Mix and Mingle for a Cause!

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By Denise Ortuno  Neil                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Come out and network for a cause, at the Mingle, Jingle Holiday Business Mixer, presented by The Palm Springs Local. The 1st Annual Mixer will take place on Tuesday, December 13th, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at JC’s Patio Café in Palm Desert. The mixer benefits the Coachella Valley Rescue, and is a great way to meet others in the business community.

It’s the holidays, and not only a time for charity, but also a wonderful time to meet members of the community. So why not bring them both together? That’s exactly what I thought, and the focus of my mixer.

The mixer will benefit the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, a charity that I have worked with for years. The CVRM started back in 1971 by concerned business persons and churches. It grew from its humble beginnings in a former WWII building, into a newly constructed complex which opened in the fall of 2011. The facility helps those in need, sharing their spirituality with 225 clients a day, providing 190,000 meals a year and gives shelter to 70,000 every year. The CVRM helps the homeless, the abused, and addicted get back on their feet and back into society in a productive and positive manner.

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When I interviewed the new owners of JC’s Patio Café in Palm Desert (Casey and Michelle Hutchinson) back October, I thought that it would be a fantastic place for the mixer. The restaurant is tucked away in the Plaza on El Paseo shopping nook, which is undoubtedly part of its charm. Upon entering the restaurant, it is hard not to notice the collage of photos that line the entry wall, evidence of 26 years of success and patron admiration. The patio shaded with colored umbrellas, is the focal point of the café, and is highlighted by a flowing fountain, exuding the soothing sounds of falling water. It is old school Palm Deser

Entertainment at the mixer will be generously provided by the duet the Carmen’s, Cythia and Tony Appolito. The duo have been performing throughout the Coachella Valley for over a decade at popular spots such as, Vicky’s of Santa Fe, Vue Bar & Grille. Spotlight 29 Casino, and many more. With guitar by Tony, and vocals by his lovely wife Cythia, they entertain with a variety of music ranging from Ballads, Latin, Blues, Rock & Roll and Jazz.                                                          rsz the carmens 2016 001 1

A silent auction will be offered at the mixer, with very generous donated items from some awesome desert businesses which include, Castellis Ristorante, Mitch’s on El Paseo, Escape Room Palm Springs, Beauty By Elayna, Carnival Cabaret, Troy and many others, all benefitting the CVRM.

Admission to the mixer is only $10, and includes appetizers and drink specials and a chance to win a dining experience at JC’s Patio Café. There will also be a silent auction with great items just in time for some last minute shopping, including Castellis, Mitch’s on El Paseo, Blo-Dry Bar, Escape Room Palm Springs, Carnival Cabaret, Troy and many more!

The Mingle, Jingle, Holiday Business Mixer at JC’s Patio Café in Palm Desert, promises to be a fun filled evening to meet and greet and get to know your business neighbor, and The Palm Springs Local (me). All while benefitting the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission. Hope to see you there and Happy Holidays!

For more information contact Denise Neil at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rubio's Open's in Palm Desert!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                 rsz rubios new logo

Rubio’s Coastal Grill opens in downtown Palm Desert on Thursday, December 8th, 2016, offering their delectable, freshly made, Mexican inspired fare. It is a wonderful addition to casual dining in Palm Desert.

The El Paseo Square shopping center off of El Paseo and Hwy 111 in Palm Desert, has had quite a transformation, moving on from its former life to its current incarnation. Where once was an old school CoCo’s and KFC, now resides hot spots such as Blaze Pizza, Habit Burger, Jamba Juice, and now, Rubio’s Coastal Grill.

The Rubio’s new location will fit in well with its hip neighbors, providing more great food, with a fun flare. The Palm Desert location will highlight the restaurants new look and moniker, which falls in line with their other nearly 70 locations that have transformed from their focus on their Original Fish Tacos, to incorporate an even more expansive coastal menu and modern façade.

Rubio’s originated in 1983 in the San Diego area, soon after co-owner Ralph Rubio, a college student at the time, returned from a trip to Baja Mexico. He had fallen so much in love with the fish tacos there that he decided to replicate them back home, and started his own business doing just that. Ever since then, the Rubio’s concept has grown to become a popular eatery focused on sustainable seafood, all natural grilled marinated chicken and steak, and the freshest of produce to create their mouth pleasing recipes.

