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Wednesday, 03 May 2017 10:36

Culinary Event Returns For 11th Year

TASTE News Service, May 3, 2017 – Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week, is set to return June 2-11, 2017.

Palm Springs Foodie illus Picmonkey

TASTE News Service, June 13, 2016 – While Riverside County's Coachella Valley has a well-deserved reputation as a year-round playground, few visitors realize the region is also one of the nation's top producing agricultural centers.

Frank Sinatra 57 PicmonkeyFrank in 1957TASTE News Service, August 20, 2015 - Frank Sinatra left us all on May 14, 1998, but the respect and admiration for the music, talent, and “spirit of cool” he left behind remains. Sinatra would have turned 100 this December 12th.

What many do not realize is that Sinatra called Greater Palm Springs “home” for nearly 50 years – from his arrival in the late 40s through his final days. Today, from his midcentury modern Palm Springs home and Rancho Mirage compound, to restaurants and landmarks throughout the desert, the public can still glimpse places owned and frequented by The Chairman of the Board in our beautiful oasis.

According to Palm Springs-based writer Howard Johns, here are 10 top places in Greater Palm Springs not to be missed by any Sinatra fan:

Sinatra House Palm Springs PicmonkeyTwin Palms Estate1.  Twin Palms Estate  (1148 East Alejo Road, Palm Springs) - Sinatra had this midcentury modern jewel built in 1947 by award-winning architect Stewart Williams. The property boasts four bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a state-of-the-art (by 1947 standards) sound system, movie projectors and sound recording equipment for guests' enjoyment. Huge sliding glass doors open onto an expansive backyard patio leading to a cabana, the two signature “twin palm” trees and a piano-shaped swimming pool. Visitors revel in the property's Sinatra history – right down to the crack in the bathroom sink caused by a wayward champagne bottle, said to be tossed at Ol' Blue Eyes by an incensed Ava Gardner. While the property is not open to public tours, it may be rented for private parties or personal stays.

2.  The Compound  (70-588 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage) – This sprawling 2.5 -acre residence was built in 1954 and includes a main house, movie theatre, five guest houses, an actual train caboose turned into a barbershop and sauna, two swimming pools, tennis courts and a personal art studio. Each building was named after one of his songs: “New York, New York,” “High Hopes,” “The Tender Trap,” “Send In the Clowns,” “Chicago” and “My Way.” The Compound includes the famous guest quarters built in 1962 for (but never used by) JFK and a helicopter landing pad in the circle drive, later turned into a flower garden. While Sinatra fans cannot enter The Compound (it was sold in the late 1990s and is privately owned), it remains one of the most popular drive-by addresses for carloads and busloads of tourists who visit the desert.

3.   Frank Sinatra Drive  (Rancho Mirage) – Easily one of the most recognized street names in the Palm Springs area (although Bob Hope, Gerald Ford, Dinah Shore and Kirk Douglas also have been given the honor), Frank Sinatra Drive begins at the hilltop entrance to The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, continuing about 8 miles east where it comes to rest at the far edge of Palm Desert. Visitors who travel its path will pass the legendary Tamarisk Country Club, Former Ambassador to the Court of King James Walter Annenberg's “Sunnylands” Estate (still surrounded by a bright pink wall, painted as such at the insistence of Mrs. Annenberg), Wolfson Park, where one can still hear a recorded “welcome” to the park speech by Sinatra himself and, of course, Sinatra's famous compound.melvyns rest Palm Springs PicmonkeyMelvyn's at the Ingleside Inn

4.   Melvyn's Restaurant & Lounge at The Ingleside Inn   (200 West Ramon Road, Palm Springs) - This now legendary hotel and restaurant was the site for Sinatra's pre-wedding dinner to Barbara Marx in 1976. Owner Mel Haber, who still greets guests daily at the inn and restaurant, remembers: “Sinatra invited 80 people. Made all the arrangements himself. He was very meticulous in his selections – he chose the veal and vegetables.” Melvyn's was also a favorite hangout for Sinatra and buddies Jilly Rizzo, Pat Henry and Danny Schwartz, who would hang out in the bar and drink Jack Daniels. Remembers Haber: “Sinatra was very friendly. He'd talk and listen to the music and have a good time.”

5.   Lord Fletcher's  (70-385 Hwy 111, Rancho Mirage) -  Lord Fletcher's was for Sinatra's quieter, more personal times. He dined there for more than 30 years and made it the site of his 70th birthday celebration in 1985. Manager Michael Fletcher said, “He liked the casual atmosphere. He could be himself, and nobody would bother him.”

