CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

They say April showers bring May flowers—but here in the desert, April’s warmer weather brings pool-party season!

We’re in the land of heat and pools, and it can be hard to decide where to take a dip—in part, because poolside affairs in the Coachella Valley usually bring more than just swimming. Depending on where you go, you can enjoy great food, drinks, entertainment and more. Therefore, this month, I’ve decided to share with you my two favorite places to hang out and relax in the valley. (Full disclosure: I have performed, and continue to perform, at these venues.)

So … where do you start? Locals can find plenty of options for poolside fun, but one of your best options is always going to be Arrive in Palm Springs. This resort sits on the edge of downtown Palm Springs and offers a heavy nod to the midcentury-modern style that shaped Palm Springs. Arrive hosts an array of food choices, too; grab a bite at Wexler’s Deli for lunch (they have a poolside menu, too) or take a short walk to Draughtsman for some serious libations. You can also find a coffee shop and an ice cream shop on site. Saturday and Sunday at Arrive bring entertainment in the form of DJs. There’s always plenty of room to sunbathe or sit and soak up the sun. Like games with your pool parties? Enjoy some poolside pingpong and cornhole in between float sessions. The sound varies, depending on what day you go, from Top 40 to house. You can find me there every other Sunday, bringing my original blend of house and disco.

The Saguaro in recent years has become known as one of the biggest pool-party spots in the valley. Not only is The Saguaro one of the regular hosts of the twice-per-summer Splash House festivals; it also books a range of DJ acts throughout the summer. Here, you can enjoy a colorful, vibrant, very Palm Springs experience. Grab a cabana; order some tacos; and enjoy carefully curated sets. Hammocks behind the pool and endless loungers make it so you can relax in multiple ways. I’ve been fortunate to work with The Saguaro and their music programmer, Dominic Saldana, aka SABIO, for the past few years. It’s worth noting that the Saguaro is the host of some of the best Coachella pool parties. One of my favorite things to do for “No-Chella” is hit the Palm Springs pool circuit. You can find world-class entertainment without breaking the bank while skipping the crowds. Given the size of the pool area at The Saguaro, you rarely feel squeezed in.

So … what do we do at night? Good question. I was out in downtown Palm Springs on a recent Monday, looking for drinks and good music, and we found ourselves hopping through several locations. Many closed at 10 p.m. and/or had no entertainment … and things felt a little dead. Now, to be fair, this was on a Monday night, but it was during the middle of season. We did manage to find some fun, enjoying drinks at Bootlegger Tiki and Lulu California Bistro, before finishing the night at the Village Pub, where there was a DJ and karaoke, for those brave enough to try.

So … there it is! I’m always searching for new spots, old spots and the best spots to enjoy our valley—even if they’re off the beaten path. I’m excited to kick off another poolside season, and I look forward to seeing you all out there!

Published in Subatomic

What: The Reuben

Where: Wexler’s Deli at Arrive Palm Springs, 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $17

Contact: 760-507-1640; wexlersdeli.com/wexlers-arrive-palm-springs

Why: It’s a top-notch sandwich.

When it was announced that Wexler’s—a Jewish-style deli with three popular Los Angeles-area locations—would be taking over the main restaurant space at the Arrive Hotel, I was excited. After all, there’s a serious demand here for the type of food served at Wexler’s

“Have you ever tried to get a table at Sherman’s in Palm Springs at noon on a Saturday during season?” I wrote.

Since the fall 2018 opening, however, I have neither seen nor heard much about Wexler’s. Therefore, I decided to go in for lunch one recent day to check things out—and I found a restaurant that’s wasting a ton of potential.

The food at Wexler’s is not the problem—hence its inclusion in this column. While the menu is much more limited than what you’ll find at Sherman’s or Manhattan in the Desert, the Jewish-deli staples are all there, and the Reuben sandwich I had was excellent all around, from the delicious and thick slices of corned beef, to the perfectly toasted rye bread, to the tasty potato salad and pickles on the side.

However … the sandwich costs $17. That’s about what you’ll pay elsewhere in town—but elsewhere, you can get fries, whereas at Wexler’s, if you want fries instead of coleslaw or potato salad, you’ll have to get a side for $5. And strangely enough, the Wexler’s locations in L.A. charge $2 or $3 less for this Rueben.

