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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.  

                                                                                                              

Get your hike on in 2017!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                             rsz lyyken trail wwwpalmspringslifecom

One great way to start out 2017 is taking a hike on one of the beautiful trails in the Coachella Valley, and we have plenty of them! It’s a must for those who enjoy the outdoors and are looking for some fun putting boot to dirt and relishing in the deserts amazing nature.

The desert boasts incredible hiking trails, with a variety of levels of intensity to suit all hikers. Here are The Palm Springs Locals top picks of places in the Coachella Valley to get out and take a hike.

South Lykken Trail is Located off South Palm Canyon Drive, and named after Palm Springs first postmaster and one of the towns pioneers Carl Lykken. The entrance to the trail may not really look like one as you’re actually walking through desert behind a residential area. But as the path starts to elevate, the Lykken Trail sign becomes visible and you know that you’re on the right path.

The trail does ascend at a quickened pace at times, and is deemed as a moderate to difficult hike. But the rewards when reaching the plateau (you know you’re there when you see the picnic table) are spectacular as it gives an extensive view of South Palm Springs stretching north east towards the lower valley. It is free to hike South Lyyken Trail and well worth the leg work! www.hiking-in-ps.com

Indian Canyons without question is one of the most beautiful sites in the Coachella Valley. The area has the largest population of California Fan Palms in the world, and offers an oasis type experience and a moderate grade hike.

What makes the canyon so unique, is its picturesque flowing streams that are visible throughout the canyon. There are also waterfalls that are sourced by the melting snow during the winter months. Visitors can hike Palm, Andreas and Murray Canyons which all are connected to Indian Canyon. Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for kids 6-12 and special pricing for seniors and students. Indian Canyons truly captures the essence and beauty of desert nature. A hiking must! www.indiancanyons.com

Tahquitz Canyon has had an illustrious and at times infamous past. It is the home of the Tahquitz Witch Legend. The story is of a revered shaman who went rogue with his powers, and ended up being banished to Tahquitz Canyon by the tribe of the Cahuilla’s because of his evil ways. It is said that the shamans’ spirit still haunts the canyon, creating havoc when he can. In the early morning and at dusk, when the shadows hang heavy over the canyon, you can see the form of a witch…the Tahquitz Witch.

But all legends aside, Tahquitz Canyon is a fun hike. It is similar to Indian Canyons as it offers up refreshing water sources including an impressive waterfall at the core of the canyon. It is a moderate hike, unless you decide to scale the mountain. Admission is $12.50 for adults and $6.00 for children 12 and under (group rates are available). The visitor’s center offers guided and self-guided hikes. Tahquitz Canyon is surely one of the deserts most famous hiking spots. www.tahquitzcanyon.com

Bump n Grind is located in Palm Desert about 25 miles east of Palm Springs off of Hwy 111. It is a very popular hiking spot, with a good amount of foot traffic at almost every given time of the day. The grade is perfect for a calorie burning hike, as hikers are often found running the trail.

The start of the trail is behind Target in Palm Desert off Painters Path and there is no charge to hike the trail. This is the most popular and easiest entrance to find. The top of the trail offers up impressive views of Palm Desert on one side, and of Rancho Mirage on the other.

You can also hike up to the Palm Desert cross from the trail. The cross, which is lit up at night has become a popular hiking goal for many. On a moonlit night and with the cross shining bright, it will most likely leave an indelible mark on your hiking experience. www.hiking-in-ps.com

Remember that no matter which hiking excursion you choose, hike with caution, stay on the trail, wear proper footwear and bring plenty of water as well as your cell phone. Those are the basics.

Now get out there and get your hike on in 2017!

Lykken Trail Pictured

 

 

Louise's Pantry a New Years Brunch Must!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                               rsz louises pantry logo

Brunch at Louise’s Pantry is a delicious way to start off the New Year! The Coachella Valley prized mainstay eatery has been synonymous with crazy good comfort food since the 1940’s. With two convenient locations, desert residents and visitors can enjoy excellent breakfast and lunch items, as well as their fabulous Sunday Brunch selections complete with refreshing mimosas.

