CVIndependent

Wed01292020

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

Almost Open: AsiaSF/Palm Springs, Taking Reservations for Feb. 8 and Beyond

After visiting the original AsiaSF, I completely get it now.

When it was announced last year that AsiaSF—a 22-year-old San Francisco cabaret and dinner theater featuring transgender women as servers/performers—would be opening its second location in Palm Springs, I was a little confused. Even after PR extraordinaire David Perry introduced me to founders Larry Hashbarger and Skip Young on a trip they made out here, I didn’t fully understand was AsiaSF was all about.

So on a recent trip to San Francisco, I asked Perry if he could get me, my husband and two friends reservations to a Saturday-night AsiaSF show. He obliged (and got our meals and drinks comped, I should disclose)—and now, I understand: At AsiaSF, it’s all about the party … in a very good way.

After a brief wait in the downstairs lounge—where the music was thumping—our party was seated in the dining/cabaret area. Our fantastic server soon came and took our drink order; all the drinks are named after the server/performers, so, of course, I had to order the drink named after her.

Dinner at the San Francisco location is a three-course, prix-fixe deal, that for parties less than six costs $44 to $69, depending on the show day and time. You pick a starter, a main course and a dessert. (Parties of six or more get a family-style meal.) I ordered the seared ahi, the filet mignon and the lime tart, respectively.

After we ordered, the announcer asked the packed house who was celebrating a special occasion. There were a couple of parties celebrating anniversaries; more parties celebrating anniversaries; and a lot of parties celebrating bachelorette parties.

Then the music started; the crowd started cheering; and the first performer came out.

These are not your normal, run-of-the-mill lip-sync performers. These trans women are beautiful; their routines are choreographed by Ronnie Reddick—and they’re wearing gorgeous outfits designed by Julian Mendez Couture and Prime Kreations of Los Angeles.

The food came out after several songs, and it was quite good—rubber chicken, this ain’t—and though the portions weren’t exactly huge, the three courses filled me up.

As dessert arrived (along with another round of cocktails), a second series of performers rocked the bar top/stage. By the time the show was over—a little less than two hours from start to finish—everyone was cheering. It truly was a good time.

Given that Palm Springs has become a destination for people seeking a good time—bachelorette parties especially—I have a feeling AsiaSF/Palm Springs is going to do quite well.

“Palm Springs is rightly known as one of the world’s top destinations for celebrating fun, fashion, food and family,” said Hashbarger in a press release. “AsiaSF is all about all of that. We’re a perfect fit for the desert: an oasis that not only entertains but also educates and enlightens people about the transgender experience and human diversity.”

The AsiaSF/Palm Springs experience will be just a bit different than the San Francisco experience. For one thing, the space here is many times larger than the original South of Market SF space—including a poolside, outdoor event space being branded as the Sonoran, and spacious bar/lounge/nightclub spaces.

The opening preview party for AsiaSF/Palm Springs took place on Jan. 24—and I heard nothing but rave reviews. After a series of invite-only test dinners for nonprofit partners like the Transgender Community Coalition, the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, Dezart Performs and Sanctuary Palm Springs, it will open its doors to paying customers on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Asia SF/Palm Springs is located at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive. For reservations or more information, visit www.asiasf.com.


In Brief

Peabody’s, at 134 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has changed hands. Longtime owner Debby Alexander will be departing the karaoke and Bloody Mary haunt as of Feb. 1. Debby, you’ll be missed! Visit www.facebook.com/PeabodysPalmSprings for more. … Finally! The flagship location of Aspen Mills Bread Co., at 555 S. Sunrise Way, is again open after a lengthy fire-related closure. Get more details at www.facebook.com/AspenMillsBakery. … Now open at 49990 Jefferson St., Suite 110, in Indio: Tu Madres Cantina and Grill. It’s the sister restaurant to Cork and Fork and neighboring Heirloom Craft Kitchen; learn more at www.facebook.com/tumadrescantina. … Now open in the former Domo Sushi location at 13440 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs: Sushi Bella. Call 760-219-1533 for more details. … Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar has a new location: 78480 Highway 111, in the old Las Casuelas Quinta space. Get the 411 at okurasushi.com. … A tip o’ the hat to Bongo Johnny’s Patio Bar and Grill, at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, for efforts to be environmentally conscious. For starters, the restaurant has started using metal straws, and has switched from single-use half-and-half containers to metal pitchers. Learn more at www.facebook.com/bongojohnnys.

