatever the price, the dish is delicious: A nice helping of high-grade, seasoned ahi is shaped into a cylindrical “tower”—with some fresh avocado added to the middle. On the side are some wonton chips, sprouts, a small mound of wasabi, some pickled ginger slices, and a little bit of seaweed salad.

It’s cool, refreshing and a delight to the taste buds. And of course, the atmosphere can’t be beat.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Super Cheesy Nachos

Where: Blackbook, 315 E. Arenas Road, Palm Springs

How much: $10; $14 with carne asada (as shown) or marinated chicken

Contact: 760-832-8497; blackbookbar.com

Why: This is an elevated version of a bar-food classic.

Blackbook has only been open for a couple of months in the old Café Palette space, but its take on elevated bar food has already developed quite a following.

Salads, tacos, burgers, fries and even a jacked-up hot dog are all on Blackbook’s menu—but I’d been hearing quite a lot about two of Blackbook’s offerings: the fried chicken sandwich ($12; you pick the level of spiciness), and the nachos.

The hubby and I met our friend Darrell at Blackbook for a recent Friday lunch. I was hoping to have the best of both figurative worlds—I could order the chicken sandwich as my entrée, and we could all split the nachos as an appetizer—but I was out of luck: Darrell was dieting, and the hubby has sworn off carbs, so they declined the nachos. Therefore, I decided to order the nachos with carne asada, and save the chicken sandwich for another visit.

Before I get to my gushing praise of the nachos, a complaint: The kitchen was rather skimpy with the carne asada. Each piece, while tasty, was tiny—and there weren’t a whole lot of pieces. Even for the relatively modest $4 up-charge, there should have been more.

As for the rest of the nachos … they were stellar. Fried corn tortilla pieces were topped with cheddar, Monterey jack, “Blackbook dark salsa” (which tasted like a good mole-esque enchilada sauce), tomatoes, green onions, sour cream and guacamole. Served in a cute tray, the gooey, delicious nachos made for a filling entrée—and they’d have been perfectly good as an appetizer, too, had my dining companions not been so darned high-maintenance.

Blackbook has elevated bar food a notch or two—and this is a very good thing.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The jamón Iberico

Where: Counter Reformation, inside the Parker Palm Springs, 4200 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $14

Contact: 760-770-5000; www.theparkerpalmsprings.com/dine/counter-reformation.php

Why: It’s a treat in every sense of the word.

I was fortunate enough to spend several days in Barcelona at the end of a cruise a while back—and during those several days, I enjoyed some of the best food I’ve ever had.

I was reminded of those glorious meals one recent late afternoon when I met friend and colleague Kevin at Counter Reformation, a hidden gem of a wine bar tucked inside the Parker Palm Springs hotel.

However, Counter Reformation is much more than a mere wine bar; it also serves some of the most decadent small plates around. Along with your glass of lovely wine (all of which are $6 for 3 ounces, $11 for 6 ounces, or $40 for a bottle) or champagne ($11 for 5 ounces, or $40 for a bottle), you can enjoy more than a half-dozen delights such as the grilled prawn brochette ($11), or the fingerling potatoes with a poached egg ($11) or the downright-intriguing foie gras macaron ($12).

However, when I saw the jamón Iberico on the menu, I knew that’s what I had to have. The cured meat from the black Iberian pig was one of the culinary highlights of my Barcelona stay, and the see-through-thin slices on offer at Counter Reformation—served with a tomato relish and two crostini with a creamy spread—were every bit as delicious (if a bit more pricey) as the stuff I enjoyed in Spain.

Almost (but not quite) as great as the jamon were the complimentary jars of olives and cornichons served with the tapas and wine. Wow. Just … wow.

The hours at Counter Reformation are limited (3 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Monday), but it’s worth finding some time to treat yourself there. It’s one of the best wine bars in the Coachella Valley—with some of the best tapas in the Coachella Valley. 

