Sunday

 There are some great things going on in Southern California's beautiful desert this summer, and we’ve been enjoying a lot of them.  Following are some of the experiences and we hope that you’ll get a chance to visit our Coachella Valley desert.

PALM SPRINGS:  Kiyosaku  
1555 S Palm Canyon Dr
Palm Springs, CA 92264
(760) 327-6601
Categories: Sushi Bars, Japanese
4.0 star rating
Yum, yum, yum!  Their unique grapefruit stuffed with tuna and crab is beyond delicious. Kiyo and Teruka are the very lovely owner/operators. Not inexpensive ($110 for two) but well worth every bite. The atmosphere is very simple but we have never been disappointed. Scott says, " This is the best tempura I have EVER tasted, even in Japan."
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PALM DESERT:  La Spiga Ristorante Italiano 
72-557 Hwy 111
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 340-9318 
Category: Italian
3.75 star rating
We admit in advance that we’re partial to everything La Spiga. Owners Connie & Vince as well as their consummate staff (handsome Italian Luca, handsome Woody, handsome Raymond, handsome Anthony/David & Francisco, the most handsome bus-stud in the desert), treat us like family so it has become our desert home away from home. 
 Superb pasta, sausage and the best take on tiramisu on the planet. 
Sitting in the garden surrounded by their blooming flowers, fresh herbs and vegetables is a treat right out of Tuscany. Simply put, do not miss fine dining at La Spiga!
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PALM DESERT:  The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge 
111 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 346-1500
Categories: Sushi Bars, Lounges (new)
3.5 star rating
The best new arrival in the desert...Engin (as in “yet again”), the good-looking Turk owner, is a terrific chef and one of the nicest guys around; put yourself in his hands, let him cook for you and you'll be happy you did. It is a great value and they have a nice outdoor patio (as for table 306 for the best people watching view). The spicy tuna ranked top of our list.  Enjoy!
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PALM DESERT:  Sense 
73675 Hwy 111
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 341-2900
Category: American (new)
3.0 star rating
Our first time at this new arrival in Palm Desert and we’re looking forward to returning for a more comprehensive review.  It’s great to have something different and unique in the desert and Sense fills that void. Their ingredients are organic, handpicked and extremely fresh, while their offerings are novel. Service is excellent. It’s on the pricey side but appears to deliver; their menu is innovative and the owner-chef and servers are friendly.
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RANCHO MIRAGE:  Ristorante Donatella 
71511 Hwy. 111 Ste. A-B
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
(760) 773-6434
Category: Italian
3.0 star rating
This is a very casual drop- in Italian restaurant with a view of the iconic Elephant Car Wash neon sign. Donatella is adorable and a fabulous hostess, treating you as if she invited you into her home.   
 
The food is very good and we’re always impressed with the variety of homemade pastas that are rare in any restaurant. Don't expect amazing, just consistently very good, fresh, old style Italian food with a flair at an extremely good price and you will be treated like family...even if it's your first time. Try their pizza it is sensational.
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RANCHO MIRAGE: Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar 
71800 Hwy 111
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
(760) 776-6685
Categories: Steakhouses, Wine Bars
3.0 star rating
The food is good, atmosphere is very pleasant and the staff is wonderful.  We enjoy the outdoor patio when the weather is good, and take advantage of their special offers for great values. A nice spot for after the movies and the best food at the River complex. 
Sensational wine selection, and Patrick, the sommelier, is wonderfully informed.
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PALM DESERT:  Desert Willow Clubhouse 
38-995 Desert Willow Dr
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(800) 320-3323
2.0 star rating
With an amazing setting, it sports the best views in the desert, making you feel like you’re in Africa.  It's like going to your own club for lunch except with really mediocre food. Their gazpacho is delicious.  The service is not great and we wondered where the management was with only 3 tables busy and lots of staff just standing around talking to each other.  After 20 minutes and 3 requests for bread, Scott finally went into the kitchen to get it (but now that Franco was just hired, perhaps he’ll get the place in shape).  The interior is conference room decor, so wait until the weather cools and dine outside, and bring your own box lunch.
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PALM DESERT:  Cuistot 
72595 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 340-1000
Category: French
3.75 star rating
3.75 stars for food, atmosphere, fantastic servers (especially Claude, Andrew & Victor, the much asked for waiter).  Sit inside and feel like you’re in an old stone farmhouse in Brittany, or outside on the patio overlooking jungle palms and waterfalls.   Bernard, the owner-chef, is a great guy and a terrific chef.  He also shares our passion for automobiles—even putting one in the restaurant amongst the tables; what could be better? We have always loved Cuistot for classic French cooking, their great wine list and superlative sommelier (Fred Gerber, the best in the desert).   
Enjoy a glass of excellent real lemonade.  Don't miss Friday lunch and fashion show during the season which is always a hoot.
