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

Winter Wonderland Fun Comes To The River!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                                          rsz rinkriver logo slider

Ah the beauty of winter, snow falling, kids all buddle up in their cold weather ware all ice skating outdoors in holiday delight. Ok, now picture the holiday outdoor ice skating without the snow, and maybe kids wearing shorts instead of bulky winter ware, and maybe 80 degree weather. If you can picture all of that, then you have the right idea of what The Rink at The River in Rancho Mirage will look like this holiday season from November 22nd, through January 8th 2017. The popular shopping center is bringing the desert some winter wonderland fun, right before our eyes.

Ice skating in the Coachella Valley is not a new idea. I recall participating in indoor ice skating at the Town Center Mall (now Westfield Shopping Mall) when I was a kid in the 80’s, and most recently at Ice Castles in Cathedral City, although admittedly not as proficiently as when I was younger. But outdoor ice skating in the desert? That is something very special and unique indeed.

The Rink at The River sponsored by Renova Solar, will be positioned in the water area on the west side of the Cheesecake Factory, in the vicinity of Acqua California Bistro. The 50 by 70ft rink will be complete with skate rentals and even lessens for those not used to gliding around on ice. The water is frozen within the built platform and is chilled by a huge 24 by 8ft chiller. Something like you would find in your ice box, but heck of lot bigger.

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The Rink is an Atmospheric rink, as described by The Rivers Director of Programming and Marketing, Tammy Pshebylo, “It is straight for ambience, you couldn’t play hockey on it for instance” said Pshebylo. However, what winter thirsty attendees can do, is skate around and enjoy a little holiday fun smack dab in the middle of the Coachella Valley. Fun!!

The Rink will offer skating during the day and at night seven days a week. There will be special events including the Grand Opening on Tuesday, November 22, as well as a Holiday Spectacular and Tree Lighting ceremony on Tuesday, November 29th, plus many others.

The Rink at The River is certainly a special treat for us this holiday season in the Coachella Valley, where we can slap on a pair of skates, and tootle around the ice, all while wearing shorts! Cheers to a very Happy Holiday Season at The River in Rancho Mirage!

For more information visit

Photo credit to

Everything Apple and Fall Fun in Oak Glen

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                           rsz imag0819

It’s the picturesque essence of the fall season, with apples, deciduous trees, and a cozy mountain town ambience, Oak Glen, California has it all. One of best parts of Oak Glen, is that it’s just a short drive away from the Coachella Valley (40 min or so), and offers up a great little day trip get-a-way for some fall fun, apple picking, lip smacking cider, and even some out of this world apple donuts.

I remember first going up to the Oak Glen area when I was a kid. My family and I would jaunt up to the quaint place as a day respite from the desert heat in the summer, and for apples and extra cold weather (in comparison the desert) in the fall. It’s a memory that I not only cherish, but have cultivated into a yearly tradition, especially during apple season.

There are two specifically popular seasons in Oak Glen, one is in the spring when the weather warms and the raspberries grow, and the other is in the fall for their apple harvest season. Their fall season is undoubtedly the biggest draw to Oak Glen, for it is just exudes an immensely inviting, warm seasonal feel…. adorable!

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There are many apple orchards to visit in Oak Glen, but for me, there is one that is always on my radar which I am very partial to, Hudson’s Snowline Orchard & Winery. It is off the main 5 mile loop that houses most of Oak Glens attractions, set slightly down a wandering road that looks like you might be entering some enchanted forest, or possibly a road to an English cottage…it definitely gives energy to the imagination.

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Once the road has left the rear view mirror, you will find that an apple orchard has grown right before you, it is lovely and almost magical. Snowline looks like something from far in the past, and rightfully so as it was established way back in 1898 (no, that is not a typo). I believe that its age is part of the lure of Snowline, it complements the apples in some way. The orchard has had four families that has owned it in its 118 years, most recently is the Hudson family, who have had Snowline for the last 36 years. They have continued the tradition of Snowline, and added a new aspect to the orchard, now producing and offering wine and hard cider (adult apple cider). Visitors to the orchard can try their new products in Snowlines tasting room.

