Dining in the Desert Cities
I’m no foodie. I can’t detect the hint cardamom or cumin, but I know something good when I taste it. And in my recent trip to the Desert Cities in Southern California, I sampled countless scrumptious dishes.
Blessed with great timing, my trip to the Desert Cities coincided with Restaurant Week. Cities across the nation have this event throughout the year, sometimes twice a year, with most lasting longer than an actual week (Houston’s is three weeks). Mid-priced to upscale restaurants create a three to four course menu with options for each course. The price is fixed and often is a wonderful value. It’s a fantastic opportunity to try new restaurants or revisit favorites. The Desert Cities also host a pre-Restaurant Week event called “Uncorked” that pairs each course with an alcoholic drink. I was more than eager to sample what the desert was serving up.
“Johannes Restaurant in Palm Springs features the cuisine of Austrian born Chef/Owner Johannes Bacher brilliantly prepared with a Global Twist. The cuisine is inventive, the decor inspired, the service exceptional, and the atmosphere is warm.” –Johannesrestaurants.com
My first night in Palm Springs, Mr. and Mrs. O and I ventured to downtown Palm Springs for dinner. I’d read great reviews about Johannes and was excited to try Austrian food and wine. The sleek and clean vibe of the space was a stark contrast to the vintage vibe that is Palm Springs. We quickly settled into a corner table for our four-course meal.
First course: Roasted sweetbread with asparagus tips and truffles, paired with a rose wine from Austria
Second course: Fish cakes with curry and braised English cucumber, paired with a white Austrian wine
Third course: Grilled marinated beef tenderloin, roasted potatoes, asparagus tips, junge karotten, shallot red wine reduction, field lettuce pesto, paired with a red Austrian wine
Fourth course: (Near) Apple raisin bread pudding, vanilla rum sauce (Far) Fruit and cheese plate, both paired with sparkling wine
Overall, Johannes was a wonderful dining experience; it was certainly worth the $85 fixed price. It was all tasty and the wines complimented the flavors in the foods. What did I most enjoy? The company of Mr. and Mrs. O, of course.
3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro
“The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro is a restaurant revolution…Need a bottle of wine for dinner? Our wine shop offers a great selection from the world over. With over 800 wines to choose from, The 3rd Corner offers a wide selection of wines for every budget… Whether it’s a bite to eat or that perfect anniversary dinner, our menu offers a wide variety of delectable choices for the most discerning palate.” –The3rdCorner.com
The 3rd Corner wasn’t participating in restaurant week, but Mr. and Mrs. O sang its praises. I quickly learned while visiting the Desert Cities that the prized restaurant reservation time isn’t 8:00. No, it’s much earlier, which must be the result of its large retirement community. When we walked in shortly after 8, we practically had the place to ourselves. The waitress told us that things were crazy at 5. This made me giggle.
Famished from a “hard” day at the spa and pool, Mr. and Mrs. O, Lola, and I were dying to eat. But what’s a meal without wine? We were in the right place. With over 800 varieties, it was hard to decide, but Mr. O found the perfect red. We each scoured the menu filled with pastas, seafood, flatbreads, and meats.
Starter: House salad with marinated tomatoes, olives, Parmesan, and basil vinaigrette
Starter: Flatbread pizza with heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and roasted garlic
Main: Shrimp arrabbiata with linguine, shrimp, bacon, tomato, garlic, capers, and chili flakes
The casual atmosphere of 3rd Corner was just we needed after a long, hot day in the sun. The food was fresh, simple, and hit the spot. Lola picked up a bottle of red for the road and we called it a night.
“Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion® Cuisine promises to make for one of the most unique fine dining experiences available. Nowhere else will you find Roy’s Classic Hawaiian Martini, Yamaguchi Sushi®, Misoyaki Butterfish and Chocolate Soufflé all at the same table. So escape to paradise, and experience the world’s finest cuisine deliciously wrapped in a Hawaiian state of mind.” –RoysRestaurant.com
Friday night’s dinner took us to Rancho Mirage and Roy’s. Normally when I have a special dinner in mind, I eschew chains. I was assured that this was no ordinary restaurant chain.
The four of us entered into a lively scene and were escorted to our table swiftly. Our waiter, John, was entertaining and more than happy to let us have our fun, too. Cocktails were our first order of business. Considering it was still triple digits outside, we couldn’t get them fast enough. John delivered our cocktails and with them, the Restaurant Week menu.
First course: Tempura crusted spicy ahi roll with dynamite sauce and grilled Szechuan spiced pork ribs smoked & glazed in Roy’s original Mongolian sauce
Second course: Roy’s roasted macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi and Maine lobster essence
Second course: Ginger onion grilled Hawaiian opah, roasted sweet potatoes, and chili tomato beurre blanc
Third Course: Roy’s melting hot chocolate soufflé with raspberry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream and macadamia nut and banana bread pudding
Pacifica Seafood Restaurant
“Seafood is our passion. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant features the freshest seafood in the desert. Our innovative dining menu showcases a variety of fresh seafood and flavorful steak dishes, complemented by our International Vodka Menu and award-winning wine list. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant is just minutes from Palm Springs, near shopping and resorts, in the heart of Palm Desert, California.” –PacificaSeafoodRestaurant.com
Our final night in the Desert Cities was spent in the El Paseo district of Palm Desert. Known for it’s fabulous shopping, El Paseo also has some of the best restaurants in town, too. With the sun going down, we were escorted to the balcony of Pacifica. Although it was still hot, misters helped keep us cool and comfortable.
Mr. O took the liberty of ordering the wine while we drooled over the delicious-looking Restaurant Week menu. Seafood dominated, of course, but meat options were also available.
First Course: Dungeness crab and shrimp pot stickers with spicy peanut sauce, sweet and sour cucumber, and daikon radish
Second course: (Far) Nori wrapped sea bass tempura with flat noodles, lemon grass broth, stir fried veggies, and Thai cucumber salad
Second course: (Near) Grilled flank steak with mushroom spinach stuffing, broccolini, shallot confit mash, and veal demi
Third course: (Far) Adult milk and cookies (Near) Blackberry peach crisp with vanilla bean ice cream
Pacifica was the perfect ending to a wonderful trip. I never would have thought that the desert would be such a great food destination, but I was pleasantly surprised. And by stumbling upon Restaurant Week, we were able to get great food for a tremendous value. Add that to the good wine and great friends and a fantastic time was had by all.