Hank Plante is a familiar name and face to Coachella Valley residents who follow the news. He’s a political analyst for NBC Palm Springs, and recently stepped down from The Desert Sun editorial board after a five-year stint.

Despite that familiarity, most people don’t realize how much of a trailblazer Plante has been throughout his career. The Detroit native has worked in print, radio and TV, and is best known for spending 25 years at KPIX-TV in San Francisco. He retired from the station in 2010 and later moved to the Coachella Valley.

Here’s where the trailblazing part comes in: Not only was Plante one of the first openly gay TV reporters in the country; at KPIX, he helped tell the world about the horror and pain of the burgeoning AIDS epidemic. The station’s “AIDS Lifeline” project, done in the early days of the epidemic, was honored with a Peabody Award in 1996—one of journalism’s highest honors. Plante and his work were featured in the film 5B, a recent documentary about the first-in-the-world AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital in the 1980s.

It’s because of this work that Plante is being honored by the Desert AIDS Project with the Arts and Activism Award at the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, on Saturday, Feb. 8. Plante recently spoke with the Independent about the award, his career and the state of journalism in 2020.

Congratulations on the award from the Desert AIDS Project. What was your response when you found out you were going to be honored at the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards?

I was absolutely thrilled. It’s a big deal to me. The thing about being a reporter, as you know, is that when you do a story—even if it’s a great story that you’re proud of—it’s forgotten, because the news changes the next day or the next week. My AIDS reporting—I’m proud of it, but it was a long time ago, so to have it acknowledged again 30 or 35 years later, it really means the world to me.

Tell me how you first started covering the AIDS epidemic. Did that begin when you started at KPIX?

I did a few stories before then, but at KPIX—that’s where I worked for 25 years. San Francisco was ground zero of the AIDS epidemic, with more cases per capita than any spot in the Western world. I wanted to cover it, because it was more than a story to me. I was one of the first openly gay TV reporters in the country. These were my friends who were affected. Covering AIDS was a way for me to channel my anger and my grief over the disease. I didn’t feel quite so powerless. I felt like I could do something.

I’ve found that it’s difficult to cover something in which you have a personal stake. How did you balance that difficulty—covering a topic that had such personal meaning to you—with the fact that it needed to be covered?

You’re absolutely right. It wasn’t easy. There were many times when I would be at San Francisco General doing a story, and I’d have to go out in the hallway and compose myself, because I started to tear up. Or I’d be in somebody’s apartment who was dying, and I’d have to go out and compose myself—because I’m not there to cry. I’m not there to be an advocate, and I didn’t want to lose any credibility. … I hate the word “objective,” because I don’t think there is such a thing.

Thank you! Me too.

I mean, we see things through our own eyes. So that’s always going to be there, but still, I had to be a professional. I had to be a professional. So, yeah, it was difficult. It was very difficult.

Now, 30-plus years later, being HIV-positive is not a death sentence. Yes, people still die from the disease, but in most cases, it can be managed. Tell me about your perspective after covering this for so long—and how the AIDS world, for lack of a better term, has changed over the years.

I have to tell you, I am really, really thankful that I have lived long enough to see the beginning of the end of the disease. The worst of the epidemic, as you know, went for about 15 years—from 1981, when it was first reported on in the medical journals, through 1996, when protease inhibitors came along.

Since then, it’s been mostly good news medically. Now we have so many wonderful drugs, like Truvada, also known as PrEP, which pretty much prevents people from getting HIV if they take it regularly. Truvada is made by a California company, Gilead Sciences. Merck, another pharmaceutical company, is now developing an implant under the skin that dispenses similar drugs so that people don’t even have to take the pill. You just need the implant changed occasionally. That’ll be especially helpful in Third World countries, where taking medicine on a daily regimen isn’t always possible, for a lot of reasons.

Johnson and Johnson, which financed the film 5B that I’m so proud of, this year is testing a potential AIDS vaccine in the U.S. and in Europe; they’ve already had great results testing it in Africa. So we are seeing the beginning of the end of the epidemic, at least in America. There are serious problems and challenges for communities of color and in the Third World, so we can’t let our guard down. But this has been all good news for the last several years.