Also: As I mentioned, I haven’t seen or heard much about Wexler’s since it opened, and it seems to be out of mind for many locals. Advertising and/or community involvement is needed here.

I say this, because despite a gorgeous space at Arrive, and despite great food, Wexler’s was basically dead during my weekday lunch visit. When I drove by Sherman’s on my way home—after the “lunch rush,” about 1:30 p.m.—there was a throng of people waiting outside.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Purple Room Palm Springs Launches ‘Frank’s Bourbon Bar’

Since it’s an oddly slow month as far as restaurant news is concerned, I am going to take some space to discuss something near and dear to my heart: delicious, heart-warming bourbon. Specifically: The Purple Room Palm Springs, at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has introduced Frank’s Bourbon Bar, with more than 50 premium bourbons on offer.

The bar—named after Frank Sinatra, a well-known lover of bourbon—is offering bourbon flights starting at $25. The crown jewel of flights, however, will set you back $55: It includes Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year, Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year, and the Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year bourbons. (You can sub in other premium bourbons if you so choose.) That’s actually a pretty good deal.

If you’re a fan of whiskeys that aren’t bourbon, two things: 1. Get your head examined, because something’s wrong with you; and 2. Head to the Purple Room anyway, as the good folks there are offering non-bourbon whiskey flights, too, also starting at $25.

Get the full list of Frank’s Bourbon Bar offerings at www.purpleroompalmsprings.com/liquor.


New: The Del Rey Restaurant Inside the Villa Royale

New to Palm Springs: The Del Rey restaurant, which is already gaining some fantastic buzz inside the Villa Royale hotel, at 1620 S. Indian Trail.

The former Europa Restaurant has been transformed into a gorgeous dinner/bar space, featuring food from chef Louis Martinez. Check out this amazingly flowery description on the Del Rey website: “Housed inside stucco walls accented with original, large format oil paintings produced by Juan Casas, Villa Royale’s intimate bar and eatery, Del Rey, offers up a 12-seat oak and marble bar, tufted green vinyl booths and an outdoor patio equipped with a firepit for long nights under the desert moonlight. Inspired by Spanish and Mediterranean flavors, Del Rey’s playful menu is served in a small-plate format akin to taperías that flourish near the Mediterranean Sea.”

Fun! More info at delreypalmsprings.com.


In Brief

Last month, we reported that Bongo Johnny’s—closed by a fire that destroyed the kitchen at 214 E. Arenas Road back in March—“could be open by January” in its new digs at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive (which was recently occupied by Café Europa/jusTapas). Well, here’s a shocking development: As of our press deadline, Bongo Johnny’s was planning a soft opening earlier than we expected, on Dec. 29. Watch www.facebook.com/bongojohnnys for more information, including a date for the “official” grand opening. … New to Palm Springs: Monster Shakes, at 425 S. Sunrise Way, No. H-7, in the spot formerly occupied by Yogurt at Its Best. If you like big shakes served in mugs, dairy-free desserts or Dole Whip, head on over to the Ralph’s shopping center to check it out; more info at www.monstershakesps.com. … Wexler’s at Arrive, located at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, just began dinner service. You’ll find some of the offerings from the breakfast and lunch menus, plus brisket, schnitzel, matzo ball soup and more. Watch wexlersdeli.com/wexlers-arrive-palm-springs for updates. … Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive, has closed. The proprietor, the fabulous Felix Tipper, sold the storefront to focus on his catering business. I am already missing his amazing breakfast sandwiches. … L’Atelier Café, at 129 La Plaza, in Palm Springs, has new owners. Charlotte and Raphael Farsy, the original proprietors, decided to move back to France—but only after handing off the restaurant to new French owners, Angelique and Christophe Robin, who are tweaking the menu and hours, but keeping the spirit of the lovely spot alive. Watch www.facebook.com/Lateliercafe for updates. … New to downtown Palm Springs: Lolli and Pops, a fancy chain candy store, at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Details at www.lolliandpops.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

At Arrive: Cartel Coffee Is Coming, and Wexler’s Deli Is Open

Cartel Coffee Lab—an Arizona-born coffee shop that prides itself on the quality of its coffee beans sourced worldwide—will open its first location outside of the Grand Canyon State on Friday, Nov. 9, at the Arrive Palm Springs, located at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive.

