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Valentine's Day, Not Just for lovers

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                        rsz imag1548

I learned early on that Valentine's Day was not just for lovers. I remember when I was a little kid and my mom would buy these booklets with all kinds of little Valentine’s Day cards in them. They were basically little sheets of paper with drawings and sappy sayings on them, “Will you be my Valentine” was a constant theme on most of them. The deal was that all the kids in class would then drop the little cards into make-shift mailboxes (paper bags taped to our desks) to other students. However, it wasn’t always a happy exercise, as sometimes the bags wouldn’t have many cards in them. I unfortunately knew this downside first hand. But regardless of most times losing this masked popularity contest, I still believed in Valentine’s Day.

The one thing that the weird classroom tradition did teach me, is that Valentine’s Day is special. It is about sharing love with others, be it a lover or a friend, or both. The history of the holiday has different determinations, however they are all linked with one common denominator…love.

I know that this may all sound a bit cheesy, but hey, if you can’t be a little over the top starry eyed and corny on Valentine’s Day, then really when can you be?

It doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship or not on this holiday. I never really understood why people would have anti-Valentine’s Day celebrations, or those who shun the holiday all together. It is possible that they have grown cynical to the idea of a day celebrating love, romance and happily ever after. But I believe that it is being looked at in the wrong light. Because if you look at it as if it is only a holiday for lovers, and you don’t have one during Valentine's Day, of course you might be slighlty bitter.

So why not gaze upon it differently, perhaps seeing it as a time to celebrate love, love for your friends and family, and for humankind. Maybe then the bitterness will fade and the taste of sweetness will return, the sweet taste of love.

So don’t be scared to show the love this Valentine’s Day, give some flowers or chocolates to a friend or family member, your boss or maybe just a perfect stranger. Remember that we all need love on Valentine’s Day, and every day. We all would love to see a little card in our bag.

Happy Valentine’s Day form The Palm Springs Local.

Family Fun Awaits at The Date Festival!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                 rsz riversidecountyfairdatefestival 0fe44d85

If you’re looking for a fun event for the whole family, you must check out The 2017 Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio. This year, the fair will be celebrating its 71th year and runs from February 17th, thru February 26th . The event encompasses a down home feel, complete with everything that you might have found in a county fair in the old days…and a whole lot more.

I recall going to the fair when I was a pre-teen. My sister’s friend’s parents owned an empty lot across the street from the fair that they would charge fair-goers to park in. We would hang out there for a while, then cross the street to attend the Date Festival. It has grown in many ways since then, but has still retained the essence of its core, as a small town fair, that has now grown up.

The Date Festivals purpose is to celebrate the harvest of the Date Palm. The fair started out slowly in the 1920’s, and then years later, Riverside County took over the reins and purchased the grounds that the festival takes place on this very day. The fair grew from there. The Coachella Valley is a mammoth producer of dates, providing almost 100% of the sweet fruit to our nation. So a large scale fair to give the little fruit props, is more than appropriate.

The fair, while agriculturally based, has adopted many diverse kinds of entertainment. It has everything that you would want from a fair, from thousands of exhibits, to high profile performances, a petting zoo, food frenzy’s, and of course, great rides! The Date Festival is reasonably priced for general admission at only $10 ($9 if you book purchase online), and really has something for everyone.

This year, musical performances include, Country music by the Eli Young Band on Saturday, February 18th, Latin music with Voz de Mando on Sunday, February 19th, 70’s rock performed by the one and only Cheap Trick on Friday, February 24th and the funktastic band WAR on Saturday, February 25th. The Super Fiesta rounds out the entertainment on Sunday, February 26th, with Los Dareyes La Sierra and Sonora Santanera. One of the best parts is that you don’t have to pay extra for the entertainment, as it is included in the price of admittance to the fair.

On top of musical acts, the festivals most popular attractions include Camel and Ostrich races, and the ever exciting Monster Trucks and a Demolition Derby.

