CVIndependent

Sat10192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

For lovers of the performing arts who reside in the Coachella Valley, Christmas figuratively comes in April every year—because that’s when the McCallum Theatre announces what gifts it is bringing to town during the upcoming season.

To overextend this tortured metaphor … that makes Mitch Gershenfeld Santa Claus, sort of, as the McCallum president and CEO is the sleighmaster (OK, this metaphor is officially finished) who books the theater’s shows each season—a task he’s now accomplished for some 19 years.

“Every time I finish booking the season, I tell my wife, ‘I am afraid this is not going to be as good of a season as last year was,’” Gershenfeld said. “But, honestly, this is going to be a very good season.”

Tickets for the 2018-2019 will go on sale Monday, April 16, at 8 a.m. The 2018-2019 roster includes names both new and familiar to the McCallum: Singers from Jackie Evancho to Bernadette Peters to Willie Nelson, plus six performances by the Ten Tenors; traveling Broadway shows including Rent, Jersey Boys, Spamalot, Evita, The Wizard of Oz and Something Rotten; comedy greats like Lily Tomlin and Bob Newhart; and the tried-and-true McCallum series, including Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel, Fitz’s Jazz Cafe, and Gershenfeld’s own “Mitch’s Picks.”

When I asked Gershenfeld which shows excited him the most, he mentioned Savion Glover’s All FuNKD’ Up, scheduled to come to the McCallum on March 30, 2019.

“Savion is not only the greatest living tap dancer; he’s such an incredible artist,” Gershenfeld said. “He’s taken tap beyond what anyone else has done before.” All FuNKD’ Up will feature a six-piece band and a full company of dancers.

Gershenfeld said he’s also looking forward to a series coming to the McCallum for the first time: National Geographic Live will bring scientists, photographers and other great minds to the theater for Exploring Mars (Jan. 21); Coral Kingdoms and Empires of Ice (Feb. 18); and Capturing the Impossible (March 18). The Exploring Mars lecture, in particular, should be exciting, as it’ll feature Kobie Boykins, the NASA mechanical engineer who’s had a hand in numerous discoveries about the red planet—including the revelation that there was once water on Mars.

“This is a program that’s been around for many years, as a series in a lot of cities,” Gershenfeld said. “It works very well in a theater.”

For the fifth year in a row, Gershenfeld has highlighted five shows as “Mitch’s Picks”—concerts Gershenfeld personally recommends, even if the performers are not household names. They include Spanish guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas’ Americano (March 4); BRAVO Amici, a “popera” group featuring three tenors and two divas (March 11); Piaf! Le Spectacle, a show telling the singing great’s life story via music and heretofore unseen photos—entirely in French (March 26); and Asere!, a celebration of Cuban dance and music featuring the Havana Cuba All-Stars (April 3).

And then there’s Blokelahoma! (March 29) starring Toby Francis, a former member of the Ten Tenors who also starred in the Australian production of Kinky Boots. He became a friend of Gershenfeld during Francis’ time in the Ten Tenors—the most popular act ever to grace the McCallum stage. Gershenfeld said Francis told him about Blokelahoma!—Francis’ story about being a “good Austrian bloke” who grew up with a love of Broadway musicals—when they enjoyed dinner in Sydney last June.

“I basically said, you have to do this show at the McCallum,” Gershenfeld recalled.

Per usual, McCallum’s schedule is packed with an unimaginably wide variety of singers, humorists and performers, ranging from comedian and Orange Is the New Black star Lea DeLaria returning to her jazz roots (Nov. 8) to LeAnn Rimes doing a Christmas show (Dec. 15) to concerts by prolific songwriter Paul Anka (Jan. 31 and Feb. 1).

Traveling Broadway shows are a McCallum staple, and the 2018-2019 slate includes a lot of classics and old favorites. The one exception: Something Rotten! (April 5-7), which ended its initial Broadway run on Jan. 1, 2017.

