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Grab a Chair at June Hill's Table

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                             rsz imag1960

Grab a chair and get ready to experience one of the East Valley's brightest up and coming dining spots. June Hill’s Table sits unassumingly off 52nd in Indio at the Trilogy Polo Club, harboring a stunning views, stylish ambience and tremendous food.

When driving out to June Hill’s Table at Trilogy Polo Club in Indio, it might seem like it is a bit out of the way. But its slight remoteness is actually part of what makes it so special. The distance makes it a destination location, and the views…well, are spectacular. June Hill’s Table is visible before you even enter the Trilogy Polo Club. The building where the restaurant resides also serves as the clubhouse. The triangular white canopies are inviting and bring a feel of recreational grandeur to the resort style core of the club. Having the restaurant so close to the entrance is a benefit for diners, as the sometimes long maze that some other country clubs have to get to their clubhouses can be tiresome, but is absent from Trilogy.                                                    rsz imag1957

Although Trilogy is a 55 an older community, June Hill’s Table is open to the public. Only opened for a little more than a year, the restaurant has received high acclaim. As I sat down in the fabulously designed dining room with restaurant manager Raymond Cooper, I asked him to explain the choice of the name for the restaurant. He expounded on the motivation, highlighting that they wanted to bring a bit of valley history into the restaurant, more specifically, Indio history. They came across Dr. June Hill McCarroll, who was one of our many women pioneers in the Coachella Valley (and yes, woman seriously helped shape our valley).

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One of McCarroll’s prime accomplishments, besides being a much needed physician in the desert back in the early 1900’s, was that she was credited with being the person who came up with making centered highway markings, to provide safe driving practices. Her idea to draw on the road came from her own experience of almost colliding with another vehicle while driving on what is now, Indio Boulevard. After trying to get the local government to put her idea into motion without success, she circumvented their inaction, and literally painted dash lines on the road herself. Through many years of campaigning for the road safety lines to be adopted, it finally was in the 1920’s, and then later worldwide.

Besides all of the amazing community work of McCarroll, she also loved to entertain. Often throwing dinner parties, opening her home up to family and friends. Hence the restaurant’s name, June Hills Table. Guests will find fun drink menu items bearing her name, such as McCarroll’s Marmalade (Mezcal, kumquat, marmalade, soda and Malbec), Dr’s Order’s (fruit infused vodka, pomegranate syrup, citrus, sprite and a berry garnish) and June’s Jam (blackberries, cucumber, agave syrup, ginger beer and lime).

Beyond the lively drinks is their fantastic food at June Hill’s Table. The menu is supported by their goal to offer locally sourced farm to table ingredients, which makes a huge difference. Chef Kevin Land insures that the ingredients are utilized to their upmost potential by making menu items all from scratch (with the exception of their bread which comes from a local purveyor). Once you bite into anything that comes out of Lands kitchen, the taste of his efforts are greatly noticeable, and appreciated.

Upon being seated, I was brought a basket of freshly fried potato chips, served with house made Blue Cheese dressing for dipping, their version of bread and butter. Something I noticed right away was that the chips came out hot and fresh! In no way was there an inkling that those chips were hanging around a heat lamp. It was as if they were just waiting for me to get there, to voluntarily jump into hot oil and then toss themselves in garlic infused olive oil, with a dash of salt and pepper. Presenting submissively in a paper lined basket with a side of cool Blue Cheese dressing. Yes, they were that good…a little too good, bordering on evil.        rsz imag1956 1

To get a taste of different items, Cooper put together a sampler plate for me. The plate had their new Spicy (and sweet) Buffalo Wing’s, which they recently introduced for football season, a BBQ St. Louis Rib, Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Bosc Pear Bruschetta and Shrimp with Ravioli. My review will go down the line, starting with the Buffalo Wing. Of course they use cage free chicken, which comes through in the flavor and the meatiness of the wing. Although the wing had some defined heat, is was sweetly balanced by the mix of honey in the sauce. Next up was the BBQ rib, with its supple chipotle sauce, and tender meat, it was actually lite in texture, absent of that heavy BBQ taste that sometimes accompany ribs.

Then came the Brussels. Oh my, oh my, those Brussel Sprouts were phenomenal! For those of you who have sworn off this vegi, please give these little guys another chance. They are not your moms Brussels. These Brussels were on the crispy side, tossed with heirloom cherry tomatoes, an aged balsamic reduction, parmesan cheese and crispy garlic. The element of the tomatoes with the Brussels completely cut the natural bitterness of the vegi that could scare away any would be Brussel fan. It was like vegi candy. If I could, I would hand them out for Halloween.

I went for the Bruschetta after the sprouts, still wanting to dive back into my green dish of deliciousness. But the Bruschetta was wonderfully smooth, with creamy herbed goat cheese, candied pecans, crispy sage, and roasted Bosc Pear, all on grilled ciabatta. The final item on the plate was the Shrimp and Ravioli. This is one of their signature dishes. The house made ravioli filled with Vadouvan roasted carrots, was served with a sweet basil and sugar snap pea coulis and a pan seared shrimp. The ravioli was so velvety, and with the carrot filling, it was almost like dessert. Amazing!                                                                                         rsz imag1966

And speaking of dessert, they brought some out for me to taste….oh the sacrifice. Staring me in the face were my weight adversaries. There was a Caramelized Apple Cobbler, all cozy in a single portion cask iron pot, and, get this, a Pumpkin Tiramisu. What?? Yes, they went there, all part of their fall inspired menu. The cobbler was piping hot and served with a scoop of Tahitian Vanilla Gelato, which melted lovingly into the cobbler. The bottom of the cobbler housed the caramelized apple and spice goodness. I repeatedly dove into the cobbler, and surfaced my spoon to acquire just enough gelato to gently accent and cool the submersed filling. It was an eye roller to say the least.

