Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Desert

What is it about being on vacation and everything tastes better and people are nicer (mostly) and things are generally just more fun? I guess I already answered that – YOU’RE ON VACATION!

We were in Palm Springs last, last week. H(usband) loves the golf there and we can see our LA-based daughter, plus we have really good friends that we coordinate vacays with.

The best part is the weather. I love desert heat, but Palm Springs’ Low Desert microclimate is especially pleasant. It’s located in the Coachella Valley, surrounded by 4 sets of magnificent mountains, which protect the valley floor and block the smog. It has blue skies nearly every day and, outside of the summer, the temperature is usually in the super-comfortable 70’s and 80’s. Plus it’s cool in the early morning and evening. Really perfect. The mountains offer amazing recreational opportunities and there are tons of more citified things to do as well – restaurants, bars, museums (some), live entertainment and shopping, which, admittedly, I could find in a one horse town, if I had to.

So we did a lot of the same things we always do there - H played golf, I jogged, walked really fast, took gentle strolls gazing at the so-beautiful mountains, explored here and there, but, truthfully, my favorite part was touring the cocktail menu by the pool. We also revisited downtown Palm Springs, which we hadn’t done for a couple of years. I was glad we did. It’s an absolute gem of a town.

The main street of Palm Canyon Drive is divided into north and south. We concentrated on North Palm Canyon Drive, which has more individually-run shops and galleries, restaurants and cafes.

South Palm Canyon Drive has some of that, but also stores and restaurants that you can find anywhere. It’s more crowded and commercial, but I’m not saying that in a bad way. It's just if you have only an hour or two to spend in downtown Palm Springs, concentrate on NORTH Palm Canyon Drive. Here’s the difference: Cold Stone Creamery is on SOUTH Palm Canyon Drive. Cheeky’s is on NORTH Palm Canyon Drive.

Cheeky’s is a totally fabulous casual restaurant open from Wednesday to Monday until 2 pm for breakfast only. (It actually has lunch-type things on the menu too.) It has a great outdoor space and a modern, slightly industrial feel inside. 

But the food! It’s like breakfast cooked by the best home cook you know. There are SO many delicious things on the menu (sorry, it’s an annoying PDF) that it’s hard to choose and easy to get carried away. I had the Buttermilk & Fresh Corn Pancakes with Blueberries and TWO kinds of bacon.

They have a whole bacon “bar” selection that changes from time to time. Currently, it includes applewood, apple cinnamon, char siu, apricot rosemary and jalapeño. I had one applewood slice and one mango something or other slice. Truthfully, I didn’t think the mango was tons better than the applewood, but they were both AWESOME. Whatever it is that makes a great piece of bacon, they’ve mastered.

But it wasn’t just the bacon. The pancakes were a revelation. 

They made whatever sensational pancake batter they make, then they added fresh and local (I think) blueberries and THEN they threw in some fresh, fresh, FRESH corn. SO the corn was completely raw and the only cooking it received was when the pancakes were fried. I can’t even tell you what that did for the pancakes. Well, actually I can.

The al dente corn gave them such a bursting-with-flavor element and added a wonderful natural, sweetness that I vowed then and there to always add fresh corn to my pancakes. 

The syrup arrived in a little clear glass log cabin. It was so cute and so good. 

The owners also run a Asian restaurant, Jiao, that I have to try next time. It seems totally unrelated to this place, but Yelpers like it.

North Palm Canyon Drive is very strollable. A nice stop is this little shopping plaza at 515 North Palm Canyon Drive called The Corridor

It has a pretty, grass-covered interior courtyard, surrounded by shops and cafes. It’s a refuge of tranquility and shade.

There’s an amazing fountain/art installation/really cool sculpture thingie in Francis Stevens Park (which is a basically a concrete street corner called a park, but good for them) at the corner of Alejo and Palm Canyon Drive. (Put the following video on full screen to be able to see the water shooting out.)
SO cool. Here's a better video than mine. 

We went into lots of shops and galleries. (Well, actually I did. H was on the phone, which was a good thing. He didn’t see a lot of the damage.)

Route 66 West has a huge collection of Bakelite jewelry and the owner has written several books on the subject, which are for sale there.

In Michael and Rigo, you can find ceramics with drawings of desert landscapes and some of the famous Palm Springs mid-century architecture. 

Another view:

(If I knew how I took that picture, I would have taken more.)

I thought we had stumbled onto a great local art show, but the sign was up a day early. Still, they had some neat works of art and paintings inside the gallery that was hosting the show.

I don't think this was for lounging, but I loved the cushions:

"Cityscape at night"

And who wouldn’t love a collage of CUPCAKES?!!!


Oh! In downtown Palm Springs, there are stars in the street. Maybe it’s not exactly Hollywood, but close. 

Two restaurants I want to try next time:

And then there is the sculpture by J. Seward Johnson of Marilyn Monroe from the Seven Year Itch. It’s 26 feet high and it looks higher. It's actually startlingly big in person. Look how tiny that woman is on Marilyn's left leg.

It’s so kitschy that it’s almost homely, but it IS a show stopper. (It left Chicago last spring and is supposed to be in Palm Springs until June.)


Another great thing about Palm Springs is the cocktails! I wasn’t just lazily sitting by the pool alot of the time, I was actually looking around and eavesdropping listening carefully and I discovered a brand new drink – a Miami Vice. It wasn’t even ON the menu. Some really smart lady ordered it and I totally copied her. What’s so great about it? WELL, you take a piña colada and a strawberry daiquiri and you serve them together in the same cup with one clearly on the bottom and one on the top. My first try ordering it resulted in this –

It was good, but the mushing together of the two drinks was disappointing. I had better luck five minutes later the next day when I ordered it again. THIS time it was just right:

Two other good cocktails:
A Strawberry Daiquiri

Even though the blender at the Indian Wells Golf Club was broken, they still made me a strawberry daiquiri over ice in a low ball glass. Pretty. (By the way, this place sounds fancy, but any resident can join it.) It has a lovely terrace, which is the only place I know that can have such stunning views, even though it overlooks a parking lot!

They also make a Bloody Mary with everything but the kitchen sink in it. Awesome!

Next time - 3 restaurants in Palm Springs that you can’t miss.  


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I had a hard time reading past the words, "bacon bar". I kept just getting stuck and going back and hanging on the words, "bacon bar".

You are so making me long for warm weather. We almost lucked out early this week, didn't we? Now it's back to business as usual.

Years ago when my annual Chincoteague vacation also included a short stop in Ocean City, MD (I had family in the area) I went to a bar called Seacrets and they had almost the same drink. The pina colada and daquiri were served together like a swirled ice cream cone. It was called Pain in the Ass.

Sue said...

Hi Rach,
I know! The bacon was fabulous, although the many flavors sound as if they will each taste different, but I'm not sure that's the case.

Well, we're getting the rain out of the way, so now let's get Spring-y!

I like the name of my drink better than yours. But whatever it's called, it's ah-mazing!