And if you have never taken a ride on a Camel, I highly suggest it, if just to say that you did. You will love those big eyes staring at you, not to mention the photo op. I rode one years ago when I filmed my TV show Coachella Valley This Week at the fair and I loved it!

The food is really something to experience too. I mean, there’s some serious fair food there. It is the first place that I ever tried a Fried Twinkie...and it was everything that they said it would be. Delish! Also the word is, is that there will be many vendors getting creative with the date itself, introducing new ways to consume the superfood.

The Riverside County Date Festival is fun for the whole family, or just the two of you, or with a group of friends. With a true county fair flare, and all that goes along with it, The Date Festival remains one of the most anticipated and regarded events in the Coachella Valley and an absolute favorite of the Palm Springs Local. Don’t miss it!!

For more information and tickets visit www.datefest.org

Asadero Los Corrales Delivers with Authentic Fare!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                                     rsz asadero los corrales

Asadero Los Corrales delivers in so many ways! The Coachella Valley restaurant quietly sits as one of THE BEST Mexican eateries in the desert. Specializing in authentic homemade Sinaloa fare, with excellent service and lingering flavors, they will leave you wanting more.

We had passed by Asadero Los Corrales a multitude of times on our way to one of our favorite restaurants, Pho Vu in La Quinta. Time and time again, we wanted to try it out, and finally, right before Christmas, we did. It turned out to be a Mexican food present, one that we look forward to re-opening many more times in the future.

One of two locations, their La Quinta spot sits off of Hwy 111, near Home Depot, the other off of Harrison St. in Coachella. The Coachella restaurant has been in business for over a decade, with their La Quinta established four years ago.

The windows covered with blatant menu signage, might give one pause to think if it’s a restaurant or specialty market. But don’t be mistaken, it is a restaurant indeed. Upon entering, it is not the blank walls that will invite you in, but rather the aroma that promises a more than satisfying Mexican food experience.

It is a seat yourself scenario at Asadero Los Corrales, which lends well to their casual dining room. The friendly server’s wave guests in encouraging you to seat yourself. After that, your table is greeted with chips and a little tray of salsa goodies. The restaurant offers a variety of beers (they make a mean Chavela) and an impressive selection of sodas, the cool kinds in glass bottles that you would find in Mexico, circa 1975.

So there you are, munching on the chips and salsa tray, trying in earnest to decide on what to order. The good news is, is that you pretty much can’t go wrong, and you will most likely measure other Mexican restaurants to the short stick that Los Corrales has opened you up to. That is what happened to us after we ate there, we were disappointed by the next Mexican restaurant we went to….it just wasn’t the same.

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The first time we went we had the Chicken Enchiladas and Shredded Beef Tacos, both served with beans and rice. About their beans and rice, I could honestly go there just for this side dish. The beans are rich and velvety, and almost disintegrate in your mouth, and the rice is a perfect accompaniment, seasond lightly with corn kernels folded in. Their tacos have a different element that I had not seen before. It came with a small cradle of broth to put on the tacos. We were confused at first, but then once we added it to the tacos, we got the point. Delish!! Albeit a bit messy, it’s totally worth it, and that’s what napkins are for anyway. Right?

On our next trip there, I had already mapped out what I would order, as I studied the take home menu beforehand. I had my eye on the Queso Fundido (melted Mexican cheese with chorizo, sliced avocado and tomato) and the Canoa de Camaron (refreshing Ceviche in a hollowed out cucumber). My boyfriend was slightly undecided, but ultimately went for the Wet Grilled Chicken Burrito with green and red sauce. rsz imag1251 1

The Queso Fundido was just as fantastic as I thought it would be from its’ vivid menu photo. As a bonafide cheese freak, and chorizo lover, this dish beckoned me. The fundido was served in a curved pan, which allowed for the bottom of the cheese to have a light crust to it. It was served with homemade flour tortillas (corn is also available), that I could have easily eaten by themselves with a little butter. The chorizo had an aggressive smoky essence, and was mellowed appropriately by the tomato and creamy avocado. It will most likely be my opening dish every time I visit Los Corrales….so good!!