If you’re looking for a variety of apples, than Snowline has a great many to choose from, all bagged up and ready go, or you can pick some yourself. Apple picking is a great family feature at Oak Glen orchards. And of course there is the cider, it is incredible! Snowline apple cider is considered one of the best in Oak Glen (I must agree). Their cider comes in three different flavors, original apple, apple raspberry, or cherry apple. They are all delicious, I mean it is as if you are biting into a juicy apple with each sip.                                           rsz imag0831

Snowline also offers their apple donuts. They are made with apple cider, and tossed with a cinnamon and sugar mixer. Served hot, and bite size, their donuts are in demand, resulting in having to wait in line for the pleasure of the sweet dough to dissolve in your mouth. So worth the wait!

On the weekends and weather permitting, Snowline has BBQ available, accompanied with some outdoor live music. The BBQ is excellent, and the items for purchase include Pulled Pork (my fave), Brisket, Ribs, Hot Links and more. I suggest having a side of their light and fresh coleslaw made of course with apples.

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The only problem with Snowline and other apple attractions in Oak Glen, is that apple season only goes for so long, starting in September and ending at the beginning of December (Snowline closes December 1st). Apple season enthusiasts such as myself have to wait a whole year to enjoy all of the apple fun once more, but it’s a hearty suspense, and so welcomed when it finally becomes apple season again.

I will definitely make it up to Oak Glen before their apple season goes dormant until next year, to enjoy some cider, BBQ and stuff my mouth with apple donuts. It’s a wonderful place to skip over to for a day trip from the desert, and to bring back treasures of everything apple and to accentuate the fall season state of mind.

Hudson's Snowline Orchard & Winery is currently opened 7 days a week from 9am-5pm.                                                                              


For more information about Snowline Orchard & Winery visit

For more information about other Oak Glen attractions visit

Escape Room Palm Springs

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                          rsz fp escaperoom

If you think that you could solve a series of puzzles in order to be released from a captive situation in a given amount of time, you might want to think again. Such was my experience at the unique desert attraction, Escape Room Palm Springs, which puts your problem solving skills to the test in a fun, heart pumping environment.

I’ve always loved those TV shows where you have to do things in a certain amount of time, be it finish a maze, a plate of food, or in the case of Escape Room Palm Springs, get out of a themed room. It seemed easy enough, so I thought, but it turned out to be an absolutely exhilarating challenge.

Opened since February 2016, Escape Room Palm Springs is the creation of computer and game savvy, Mark and Dominique Fruchtman. The concept is to bring a group of people together in a themed room, give them clues to decipher a puzzle, so they can escape the room in an allotted amount of time. Twisted fun! There are four different rooms, the Saw Room (inspired by the horror film, for adult ages 18 and up), the Dark Shadows Room ( help a vampire back to his coffin before dawn), the Mystery Room ( Da Vinci Code meets the Twilight Zone) and the Titanic Room ( find the key before the ship sinks). The rooms are like walking onto a movie set.

As a special for Halloween for the month of October, the Saw Room is modified into a "Scary Saw Room" where something or someone may be lurking in what is usually an actor/staff free zone. Extra twisted!

My boyfriend and I arrived with anticipation for the experience that we were about to enter. We were greeted by the owner Dominique Fruchman who quickly put our minds at ease that everything was going to just fine. We were then ushered into an orientation room with our game master Holly, and she explained what we would be doing. Then, we were guided into our theme room. I chose the Saw Room. As mentioned, for Halloween the room is geared up with a little something special  to make it just a bit spooky. Usually, the Saw Room is best with 10 participants, but on this night, it was just the two of us. Without giving out specifics of the puzzle, all that I can say is that it was an extreme challenge, filled with clues that we needed to find and figure out in order to solve the puzzle. But unfortunately, the buzzer (45 minutes) went off before we could figure out how to get out….but of course they let you out anyway.