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The build-your-own pizza

Where: Blaze Pizza, 201 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; also at 73393 Highway 111, Palm Desert

How much: $7.95

Contact: 760-318-2529 (Palm Springs); 760-895-4259 (Palm Desert); www.blazepizza.com

Why: It’s delicious, and it’s a great deal.

In the almost five years that the Independent has been around, we’ve written 116 Indy Endorsements. Only a half-dozen or so have been written about chain joints—and most of those were about smaller, California-based chains. In other words, the Indy Endorsement is a feature that almost exclusively touts locally owned restaurants.

Therefore, it really means something that we’re endorsing the make-your-own pies at Blaze Pizza.

Why are we endorsing food at a large, national chain, pretty much for the first time? For one thing, the make-your-own 11-inch pizzas at Blaze are truly make-your-own—you can have as many cheeses, sauces and toppings on your pizza as you want. There’s no limit. For example, the pizza in the picture here has mozzarella cheese, goat cheese, bacon, smoked ham, mushrooms, olives and tomatoes, with classic red sauce and just a little garlic pesto underneath. That’s two sauces, two cheeses and five toppings—for one price. If I wanted to double those numbers, the price would stay the same.

For another thing … that price is a deal: just $7.95. Where else can you get an 11-inch pizza with unlimited ingredients for less than eight bucks? Nowhere, you say?

That’s why we’re endorsing a large, national chain, pretty much for the first time.

The process is easy: You get in line, pick your crust (gluten-free and high-rise/thicker options cost a bit extra), pick your sauces, pick your cheeses and pick your toppings. You watch as the employees put the toppings on your pie—and if you want more or less of an ingredient, tell ’em, and they’ll happily make it so. You then watch as they put the pizza in the oven; a couple of minutes later, they take it out, put it on a metal plate, and call your name.

Simple. Inexpensive. Delicious. Endorsement-worthy.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The ahi nachos

Where: Moxie Palm Springs, 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $15

Contact: 760-318-9900; www.moxiepalmsprings.com

Why: It’s a big plate of yumminess.

It was Saturday, and we’d had a late and rather massive lunch. When dinnertime came around, we weren’t all that hungry; we wanted drinks and small bites.

What better time to try out Moxie Palm Springs, on the second story above the Broken Yolk Café, overlooking downtown Palm Springs? I’d been hearing raves about the great cocktails, the fun vibe and the—as the Moxie website calls it—“creative cuisine served social style in the form of bar bites, shareable plates and salads.”

The Hive Minds were playing as we were seated at our table. There were seven in our party, and we got all sorts of things to sample and share. While everything we had was decent or better (especially the toasted brie bread, $12, which was endorsement-worthy itself), my selection became the star of the table: I picked the ahi nachos, and they were fantastic.

At first, I wondered whether the $15 price tag for a “shareable plate” was too high, but when the nachos arrived, I wondered no more: If anything, $15 is a bargain, given the quantity of delicious fish and other goodies on the large plate. As for those other goodies: The wonton chips were nice and lighter than, say, tortilla chips would have been; the amazu sauce added a nice bit of sweetness; the avocado offered up a pleasing soft texture and richness.

While my fellow diners sampled the nachos liberally, I ate the bulk of them, and I was definitely full afterward—and I have a hunch that would have been the case even if I hadn’t had a gargantuan lunch. 

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The seared scallops and smoked pork belly

Where: The Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $30

Contact: 760-969-1818; www.colonypalmshotel.com/dining

Why: It’s elegantly delicious.

It’s a Thursday night. It’s been seemingly forever since my friend Darrell and I have caught up, so we make plans to grab a drink and perhaps a small bite at one of our favorite haunts: the Purple Palm Restaurant, poolside at the Colony Palms Hotel.

We order drinks from the amazing bartender. We chat. We peruse the menu. I see the words “seared scallops and smoked pork belly” in the entrée section.

Hmm. I am not going to be having a small-bite here; this is going to be a full-blown meal.

