May Retro Movie Madness

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By Denise Ortuno Neil

If you’re into old school movies and in the Coachella Valley in the month of May, you’re going to be one happy movie camper. There is not one, but two ways to get your May Retro Movie Madness fix. One is at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Fest in Palm Springs, and the other is at the Films on the Great Lawn at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage. Both film events bring films of yesterday back to the big screen for big May Retro Movie Madness fun.              rsz filmnoir2012

First, let’s get a little dark. It’s quite possibly the highest expression of black and white films, with dark angled filming, shadowy lighting, and dramatic plots. The Film Noir genre is a classic film lover’s dream. That being said, and speaking as a Film Noir fanatic myself, we in the Coachella Valley are fortunate to have a film festival dedicated to the genre with the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival that kicks off Thursday, May 11th, through May 14th, 2017 at the Camelot Theater in Palm Springs.

Film Noir, is a French term meaning, “black film” and was coined by French film critics to describe the style of American films made from the mid 1940’s to the mid 50’s. The defining term was inspired by the literal darkness in not only the color of the films, but also their solemn fatalistic direction and murderous storylines. Think of films like “The Maltese Falcon” or “Double Indemnity” and you will be right on target of what Film Noir is all about (two of my faves).

 The festival was established back in 2000 by the late mystery novelist and former Palm Springs city councilman, Arthur Lyons and is presented by the Palm Springs Cultural Center. The film fest celebrates the Film Noir genre with a selection of films, and also incorporates lectures and special guests.

This year’s festival will highlight 12 films including the opening nights film, Hollow Triumph (1948). Other films include, The Chase (1946), Black Angel (1946), Split Second (1953), Desperate (1947) and closing with Night and the City (1950), plus many more in between.

Special guests that will appear at the fest will be Monika Henried, Richard Duryea, Andy Robinson and Sara Karloff (daughter of Boris Karloff). Ticket prices are $13 per person, per film. Film goers can also purchase an all access pass for $125.

The festival is great fun for film enthusiasts, and offers a cultural look at film history with well preserved and coveted classics.

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Now the sunny side. The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, in partnership with the Palm Springs International Film Festival, presents their spring Films on the Great Lawn, with Tales of Adolescent Adventures. The three films will entertain on May 12th, 19th and 26th, 2017.

Sunnylands, the former 200 acre estate of George and Leonore Annenberg, is a beautiful, expansive piece of desert history. Besides serving as the winter retreat for the Annenberg’s, the property has hosted dignitaries from around the world since it was first built in the 1960’s.

Following the passing of the Annenberg’s, the estate was transferred to the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands to the specifications of the Annenberg’s. The property goes on to be utilized as retreat and meeting arena for world leaders. The non-profit estate also offers tours of the property and the luscious gardens are open to the public.

The Films on the Great Lawn, is one of the events that has grown in popularity at Sunnylands. The movies in May include, Stand By Me (1986) on May 12th, which stars River Phoenix, Will Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman. It is a story about four friends who go in search of a dead body, and strengthen their friendships along the way. Now and Then (1995) on May 19th, features Melanie Griffith, Rita Wilson, Demi Moore and Rosie O’Donnell, who take a look back at their childhood summer antics. The Sandlot (1993) on May 26th, reveals a story set in the San Fernando Valley about a neighborhood baseball team who befriend new boy.

The Sunnylands film event is free, and movie goers are invited to bring lawn chairs, blankets and a modest picnic. Alcohol, pets and smoking are not permitted. As parking is limited, carpooling is encouraged.

Films on the Great Lawn at Sunnylands is a really cool way to view classic films, while enjoying the gorgeous desert nights.

So there you have it. Two unique film events right here in the Coachella Valley to get your May Retro Movie Madness on. Enjoy!

For more information on the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Fest and to purchase tickets visit

For more information on Sunnylands visit

Don't Miss Desert X!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                  rsz doug aitken 4 lance gerber

The desert landscape stands still as a beautiful accomplice to the deserts most determined art exhibition to date. Desert X has become an inspirational force, blending creative modern art with the stark beauty of the desert. But the time to view these phenomenal works is coming to an end. This weekend will be the last chance to take in this visual art exhibition as it ends on Sunday, April 30th, 2017. It is something you won’t want to miss.

The blankness of the desert is a natural slate to create many kinds of art. It is used vigorously in photo shoots and paintings, as well as commercials, and movies. It is rich with its neutral tones, allowing for easy inserts of color and texture, inviting imagination with open arms.

Those elements work in favor of the Desert X project. The venture opened on February 25th, 2017, and was produced by the non-profit charitable organization Desert Biennial, whose goal is to bring art to the Coachella Valley in innovative ways. Desert X incorporates the boundless art work of some of the most up and coming artists around. Artists such as Lita Albuquerque, Will Boone, Norma Jeane, Rob Pruitt and Doug Aitken are some of the artists who participated in the Desert X project.

The 16 Desert X exhibits span from Desert Hot Springs, to Coachella. The art is strewn around in unconventional locations, adding to its avant-garde appeal. The creations work in hand with the locations in which they are mounted, almost as if they were there all along….it seems natural.

