Sunday, April 29, 2012

Palm Springs, Wind Turbines, Cocktails and The Salty Salton Sea

As I was saying… I can’t decide what I love most about Palm Springs. The Wind Turbines or the cocktails…Plus The Salton Sea is spellbinding (if you can take the smell…oh, and the dead fish).

I guess I can have good cocktails anywhere, so the wind turbines should be at the top of the list. 

You begin to see them maybe 20 minutes away from Palm Springs on the I-10. You can’t help but be in awe of these 150 feet tall pillars with enormous spinning blades at the top. Amazing.

But let’s not underrate the cocktails. My favorite is the 1988 at Roy’s. I love its lychee liqueur. It really captures the essence of fresh lychees in a most delicious way.

I wish I had taken pictures of the (many) piña coladas by the hotel pool, but they were noteworthy for one thing. In addition to being fantastically coconutty, sweet and creamy, the house colada was made with a pour of rum on the bottom of the cup AND another one on the top. SO there was this dark, delicious (strong) rum just floating there daring you to drink more…and more. Maybe I imagined that after a few…

The Lemon Drop I had at the The Crab Pot was refreshingly tangy and not too strong (just the way I like it).

I had never heard of The Crab Pot before, but there are gobs of them. We were a large group and the menu had something for everything. The Seafeast, which two in our party ordered, was lots of seafood (and corn and potatoes) that was dumped on the table and you make your way through it with mallets, tools and picks...and your hands. Yes, you also get those awesome bibs.

My grilled scallops were perfect.

THIS picture is NOT barbecued ribs. It’s actually the Crab Pot’s famous Strawberry Rhubarb Cake In A Pan. (How else do you bake a cake?) It was excellent, if you like yellow cake with fruit sauce. 

The only other dessert choice was Mud Pie and it was pretty yummy. By the way, those two desserts were enough for a table of ten.

Here’s a (marginally) better picture of the Strawberry Rhubarb Cake (and the mud pie), which doesn’t come in a pan anymore, despite its name.

Some other yummy food in and around Palm Desert:

Hummus at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. The hummus was good, but the WARM, grilled flatbread was fabulous. (They have great salads too.)

Dinner at the Lavender Bistro. The patio is so pretty and the food was just fine.

Kobe Beef Carpaccio with aioli, microgreens 
and shaved Parmesan 
Portabello Mushrooms Raviolis
AND one of my favs –  

                   Floating Islands                                                                  
Two more great desserts:
Key Lime Pie at Acqua Pazza 

AND another rendition of Floating Islands. S, my friend, thought that was the serving dish when she saw it. Imagine our delight horror when we found that it was ALL for us. 

After we left Palm Springs, we had a really good dinner at Zengo in the new Santa Monica Place mall
Santa Monica
What could be better than Latin-Asian fusion? There's ginger in the cocktails and the Pork Belly Steamed Buns have a tomatillo, pineapple and avocado garnish. Mmmm.

Peking Duck Tacos were served deconstructed with-paper thin slices of daikon, instead of tortillas. What a great idea! 

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We didn’t only eat (and drink). While H played some ancient game or other, I took in some other sights with D(aughter) or my good friend S.

Here were the highlights: 
D and I made a trip to the amazing Salton Sea, California's largest lake - 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. It's about an hour's drive from Palm Desert.

You look at the water and it’s beautiful and it looks like a normal lake. 


Then you look down and see this. Yup, dead fish.



Why is it like this? The Salton Sea is unusual, because there is no outlet for the water - no rivers or streams leading from it. So as the salt water evaporates, it becomes saltier and saltier. (Also the area gets very little rain to dilute the water.) Many of the fish have died away because of the high salt content - it's 30% saltier than the Pacific. But tilapia remain, even though many of those die each year too. The coast line is littered with fish skeletons. It’s creepy and really interesting at the same time. 

Some reviewers on Trip Adviser call it disgusting, gross and “stinky”. I call it fascinating. (AND we only smelled bad stuff as we were leaving. I guess the wind shifted.) 

You probably can't see it, but I'm standing amongst lots of fish carcasses(?) or whatever you call them.