To celebrate the opening, customers will receive a free drip coffee from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 9.

Cartel Coffee will take the place of Customs Coffee. “Employees of Customs will undergo a week-long boot camp at Cartel’s home base in Arizona before returning as Cartel baristas,” according to a news release.

What makes Cartel so special? Let’s go back to that news release: “Cartel focuses on working with passionate farmers that produce the best-tasting single-origin beans instead of offering a blinding selection of sugar-laced syrups. This is evidenced in their emphasis on light-roasting which allows for the natural qualities of the coffee to speak on their own. … ‘Instead of covering up defects and inconsistencies in poor quality coffee with darker roasting, we simply don’t buy those coffees,’ said buyer and brand director Paul Haworth.”

In related news: The Wexler’s Deli at Arrive, which replaced Reservoir restaurant, opened as planned in October. So far, we’ve been hearing good things.

For more information, visit arrivehotels.com/palmsprings.


Good Grapes Wine Weekend Comes to the Ace

If you’re a fan of yummy wine, make sure you’re free to head to the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2.

That’s the time and place for “Good Grapes,” a two-pronged event featuring both the first Palm Springs Wine Festival, and the latest popular Wine Not? event.

Wine Not? will take place poolside from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Hosted by Evan Enderle and Bon Appetit wine editor Marissa A. Ross, “The event will feature a selection of handpicked bottles from some of their favorite natural wine producers served from the Little Bus at the Swim Club Pool, paired with poolside tunes from the talented dublab crew,” according to a news release. The event is free for anyone of imbibing age.

Then comes the Palm Springs Wine Festival, taking place in the Commune on Sunday from noon to 5. It’s the brainchild of Christine Soto, a friend and former Independent contributor who’s the owner of Dead or Alive wine bar. California wine will be the star of the show—specifically, wines by forward-thinking Californians.

“We’re highlighting movers and shakers of the ‘California style’ who are preserving varietals from far-flung locations like the Sierra Foothills and Mendocino, and taking a lighter touch in the cellar,” said Soto in that news release.

Those participating winemakers include Broc Cellars, Scholium Project, Scribe Winery, Methode Sauvage, Red Car Wine, Halcyon Wines, Ruth Lewandowski and Whitcraft Winery.

Tickets cost $65 to $85—the earlier you get ’em, the cheaper they are—and include unlimited wine tastings, bites of food and entertainment.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 760-325-9900, or visit www.acehotel.com/goodgrapes.


One Day, Two Beer Festivals

Saturday, Nov. 17, will be a completely bonkers day for beer-lovers in the Coachella Valley.

First: The seventh annual Props and Hops craft beer fest will run from 1 to 5 p.m., at the Palm Springs Air Museum, at 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs. About two-dozen craft-beer vendors will be on hand, as will food vendors (including In-n-Out Burger!) and fantastic entertainment. Admission starts at $40 in advance and includes eight tastings and souvenir glassware. For $75, you can get in an hour early, enjoy rare keg tastings and get a dozen tastings. Rides in vintage planes are also available for a fee. Cool! For tickets or more information, call 760-778-6262, or visit pspropshops.com.

Then the party moves down valley for an entirely different beer festival: Brew in LQ takes place at the La Quinta Civic Center Campus, at 78495 Calle Tampico, from 5 to 9 p.m. You’ll find food, games, entertainment and, of course, beer from at least a dozen vendors; admission starts at $30 in advance, and includes a souvenir tasting cup, three wine-tastings and 10 beer-tastings. Be smart and bring a designated driver, and he or she gets in for just $10 (with two free nonalcoholic beverages). For tickets or more information, call 760-777-7000, or visit www.playinlaquinta.com/brew.


In Brief

It’s been a tough couple of weeks at the Westfield Palm Desert, located at 72840 Highway 111: Bobby Mao’s Chinese Kitchen and Bar and O’s American Kitchen have closed. … Coming soon to 67778 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City: Yianni’s Taverna and Wine Bar. … A new LGBT dining group is holding its first event in November. The aptly named LGBT Dine Out Group of Coachella Valley will meet at 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 12, at Lulu California Bistro, 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Seating is limited to 30; be sure to RSVP at lgbtdineoutgroup.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Wexler’s Deli to Replace Reservoir at Palm Springs’ Arrive Hotel

A popular Los Angeles Jewish deli is coming to one of Palm Springs’ hippest spots in the fall.