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RANCHO MIRAGE:  Blu Ember 
41000 Bob Hope Dr
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
(760) 862-4581
Category: American (New)
2.5 star rating
Located inside the Rancho Las Palmas Hotel, it sports a beautiful setting over a golf course and mountains.  Manager Tim and server Amanda are the highlights as far as service goes here. Food is good, but spotty and nothing to "write home about". Our corn chowder was delicious while our fish was fresh (as opposed to the first time when it was frozen and cold in the middle, with an explanation that “you can’t get fresh fish in the desert”) and tasty but ordinary. Sitting outside listening to live music is worth the price, but you can do that without eating.
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PALM SPRINGS:  Tyler's Burgers 
149 S Indian Canyon Dr
Palm Springs, CA 92262
(760) 325-2990
Categories: Burgers, Sandwiches
3.0 star rating
This hip, trendy, predominantly gay establishment is the place to see and be seen for a great simple lunch al fresco, and with your dog(s). Diana is a hot babe and admired by all the gay men, and the owner of this fabulous casual spot in the heart of Palm Springs.   Junior is a terrific and friendly buser, and will teach you a word or two in Tagalog. Bring your Scottish Terrier (or other breed, if there actually is another), because they are always most welcome with water and dog biscuits.  Great burgers, sliders, fresh soup and the best coleslaw ever!  The fresh lemonade is also a must and you’ll never see the bottom of the glass.
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INDIO:  Jackalope Ranch 
80400 Hwy 111
Indio, CA 92201
(760) 342-1999
Categories: Barbeque, Music Venues
2.5 star rating
In Indio, this is an absolutely stunning setting and the last hurrah for the now departed son of Marie Callender, and creator of Babes in Rancho Mirage.  The food is good but far from exceptional; that said, just sit there and immerse yourself in the surroundings; when you do that, the food becomes secondary.  Sit outside in the three million dollar yard amongst the waterfalls and lush gardens and pretend it’s your own. The service is always consistently good.
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INDIO:  Pho Vu 
79-630 Hwy 111
La Quinta, CA 92253
(760) 775-2417
Category: Vietnamese
2.75 star rating
We'll give this new addition more than two stars because of the fresh unique tastes, the friendly service and the value. After $30 for two, we were stuffed. The restaurant is spotless but a storefront in a mall, so don’t expect atmosphere; we were a little bit shocked when our waiter told us to put noodles in our soup and then picked them up with his hand and dropped them in the bowl at our table. For those who are daring with their tastes and value conscious don't miss Pho Vu, but bring someone who speaks the language, or chose a picture of the food on the wall.
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PALM DESERT:  Cork Tree California Cuisine 
74950 Country Club Dr 
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 779-0123
Category: American (New)
3.75 star rating
We love everything about this restaurant.  The owners are consummate professionals, having cut their successful chops on the ubiquitous Las Casueles, but this is now their high-end restaurant.  French Chef Herve—sporting a pedigree as head chef at Meadowood in the wine country-- is creative and is always changing his menu, which we love since we go there often and never get bored. 
Their summer prix fixe at $28 is a steal for a delicious three-course menu. Make sure and try their soups, we have never had one that we didn't love.  Ask for Ricco or Carol, just terrifically great servers, and you will experience unusually good service for the desert, or anywhere else. Tell Larry or Forrest, the polished managers, that we sent you and they’ll take good care of you.  Go on the weekends, and you’ll be treated to the sounds of an amazing chanteuse who we swear sounds like Whitney.
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PALM SPRINGS:  Peaks Restaurant 
One Tramway Road
Palm Springs, CA 92262
(760) 325-4537
Category: American
1.0 star rating (barely)
Uccch. Beautiful view at nearly 9,000 feet above the base of the Palm Springs tram, this “cafeteria” of a restaurant sadly has very average food, it's best to avoid it entirely and eat somewhere else.  The quality of the service matched the food.
Do not miss the tram ride and the view, take a hike and eat elsewhere, you'll be much happier!  Shame on the management of this venue, with an otherwise huge potential.
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PALM DESERT:  Le Paon Restaurant 
45640 State Hwy 74
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 610-5320
Category: French
3.25 star rating
What a beautiful dining room above El Paseo, the restaurant is anchored by a stunning French crystal chandelier.  This fine dining locale sports excellent black-tie service and a live pianist.  Their vichyssoise is amongst the best we've tasted. Michael loves their veal.   The Caesar salad, although prepared table-side, was disappointing and utilized old lettuce and cheaper greens.  Do not attempt to bring outside wine or champagne; we were shocked and embarrassed when we brought a special bottle of Dom for a friend's birthday and we were told by the owner that, "we have not opened a bottle of outside wine in 30 years for anyone".  Charge us a healthy corkage, but don’t make us put our special bottle on the floor.  We had dinner the next night with friends who reported they had their wine opened there... so maybe the owner was just in a bad mood since there were only 4 tables with diners. Go, enjoy, and just don't bring your own bottle! Expensive, but worth it.