“It’s such a fun story,” Gershenfeld said. “It takes place in Shakespeare’s time; he’s literally a rock star.”

The story centers on two brothers who are playwrights struggling to compete with the great Shakespeare. They visit a soothsayer named Nostradamus—the nephew of the famous one—and wind up inventing this new thing called a “musical.”

Gershenfeld said booking shows at the McCallum presents unique challenges in terms of timing—with rare exceptions, the theater goes dark out of necessity from May through September—and size; at 1,100 seats, the medium-sized venue is simply too small to meet the budgetary requirements of some grand productions, like Wicked.

“There will be no Hamilton here in my lifetime,” he said with a laugh.

Despite these challenges, the McCallum consistently makes Pollstar’s annual list of the Top 100 theaters in terms of ticket sales, because dark nights are rare in the spring—and because Gershenfeld books shows that he knows will sell well.

He’s hoping a change to the way the McCallum sells tickets may make sales even better. In past years, the McCallum only sold “subscriptions” for the upcoming year during the late spring and summer months. This year, tickets for all currently booked shows will go on sale at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 16.

Gershenfeld said he was looking forward to the 2018-2019 season, as the 2017-2018 season comes to an end.

“This has been a great season,” he said. “It’s been better than the last two years, and the shows have been well-attended. Philanthropically, people have been very generous, too. Ticket sales make up only 60 percent of our budget, and we’ve been making a lot of capital improvements to the theater; we’ve been spending about $500,000 a year in improvements and new equipment.”

Tickets for the McCallum Theatre’s 2018-2019 season go on sale at 8 a.m., Monday, April 16. For tickets or more information, including the complete schedule, show up at the box office at 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert; call 760-340-2787; or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

What: The Porto crepe

Where: Lala’s Waffles Crepes and Shakes, 34041 Date Palm Drive, Suite E, Cathedral City

How much: $8.35

Contact: 760-202-3443; www.eatlalas.com

Why: It’s a treat you don’t find often.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment: What if you heard a new Mexican restaurant was opening near you? Would you be excited—even if you had reason to believe that new Mexican restaurant was going to be really, really good?

Probably not—because the Coachella Valley is already home to a wide variety of Mexican joints serving up all sorts of yummy eats. Right?

Well … what if you heard a new restaurant had opened near you that serves crepes—both savory and sweet varieties—as well as waffles? Would you be excited? Well, when I heard about the opening of Lala’s Waffles Crepes and Shakes, I was certainly excited—because Lala’s is offering something fairly unique. After all, how many restaurants in town do you know of that focus on crepes?

And, yes, the fare at Lala’s is really, really good. On a recent lunch visit, I decided to try a savory crepe: the Porto, with ham, Provolone and Swiss cheeses, and mushrooms—all topped with a chipotle sauce. It was delicious—made fresh with quality ingredients—and surprisingly filling. I wanted a touch of sweet with my savory, so I decided to wash it down with Lala’s strawberry horchata ($4 for 24 ounces), which was so tasty and refreshing that it, in and of itself, was endorsement-worthy.

On my next visit, I plan on jumping to the sweet side of things to try the Frida ($8.50), with dulce de leche spread, strawberries, coconut flakes, bananas, whipped cream and pistachio ice cream—offered as either a crepe or a waffle. Wow.

I strongly advise you to go to Lala’s. Support a local business. Try something unique. Your taste buds will be glad you did.

Help the Desert AIDS Project by Dining Out for Life on April 26

Thursday, April 26, is one of my favorite foodie days of the year.

It’s not a day featuring a lot of great deals and food specials; instead, it’s a day during which local restaurants and their customers (i.e., you) do a lot of good for the community.

April 26 is this year’s date for Dining Out for Life, the annual fundraising extravaganza for the Desert AIDS Project and other HIV/AIDS service organizations around the country. It’s simple, really: On that day, restaurants across the Coachella Valley have agreed to donate anywhere between 33 and 110 percent of their sales to DAP.