Wexler’s Deli—which has three L.A.-area locations—will take over the space at Arrive Hotel, at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, now occupied by Reservoir. Keep your fingers crossed for an October opening.

"We jumped at the opportunity to partner with the Wexler’s team,” said Matt Steinberg, co-founder and CEO of Arrive, in a press-release quote. “Their passion for elevating and re-imagining what a deli can be is evident in the quality of their food. We also know that their voice and style will be a great fit for the locals and visitors to our property and Palm Springs as a whole.”

At first glance, I thought this pairing was … odd, to say the least. Arrive has made its mark by being modern, exciting and hip. And, well, let’s just say that Jewish delis are not known for being anything close to modern, exciting and hip.

But the more I pondered the pairing, the more it made sense. Reservoir never made any sort of serious culinary impression since Arrive opened … and have you ever tried to get a table at Sherman’s in Palm Springs at noon on a Saturday during season?

Plus, Wexler’s is not exactly old-school. In fact, it’s only been around for five years. I’ll let the press release explain things from here: “In late 2013, the owners of the historic Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. approached (chef Micah Wexler and partner Michael Kassar) regarding their plan to renovate the 100-year-old market. … Mike and Micah had a vision to take Jewish deli food back to its roots, and to create a concise menu in a 350-square-foot space, where everything is made in-house. Wexler’s sought out to be the only deli in L.A. that cures, smokes and hand-slices all their meat and fish in-house, (and) uses sustainable meat and fish, and local farmer’s market produce.”

The Palm Springs Wexler’s will serve all three meals, offering a mix of Wexler’s “classics” and new-for-Palm Springs items, like a pastrami burger and “Sasso’s pancakes with blueberries, creme fraiche, and maple syrup.”

For more information, watch arriveenterprises.com.


Here’s Something New: Restaurants Expanding Their Hours During the Summer!

In July, many well-known Coachella Valley restaurants are closed for the season. We know that … but here’s something new and encouraging: A couple of Palm Springs favorites are actually looking to fill that gap by expanding their hours.

First: Until recently, gourmet-vegan restaurant Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, at 706 S. Eugene Road—which was and remains closed on Sundays and Mondays—locked its doors at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On Wednesdays, however, Chef Tanya’s stayed open until 8 p.m., adding a few dinner specials.

Well, as of mid-June, Chef Tanya’s is open until 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday! Yes! For more info, visit www.facebook.com/cheftanyaskitchen.

Second: Our good friends at Dead or Alive, the fantastic wine and craft-beer bar at 150 E. Palm Canyon Drive, followed Chef Tanya’s lead by opening earlier on Friday and Saturday—at 4 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.—and by adding Sunday hours: Instead of being closed, DoA is now open Sundays from 4 to 10 p.m.!

For more info about Dead or Alive—and its jam-packed schedule of tastings, charity events and free-food offerings—visit www.facebook.com/deadoralivebar.


In Brief

Azul Palm Springs, at 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, has closed its doors. The restaurant and show venue with the epic patio swings had tweaked its name several times over the years, indicating possible concept and/or management issues. It’s a great space in a great location, so we’ll be eagerly watching for what comes next. … The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has started serving brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. We’re dying to try the filet mignon benedict. Get details, including the menu, at www.hotwatercasino.com/dining. … A lot of new restaurants have opened in recent weeks! We’ve heard raves about The Pink Cabana at the Sands Hotel and Spa, at 44985 Province Way, in Indian Wells. “Designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the Pink Cabana at Sands Hotel and Spa is a fresh, modern take on the great tennis and racquet clubs of the ’50s and ’60s in Palm Springs,” says the hotel website. The Pink Cabana is serving lunch and dinner daily; visit sandshotelandspa.com/dining-bar. … Balisage is back! Chef Daniel Villanueva and his “earth to table” dinners are being served at Beyond Balisage, Tuesday through Saturday at 68327 E. Palm Canyon Road, in Cathedral City; visit www.beyondbalisage.com. … Other recent openings: Sapporo Ramen and Grill, at 73759 Highway 111, in Palm Desert (sapporo-ramen-grill.business.site); Pizza Peel, at 69115 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City (www.pizzapeel.net); and Cups Café, serving breakfast and lunch at 77912 Country Club Drive, in Palm Desert (search for it on Facebook).