One of the most photographed and popular exhibits is the mirrored house by Doug Aitken. The house sits near the Tram road and is absolutely stunning. It reflects the desert at every turn, and can even be slightly dizzying, encouraging visitors to be aware of their footing.

The other exhibits offer similar moments of amazement, making the success of Desert X undeniable. The works were intended to promote global and local issues ranging from everything from immigration to climate change. The certain thing about viewing the art is that it will affect you in a good way, as the experience is relentless in its positive effect.

It is FREE to view the exhibits of Desert X. They do however have specific times for visiting, which can be found on their website. There are even bus tours available as well.

The Coachella Valley is truly blessed to have Desert X, that’s why it would be a shame to miss it. It is said that there will be another Desert X type exhibition in 2019, but do you really want to wait that long? My answer would be no. So get out and about this weekend and view these fantastic works of art against our gorgeous desert backdrop. You will be glad that you didn’t miss it. I know  that I am.

For more information and locations of the exhibits, visit

Pub Time at the fox & Fiddle

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                        Fox and Fiddle

It is a growing trend in cities around the country. Pubs are springing up in communities to bring together great food, drinks and socialization. That is the focus of the Fox & Fiddle Pub, newly opened at The River in Rancho Mirage.

Pubs (Public Houses) have been around for over 2,000 years. A form of community gathering establishments that would allow for people to meet up and socialize while enjoying varied libations and food.

The Fox & Fiddle in Rancho Mirage leans on this Pub mentality, and is the first U.S. location for this Canadian based company. Their location at The River opened in February, 2017 and took over the former Sam’s Sushi restaurant, completely transforming it. A long bar now greets guests, as does the looming Moose head mounted on the wall at the entrance. The look of the Pub is a mixture of antique English style with old fashioned pictures on the walls and tufted banquets, mixed with modern touches of aqua blue colored barstools and glam chandeliers.

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I looked forward to trying out the Fox & Fiddle, especially once I heard that they served Scotch Eggs. The old world dish dates back to the 1700’s, and is comprised of a soft boiled egg wrapped in a sausage meat mixture, rolled in bread crumbs and then deep fried. Tasty! The eggs are basically a whole breakfast plate in a nice little package. Fox & Fiddle serves theirs with an appropriate, not too tangy flavored House Ketchup. The egg was served halved, sitting on a small smattering of the House Ketchup. The egg had just enough oozing yolk to complement the surrounding sausage and breading. A great little appetizer to share or have on your own for a jolt of protein with a smidge of carbs.

Another menu item that lured me in was their Poutine. This hearty offering is a Canadian staple, made up of French Fries, cheese curds and rich brown gravy. I was curious to try their version, as my previous encounter with locally served Poutine was not a memorable one. On the flip side, Fox & Fiddles Poutine was excellent! The proportion of fries, cheese and gravy was completely balanced. The rich beef gravy pulled the other ingredients together in a smooth blanket, making the ribbons of melted cheese curds even more enjoyable. Fox & Fiddles Poutine is a comfort food winner, and is also available with buffalo style chicken for added bite. Other menu favorites at Fox & Fiddle are their Fish & Chips with fresh Haddock, Flatbreads, Burgers, Curries and much more, including a mean Sticky Toffee Pudding for those who need to quell their sweet tooth.                                          rsz 1imag1430

Of course, to have the full Pub experience, imbibing in a Pint is the thing to do and goes perfectly with Fox & Fiddles Pub Fare. They offer many Draft beers including traditional Pub Ales such as Guinness and Boddington, as well as domestic beers and even Coachella Valley’s own La Quinta Brewery. Not into beer? Don’t worry, Fox & Fiddles bar staff will be happy to concoct a drink that you will spark you up, whether it be one of their own signature drinks such as their Foxy Collins or Poolside Shandy, or one specially made for you. Bar Manager Victor, Bartender Thomas and bar back Joe will hook you up ( Joe, Thomas, Victor pictured). rsz imag1433 1

Fox & Fiddle is open daily from 11am to midnight during the week and until 2am on the weekends. Enjoy their Happy Hour every day from 3pm to 6pm for special pricing on beer, wine and select menu items (that means the Poutine and Scotch Eggs).

Fox & Fiddle at The River in Rancho Mirage brings Pub life to the Coachella Valley in a modern way, sprinkled with old world charm. Coordinating great food and drinks in a social environment, bringing the community together, Fox & Fiddle is a new fave of The Palm Springs Local! 

Fox & Fiddle is located at 71-800 Suite 101, Hwy 111 Rancho Mirage Ca 92270

For more information visit


Kick Off April with Brew at the Zoo!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                  rsz brew 2017

April in the Coachella Valley ushers in beautiful desert sunshine, (more summery than springy) and a load of staple events that provide a variety of fun and excitement. Of course there is the monster Golden Voice concerts, but before we go mid-April, let’s take baby steps and start off with the months first weekend with some bubbling Brew at the Zoo!