You’ve done a little bit of everything, working early in your career at The Washington Post, and doing both TV and radio. What are your thoughts on the state of journalism today, given the fact there have been so many job losses?

You caught me on the right day to ask that question, because I just learned that the chain of weeklies where I started as a reporter is shutting down. … They were around the beltway in D.C., and in Maryland and Virginia. This was a great chain of weekly publishing. Bob Woodward began there. I worked there. Ron Nessen, who became a White House press secretary, worked there. They turned out a lot of very successful people—but you know, this is the age we live in. It breaks my heart, and I don’t think that the readers understand what it’s costing them.

When it comes to the public arena, reporters are the only friends you’ve got. These politicians are not always looking out for your interests. … You think about the stories not getting covered. I had a political consultant in Sacramento tell me, “We love to see fewer reporters here in the state capital.” He said, this is a quote: “It’s like driving down Interstate 5, and there’s no California Highway Patrol.” The reader and the viewer—they are the ultimate losers in this.

What is going to save journalism?

I don’t know. So far, what seems to be working best is when these private, rich people buy newspapers. We’re seeing this in Los Angeles. Jeff Bezos of course, bought The Washington Post. We need angel investors to really step in. It’s not something that the government’s going to do, nor should they. I don’t know.

I do think that the tech companies have an obligation to help in some way. They’ve got to start paying somehow for the news that they, as they call it, “aggregate.” I call it plagiarize. You know, Google and Facebook—they call themselves tech companies, which is B.S. They’re not tech companies; they’re media companies. They’re in the advertising business, and they’re not paying for the content that they’re getting rich on. So that’s got to be fixed.

Is there anything that you’d like to add that I haven’t asked about?

I just believe in supporting local journalism. I’m really happy to talk to you. I like the work that you’re doing, and it’s not easy. I love community journalism. I think that local journalism, like what the CV Independent is doing, can be more impactful than national journalism. I saw this at The Desert Sun. We did editorials on issues that changed things. If we had done the same type of editorial in a bigger paper in L.A. or San Francisco, it wouldn’t have had any impact. When you get closer to the stories that are right here, you can make a big, big difference.

The 26th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards take place at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $500. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertaidsproject.org/steve-chase-humanitarian-awards-2020.

What: The carne asada tacos

Where: Baja Springs, 1800 N. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs

How much: $1.69 separately; $8.99 combo plate (as shown)

Contact: 760-322-9988

Why: They’re packed with yummy meat.

Tacos … is there a more popular food in the United States today? When you have the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James, making “Taco Tuesday” a social-media sensation—to the point where he actually tried to trademark the term, but the application was denied because the phrase is too ubiquitous—that says something.

Did you know, however, that tacos were not the first Mexican food to become popular in the United States? Friend of the Independent Gustavo Arellano, now a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, literally wrote the book on the subject: Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. In 2012, he spoke with KCRW about how tacos became popular thanks largely to the food scene in Los Angeles—especially the birth of the taquito at Cielito Lindo on Olvera Street in 1934. This happened, however, well after chili became huge in San Antonio, and tamales were a craze in San Francisco.

While the Coachella Valley’s restaurant scene has its pluses and minuses, we’re blessed with a lot of good Mexican food—especially tacos. It’s often said that the best tacos can be found in unexpected, hole-in-the-wall places, and while this is not always correct, it is in the case of Baja Springs: This small market, tucked away on Sunrise Way just north of Vista Chino in Palm Springs, has been churning out great tacos (and other Mexican fare) for years—but I only recently discovered it when the place came up on a food-delivery app.

Pretty much every imaginable meat is stuffed into corn tortillas at Baja Springs, from chicken to fish to tripe to cabeza. While I haven’t been able to try all 12 of the tacos on offer, I can vouch for the fantastic carne asada tacos. They’re delicious—and only $1.69 each.

All hail the great taco!

What: The Taca tacos

Where: The Sandbox Kitchen, 72301 Country Club Drive, No. 110, Rancho Mirage

How much: $3.50 each

Contact: 760-565-6044; www.facebook.com/TheSandboxKitchen

Why: Perfect meats.