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Local Restaurants Offer Splendid Summer Specials

The summer giveth to Coachella Valley foodies … and the summer taketh away.

As for the “taketh away” part: This is your annual reminder to call ahead before heading off to your favorite local bar or restaurant … because it may very well be closed. Some places take a couple of weeks off; others take off the whole damn season.

However, an increasing number of places are choosing to stay open throughout the summer, because they recognize that most locals and even a fair number of sun-loving visitors are, in fact, here. Some restaurants offer up amazing deals, too—which leads me to believe that the summer is the best time to be a foodie in the Coachella Valley.

Here are four of the summer deals out there that have caught my eye thus far:

Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge (849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) is offering a $29 three-course meal Sundays through Thursdays. I’m partial to Willa Jean’s fried chicken, by the way.

Bernie’s (69830 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage) is offering a $29 three-course menu daily; options include a 7-ounce cut of prime rib, and Wagyu meatloaf.

The Purple Palm Restaurant (in the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) has its three-course “love to the locals” dinner for $39, Sundays through Thursdays. The almond wood-roasted strip steak sounds amazing!

Shame on the Moon (69950 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage) is giving diners three great deals: a three-course dinner (soup or salad, entrée and dessert) for $21; and two different four-course dinner menus (soup or salad, appetizer, entrée and dessert), for either $29 or $38, Sundays through Fridays. Wow!

Visit the restaurants’ Facebook pages and websites for more information—and let me know about other great specials not listed here; if we get enough, we’ll publish a roundup of these suggestions at CVIndependent.com!


Taste of Summer Returns to Rancho Mirage

Rancho Mirage restaurants are again teaming up to offer up delicious food at a discount—and benefit great causes while doing so.

Here’s how it works: People can buy $10 wristbands, and anyone with those wristbands will be able to enjoy $4 offers at participating restaurants during the promotion periods: July 7-16, Aug. 11-20 and Sept. 8-17. All of the wristband proceeds will go to an impressive list of charities.

Wristbands are available from the charities themselves; at the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce (71905 Highway 111, Suite H); or at the launch party, taking place from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, July 6, at Pirch, also located at 71905 Highway 111, in Suite H.

RSVP for that launch party, and get a list of participating restaurants and charities, at www.tasteofsummerranchomirage.com.


In Brief

Now open and earning rave reviews: Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, at 706 S. Eugene Road, over in the industrial area near Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs. The “plant-based kitchen that’s totally bitchin’” is a vegan restaurant, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (with expanded hours until 8 p.m. on Wednesday), helmed by Tanya Petrovna, the founder of Native Foods. Visit www.cheftanyapetrovna.com for more info. … After being closed for nine months due to the sudden death of the owner, Willie Boys finally reopened on June 2. The Morongo Valley barbecue joint and music venue, a popular destination for valley denizens, is located at 50048 Twentynine Palms Highway; get updates and information at www.facebook.com/willieboyssaloon. … The Arrive Hotels empire continues to grow: Chris Pardo and co. christened the Palm Springs Fan Club with a shindig on June 3. What exactly the space, adjacent to Arrive, at 1541 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs? “Palm Springs Fan Club is a cocktail lounge and event space,” according to the Facebook event page for that aforementioned shindig. “Designed with a nod to the iconic wind farms just outside Palm Springs city limits, Palm Springs Fan Club is a playful and unique location for pop-ups, receptions, meetings and weddings.” OK then! In other news, Pardo recently announced an Arrive hotel will be opening in Austin, Texas, in 2019. … Coming soon: Venezia Restaurant and Pizzeria, to the former Spaghetteria/Caffé Italia space at 2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. While a slightly faded sign on the building inaccurately says to expect an opening in “early 2017,” the restaurant’s Facebook page says the opening date is close enough that the restaurant is now hiring. Visit www.facebook.com/veneziapalmsprings for more info. … Just in time for the scorching temps: Vinny’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard, at 190 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, is open for business. Get info at www.facebook.com/vinnysitalianiceandfrozencustard. … Popular La Quinta poke joint Pokehana, at 78742 Highway 111, is opening a second location in Palm Desert this summer—and we’re hearing rumors that yet another Pokehana could come to the valley by the end of the year. Watch www.pokehana.com for updates.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: The “Benedict” Sopes