Pork belly is one of those foods I can rarely resist—even though I oftentimes wind up disappointed by what appears on my plate. When pork belly is prepared right, it’s orgasmic, but too often, it’s overcooked, rendering it gummy and greasy and just sort of bleh.

Well, the pork belly that appears on my plate at the Purple Palm is a prime example of why I can rarely resist pork belly: It’s divine. It’s cooked perfectly, and winds up being a splendid, salty companion to the pillowy scallops. The parsnip puree and chanterelle mushrooms bring even more depth to the party, and when I am finished, I feel a hint of sadness that this near-perfect meal has come to an end.

Unless I order another, that is. Hmm … nah. Neither budget nor calorie count will allow that.

So instead, Darrell and I order another round, and continue to catch up, as we enjoy the amazing Palm Springs “winter” weather. Life can be truly grand sometimes, can’t it?

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Baked Eggs in “Purgatorio”

Where: Joey Palm Springs, 245 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $9.50

Contact: 760-320-8370; www.facebook.com/joeypalmsprings

Why: It’s a perfect breakfast on a cool morning.

Amazing food can often be found in the most unexpected places—and Joey Palm Springs is a perfect example.

I met my friend Michael for coffee there one recent morning. I already knew that the space is beyond charming—it used to house the late, lamented Espresso Cielo—so I expected to enjoy a fine cup o’ joe in a nice spot with a good friend.

I was also feeling a bit peckish, so I decided to peruse Joey’s food offerings. At the top of the breakfast menu was a dish called baked eggs in “Purgatorio”: two eggs baked in soft polenta, marinara, Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil. Wow, I thought. I didn’t expect to find a dish like this in a li’l café like this!

Turns out I probably should have had higher expectations: Joey Palm Springs is owned and operated by Vince Calcagno and Joe Lucero—and this couple has a fine food pedigree: Calcagno used to own Zuni Café, widely regarded as one of San Francisco’s top restaurants.

While all of this sounds good on paper, the food was great in actuality. Cheese, polenta, marinara and egg are a classic combination for a reason, and while Joey Palm Springs’ version of this well-known dish—usually called “eggs in purgatory”—wasn’t at all unique, it was perfectly executed.

The baked eggs in “Purgatorio” dish was made even better by the weather—it was a chilly morning, something that’s rather common this time of year in our lovely bit o’ desert. Well, this little treat warmed me right up—and elated my taste buds at the same time. It was indeed an unexpected and most welcome find.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Stuffed French Toast

Where: The Broken Yolk Café, 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 78430 Highway 111, La Quinta

How much: $11.95

Contact: 760-318-9655 (Palm Springs); 760-777-9655 (La Quinta); thebrokenyolkcafe.com

Why: It’s sweet yet surprisingly nuanced.

I’m normally a savory-breakfast kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE the sweet stuff, but when it comes to a choice between, say, bacon and … well, anything, bacon’s going to win.

However, things started to change a bit on a recent visit to the Broken Yolk Café, where I saw this description of the stuffed French toast: Two extra thick slices of batter-dipped egg bread stuffed with creamy mascarpone cheese and sliced bananas. Crowned with rich caramel sauce, more bananas and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Wow. This is a dish that seemingly offers far more nuance than most sweet breakfast fare, so I decided I had to try it. (Yeah, I also got the add-on of two eggs and two bacon strips for a downright affordable $2.75. Because, y’know, bacon.)

While the plate of food that arrived could certainly send some individuals into an instant diabetic coma, it was indeed fantastic. The bananas (lots of them!) mingled nicely with the caramel—a classic combination, after all—and the mascarpone added a lovely creaminess. The bread offered just enough resistance to keep everything together and create a pleasant mouth feel. However, I was definitely happy I ordered the add-on, too, as the saltiness from the bacon and the muted richness of the eggs countered the sweetness of the French toast before it became overwhelming.

After my meal, I left the Broken Yolk Café decidedly satisfied; my sweet tooth was pleased, while my desire for savory fare was quenched, too … even if I did feel the need to add an extra gym trip to my schedule to atone for all that breakfast goodness.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

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