6.   Barbara Sinatra Children's Center  (39000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, on the Eisenhower Medical Center campus) - Founded in 1986 by Sinatra's wife Barbara, the $2.5 million, 13,000- square- foot facility continues to be a national leader in the treatment of child sexual abuse. The annual Frank Sinatra Invitational Celebrity Golf Tournament (www.sinatragolf.org) raises money for the Center each year, with a star- studded gala that attracts more than 1,000 players and fans from around the country.

7.   Sinatra's Star (123 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) – Sinatra is forever remembered on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, which lines the east and west sides of Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. The star was presented to Sinatra on January 15, 1994, in honor of his outstanding achievements on the stage, in the movies and on TV and radio. More than 2,000 people showed up to pay their respects, and traffic stopped dead in the street upon the arrival of The Chairman of the Board.

8.   St. Louis Catholic Church (37-220 Glenn Avenue, Cathedral City) and St. Francis of Assisi Church (47-225 Washington Street, La Quinta) remain today as two houses of worship supported by Sinatra and his family. St. Louis Catholic Church, once frequented twice a week by Sinatra's devoutly religious mother, Dolly, is still known as “The House That Dolly Built,” because of her many financial contributions. Sinatra's daughter Nancy (“These Boots Were Made for Walk'n”) held her second wedding there in 1970. St. Francis of Assisi, built in 1974 and designed by famed Italian opera director Franco Zeffirelli, was frequented by Sinatra himself, as well as fellow parishioner Frank Capra, who directed Frank in the 1959 movie, 'A Hole In The Head.'

9.   The Riviera Resort (1600 North Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) – was where Sinatra organized big charity shows featuring such fun-loving buddies as comedian Jerry Lewis and fellow crooner Bing Crosby. Crosby, a longtime Sinatra idol, owned a home at Thunderbird Heights in Rancho Mirage.Sinatra gravestone Picmonkey

10.   Desert Memorial Park (69-920 Ramon Road, Cathedral City) – The final resting place of Ol' Blue Eyes. Sinatra's body was buried at the Park in a family plot next to his parents. His grave is located near the entrance in front of the waterfall. Frank's closest friend Jilly Rizzo, his uncle Vincent Mazzola and composer Jimmy Van Heusen are buried close by. Hundreds of Sinatra fans make the vigil to Sinatra's burial spot each year to pay their respects. His simple headstone, which reads, “The Best Is Yet to Come,” is almost always adorned with fresh cigarettes, dimes (a favorite giveaway of Sinatra's, as a reminder of tougher times) and, often, mini bottles of Jack Daniels.

Editor’s Note:  In the Desert listings of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the greater Palm Springs area.

Thursday, 04 December 2014 10:53

Outdoor Art in the Desert

Palm Springs Art Museu in Palm Desert PicmonkeyPalm Springs Art Museu in Palm Desert

TASTE News Service December 4, 2014 - Greater Palm Springs is a thriving center for visual arts—both inside the museums and galleries and outside. In high season, art fairs are plentiful, but you can also enjoy free public art year-round, any time you like. Thanks to plentiful Art in Public Places' programs in many cities, there are maps and tours of public art, and much to see – from murals to mosaics, fountains and sculptures.  Self-drive art tours are a great way to discover the Coachella Valley. 

In the agricultural town of Coachella, Coachella Walls was launched in April 2014. The first mural completed, by acclaimed LA artist El Mac, is a moving portrait of a farmworker, on the side of a downtown Pueblo Viejo building.  Nearby is the Casa de Trabajador by Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez, founders of Coachella Walls.  Check out the multiple murals opposite Dateland Park.

Indio's public art program preserves the cultural heritage of the valley's oldest city with its nine dramatic murals, created by the Historic Mural Project.  Don't miss the History of Water in the Coachella Valley, 140' long and 15' high, painted by Don Gray.  New sculptures and artworks are regularly installed. Indio-based artist, Philip K Smith, named a 2014 “Face to Watch” by the LA Times, created the inspiring Teen Center Sculpture.

Public Art in La Quinta is as important to the city as the annual Arts Festival and seasonal Art under the Umbrellas fairs. Edie Hylton of La Quinta's Community Services recommends a self-guided walking tour, using the public art map, around the Civic Center Campus, City Hall, Library and park.  Don't miss the recent 9/11 memorial Never Forget that incorporates steel from the World Trade Center, designed by a local artist and paid for with funds raised by a local Boy Scout.  Drive to Andalusia to see the Horse & Rider – an impressive bronze sculpture, more than 20' high. 

Palm Desert was the first city in Riverside County to adopt a public art ordinance (in 1986).  Now, more than 150 public artworks grace roadsides, parks, shopping districts and buildings.  The El Paseo International Invitational brings together artworks from all over the world, displayed along the median of the popular shopping strip.  “We change them every two years; 18 new works commenced installation in November for 2015/2016,” explained Donna Schwartz of the city's Public Art Program. 