Where: Reservoir at the Arrive Hotel, 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $13

Contact: 760-507-1640; reservoirpalmsprings.com

Why: It’s a fresh take on an old classic.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day—when it’s done right. However, as I have noted in this space before, breakfast is often not done right: Far too many restaurant breakfasts are boring and uninspired.

Well, at Reservoir at the Arrive Hotel, they do breakfast right. Witness this fresh take offered on that breakfast classic, eggs Benedict: For the “Benedict” sopes, they swap out English muffins for sopes—you know, the masa-based cakes that are kinda, sorta like a thick tortilla—and exchange the Canadian bacon for chorizo.

The resulting dish is still fairly basic—it’s still just sauce, meat, egg and “bread”—but man, it is delicious.

While I enjoyed the heck out of the chorizo, it was the sope that really made the food sing. A hint of corn adds just a bit of sweetness and freshness to the dish, while the sopes’ texture creates a more pleasing mouth feel than a soggy ol’ English muffin.

The dish, as delivered, was not perfect—the valentine hollandaise sauce had started to congeal ever so slightly, meaning the plate sat around a bit too long before being brought to my table, a fact that also led to the food’s temperature heading down toward lukewarm. However, the “Benedict” sopes were still delicious despite these flaws, and that says a lot.

Trust me: There are few better ways to spend a Palm Springs fall morning or afternoon than eating an egg dish while overlooking Arrive’s pool, with the San Jacinto Mountains as the backdrop. Go and see for yourself.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Mezcal … we’ve had a complicated relationship haven’t we?

Remember our first time? I was 20, and you were so cruel. In those days, you needed a gimmick—you were the “poor man’s tequila” to us clueless gringos, its crazy backwoods cousin. We had heard the myth that eating the worm would make one hallucinate, just in case taking copious shots weren’t enough. We drank you in college when we couldn’t afford a more-polished spirit.

I know that many people still think of you that way. They don’t know you as you really are … a liquor whose time to shine has finally arrived.

Readers, if you haven’t been enjoying the renaissance of this misunderstood spirit, it’s probably not your fault. Despite nearly a decade of surging popularity, mezcal still won’t show up on your radar if you haven’t been to a bar that specializes in Mexican spirits or craft cocktails. However, if you feel like it’s time to get swept up by the charms of mezcal, and they are many, now is the perfect time to do so.

For one thing, it’s more available than ever (although the market has been somewhat flooded by non-descript brands looking to capitalize on the trendiness). For another, the tasting notes can range from vanilla and banana to truffles and leather. Aside from Scotch whisky, few spirits can boast such a dramatic variation in flavor. Like Scotch, mezcal is known for being smoky, but the level of smoke varies from product to product. Unlike Scotch, you can use it easily in a margarita variation during atypically hot Coachella Valley fall days.

To celebrate mezcal and its many amazing aspects, I decided to visit some local cocktail bars to see how they explore the versatility of the spirit. I was not disappointed.

My first stop was Arrive in Palm Springs, where Paul made me a Smoke and Berries. It’s on the drink menu, and is a nice way to explore the light and breezy side of mezcal. He muddled raspberries and blackberries directly into the liquor, and added some lime and simple syrup, as well as a dash of peach bitters, and voila! It was a perfect poolside sipper. It was light and breezy, with a hint of smoke, black pepper, vanilla and pineapple from the Primario mezcal.

Next, he made me a Sweet Surrender. You won’t find it on the menu, but it’s worth asking about. He bravely mixes Primario with white rum and mint, and then adds some creme de mure, lemon juice and Peychaud’s bitters. It’s a beguiling beverage. If I’d sipped it without knowing the ingredients, I would have been hard-pressed to guess them. My first impression was Fernet-Branca—the drink leads you almost there, with a strong medicinal hit—but the creme de mure brings you back before it becomes too much. There are also notes of cola, menthol and black pepper. As I left, I wondered about the rum: Would a funky Jamaican overproof make the cocktail better or worse? I think he played it smart with a quieter dance partner for the mezcal—but I might play around with the specs at some point, out of curiosity.