The drive is a bit sinister too. You drive on one long, deserted desert road. The only thing in sight is the ominous, incredibly long freight train running along the two lane road. 

After you leave Indio, there is almost no traffic, no buildings - just the mountains, the desert, the train and…you. THEN you spot the water and it takes ages to find the road to reach it. It’s like a mirage.

Interestingly, when you finally find The Salton Sea’s Visitor Center, there is a surprisingly, super-clean bathroom. No picture, but take my word for it, it's really nice.

In the Visitor Center (if you ask) you can see an 8 minute, old-fashioned film about the history of the Salton Sea, which turns out to be partly natural and partly man-made. The history of it being man-made stems from a complex series of events in the early 1900’s, when water was diverted from the Colorado River and mistakenly flooded many towns and communities in its way. 

The area became a popular water resort in the 1920’s. More recently, though, the surrounding areas lack of commerce and the gradually saltier and saltier sea has driven a lot of that activity away. But even now, people camp, fish (ick) and boat in the area and it’s become known for bird-watching.

Read this Damn Interesting description of the Salton Sea.

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The Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert  -- known as The Galen - is a small outpost of the The Palm Springs Art Museum (about 20 minutes away), which just opened in March.

It's a beautiful new building and has some fabulous pieces. It was confusing, though, because SOME of the art you could photograph and some (often right next to it) you couldn’t.

Plus THIS was weird. We saw a wonderful installation by Robert Therrien in the Palm Desert Museum, which we were prohibited from photographing.

BUT during our one day in LA at LACMA, I saw the same thing – actually two of the same things (in two different colors) – and they said snap away! So I did.


Here are some other really purdy paintings from LACMA:

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You can’t go to the desert without appreciating the cactus. The Living Desert is a zoo/botantical park with fabulous plant and animal life. I’m thinking giraffes aren’t native to Palm Springs, but they looked content at The Living Desert.  

D and I also went to the slightly dusty-looking Moorten Botanical Gardens, which was more like a cactus display in someone’s backyard. Oh, sorry, basically it IS. There ARE thousands of cacti.

One other nice visit – we had lunch at one of the gazillions of golf courses which had the most perfect views – mountains and palm trees. 

It doesn't get any better than this, unless, of course, there were wind turbines peeking out from over the mountains. 


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Digging that mud pie. Tried not to laugh at the cake, but it was cake and not pie, so it wasn't so hard not to laugh.

I could use some strong drinks these days, so the cocktail descriptions were making me want and want and want.

The big pots of seafood reminded me of Chincoteague. They're so cool they make me wish I liked that stuff!

But ew on those dead fish. I would bet there are a lot of flies around the lake too thanks to the plentiful carcasses. Still, I do see how it would be interesting.

Sue said...

Hey Rach,
Sorry for those sorry looking dessert pictures. They were taken with an Iphone and not a "real" camera. They did look kinda sad.

Drink up!

I like the IDEA of throwing a bucket of food on the table and then having at it, except that it's so much work for not that much reward.

Amazingly, there were no flies. That would have bothered me more than the fallen fish. It's SO amazing - the whole thing - that you almost forget you have to step around fish bones (and heads).

Anonymous said...

Lovely photos, and it looks like a wonderful trip!

I agree that the wind turbines are impressive, but I don't think they add beauty to the area -- I generally prefer to leave open areas open and undeveloped, even with wind "farms" (a word we could also apply to coal mines, since neither is a farm...)

Sue said...

Thanks Tom,
The birds would certainly agree with you about the turbines (although, before they can be put up, there have to be lots of bird migration studies). And apparently the constant flickering shadows wreak havoc with migraine sufferers and, some believe, epileptics too.

I guess because I never saw the area without the wind turbines, I never saw the huge change. They are such an amazing sight that you can't help but be gripped by them.

Emily said...

Gawgeous! Everything is just gawgeous! Except the dead fish. Ew. I like that picture of you though. It made me laugh.

I wonder if you can eat the tilapia? The ones that aren't dead... yet. Or would they be too salty?

I want allll of the food! Everything looks delicious!

I'm craving a coconutty pina colada now. With a slice of mud pie.