Free, guided Public Art walking tours take place from September to May, or go it alone using downloadable maps. Don't miss Civic Center Park, home to more than 20 artworks.  Some are surprising, like the Fisherman embedded in the lagoon's bank, or moving, like the impressively detailed Holocaust Memorial by Dee Clements.  The Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert is also home to the free Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden, open year-round, just off Hwy 111.  It is a delightful oasis set in four acres, with winding walkways through palm trees, desert plants, water features and rock formations, interspersed with 10 major sculptural works.  Don't miss: Dave McGary's beautiful Walks Among the Stars bronze painted sculpture of a native American Indian woman.

In Rancho Mirage on Hwy 111, don't miss the Cancer Survivors Park, next to the City Hall at Frank Sinatra Drive.  The pretty, shaded park features tiled benches, a pyramid kiosk, waterfall, a moving artwork comprising life-size sculptures representing cancer survivors and their families.  It is one of only 22 such parks in the USA . Rancho Mirage Public Library features regular exhibitions by local artists and photographers.  Cool tip: at Sunnylands, artists can enjoy painting in plein air when the Gardens are closed to the public.  Reservations required. 

Rancho Mirage residents and renowned artists Karen and Tony Barone create large-scale, colorful animal sculptures that can be seen all over the valley: at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Palm Springs Fire Station #3, Historical Society of Palm Desert, El Paseo Median, University of California Riverside/Palm Desert Center, Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert Rancho Mirage and the Rancho Mirage Public Library.

At Cathedral City's Civic Center, off Hwy 111, you'll find several artworks including the delightful Fountain of Life made of artisan-carved Mexican stone. Designer and artist Jennifer Johnson spent months applying hand- cut mosaic tiles and glass to the stone. Look closely and you'll see animals, birds and flowers.  Enjoy the leaping water displays and surrounding play area.  Actor/musician Buddy Rogers was the first to donate to the fountain; his statue stands nearby. 

Palm Springs public art collection features 60 works throughout the city.  Best known are the much-loved seated statues of Lucille Ball and Sonny Bono in downtown.  In the Uptown Design District, the water feature, Rainmaker by David Morris intrigues and entertains visitors with its tipping waterspouts.  Public Arts Coordinator Jennifer Henning said, “The latest additions are five different artist-designed bicycle racks, weaving art into the urban landscape.  Whether you're arriving at Palm Springs International airport, visiting the Convention Center, strolling through a park or downtown, you'll find artwork nearly everywhere you go.  Art maps available at the Visitors Center, Chamber of Commerce, City Hall or at www.palmspringspublicart.org.

Editor's Note: Thinking of visiting the Palm Springs area? First check out the Desert listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining opportunities.

(Greater Palm Springs, CA) - August 6, 2013 – Sixteen restaurants in Greater Palm Springs have been recognized by Wine Spectator's 2013 Restaurant Wine List Awards for their extensive wine lists, selections that are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers.

Spencers Rest table setting PicmonkeyTable at Spencer's Restaurant in Palm Springs set for multi-wine dinnerTwo restaurants Spencer's Restaurant and Cuistot received the 2013 Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. This award gives special recognition to restaurants that clearly exceed the requirements of the Award of Excellence. Only 850 winners were selected across the globe. These lists typically offer 400 or more selections, along with superior presentation, and display either vintage depth, with several vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wine regions.

The Wine Spectator 2013 Award of Excellence recognized the following restaurants for lists that offer a well-chosen selection of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.

Indian Wells

Sirocco at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa

Palm Desert

Mastro's Steakhouse

Mitch's On El Paseo Prime Seafood

Morton's, The Steakhouse

Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

Ristorante Mamma Gina

Ruth's Chris Steak House

Palm Springs

Circa 59 at Riviera Hotel

Europa Restaurant at Villa Royale

The Steakhouse at Spa Resort Casino

Zin American Bistro

Rancho Mirage

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente Casino • Resort • Spa

To qualify for an award, the list must present complete, accurate wine information. It must include vintages and appellations for all selections, including wines available by the glass. Complete producer names and correct spellings are mandatory, while the overall presentation and appearance of the list is also taken into consideration. After meeting these basic requirements, lists are judged for one of the three awards – Grand Award, Best of Awards of Excellence and Award of Excellence.

Wine Spectator has been honoring the world's best wine lists since 1981 to encourage restaurants to improve their selections. The publication reaches nearly 2.6 million wine enthusiasts around the world.

Editor's note: If you're planning a trip to the Greater Palm Springs area you may want to visit the Deserts section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Dining and Lodging options.