Next I went to see the tiki wizards at Bootlegger, right down the road—rather fortuitously. Chad had posted a picture of his new Aztec Warrior mezcal drink online, and although it’s not on the menu yet, Aisha was happy to make one for me. It starts with Ilegal Mezcal, and then my favorite ingredient of the last few years, Ancho Reyes, joins the party. (If you haven’t picked up a bottle of that yet, do yourself a favor.) The drink is finished with lime juice, coconut cream and NOLA coffee liqueur from St. George, with a grating of cinnamon. Tasting the drink, I got the impression of candy chased with a little New Orleans café au lait with chicory. I confess I have a bit of a sweet tooth with my coffee, so when I make it at home, I might add a touch of simple syrup or turbinado sugar.

I called it a night with a drink on the menu, For Luck’s Sake. La Niña mezcal, Cabeza tequila, yellow Chartreuse, honey and lime are mixed together and served on a big ice cube, with a basil leaf garnish. A bit of fire is added with a serrano pepper tincture, and the vegetal notes of the ingredients are accentuated by celery bitters. Yellow (not green!) Chartreuse is incredible with tequila, so I was not surprised that the drink came together so nicely. It’s a little spicy and a little sweet, with a good measure of herbs de Provence to boot.

Four drinks, four totally different looks. Mezcal is a powerhouse of a spirit, no matter how you use it. Whether you’re by the pool when it’s 95 degrees, or staying warm on a cool desert evening, mezcal just might be the spirit you need to add to your liquor cabinet. Even better, have your local bartender do the work for you.

If you need some more inspiration, here is one of my recipes.

La Rubia

  • 1 1/2 ounces of mezcal of your choice (Vida works nicely with its baking spice notes)
  • 3/4 ounce Ancho Reyes
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice (no cheating with the bottled stuff!)
  • 1/2 ounce pineapple syrup (leave fresh, not canned, pineapple chunks in simple syrup for a couple of days; add gum arabic for extra credit)

Shake, serve up or on the rocks, and garnish with one of those pineapple chunks or a leaf from the pineapple. Waste not, want not.

Cheers!

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Seymour’s and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

What: The Grape Nut Ice Cream

Where: Ice Cream and Shop(pe), 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A

How much: $3.50 single scoop (pictured); $5.50 double

Contact: 760-507-4005; www.icecreamandshop.com

Why: Both the flavor and the texture are delightfully unique.

On the Palm Canyon Drive side of Arrive, THE new hip place to see and be seen in Palm Springs, is an ice cream shop, appropriately named (if oddly punctuated) Ice Cream and Shop(pe).

However, this is no ordinary ice cream shop(pe). Here, you’ll pay a little more for your ice cream—but in exchange, you’ll get scooped-up goodness in a rotation of flavors both expected (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) and delightfully WTF? (avocado, pomegranate chip, lavender). Sorbet is also on offer for those eschewing dairy for whatever reason.

On a recent stop at Ice Cream and Shop(pe), I decided to get a scoop of the grape nut ice cream. As she dished it into the cute li’l cup, the woman working behind the counter said I’d enjoy the unique texture.

She was right. I didn’t know it was possible for a treat to be frozen yet gooey (in a good way) at the same time, but that’s exactly how this grape nut ice cream is. The cereal mixed in with the ice cream adds both flavor and texture, creating a frozen dessert that’s flavorful—it’s sweet, but in a mellow way—and fun.

The ice cream isn’t the only fun thing about Ice Cream and Shop(pe); the “shop(pe)” part of the name hints at the fact that this is also a cute little gift shop selling cards, souvenirs and the like. One other element of the place is also fun: It’s open late—until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 p.m. the other days of the week.

The portion of Palm Canyon Drive south of Vista Chino and north of downtown Palm Springs proper continues to get more popular and hip—and Arrive and its Ice Cream and Shop(pe) are a big reason why.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

New to the CV Supermarket Scene: Gelson’s and ALDI

The grocery-store gods giveth; the grocery-store gods taketh away.