It really is simple: All you do is go out to eat, like you probably would anyway—and DAP gets a big chunk of whatever you spend. (If you feel like you must do more than simply eat out, never fear: Many participating locations also have donation envelopes available.)

My friends at DAP tell me that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smaller markets in which Dining Out for Life takes place, it’s one of the larger markets in terms of money raised. Last year, we ranked No. 3 in North America—and this year, the folks at DAP are keeping their fingers crossed for a jump to No. 2. Our li’l community does so well, in part, because of the generosity of some large and very busy restaurants: Lulu California Bistro (donating 50 percent), TRIO (donating 60 percent) and Spencer’s (donating 75 percent) generally rank near the top of the continent-wide list in terms of the amount of money donated.

However, it is most certainly not all about the big places: The biggest generosity, in many ways, comes from the smaller, mom-and-pop places. Rooster and the Pig and Ristretto are both donating 100 percent of their sales on April 26 to DAP—while Townie Bagels is giving a whopping 110 percent.

On Dining Out for Life day, you’ll be able to find me at a half-dozen or so—maybe more—participating restaurants throughout the day: having bagels, coffee, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, a post-dinner snack and then probably a few drinks. Follow my exploits via the Coachella Valley Independent Facebook page.

Please join me for Dining Out for Life on April 26. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s literally the least you can do.

Visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings for a complete and constantly updated list of restaurants and their donation percentages.


In Brief

The much, much delayed opening of Grand Central Palm Springs, a restaurant and event space in La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs, is apparently close. Yeah, we’ve heard this several times before over the last two years, but co-owner Rita Capponi is so confident it’s actually happening this time that she gave me a “firm” opening date: May 1. More details to come; watch www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com for updates. … Alicante, the tapas-themed restaurant at 140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, is gearing up for a name and theme change. Revel Public House will offer sports, great food and lots of drink, led by three new exclusive beers brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works—under the name Palm Springs Brewing Co. Visit the brand-new Revel Facebook page for details. … Draughtsman, at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, just started a new late-night menu. “Late Night at Draughtsman” takes place from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The menu includes fare such as Cauliflower “McNuggets” ($9) and a braised pork belly banh mi ($14), along with late-night beer specials and frequent entertainment. Get more info at draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The owners of CCBC—a gay, clothing-optional resort and play place (*ahem*)—have announced plans to build an adjoining 2,560-square-foot restaurant, called Runway; it’ll also have a 568-square-foot dining patio. We cannot wait to see this! See plans at www.ccedd.org/project/ccbc-resort-runway-restaurant. … Try (hopefully) great chili and benefit the Cathedral City Senior Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 7. The annual Chili Cook-Off takes place at the Big Lots Center at Highway 111 and Date Palm Drive; $20 gets you chili tastings and a box lunch from Aspen Mills. Yum! Find more details at www.cathedralcenter.org. … And now, in the “Why in the hell not?” category: The Village Pub Palm Springs, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has launched two new food challenges. On Wednesdays, you can try one of two challenges: Eat 10 blazing wings in five minutes ($13); or gobble down one pound of potato chips and two pounds of fish with homemade beer batter in 10 minutes ($30). Beat the challenge, and the food is free. Hmm. Learn more about the “Village Idiot Food Challenge”—and see if any idiots actually succeed—at www.facebook.com/villagepubpalmsprings.

It was late in the afternoon on Saturday, March 17. I was in San Francisco for a fantastic LGBT business conference, which had just wrapped up. My husband, Garrett—who spends most of his time in San Francisco due to work—and I had decided to take in a movie, and then get some Chinese food afterward, before I headed back to Palm Springs the next morning.

We were hurrying to the 4:30 p.m. showing of Love, Simon, at the Metreon. We were crossing Fourth Street, rushing to get across before the light changed. That’s when I stepped in a small rut in the road, lost my balance and tried to catch myself.