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The chain keeps good eating on a pedestal, with menu items such as “no fried” pinto beans, handmade guacamole and a variety of specialty salsas, and has been awarded many times for their trademarked Original Fish Taco, as well as being ranked as one of Fast Casuals ‘Top 50 Movers and Shakers’ and one of the top five most loved fast casual chains ranked by Foodable Labs and Digital CoCo.

At their pre-opening party, Wednesday, December 7th, which also served as a benefit for Palm Desert Middle School, I was able to taste some of their flavorful dishes and preview the restaurant as a whole. The modern design is inviting, and is complimented by whimsical pendant lighting throughout the dining room that offers ample seating. Outdoor patio dining is also available, to take advantage of our pleasant desert weather.                                                     rsz imag1042

The staff was very friendly, and generous with information about the menu items (thank you Nidia). With so much to choose from, I went for their traditional Original Fish Taco and Tortilla Soup combo, and my guest had the Langostino Enchiladas Verde. The Tortilla Soup was a perfect choice for the cool night, as the warm flavors melded perfectly together with chicken, tortilla strips, and rice, topped with avocado.

Their Original Fish Taco, made with beer-battered Wild Alaskan Pollack, white sauce, mild salsa and cabbage, lived up to its reputation. The fish had a nice crisp to it, with the savory flavors of the white sauce and salsa all bringing it together for satisfying bites. I made sure to try out all of their salsas at the salsa bar as well, my favorite being their Tomatillo Cilantro variety. The enchilada was filled liberally with the Langostino, and the Verde sauce had just enough spice to get noteworthy attention.

For casual dining restaurants, sometimes dessert is not only not expected, but sometimes overlooked. That is not the case at Rubio’s. One of their very friendly staff members made sure that we tried their two featured desserts, a Coconut Lemon Bar and Caramel Brownie. Both of the desserts were a sweet surprise, and a luscious close to our Rubio’s experience.

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The Rubio’s menu has much to select from, from a variety of Burritos, Taco’s, Salad’s and Bowls and even Quesadilla’s and Nacho’s. A beneficial aspect of their menu is that it shows the caloric intake for each item, which good or bad, still informs you on what you’re eating. The restaurant even offers up Craft Beers, Sangria and Wine to their adult guests.

Their opening day will offer $50 gift certificates to the first 50 guests. A nice gesture for their introduction to the neighborhood for the holidays.

I look forward to visiting Rubio’s Coastal Grill in Palm Desert again soon. The freshness of the food, friendly service and clean, comfortable environment are all winners. The restaurant is a wonderful addition to the casual dining scene in Palm Desert, and a definite new spot for The Palm Springs Local.

Rubio’s Coastal Grill is located at 73-399 Hwy 111, Palm Desert

For more information visit


Tamales & Light Parade Kick off December Fun!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil

Tasty tamales and the stunning Festival of Lights Parade usher in December fun in the Coachella Valley. It is a much anticipated time when two popular holiday events take place from Palm Springs to Indio, in one festive weekend for all to enjoy!                                   rsz tamale fest logo

I seriously have been looking forward to the Indio International Tamale Festival since last years ended. It is one of my favorite events in the Coachella Valley, which makes food its main attraction. The festival started back in 1992 and grown to be one of the Top Ten best food festivals in the nation with good reason.

Tamale making is a traditional holiday ritual in the Hispanic community, bringing families together in the kitchen for this special time of year, making the timing of the tamale festival apropos.  The event has a multitude of vendors, selling a variety of mouthwatering tamales. They come in all different flavors from traditional pork, beef, chicken, chili or cheese, to gourmet tamales which have a limitless range. Gourmet tamales feature flavors such as game meat, BBQ and even dessert tamales with strawberry and pineapple just to scratch the masa.