I remember going to the original Louise’s Pantry when I first moved to the desert as a kid in the late 70’s. Located next to the historic La Plaza Theater, the restaurant was part of the golden history of the La Plaza Shopping Center. I recall the old school lunch counter that was an integral part of the place. Enticing pies lined the refrigerated shelves, and there was an undeniable nostalgic feel that sat heavy in the air.

Although the restaurant eventually abandoned its original location, it has never lost its appeal despite its relocation to the eastern part of the Coachella Valley. After a brief stay off of Town Center Way in Palm Desert years and years ago, the Louise’s Pantry recipe for success has now settled in La Quinta off of Washington, and on Hwy 111 in Palm Desert (the old Tony Roma’s building).

On a recent visit, we decided to go during Sunday Brunch at their La Quinta location. We had heard that they made ample mimosas, and come to find out, that was no tall tale. We arrived around 11:30am, and were met with a line of likeminded hungry guests with Brunch on the brain.

Their La Quinta spot is directly across from St. Assisi Church, and draws a bountiful crowd from the gorgeous Catholic Church (also makes for a beautiful view from the restaurant).

After putting in our name with the hostess, we went back outside to wait. Then, out of nowhere (not really) a friendly server appeared, generously offering complimentary mimosas (for those of age)! The kind gesture is a welcome gift for those waiting for a table. I must say, with fresh squeezed orange juice and chilled bubbly, it made the wait not only go by fast, but even made it enjoyable. rsz imag0905

Needless to say, we were off to a festive start. Our wait wasn’t long at all, and again, if it was, we didn’t notice. We were seated and then greeted by our jovial server Jerrod. He was very informative and helped us to navigate through the menu. There was so much to choose from, it was hard to focus. However, I ended up forgoing the standard menu, and went for the one of Brunch Specials that was on the board.

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The special that captivated me was their Southwest Eggs Benedict. The traditional dish was turned up with a Green Chili creamy Hollandaise, over beautifully poached eggs. Underneath the pillow-ish eggs was some of the best Chorizo that I have ever had. All the star ingredients were cradled lovingly by two cheese filled Pupusas (filled corn tortillas), and accompanied by hash browns.

It was AMAZING!! I cherished every bite, and before I knew it, my plate was clean. My boyfriend went for one of their popular breakfast items, their Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs with Gravy. The dish is a diner regular, and high up in the comfort food chain of command. It is not chicken at all (just in case you didn’t know), as the description might suggest, but rather tenderized cubed steak, battered like chicken and fried. It is then smothered with homemade gravy, with a side of eggs cooked to order, country potatoes and toast. It also was delish!!  rsz imag0908

We washed down are delectable dishes with more of their crisp mimosas, making our Sunday Brunch style experience authentic for us.

Besides being great for Brunch, Louise’s Pantry has fabulous regular breakfast and lunch choices, including mammoth Pancakes with different toppings, a variety of Omelets (I will be trying their Crab and Avocado one next time) and even Breakfast Burritos. For lunch, enjoy old time faves such as the Monte Cristo, Classic Club Sandwich and Big ½ Pound Burgers, as well as Salads for lighter fare, and so much more. And if you still can squeeze in a couple more morsels of food after your meal, Louise’s Pantry still offers sinful desserts including their famous pies.

With two convenient locations, Louise’s Pantry still stands as one of the Coachella Valleys most prized comfort food restaurant concepts since way back in the 40’s. It is a fantastic place to start out your New Year for Brunch, or breakfast and lunch, anytime in 2017 and beyond.

Louise’s Pantry La Quinta is located at 47-150 Washington St, La Quinta 92253

760-771-3330

Louise’s Pantry Palm Desert is located at 73-155 Hwy 111, Palm Desert, 92260

760-837-3900

For more information visit www.louisespantry.com

 

 

 

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 www.Rubios.com

                                                                    

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