At first, there was Taca Tacos, run by a young couple named Daniel and Aimie.

Taca Tacos catered various parties and events—and began earning rave reviews. “Our food quality is something that we pay close attention to, and we serve nothing but the best!” Daniel wrote on Facebook. “Even our meats are cut by hand (by me!) to reduce as much fat as possible and ensure top quality. Our salsas are made with the freshest ingredients, and our tortillas are made the day of the event.”

Then, in mid-2019, came The Sandbox Kitchen, a brick-and-mortar restaurant owned by Daniel and Aimee, in the strangest of spots—at the back of a medical/office building near the Eisenhower Medical Center campus. The Sandbox Kitchen offers breakfast items, salads, sandwiches—and those acclaimed tacos.

I love a good taco, so I decided I needed to check out The Sandbox Kitchen. After one failed attempt (I tried to go on a day the restaurant was closed for a private party), I finally managed to make it for a post-holidays lunch.

I ordered three tacos, Taca-style (which means they come with minced cabbage, crema fresca and chipotle aioli, and quesito)—one each with carne asada, chicken and al pastor. (Cauliflower tacos are available, too.)

After a 20-minute wait—I arrived just after several other parties had ordered, apparently—I had my tacos … and I instantly understood what the Taca Tacos buzz was all about: The chicken was juicy and delicious; the carne asada was flavorful with a variety of textures; and the al pastor was fantastic—with a hint of a spicy kick.

In summary … all three meats were perfectly prepared—and The Sandbox Kitchen has a new fan.

A few notes as we kick off Volume 8 here at the Independent:

• Am I the only one having a hard time grasping the fact that it’s almost 2020? When I first saw Beth Allen’s design for the new print-issue cover, and I saw the date “January 2020,” I just stopped and stared at it for a while.

Yeah, I know I’ll get used to it soon enough. But for now, it really seems weird.

• We’ve recently published pieces by two new-to-the-Independent scribes: You’ll find Carlynne McDonnell’s inaugural pets column here, and here, you’ll find Andrea Gomez’s first piece for us—an interview with the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s new artistic director, Coachella Valley native Liliana Rodriguez.

Welcome, Carlynne and Andrea! If you want to join them in the pages of the Independent, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’re still looking for people to write (paid!) freelance pieces focused on marijuana, hiking/the outdoors, event previews, and more.

• Our signature event, Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, is back for its fourth year! The week starts Friday, Jan. 31, and goes through Saturday, Feb. 8. During those nine days, bars and restaurants valley-wide will highlight special craft cocktails—and give a portion of the proceeds from the sales of those cocktails to our beneficiaries, the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

The highlight of the week is the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, taking place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Moxie Palm Springs. Up to 10 of the valley’s best bartenders will battle for the coveted Audience Choice Award and the Craft Cocktail Championship—and, yes, attendees get to taste all of the competing cocktails! Presale tickets, through Jan. 10, are $35; they’ll be $40 after that, and $45 at the door if we don’t sell out (and we probably will).

Pick up next month’s issue for our special Cocktail Week program—and head to PSCraftCocktails.com for updates and/or to buy championship tickets!

• Finally, I’d like to kick off 2020 by offering my sincere appreciation to everyone who has supported the Independent—readers, advertisers and members of our Supporters program—as we enter our eighth full year.

This is not a great time for most newspapers, as you know. In fact, one of my favorite alternative publications, the OC Weekly, was shuttered by its (lazy, non-innovative) owners just before Thanksgiving.

That same week, we were putting the finishing touches on our December issue—which, revenue-wise, was our best ever.

Do we still need to do better here at the Independent, in terms of bringing in revenue? Yes, we do; I am dying to add more writers/reporters so we can better tell the valley’s stories—and we have some things in the works that will hopefully help us do just that. (And I’d like, one day, to be able to pay myself a living wage … but that’s a discussion for another time.) Watch this space for details in the upcoming months … and again, thank you for your support. Please, please keep it up.

As always, thank you for reading. Happy New Year, and be sure to pick up a copy of the January 2020—yep, still seems weird—print edition, hitting the streets this week.

Wes Winter started his new job as the executive director of the Mizell Senior Center last March—but before he officially began, he got a taste of what he was getting himself into at the 2019 Stars Among Us gala.