Despite the fact that we didn't beat the buzzer, we still had an Amazing time, and found ourselves talking about it for the rest of the night, and on into the next day. I recommend this experience to anyone looking for unique fun in the Coachella Valley. I can’t wait to go back and experience another room. Big thanks to Dominique, Holly and Austin for a night that we won't soon forget!

Escape Room Palm Springs is opened Tuesday through Friday nights from 6pm to 9:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 9:30. Tickets are $30 per person. It is great for families, friends, couples, and even business groups. The attraction ups the ante in Coachella Valley amusement for not only Halloween, but all year round. 

For more information and tickets visit or call 760-779-8888


A New Beginning for JC's Patio Cafe

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                                                        rsz imag0787

Set quietly aside from the main stream restaurant brands on El Paseo in Palm Desert, sits a charming dining spot that has been delighting locals and visitors in the know for over 26 years, JC’s Patio Café. Now, longtime owners Steve and Kate Leech, are passing the baton of their long established business to the very capable hands of local restaurateurs, Casey and Michelle Hutchinson.

JC’s Patio Café 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. The restaurant has not only survived in what can be an unpredictable business, but through changing tides has actually thrived, all with a word of mouth mentality, and minus any social media presence. Impressive!

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It’s no wonder that JC’s Patio Café has withstood the test of time in their cozy cutout on El Paseo. Like with most long lasting restaurants, the recipe is a simple one, add great food, an inviting atmosphere and sincere friendly service, and people will be sure to want more. JC’s Patio Café has all those components!

The restaurant has been owned and operated by Steve and Kate Leech. The couple purchased it from the former owners who had only had it for a short time. The Leech’s had been vacationing to the Coachella Valley for years, and after a successful run with businesses in Orange County, decided to settle in the desert for a slower pace of life that they had enjoyed while visiting for so long. 

After a more than successful run, the couple has once again decided to shift gears and retire, to enjoy all that the desert has to offer and that they may have missed over the years while owning a business. But the transfer of business wasn’t a seamless one. The Leech’s took care to find just the right people to take over their beloved café, and they found them in Casey and Michelle Hutchinson.

The Hutchinson’s have had their own brand of restaurant success in the desert with their popular spot, Sunshine Café in Cathedral City. They had the popular eatery for 17 years until the economy turned. They are excited to venture into owning a restaurant once again, and one with such a wonderful reputation and following is a bonus.

JC’s Patio Café has a vast menu and is opened for breakfast and lunch and offers a full bar. Their breakfast items include Blueberry Pancakes, Quiche (Lorraine or Spinach), Greek Scramble (Spinach, Tomato, Scrambled Eggs, Feta Cheese), plus many more. Enjoy their lunch selections such as fresh cold sandwiches or wraps with Turkey, Roast Beef, and even Shrimp, hot sandwiches which include a French Dip, Salmon Burger (Grilled Salmon Patty, Tartar Sauce, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion on a Ciabatta Roll), or the Fresh Mozzarella (Warm Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil, with a Basil Vinaigrette, on Ciabatta or French Roll) just to scratch the surface. Their salads are made with their own house made dressings, a delectable trademark of the café. rsz imag0786

The transfer of the business will be shared until the spring of 2017, when the Hutchinson’s will take over completely. One aspect that they will be changing is that they will start opening for dinner, as soon as late November. Perhaps even offering wine tastings and special events. The café will be perfect for dinner service with their romantic patio underneath the starlit desert sky.

It has been an amazing experience for Steve and Kate Leech as owners of JC’s Patio Café, and they have given the community a unique place to dine under the shade of umbrellas in the heart of Palm Desert. Now it will be Casey and Michelle Hutchinson who will carry on with the charming spot, bringing their own special touches to the café, all the while continuing on with its friendly, delightful tradition of being a local dining gem.

For more information call 760-568-0733   

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