I failed.

I put out my arms to brace myself, and then took a literal tumble toward the sidewalk, coming to a stop just short of the gutter. As I started to get up, Garrett asked me if I was OK. That was when I realized my left forearm was pointing in the wrong direction.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

After Garrett and some passers-by helped me onto a bench, Garrett called 911, as I cradled my left arm with my right. After an excruciatingly long wait—toward the end of it, Garrett actually ordered a Lyft, fearing an ambulance would never come—paramedics finally arrived. I was loaded into the ambulance and taken to Saint Francis Memorial Hospital.

Fortunately, I have good insurance, and I received good care. After X-rays—the most painful experience I’ve ever endured—I was diagnosed with a left elbow dislocation. (Such dislocations are rare, apparently; normally, the bones just break.) After a procedure to put my arm back in place—during which, thankfully, I was anesthetized—my arm was placed in a splint and sling, and I was sent on my way.

I mention all of this, because this occurred just before we began production on the April print issue—our annual Music Issue, one of our biggest editorial issues of the year.

Last week, I edited and designed the bulk of the issue with just one arm. It was not easy. However, we were able to get it done for two reasons: First, I am blessed with an amazing group of friends, family members, coworkers and teammates, who constantly reached out to make sure I was OK. Thanks to all of you; you know who you are.

Second … there was no way in hell I was going to allow the issue to be curtailed or delayed in anyway—because it’s a damn good issue.

I must tip my figurative hat (with my right arm, of course) to Brian Blueskye, who not only churned out his usual impressive collection of great music interviews and stories; he also penned a terrific news story, about the businesses affected by a March 7 fire on Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs.

I could go on and on … but instead, I’ll let you go check out all of the great stuff from the issue—much of which has already been posted, and the rest of which will be posted in the coming days.

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. Contact me with any questions or comments, and be sure to pick up the April 2018 print edition, hitting the streets this week.

What: The chile relleno plate

Where: Cardenas Market, 31655 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $6.99

Contact: 760-422-1330; www.cardenasmarkets.com

Why: It’s a delicious bargain.

When we moved here five years ago, the initial plan was to buy a house not too far from the Cathedral City Cardenas. I remember first walking into the huge Mexican-focused supermarket and being utterly wowed by the amazing selection of prepared foods on offer there.

However, the sale of that house fell through, and we wound up living in Palm Springs. Therefore, I had little reason to go to Cardenas—and somehow, I forgot about all that amazing food. Well, I recently rediscovered Cardenas, and this rediscovery has been a very good thing (for my taste buds, if not my waistline).

Since the joyous rediscovery, Cardenas has become one of my go-to places whenever I need to pick up some food for a party. The selection of Mexican goodies available is, frankly, stunning: more than a dozen different types of ceviche, a variety of salsas, tamales, tacos, burritos, breakfasts, cooked meats by the pound, and a whole bunch of yummy entrées—it is all available, and then some.

Beyond parties, Cardenas has also become a place to go when, well, I am simply hungry. One recent day, I was in the general area of the store after a doctor’s appointment, so I decided to drop in and pick up an early dinner to-go. (Eating at the store is also an option; Cardenas has a large, comfy dining area.) My only problem was choosing what to get, given the bevy of options. However, I eventually decided on the chile relleno plate—and I’m so happy I did.

The egg-battered pepper was cooked perfectly, and swam in a delightful, cheesy red sauce. It came along with beans, rice and tortillas—a damn fine meal for $6.99.

What: The lobster bisque

Where: Gelson’s Market, 36101 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage

How much: $8.99

Contact: 760-770-0010; gelsons.com/store-locations/rancho-mirage

Why: Great flavor, fine price.

The grocery store located at Bob Hope and Gerald Ford drives has had a turbulent history in recent years. It was a Pavilions; for about 15 minutes (give or take), it was a Haggen; and then it became a Gelson’s.