“It was my first exposure to Mizell. It was my introduction to the community. My eyes were spinning in opposite directions at that point,” Winter said with a laugh. “I really didn’t know much about what was going on … so I’m really looking at this year as my first year.”

This year’s gala will take place on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Palm Springs Air Museum. We recently spoke with Winter about his first year on the job, Mizell’s future—and, of course, what people can expect at this year’s Stars Among Us.

It’s fascinating that your first exposure to Mizell was at Stars Among Us last year. What impressions did the gala leave with you?

There were a couple of things. One was the breadth of support that Mizell has in the community. There were folks at that gala—now I them well, but at that point, I didn’t have a clue who they were—and they represented just about every niche you can imagine throughout the Coachella Valley. That was incredibly impressive to me. Another was the sense of philanthropy that folks here in the valley seem to have. There has been so much support, not just for Mizell, but for all of the social-service organizations that exist here in the valley.

How have your first 10 months gone at Mizell?

Well, it’s been a whirlwind—but it’s been pretty wonderful. I have a very supportive board of directors, and they are, each one in their own way, very plugged into the community. So they’ve been just a wonderful asset. … Then we have so many people who come in the door here at Mizell. We receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 60,000 visits a year—and those folks who come in that door are not the slightest bit shy about coming into my office and introducing themselves. So that’s been really helpful.

Let’s talk about Stars Among Us. What can attendees expect this year?

Well, I can’t tell you what it is, but we’re rolling out a new initiative that is sort of reframing the community’s look at Mizell. I’m profoundly excited, and we’re going to talk a little bit about that at the event. We won’t spend a lot of time talking from the stage, but we will put it out there, and I think folks are going to be pleasantly surprised. So that’s exciting.

Then we have two awardees that we’re recognizing. One is BIGHORN Cares; we’ll be recognizing all of the philanthropic work that they do here in the valley. They are just amazing. They not only help Mizell out; they help the whole community of organizations. We’ll also be honoring Tim Jochen and Lee Erwin, from Contour Dermatology. They’ve been wonderful to Mizell, but they also are so plugged into all of the community-service organizations that are here.

Tell me about the fun part of the gala.

We’re going to have a pretty incredible dance band there called The Zippers. There’s going to be an auction. This year, we’re not having a silent auction, because we really wanted to put that energy into the live auction. Those, for me, are always fun. People really seem to enjoy getting into it and bringing the money in. For the program, like I said, we’re going to keep people talking onstage to a minimum, because I know people’s eyes start to glaze over if you talk too much. I think it’s going to be really interesting to folks when we roll out our new initiative.

You’re sure you can’t tell me just a little bit more about it? Give me a hint, maybe?

Well, our theme for the evening is “Take Off With Mizell.” We’re holding the event once again at the Air Museum. This year, we’re moving it to the new hangar, which we haven’t been in before, so that’ll be interesting in and of itself. With the theme, we wanted to really play both on the idea of being at the Air Museum, and this idea of our new initiative, and how we’re moving into the new decade, and what’s going to look new and different.

Tell me about how important Stars Among Us is, in terms of the fundraising aspect, and also the attention that it brings to Mizell.

The dollars we’ll be bringing in that evening, from sponsorships and ticket sales and auctions, all of that goes to help us with our Meals on Wheels program. Meals on Wheels is funded (by the government) at the 80 percent level, so we need to raise that additional 20 percent to make the program whole. Because of that program, working with the County of Riverside Office on Aging, we’re able to ensure that a little over 200,000 meals are served to valley residents in an average fiscal year.

Every one of those meals is made in Mizell’s kitchen, correct?

Every one of them … and (our kitchen) is absolutely tiny. One of the things that we’re looking at doing, hopefully sooner rather than later, is remodeling that kitchen to make it a little more state-of-the-art, more energy-efficient, and better for the folks who actually produce the meals that come out of the kitchen. We’ve actually received a significant gift from a donor who is also a participant here in Mizell activities. We’re going to be looking for other funds to match with that gift so we can redo that whole kitchen.

The 15th Annual Stars Among Us Gala will take place at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $350. For tickets or more information, call 760-323-5689, or visit mizell.org.