My boyfriend’s burrito had a hefty girth, and was loaded with grilled chicken, rice, beans, avocado, tomato, lettuce and cheese (the lettuce and tomato are optional). He chose, with my encouragement, red and green sauce. Both sauces had a noticeable amount of heat and stood alone in taste.

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The Canoa de Camaron was a bigger portion than I thought it would be. The shrimp ceviche was chilled and had a crisp savory character, with a bountiful amount of shrimp….they did not skimp. The leftovers made for nice low calorie lunch the following day.

Besides the dishes that I’ve highlighted, the menu at Los Corrales has other delicious items at every turn including Torta’s, Chilaquiles, Bistec Ranchero, Chorizo con Huevo, Tamales, Sopa de Tortilla, Pozole and the list goes on.

The restaurant is opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is very reasonably priced. I must note that Asadero Los Corrales is not fast food by any means, they make everything to order, with meticulous detail in the preparations….so basically, the food takes time, but it is so very worth it.

There are many great Mexican restaurants in the Coachella Valley, and Asadero Los Corrales ranks high on the list and delivers as one of the Best! I look forward to returning again and again, it is without a doubt an absolute favorite of The Palm Springs Local.

Asadero Los Corrales is located at, 79710 Hwy 111, La Quinta, Ca 92253

760-863-0690

& 49-975 Harrison Street Suite G, Coachella, Ca 92236

760-398-1871

                        

 

 

 

Misaki's Dazzling Sushi

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                     rsz 1misaki sushi and grill                                                         

Misaki Sushi & Grill is a dazzling experience. I’m not talking about any over the top décor or furnishings, I’m talking about their fabulous sushi and the way it is presented. It is on the tip top list of the best sushi in the Coachella Valley, and a new fave of The Palm Springs Local. When you stop on by for yourself, you will undoubtedly understand why.

Misaki Sushi & Grill opened in early 2016, and is located by the La Quinta Trader Joes off of Washington St. The Misaki experience starts right when you walk through the door, when all of the sushi chefs shout out a very audible welcome that is delightful and borderline startling. Guests can either choose to sit in their simply styled dining room (remember the dazzle is in the sushi), or up front and personal at the sushi bar.

I am a sushi bar kind of gal, as watching the sushi chefs spin a variety of raw fish into delectably designed rolls is part of the fun. So on our visit to Misaki, my boyfriend and I settled ourselves right up to the food stage.

After ordering our standard Sapporo and Hot Saki, we were dumbfounded by Misaki’s sushi. As we marveled at the sushi chefs detailed execution of their creations, we were equally impressed by the size of their specialty rolls, which were easily double in size of the average basic roll that they also offer. Besides the mouth stretching sushi roll size, there was also the way that the rolls are presented. The rolls are adorned with accents such as edible flowers, baby bonsai’s (not edible) dramatic plates and other suitable décor that makes their sushi stand out, far out, from other sushi restaurants.

But just like a good looking guy or girl, beauty is only on the surface, and if there is no substance, there goes the attraction. Food presentation is the same, it can look gorgeous with all of the bells and whistles, but if it doesn’t make your mouth happy, the visual aspect is gone and so is the restaurant from your memory. That is not the case with Misaki, they deliver both visually and in flavor. The sushi is awesome!

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Misaki has a long list of specialty rolls. Guests can choose from creations which include the Crazy Burrito, Baked Lobster, King Caterpillar ( a really big Caterpillar roll), the Amazing roll and a ton more. We first went for the Hama Hama roll. The inside of the roll features Spicy Crab, Avocado, and Cucumber. It is then topped with Yellowtail, Cilantro. Red Onion, Masago and a Spicy Garlic Ponzu. Not only was it complex with flavors, the freshness of the fish was on point….not to sound cheesy, but it really is freshness you can taste.

One of the other rolls that we tried and loved is the Ichiban. This other mammoth roll has Spicy Tuna, Asparagus and Cucumber inside and Tuna, Yellowtail, Red Onion, Bonito Flakes with Spicy Garlic Ponzu on top. It was another raving taste bud treat, so good!!