When Gelson’s opened in the space a little more than two years ago, however, the new owners brought with them a different mindset: The people behind the Southern California mini-chain not only wanted to genuinely become part of the community (including some events with this newspaper, I should disclose); they had big plans for the space.

Those big plans have now come to fruition: The Rancho Mirage store has been completely renovated—and the prepared-food options in Gelson’s are nothing short of epic.

Wolfgang Puck’s pizza. A downright-reasonably-priced salad bar. A sushi bar. All sorts of deli meats, salads and prepared entrées. A wine, craft-beer and tapas bar. And even a seafood bar—with oysters, shrimp, crab, lobster, poke and other tasty treats.

One of those “other tasty treats,” the 12-ounce bowl of lobster bisque, made for a mighty fine lunch one recent weekday. It was rich, creamy and flavorful—everything a great lobster bisque should be. There were also tiny little lobster bits in almost every bite. Yum!

Beyond the quality of the bisque itself … of the best things about the dish was its price: $8.99 is a fine deal for this amount of good lobster bisque. However, I had one teeny, tiny complaint: My bisque came with oyster crackers (which are supposed to go with the clam chowder, $8.99) instead of crostini slices, as promised on the menu; that would have been a slightly better pairing.

But that’s a minor nitpick; I thoroughly enjoyed my first dine-in lunch at Gelson’s. It certainly will not be my last.

Former Dish Chef Lands at Azucar; Alebrijie Lands in Former Dish Space

As the saying goes: When one door closes, another opens—and such is definitely the case in the restaurant industry.

A door closed, literally, for Joane Garcia-Colson last fall, when she shut down Dish Creative Cuisine, her well-regarded restaurant at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs; she cited conflicts with others involved with the business as the reason. I don’t use the phrase “well-regarded” lightly: Dish, which originally opened more than five years ago in Cathedral City, made many “Best Of” lists thanks to Garcia-Colson’s amazing blend of classic technique and whimsy.

Given Garcia-Colson’s talent, it was inevitable that another door would open for her—and it did at Azucar, the restaurant at the La Serena Villas, at 339 S. Belardo Road, in downtown Palm Springs. She’s taken her former Dish sous chef with her, and we can’t wait to see what she does at Azucar; watch laserenavillas.com/azucar-restaurant-and-bar for updates.

Meanwhile, at the old Dish location, a door opened for Alebrije Bistro Mexico. The restaurant debuted on Valentine’s Day, featuring upscale Mexico City-style cuisine. That Valentine’s Day menu featured tasty treats like lamb stew, rib eye with mole de cadera, and—as an appetizer—a bone marrow thyme emulsion and shaved Parmesan.

Wow. We can’t wait to check out Alebrije ourselves. Watch the Alebrije Facebook page for updates.


New: The Craft Rancho Mirage Comes to The S at Rancho Mirage

The Desert Island Country Club, located at 71777 Frank Sinatra Drive, in Rancho Mirage, is now called The S at Rancho Mirage—and the restaurant inside the country club has been revamped and is now open to the public.

The restaurant is now The Craft Rancho Mirage. It’s being run by executive chef/partner Erick Hernandez, formerly of Escena and the Indian Canyons Golf Resort; and veteran food/beverage director John Trad.

“We are excited to invite folks into The S at Rancho Mirage Country Club to be able to have a ‘taste’ of the club life without the membership,” said John Trad in a press-release quote. “While there are so many fabulous restaurants in the valley, this specific area of Rancho Mirage is lacking in options, and we are thrilled to be able to open our doors to the general public to join us in an incredible setting.”

The menu features “fresh, high quality and locally sourced ingredients,” and includes entrées like shrimp scampi, sugar-and-spice salmon, and “The Gatsby”—blackened ahi tuna, zucchini pasta, heirloom tomatoes and wasabi beurre blanc. You’ll pay between $24 and $36 for your main course—or you can enjoy happy hour every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the bar.