New to El Paseo: Chef Eric Wadlund’s Wildest Restaurant + Bar

Wildest Restaurant + Bar, the latest project from chef Eric Wadlund, was slated to celebrate its grand opening on Dec. 26 at 72990 El Paseo, No. 3, in the space that used to house the late Denise DuBarry Hay’s Wildest Greens.

An announcement, posted on Nov. 30 at the Wildest Restaurant + Bar website, compared the effort to the restaurants of the great Joel Robuchon, who passed away in 2018. (The announcement didn’t quite spell Robuchon’s name right, but, hey, mistakes happen.)

“Following in the footsteps of French ‘Chef of the Century’ and restaurateur Joel Rubichon (sic), who believed healthy food was the future of fine dining, one of the most celebrated chefs in the desert, Eric Wadlund, with his partners Bill Hay and Charissa Farley, are introducing the first restaurant in the valley committed to continuing this vision,” the announcement said. “Old World style fine dining upon which Robuchon built his legacy and trained the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Eric Ripert with caviar and truffle-studded cuisine is facing the difficult challenge of taste versus health: adapt or die.”

Wildest’s Facebook page includes photos of some downright-delicious-looking dishes, including turmeric-glazed roasted cauliflower, water melon “ahi” poke, and pan-roasted wild white bass.

“Wildest’s dynamic food originates in wild-caught fish, (and) local pasture-raised and grass-fed poultry and beef, as well as plant-based meals that promise to be flavorful options to those who choose to eat meat-free,” the website explains. “There are zero hormones and steroids in their proteins, as the restaurant strives to be cruelty-free and supports local organic, biodynamic and sustainable farms. Provisions not made in house will be sourced from the coolest epicureans.”

Given the restaurant’s pedigree, we’re looking forward to checking it out. We’re also happy to see the tribute to Denise DuBarry Hay in the name, as well as her husband’s involvement.

For more information, call 760-636-0441; head to WildestRestaurant.com; or visit www.facebook.com/wildestrestaurant.


Coming on Jan. 18: The Palm Springs Pinot Noir Festival

It seems like every other month or so, there’s a new wine festival popping up in the Coachella Valley … and this is a very good thing.

The latest: The Palm Springs Pinot Noir Festival, which will take place on Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Ritz-Carlton (which is in Rancho Mirage, not Palm Springs, but whatever). It’s a project of David Fraschetti, who for two years has put on the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival (which will return for year No. 3 on Feb. 28 and 29—yep, it’s a leap year!), and for many years has produced the VinDiego Wine and Food Festival.

Of course, at this new fest, pinot noir is the star. On Friday, Jan. 17, the Ritz-Carlton will host two seminars—“Exploring the Neighborhoods of the Russian River Valley” and “Anderson Valley Pinot Noir: Under the Radar and a Cut Above.” Those cost $55 each, or $90 for both. As for the main event, the “A Passion 4 Pinot” festival: Doors open at 2:30 p.m. for general admission, and tickets are $95; if you want to get in at 1:30, you can pay $125. The festivities go until 5 p.m.

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, is located at 68900 Frank Sinatra Drive. For tickets and more information, visit palmspringspinotfest.com.


In Brief

Congrats to La Perlita Mexican Food, at 901 Crossley Road, in Palm Springs, on the restaurant’s expansion! The good folks there are expanding into the space next door; watch the restaurant’s Facebook page for updates. … New to La Quinta: RD RNNR Libations, Pints and Plates (you can pronounce that “roadrunner”), at 78075 Main St. What is RD RNNR? It’s “a craft American restaurant using local farm-to-table ingredients, (offering) refreshing craft cocktails and a well-balanced selection of hops and rotating craft taps, all set in a casual and hip vibe right in the heart of Old Town La Quinta,” so says the website. As if that’s not cool enough, the restaurant also features the work of local artists! RD RNNR is open for lunch and dinner daily; visit roadrunnerlq.com for more info, including the menu and a look at those aforementioned artists. … New to Cathedral City: Barrel District Pizza, Bar and Kitchen, at 35939 Date Palm Drive, in Cathedral City. The menu includes tasty-sounding starters (like house-made hummus), salads, tacos, a handful of entrées and, of course, intriguing pizza choices. To check out the menu and learn more, visit barreldistrictpizza.com.