In recent months, both Haggen and Fresh and Easy have faded to black in the Coachella Valley due to financial stresses.

Enter Gelson’s Markets and ALDI to fill the void.

Gelson’s—a Southern California fixture since 1951—opened in late January in the former Haggen/Pavilions space at 36101 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Gelson’s purchased the Rancho Mirage store and seven others from Haggen when the company made a hasty retreat from California last year.

“Gelson’s has been looking for a great desert location for nearly 15 years, and we’re excited to come to Rancho Mirage,” said Rob McDougall, Gelson’s president and CEO, in a news release. “Our goal is to serve the local community by providing premium-quality merchandise and exceptional customer service, while also re-employing many of the dedicated employees of the former Haggen store.”

Gelson’s has a upscale yet friendly vibe, with high-quality meats, produce and seafood, in addition to a fantastic floral department; bars for salad, antipasti and hot foods; a service deli; and a counter serving juices and cut fruits. Find more information at www.gelsons.com.

And now for something completely different: ALDI, a much-larger chain that’s aggressively moving into California from Europe and the East Coast, opened stores in La Quinta (78601 Highway 111, La Quinta) and Palm Springs (5200 E. Ramon Road) on March 24.

ALDI’s shtick: It features a limited selection of most of the usual items you’d find in a supermarket—except you’ve probably never heard of the brands that ALDI sells. For the most part, the less-expensive brands are exclusive to ALDI, and the company claims the items must all match or exceed the quality offered by national brands. Don’t like something? ALDI will both replace the product and give you your money back.

One other twist at ALDI: If you want to use a shopping cart, you’ll need a quarter—but you’ll get it back when you return the cart to the central station.

Get more info at www.aldi.us.


The Saguaro’s former Tinto Restaurant Is Now Rocco’s Electric

As was foretold in this space a couple of months ago, the relationship between the Saguaro Palm Springs and the Garces Group has come to an end.

Gone is Iron Chef José Garces’ Tinto. In its place: Rocco’s Electric.

The new “Red Room and Ice Cream Emporium” looks pretty much just like Tinto did—no surprise, seeing as there was not very much time between the Tinto era and the Rocco’s Electric era.

As for the menu … it’s quite different. The Basque-inspired plates of Tinto have been replaced by a focus on cocktails (at least during evening hours) and entrées like salads and tacos. And ice cream … lots of ice cream; in fact, on the weekends, the restaurant offers midday ice cream socials.

Speaking of tacos, and specifically Taco Tuesday: If you’re a fan of El Jefe, never fear, because the popular spot survived the changeover.

For more information, call 760-322-1900, or visit www.thesaguaro.com/palm-springs.


In Brief

Congrats to Chef George’s, located at 40100 Washington St., in Bermuda Dunes. Not too long ago, the much-loved Hungarian joint took over an adjacent space and created Pickaso, a lounge with dancing and live music in addition to tasty food and drink; call 760-200-1768 for info. … The Habit Burger Grill, a 150-plus-location chain that claims to have the best burger in America according to Consumer Reports, is opening its second valley location on Highway 111 in Palm Desert. The initial area location opened a year and a half or so ago at 79174 Highway 111 in La Quinta; www.habitburger.com. … Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse is teaming up with Catalan Restaurant for “Pigs, Paella and Brews” at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 5, at Catalan, located at 70026 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. $49 will get you beer-tastings and a fantastic family-style dinner. Call 760-770-9508 for reservations or more info. … Want yummy treats while in Palm Springs? Well, you now have more options than ever before. Fruit Wonders is now offering juices, fruit bowls, smoothies and vegan cakes at 264 N. Palm Canyon Drive (www.facebook.com/fruitwondersps), while Ice Cream and Shop(pe) is just one of the much-raved-about offerings at the brand-new Arrive Hotel, located at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive. (Reservoir, the new full-service restaurant there, is creating quite a buzz.) At Ice Cream and Shop(pe), you’ll find between 16 and 20 favors of ice cream every day until midnight; icecreamandshop.com. Finally, if you want coffee or a light lunch, check out downtown Palm Springs’ newest coffee shop, Joey Palm Springs, at 245 S. Palm Canyon Drive; www.facebook.com/joeypalmsprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News