Miaki also has smaller rolls, the usual suspects such the California roll, Spicy Tuna and more are normal size. Besides the specialty rolls that we tried, we also had straight up sushi including Yellowtail, Salmon, Unagi (Eel) and Uni, all of which melted in our mouths with fabulous fresh fish flavor.                     rsz imag1141

Misaki also offers other traditional Japanese favorites on their menu to cater to those who perhaps have yet to get on board the sushi train. The restaurant seems to be busy for lunch and dinner. So just keep in mind that there might be a wait. But once you’re in, the friendly, hard-working staff will make sure that your needs are taken care of.

With many sushi restaurants to choose from in the growing Coachella Valley, Misaki Sushi & Grill has hurled itself up the scale to one of the best with its dazzling sushi presentations, attention to detail, and freshness. Just like The Palm Springs Local, once you try them, it will become one of your faves too!

Misaki Sushi & Grill is located at 46-600 Washington St. #1, La Quinta 92203

760-771-5570

Surviving Coachella Valley Seasonal Driving

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                  rsz light traffic for palm                                                         

Being a local resident in a tourist area has is pros and cons, benefits and problems, enjoyable times and bouts of complete frustration. The benefits are pretty obvious, because if you live in a place where everyone wants to visit, chances are that you live somewhere absolutely beautiful like here in the Coachella Valley. The downsides are equally obvious, seasonal overcrowding, lines at the stores, a feeling of intrusion and worst of all, bad driving that can at times almost drive YOU crazy. But there are ways to not lose your mind during our peak season, to actually embrace our backyard visitors and to all enjoy the Coachella Valley together.         

The summertime heat can be a bit brutal here in the desert, making us locals overjoyed when our “season” draws near. Season runs approximately from November through May, varying slightly depending on the weather. It means cooler temps, an increase in business and a sense of relief that summer is over. But one thing that also comes with our season, are the tourists. They are an essential part of what makes the Coachella Valley thrive, without them, the desert would be just that, in every meaning of the word. We do appreciate them, and if you are a visitor reading this article now, know that we appreciate you! That being said, there are some nuances that come on the other side of our appreciation. I think, (and most locals do too) that the struggle with season comes mostly with the driving habits of those visiting the Coachella Valley.

It has happened to me at least a million times in the course of my time living in the desert. You are trying to get somewhere, be it a meeting for work, work itself, or dozens of places that you need to be while driving out and about. Then, while intently focusing on your travels, a car turns into your lane at a snail’s pace…in the left lane…completely lost. Now I understand how one could get a bit lost in a new town, but I also understand that if you’re driving, you should know the driving laws, no matter where you’re from. And that includes knowing that you do not pull into the fast lane (left) and slow down....that is what the slow (right) lane is for.

I believe that the problem that locals have with visiting drivers is that the visitors are on vacation, and perhaps lack the urgency to get to a given destination. While us locals, are for the most part not on vacation, and our urgency to get to where we need to go is not more important…..but probably carries a bit more urgency then the visitor tooling around town does (i.e., work, school, etc.).

I realize that when I am in a new town, I am not the best driver, mostly because I don’t know the area and I do play the “Oops, I’m a tourist card” quite often. Perhaps that is what the locals need to take into consideration, the fact that they too have been lost in the past as tourists and most likely will be again in the future. But again, no matter how lost you are, the rules of the road still apply and should be given special attention when driving especially when you are a tourist.

With season now at its peak, and with many highly attended events just around the corner, perhaps it’s time for us to all be a little more cognizant of driving on our valley roads. Those visiting should to take the time out before getting on the road to know where they’re going, while abiding by simple California driving rules. And we as locals need to be a bit more patient (deep breath) slow down and remember what it’s like to be a tourist. I know that as the Palm Springs Local, I will certainly do my best. By doing these things, we can all be safe on the roads and enjoy all that the Coachella Valley has to offer together.  

                                                                                                              

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