A crowd of more than 80 people battled cold weather and a baffling lack of parking on Wednesday, Dec. 18, to head to Copa Nightclub to celebrate the winners of the sixth annual Best of Coachella Valley, as voted on by the readers of the Coachella Valley Independent.

It was the third time in four years that Copa has hosted the event—an honor bestowed upon Copa due to its win in the Best Nightclub category. The event honors the winners of the Independent's yearly readers' poll, which features almost 130 categories, ranging from Best Chiropractor, to Best Vegan/Vegetarian Cuisine, to Best Marijuana Dispensary.

The biggest contingents at the party—hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle—came to celebrate Augustine Casino, which took the top spot in a whopping eight categories; Paul Zapala's win as Best Real Estate Agent; and KGAY 106.5's victory as Best Radio Station.

Below is a gallery of photos from the event, taken by Kevin Fitzgerald.

What: The machaca con verduras

Where: Asadero Los Corrales, 425 S. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs; also locations in La Quinta and Coachella

How much: $13.80

Contact: 760-992-5107

Why: It brought up delicious memories.

Food can be an intimate, emotional thing. We experience food with all five of our senses, and many of life’s important moments are focused around, or at least include, meals. As a result, we’ve all had the experience of taking a bite of food and being flooded with memories—sometimes good, sometimes bad—of an event or time from our past.

This happened to me during a recent breakfast at Asadero Los Corrales, which opened in Palm Springs not long ago inside the old Maxcy’s Grill space in the Ralph’s shopping center at Sunrise Drive and Ramon Road. I ordered the machaca con verudas—dried, shredded beef with sautéed tomatoes, onions and peppers.

The plate came; I placed the meat inside a fresh corn tortilla; I took a bite—and memories of Tucson, Ariz., came rushing forth.

I spent 10 years of my life in Tucson, and one of my favorite dishes in that city is the carne seca at El Charro Café, a restaurant which has been in business since 1922. The dish has some degree of fame, both because of its unique preparation—it is shredded beef, dried in the sun on El Charro’s roof, as it has been for close to a century now—and because it’s quite delicious.

Well, the machaca con verduras at Asadero Los Corrales looks, feels, smells and tastes a lot like El Charro’s famous carne seca. (Four of the five senses ain’t bad!) While I can’t say that Los Corrales’ machaca is as good as El Charro’s carne seca, I can say that it is fantastic.

The machaca con verudas may not lead to an emotional experience for you like it did for me—but it will make your taste buds very happy.

What: The giant cinnamon roll

Where: Rick’s Restaurant, 1973 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $5.99

Contact: 760-416-0090; ricksrestaurant.biz

Why: It’s sweet comfort.

Sometimes, you just need comfort food.

It had been a rough couple days for my friend. His father was recovering from emergency surgery at Desert Regional Medical Center, and my friend wanted to meet somewhere not too far from the hospital for breakfast and a nice chat. I was having a stressful workday, and I was more than happy to take a break and oblige.

I knew exactly where to go: Rick’s Restaurant. It’s long been one of my favorite places to go for a nice, chill breakfast or lunch. It’s not fancy; instead, it’s comfortable and appealing, with friendly service and a menu full of Americana (plus some Cuban favorites as well).

This wasn’t a meal where calorie counts and carb intakes were concerns; we just wanted good, filling, comfort food. We both ordered the chicken-fried steak and eggs … and, of course, we had to split one of Rick’s fresh, house-made cinnamon rolls.

The chicken-fried steak was good. The cinnamon roll was out of this world. It was everything a classic, fresh cinnamon roll should be: sugary, warm and oh-so-pillowy. It was the perfect starter to pick at and enjoy while chatting—with occasional pauses to say “Yum!” or “Wow” in reference to the cinnamon roll.

The breakfast at Rick’s didn’t solve any problems; afterward, my friend needed to go back to the hospital to spend time with and advocate on behalf of his father. I had to go back to the pile of work and annoyances I faced. But for that hour or so … life, genuinely, was good—thanks to a great friendship, a welcoming and unpretentious atmosphere, and the type of delicious, down-home food that only fantastic places like Rick’s Restaurant can offer.

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