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IDYLLWILD:  Café Aroma 
54750 North Circle Drive
Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549
(951) 659-5212
Category: Country  (new)
3.0 star rating
Take a breathtaking ride up highway 74 from Palm Desert and in less than an hour you’ll end up in an alpine-scented mountain village with touristy-shops, a bunch of average restaurants, more average art, and clean, fresh air.  The stand out on food is Aroma, which is a series of cabins connected with patios.  We sat and inhaled the mountain air, while the 80-degree sun shone over our umbrellas (110 in the desert).  The service was sufficient, but the food was delicious.  Try the meat lasagna with homemade pasta and you won’t have room for much else.  Don’t rush, spend the day here, no one cares; they all seem to know each other.  They proudly support their local farmers, brewers and wineries.  There’s a lovely shop attached as well with some interesting art and chotchkees. 
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IDYLLWILD:  Visit the dog and cat Living Free shelter
54250 Keen Camp Rd.
Mountain Center, CA
92561
951 659 4687
3.5 star rating
On the way back from Idyllwild, stop at this inspiring foundation that saves dogs and cats from being euthanised…a nice word for killing them.  The founder is now on Rainbows Bridge surrounded by furry friends, but the cause lives on and you can go, pet the dogs and cats and leave a donation to keep it going.  Or, adopt one of the furry friends who might call out your name.  Whatever, you’ll feel great going to this place.
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      (climbing into the San Andreas fault between 2 global plates)
Desert Adventure Tours
888-440-5337
4.0 Star rating
This ranks amongst our top 10 experiences in our lifetimes.  Wendy in reservations will give you an idea of what it’s all about, but make sure to book Mitch as your tour guide since he’s won accolades as best tour guide in the desert on multiple occasions.  We took the Desert Evening excursion and it was beyond amazing.  Slated for 3 hours, we enjoyed 4.5 hours of non-stop education and thrills.  This could have been 3 separate trips, as Mitch explained the abundance in the desert, took us deep into the San Andreas Fault where we touched both the Pacific and North American global plates, 
traveled us into a real gold mine, took us panning for gold, showed us an authentic 2,000 plus year old Indian village in the oases far from Palm Springs, and topped it all off with a laser star-watch of the sky above us.  It was gorgeous on a summer night, and we are beyond happy that we did this.  Don’t miss the opportunity and tell them we sent you!  We’re book again on another of their many excursions.
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INDIO:  El Mexical II 
43430 Monroe Street
Indio, CA 92260
(760) 342-2333
Category: Mexican
2.75 star rating
If you’re going on the Jeep tour, stop just as you get off the freeway at Monroe Street at one of the desert’s most authentic Mexican restaurants.  The atmosphere is fairly low-end, as is the service, but the food is terrific.  Their best dish is the grilled shrimp stuffed into peppers, and it’s to die for.  Wash it down with a margarita or two, and you’ll be ready for the thrills of the jeep tour.  This is worth the drive to Indio for lunch or dinner, so enjoy.
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PALM SPRINGS:  Hike the Tahquitz Falls with your m
500 W. Mesquite Drive.
Palm Springs, Ca
Star rating 4.0
It’s been here for ages, and yet who ever goes?  The Tahquitz falls has a long and sketchy history, including the 60’s when the hippies took it over and left behind waste and filth, prompting the Indian tribe to close it for 30 years.  It’s open now and if you go to the old MacGruder Chevrolet, and turn 2 minutes up to the mountain, you’ll find a new Indian Center that will—for a mere $25 for two—host your entry into this paradise.  An average 45 minute walk up a gentle slop and steps, the path terminates at the breathtaking falls and pond that can also be seen in the 1937 film Lost Horizon with Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt.  We hiked it on a 115-degree day at noon, and so the 55-degree water of the pond was a total delight for an hour or so.  We always meet interesting people from around the world.  Don’t miss it.
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 Drive to Temecula, taste the wine, and go blueberry picking
Temecula Blueberry co.
 39700 Cantrell Road
Temecula, CA 92591
(951) 225-5552
This alone is worth the trip to Temecula, only 1 hour 20 minutes from Rancho Mirage, and a gorgeous trip over the mountains and through some beautiful pastoral land.  Highway 74 is a driver’s dream, snaking its way through lunar-like terrain when first leaving the desert.  Open around Mother’s Day, and closing around the 4th of July, join the young kids, grab a colorful bucket, pose for pictures on the big red truck, and hunt for the perfect blueberry.  This has become a summer staple for us, and we return with blueberries that taste like another food group, resulting in amazing baked muffins, pies and cobblers.  Plus, it’s good old -fashioned fun.  Pick up some tasty blueberry honey before you leave.
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TEMECULA:  Meritage at Callaway
32720 Rancho California Road
Temecula, CA 92591-4925
(951) 587-8889
Category: California Cuisine
3.0 star rating
There are twenty plus wineries in Temecula, and so many of them are beautiful to look at and visit.  Callaway enjoys an exquisite setting and has good wine and really flavorful food. The service was adequate, and their Meritage was quite good. 
Do not miss their foie gras pate, which was smooth, abundantly flavorful and delicious. 
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Posted by The Dining Duo | 5:54 PM | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

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