My favorite is the Chicken Mole Tamale, which I discovered 3 years ago at the Tamale Festival. I tried to find the same tamale vendor ever since, but I just can’t seem to find them. Although there were vendors that sold the same kind of tamale, they weren’t the same. But I am fired up to go “In Search Of” that illusive Chicken Mole Tamale this year, leaving no husk unturned.                  rsz tamalefestnet

The  Indio International Tamale Festival is located in Old Town Indio and takes place on Saturday, December 3rd from 10am to 6pm and Sunday, December 4th from 10am to 5pm. Besides all of the delicious tamales, the event offers up a traditional "Fair" ambience. Admission is FREE, and festival goers can also enjoy rides, musical entertainment, beer gardens and other "Fair" type goodies (fried Twinkie’s anyone?) and vendors.

After gorging on tamales all day on Saturday (and hopefully finding my Chicken Mole Tamale), I will be marching on over to the fabulous Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade in downtown Palm Springs in the evening. The parade has an old school hometown feel, with a strong dose of holiday fashioned Americana. Enjoy brightly lighted floats, lighted vintage cars with local celebs (and some world-renowned), marching bands, specialty performers and of course…Santa! The approximate 100,000 (and growing) attendees that flock to Palm Springs every year can’t be wrong…right? Definitely right! The parade is so popular that it has been named one of the Top 10 Holiday Parades in the nation in an AOL survey.rsz logo 2016


The parade is FREE and starts at 5:45pm on Saturday, December 3rd. I plan to get there early to stake my claim on the parade route on Palm Canyon. Parade enthusiasts such as myself, are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets (it will be cold this weekend) and snacks. If you’re not into ruffing it picnic style, restaurants along the canyon will give those who wish to dine and gaze at the movement of lights a front row seat in style.                                                            rsz festival of lights parade 134 1

From Palm Springs to Indio, Tamales and the Festival of Lights Parade set the stage for December fun in the Coachella Valley for all to enjoy. They are definite favorites of The Palm Springs Local!

For more information of the Tamale Festival visit

For more information on the Festival of Lights Parade visit

Cabazon Band of Mission Indians 35th Annual Powwow

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                     rsz powow flyer 2016

The Cabazon Band of Mission Indians 35th Annual Powwow, takes place this Thanksgiving weekend from November 25th through November 27th, at the Fantasy Springs Special Event Center in Indio. The FREE event is fabulous, educational fun for the whole family to enjoy the traditions of this time honored celebration, right here in the Coachella Valley.

Powwows in the past have been predominately in the spring to signify new beginnings, but as time has passed, the celebration has been extended and also takes place at the end of the year to acknowledge the harvest season. Powwows incorporate a multitude of traditions and are significant in the Native American Indian culture. The celebration is also a time for families to have honoring ceremonies and was used in the past for religious purposes as well. The Powwows have held true to their intentions and have even added new ones. In the 1900’s, the event began to allow tribal members from different tribes throughout the United States and Canada to compete for cash prizes.

The event brings tribal members together to dance and sing, maintain friendships and cultivate new ones. All with a strong sense of ancestral respect and heritage. The Powwow attracts thousands of Native American Indian participants and non-Native American Indian participants and spectators from across the United States and Canada, all of whom take part in the three day event.

The Powwow holds a variety of celebratory tournaments that kick off with a Grand Entry, which opens the event utilizing a style of a rodeo procession. The Bird Singers have a semblance to the migratory aspect of the bird world. They sing about life lessons that are weaved through from generation to generation with generous instruction of parenting, highlighting the time when children move from their metaphorical nest and into a world of their own. The singers use the assistance rattles made from gourds and even tortoise filled with seeds as musical accompaniment.rsz cabazon indio powwow 07 320x240

The dance competitions has different dances such as Traditional Dance, Grass Dance and Fancy Dance for the men, and Traditional Dance, Fancy Shawl Dance and the Jingle Dress Dance for women. All the different dances represent different story lines from battles, to hunting. One common thread of the judging of the dancers both male and female, is their ability to have both feet on the ground when the music stops. It is a talent that requires much attention and practice. The dancing offers a beautiful display, with a flurry of spinning colors and language spoken through a physical realm.

The Powwow also offers tribal members the opportunity to sell their goods in the vendor’s area with handmade art, jewelry and other wares. Traditional Native American Indian food as well as other refreshments are also available for purchase.