For more information, call 760-328-2111, or visit www.thesresort.com/dining.


In Brief

Help a new nonprofit organization get up and running, from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 23, at Pirch, 71905 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Not only can you learn about Alzheimer’s Coachella Valley’s mission, programs and services; you can enjoy hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine and Pirch signature cocktails. Admission is $50; RSVP by March 9 at 760-776-3100 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. … Every year, TRIO Restaurant throws its much-anticipated “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” party during the Academy Awards, to benefit AAP-Food Samaritans. This year’s event starts at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 4; for $125 (bar seating) to $175 (VIP/premium seating), you’ll get a prix-fixe six-course dinner, well drinks, wine, champagne and the satisfaction that comes from helping out a great cause. Get tickets at aapfoodsamaritans.org or by calling 760-325-8481. … Coming soon to 170 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in the curve area of Palm Springs: Kreem Artisanal Ice Cream and Coffee. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening date here soon; watch www.facebook.com/ilovekreem for updates. … Newish to Indio: La Michoacana Real, serving up ice cream, raspados, juices and more at 81673 Highway 111; call 760-347-3939 to learn more. … Support the kids in Rancho Mirage High School’s CAFÉ Culinary Arts Department while trying their delicious creations from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 15. Admission is $10, and attendance is limited to 250 people—and these popular fundraisers often sell out. The school is located at 31001 Rattler Road; call the Thousand Palms Chamber of Commerce at 760-343-1988 to RSVP. Awesome! … And now for something else that’s awesome, albeit quite a bit more expensive: Citi Taste of Tennis takes place at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells from 7 to 10 p.m., Monday, March 5. For $200, you can enjoy cocktails and great cuisine while mingling with tennis greats and culinary giants, including Top Chef Richard Blais and Iron Chef Jose Garces, and local luminaries including Andrew Copley (Copley’s, AC3) and Engin Onural (The Venue, Sandfish). Get tickets at www.tasteoftennis.com/iw.

It’s once again (or still?) election season in the Coachella Valley—well, it is in at least part of the Coachella Valley.

That whacky central-valley city of 18,000 people, Rancho Mirage, likes to do things its own way—and so it holds its city election at a time (April 10) and via a method (mail) that are different from every other city in the valley. Speaking of doing things one’s own way, it’s also worth noting that Rancho Mirage is the biggest opponent of the proposed valley-wide CV Link pathway, and that the city just declined to participate in a valley-wide traffic-signal synchronization project.

It’s kind of like this: Rancho Mirage city government is the metaphoric equivalent of an old man yelling at people (in this case, the rest of the valley) to get off his damn lawn!

I mention all of this for two reasons: One, to highlight the fantastic coverage of this year’s Rancho Mirage city election by Kevin Fitzgerald, which can be found here and here; and two, to talk about endorsements.

Over the years, we’ve been occasionally asked why we don’t do endorsements in political races. At first, we didn’t do endorsements because the Independent was such a new publication that endorsements would have caused more harm than good: Why would people care what an unestablished and unknown publication thought about a political race?

Today, more than five years into our existence, the Independent is known and fairly well-established—but we still don’t do endorsements, because it takes a lot of time and effort to do endorsements right. And we don’t do things here at the Independent unless we can do them right.

Newspaper endorsements can make a difference. In city elections, races can often be decided by hundreds or just dozens of votes—and there are definitely voters who use newspaper endorsements as a de facto voting guide. We distribute 16,000 copies of the Independent; if we published an endorsement, and just 1 percent of those copies somehow swayed a voter … that’s 160 votes. And we’re not even counting the online edition.

However, at this time, there aren’t enough Independent staff members or contributors talking to enough candidates for me to feel comfortable putting the weight of the newspaper’s name behind a candidate. That’s not to say this won’t change in the future—and that’s not to say we aren’t tempted to issue endorsements at times … like, for example, when a certain city government keeps metaphorically yelling at everyone to get off their damn lawn! But for now, the Independent is staying out of the endorsements game.