The Living Deserts 8th Annual Brew at the Zoo, foams up on Saturday, April 1, at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert. This is such a fun event! A Palm Springs Local favorite! The Living Deserts Brew at the Zoo is a craft beer and foodie haven, with live music laced in for added entertainment, and it’s all set amidst the gorgeous grounds of the Living Desert. The event has a cozy feel of sorts, kind of like the jungle cruise part of Disneyland, except without the water, or jungle….but there is a lushness about it. Just trust me, it’s a great vibe, and you will no doubt leave full of delicious craft beer and mouthwatering food.

Vendors include, CVB, La Quinta Brewery, Hangar 24 (first place that I ever tried their beer), Crater Lake Vodka, Buzzbox, Mastro’s Steakhouse, Pacifica, The Cliffhouse, Pieros Pizzavino, Sherman’s, The Hood and many more. The tasty event runs from 6:30pm to 9:30pm, and tickets range from $70 to $150 for VIP. They even offer a designated driver for an additional $45…now that’s an event with a conscience, all benefiting the animals at the Living Desert. It’s a fun and belly satisfying way to spend a Saturday night in the Coachella Valley.

For more information and tickets visit The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is located at 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert.

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Fresh Agave's Refreshing Margarita's

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                   rsz fresh agave

Picture it, a refreshing tangy ice cold Margarita blissfully floating in your mouth, the slight tinge of salt grazing your lips (or not if you like to go salt-less). There is nothing quite like it on a warm weekend afternoon, and Fresh Agave in Palm Desert has one of the best Margarita’s in the Coachella Valley. Coupled with fantastic food and ultra-friendly service, it’s an awesome spot to relax and raise a glass.

I remember the spot where Fresh Agave stands today as a former Mexican restaurant a long time ago…El Mexican Café I believe. Then later El Mirasol gave the location a try for a bit as I recall. But it was Fresh Agave who seems to have found the right recipe for lasting success there, as they are consistently busy all year round.

Opened in October 2010 by Rigo and Cecilia Garcia, the restaurant offers up some of the best Mexican food and Margarita’s in the desert, and is a go to spot for The Palm Springs Local. There is just something about it. Besides the tasty food and drinks, I really enjoy their quaint bar and it’s social vibe. It is kind of on the small side, but that is what makes it so cool. Although they have ample dining room seating, I prefer the bar. However, to sit there, you have to get there at a time when the bar is not full, or patiently wait for a seat to open up and then pounce on it!

Part of the charm there is the service. Even if you have never been there before, the staff and Bartender extraordinaire Jesus Martin, will make you feel like a regular. It is that intangible quality that keeps me and a multitude of other loyal guests coming back in droves.

Now if you’re wondering what Agave means, well I will tell you. It is what the main ingredient of the wondrous Margarita is made from, Tequila. The Blue Agave plant produces the nectar that makes any Mexican meal even better. You can see the restaurants love for its moniker clearly from its all-encompassing blue walls.

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Their Margaritas are served in large bubble style glasses, and are reminiscent of a Margarita that you might find at another Mexican restaurant right behind them on El Paseo. The comparison would make sense, as part of the staff, including Garcia himself, were once part of the other establishment. But although there are some similarities in the look and maybe even the taste of their Margaritas, the ambience and congenial staff of Fresh Agave outweigh even the thought of switching. They are my personal preference….just saying.

The House Margarita is the best, it is pure and simple with Gold Tequila, Triple Sec and Sweet & Sour. I have it on the rocks with salt, however having it blended is also an option. But there are other Margarita varieties to enjoy as well, including the One Eleven (the House with a float of Chambord), the Cadillac (House with a floater of Grand Marnier), the Skinny for those of you watching your alcohol caloric intake (Hornitos Sauza Resposado, Fresh Lime and Agave Nectar), or a try a fruit Margarita with Strawberry, Mango, Peach, Tamarindo, Banana or Pina Colada.

There are plenty of food selections to go along with your libation. My favorite is the Quesadilla with Fajita Chicken. It is so succulent and big! It is easily shared between two people. Another absolute fave of mine is the Taco Fiesta for two. It actually could feed three people, maybe four. My boyfriend and I have ordered it several times and after eating for a while, it hardly looks like a dent has been made. The Taco Fiesta has portions of Carne Asada, Pollo Asada, Carnitas, Chorizo, Guacamole, Pica de Gallo, Jalapenos, Sour Cream and Cheese with your choice of tortillas. For only $24, it is one heck of a deal! Besides my favorites, their menu offers up many other scrumptious items. Everything from Tacos, Enchiladas, Fish dishes and Mole too.

They are opened seven days a week from 11am to 9pm during the week, and until 10pm on the weekends. Check out their daily Happy Hour from 3pm to 5pm for special pricing.

Fresh Agave in Palm Desert is awesome for a weekend afternoon (or anytime) filled with super fantastic Margaritas, delicious Mexican food, loving care service and good times. Cheers!

Located at 73-325 Hwy 111, Palm Desert, Ca 92260

Visit for more information

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