The Cabazon Band of Mission Indian 35th Annual Powwow at Fantasy Springs is filled with a kaleidoscope of colors, breath taking regalia and intense performances. The celebration will give spectators an appreciation of tribal nations and their traditions. It is an enjoyable and educational event for the whole family right here in the Coachella Valley.

For more information visit

Photo credit to and

The Buzz on Buzzbox

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                      rsz box fan

There’s a buzz around the Coachella Valley. It’s about a new innovative company that has made our beautiful desert home, it’s BuzzBox. This progressive product has taken the alcohol beverage market by storm. Their high quality products break the chains from regular every day cocktails, offering consumers a better way to imbibe, all produced right here in the Coachella Valley.

Most of us enjoy a cocktail now and then. We drink socially or enjoy relaxing with a libation in the confines of our own homes. But whether you are out and about, or playing mixology master at the casa, there are many ingredients that go into making your favorite mixed drink. And if you’re at home making it yourself, and have others around you clambering for something other than what you like, the list of ingredients can grow to an uncomfortable and costly length.

Wouldn’t it be advantageous for all of us who appreciate an alcoholic concoction to have our drinks pre-made with high quality ingredients, ready for us to just pick up at the store ready for consumption? Well thanks to the innovation of BuzzBox by Rod Vandenbos and his team, we can do just that.

The idea came from an ordinary outing when BuzzBox Founder/CEO Rod Vandenbos was with his family and friends and found himself lugging around a plethora of ingredients to make drinks for an outdoor gathering. In the midst of his labor, it was his daughter her sparked the idea when she asked her father for a juice box. He then automatically thought adults having a juice box of their own, a cocktail box of sorts. He knew he was on to something.

This was not the first time that Vandenbos had thoughts of creating a convenient cocktail. He had seen some inconveniences throughout his former thirty year career in the entertainment field, where he would head up events. He saw the extreme waste and the difficulty in sales tracking that traditional cocktail making procures. A product such as BuzzBox, virtually eliminates those problems, while still offering high quality cocktails.

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BuzzBox is much more than just liquor in a to-go cup. Their cocktails are made with precise manufacturing, while using the highest of quality of natural ingredients, such as real fruit juices and high-end alcohol. The cocktails are also free of any preservatives, and are packaged in eco-friendly packaging, the first of its kind.

The handcrafted cocktails are created with the utmost care and attention, headed up by Chemist Francoise Labbe, of their Beverage Design and Production Department. Labbe explained to me how important there packaging is to the quality of their cocktails. The packaging is made with renewable paper, and are collapsible for recycling. It is the absence of oxygen in the compact containers (asepic packaging) that allows for the product to keep fresh (a shelf life of 18 months) and also allows for preservatives not to be used. It is a freshness that is more than apparent and a pleasure to the palate.

The BuzzBox cocktail options are vast, such as the Perfect Margarita, Classic Greyhound (my fave), Long Island, Classic Cosmo, Bloody Mary and many more, with an alcohol content between 12% and 14% depending on the cocktail. Their cocktails are so good (and I’ve tasted most of them), that you would never believe that they came from a box. You can either enjoy it straight from the box using the convenient little attached straw, or pour it over ice…either way, you will be amazingly impressed. The cocktails are made without added sugar and some are less than 100 calories, “It’s the healthiest cocktail that you could have”, said Vandenbos.

What is also impressive, is that the company is excited about their products and being here in the Coachella Valley, “We love being here” expressed Vandenbos. It was exceptionally apparent to me when I sat down to interview Vandenbos and VP/Chief Brand Officer Brad Kinney, that they love what they do, and that they are ecstatic to be here in the desert to help and be part of the community.

Since their launch in 2014, BuzzBox’s popularity has grown at maximum speed, with sales doubling every month. Their products can be found at high profile Coachella Valley concerts and events, and at local stores such as Jensen’s and Jules, and broader outlets such as Whole Foods and most recently, Total Wines in Palm Desert. They are sold individually or in packs.

There is definitely a buzz in the Coachella Valley, and that buzz is BuzzBox. By bringing consumers high quality, convenient and consistently great tasting cocktails, they are only complimenting the business community here in the desert…and we are happy to have them. Cheers!

For more information on BuzzBox, visit

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