As always, thanks for reading—and please drop me a line if you have any questions or comments. Also: Be sure to pick up a copy of our March 2018 print edition, hitting the streets of the Coachella Valley this week and early next week.

What: The Tom Yum Soup

Where: Thai House, 246 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $11.95

Contact: 760-778-1728; thaihousepalmsprings.com

Why: It’s a delicious pick-me-up.

Whenever I am stuffed up due to a cold or an allergy attack, I go see Nisa—and she helps me feel better.

Such was the case one recent workday. I had a crazy sinus headache, and I had a lot of work to do, so I headed to downtown Palm Springs to get some sinus-clearing chicken tom yum soup at Thai House.

The aforementioned Nisa is Nisa Hennecke, the owner of Thai House for more than four years now, and one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. She instantly recognized me and asked if I wanted the tom yum soup pot. Yes, I said. Yes, I really do.

Not only will this tasty hot-and-sour soup make one’s sinuses feel better; it’ll make one’s taste buds dance for joy. Lemongrass, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, lime juice, fresh chicken and other ingredients help make this tart but oh-so-savory soup unbelievably delicious. The presentation’s fun, too: It comes served in a hot pot, with a moat of yummy soup surrounding a lovely flame.

While I make a beeline for Thai House to order the tom yum anytime I am under the weather, the restaurant’s charms go well beyond soup; all of the food I’ve had at Thai House has been delicious, from the curries to the noodle dishes to the chef’s favorites and beyond. Oh, and the service is fantastic as well—especially when Nisa is there, as she almost always is.

Nisa is a poker dealer-turned-restaurant owner who comes from a restaurant background: Her family had a restaurant business in her native Thailand, and she’s assisted in the kitchen by her sister and brother-in-law. The family makes food with love—and it shows.

So, the next time you’re in need of some sinus-clearing soup, or, well, you’re simply hungry, go see Nisa. She and her fantastic food will help you feel better instantly.

What: The Maple and Cardamom Coffee

Where: Ernest Coffee, 1101 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $5.50

Contact: 760-318-4154; www.ernestcoffee.com

Why: Great ingredients make for a great beverage.

Ernest Coffee is part of a wave of great independent coffee shops that have opened in the West Valley in recent years (including Ristretto, Gré Coffeehouse and Art Gallery, 4 Paws, Joey, Custom, etc., etc.)—but several things set Ernest apart from the others.

First: It serves Stumptown Coffee, a renowned brand out of Portland, Ore., something the folks at Ernest are quite proud of. Second: It shares the space with Bootlegger Tiki (a space that once housed Don the Beachcomber, offering the building serious tiki cred), which means the place has a full liquor license—including some boozy coffee drinks on the Ernest side. Third: Ernest offers some of the more interesting coffee drinks in town—creativity spurred on, perhaps, by that aforementioned liquor license.

One of those creative drinks has become a favorite of mine. It’s listed on the menu board as “Maple and Cardamom,” with maple syrup, vanilla, cardamom and milk. Let’s dig into that a little deeper: The maple syrup is real maple syrup, and that vanilla syrup is made in-house. Add those quality ingredients to milk and good coffee, and sprinkle in cardamom—and the result is one delicious drink. It’s not a drink for everyone—the drink is quite sweet, and the aftertaste on my palate is a bit weird (a problem fixed easily by drinking something else afterward, like water)—but I think it’s fantastic.

If maple and cardamom aren’t your cup of … um, coffee, there are plenty of other unique creations on offer. (On my next visit, I’ll try the coffee with rosemary-infused white chocolate!) Oh, and fun fact: Don the Beachcomber’s real name was Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt. Now you know where the name came from!

So, go. Try something different at Ernest. You won’t regret it.