The Pumpkin Tiramisu was on planet of its own. Portioned clouds of pumpkin spiced mouse, alternated with espresso cream, with lady fingers kissed with drizzles of Rum and Rumchata sprinkled with cinnamon…ridiculous! Needless to say, my dessert adversaries got the best of me.

June Hills Table changes up their menu every 90 days, to reflect seasonal ingredients. Their menu is the same for lunch and dinner. Offering items from salads, to sandwiches, seafood, steak and appetizing appetizers. They are opened Wed through Sunday, and offer Happy Hour every day from 2pm to 6pm, except for Sundays. On Sunday’s they offer a Brunch menu from 10am to 3pm, with Bottomless Mimosa’s for only $6. For the quality of the food and ambience, their prices are surprisingly moderate. In addition to their main dining area, there is gorgeous outdoor seating on their patio. They also have an upstairs banquet room for private parties with considerably stunning views of the Santa Rosa Mountain’s.

June Hill’s Table is a bright and shiny addition to the East Valley food scene. It is up there with the best of the best, incorporating everything and more of what makes a dining experience memorable. A new found favorite of The Palm Springs Local.

For more information visit www.mytrilogylife/polo/dining.com

Football Fun at The 19th Hole!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                           rsz imag1949 1 1                                                                             

Now that football season is under way, it’s time to have some fun, relax, watch the game and let someone else do the cooking. The 19th Hole in Palm Desert provides game time enjoyment, perfect for football fun!

Known to regulars as, “The Hole”, it is one of those desert spots that has been around forever. It doesn’t really advertise, or boast, they don’t even have a website. But perhaps they don’t need to. Locals in the East Palm Desert area just know that the 19th Hole is there, and has been for decades. I remember playing around Palm Desert Country Club as a kid, and hanging out in the old shopping center that was there long, long before Albertsons, The Dollar Store and CVS. When the main grocery store was Welty’s, which is now Welty’s Postal Connection. And there in the tiny shopping nook, was The 19th Hole. I recall wanting to enter, but realizing that it was part bar, I just peered in the window as little curious kids do. The old shopping center was torn down, and the modern construction took over. The 19th Hole was resurrected, and although it has morphed slightly since then, the essence of the place is still the same. It is still a local hangout, a neighborhood haunt that long time patrons can count on.

More than a bar, the food is definitely one of the draws at The 19th Hole. They offer what most customers say, are the best Fish and Chips in the Coachella Valley, among other tasty menu items. And now with the kick off of football season, it is a chill place to watch a game or two on a lazy Sunday. Helping to make your Sunday even lazier, is their Bloody Mary Bar. It’s a build your own Bloody Mary scenario, where you are a given a pint glass with your chosen vodka and ice, and then you can choose your mix and different olives/beans or celery from the set up bar. It’s fun, and gives would be bartenders some concoction control.

If a Bloody Mary is not your thing, their full bar is sure to pour you something that is. For me and my boyfriend, it’s a couple of chilly beers and an order of their super delish Chili Cheese Fries. The chili is portioned fairly with beans and meat in a rich sauce, over thin cut fries (thicker fries are available) and topped with gooey cheese (onions are optional). It is a perfect for pairing for a Sunday Funday. And if that doesn’t end up being enough for us, we usually will extend our appetite with an order of their excellent Buffalo Wing’s….which also go fantastic with cold beer.

There are a variety of other menu items that make having a bite at The 19th Hole worthwhile, including weekend breakfast that is offered way past breakfast hours. Daily specials are also offered, and if you see that they have Chili Verde on the board, get it! Their Chili Verde is fantastic, and you can even get is served over nachos…big time YUM!

Prices at “The Hole” are moderate, and they are opened daily. They stay open until midnight on the weekends, when they offer evening entertainment (starting this fall).

With TV’s all around, great drinks, food and an inviting neighborhood ambience, The 19th Hole is the place for football Sunday Funday, or to hang out anytime of the week.

The 19th Hole is located at 42-305 Washington Street, Palm Desert, Ca 92211

760-772-6696

Frankinbun Fun!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                 rsz imag1896

I am pleased to announce, for those who may not already know, that there is a place in the Coachella Valley dedicated to the comforting, and foodie fun art of hot dogs and sausage’s. It is right on the cusp of downtown Palm Springs, whimsically called Frankinbun (Frank-in-Bun).

I’m not being sarcastic by any means. I believe that we in the Coachella Valley have long been deprived of hot dog and sausage slinging spots for way too long. I mean sure, you can find hotdogs on restaurants menus throughout the valley, but they are usually an afterthought, placed on the bottom of many menus along with kid meals. But the delightful tube meat deserves more than that, and at Frankinbun in Palm Springs, it is the main attraction, and takes a back seat to no menu item.

Opened in late 2015 by owner Tristan Gittens, the tiny indoor type hot dog stand has placed gourmet hot dogs and sausages on the desert food map. Manager Trevor Darmour kindly explained Gittens motivation for opening up the eatery, stating that he saw a void for the widely popular picnic food here in the valley, and decided to fill it. And fill it he did.

Frankinbun’s offerings teeter off the board of everyday tube meat creations, and that’s what makes the place so fun. As you approach the menu, you will be greeted by a selection of sausages. The weenie run down has the traditional All Beef Snap Dog, Bratwurst (veal and pork with black pepper), Keilbasa (pork smoked with black pepper), Jalapeno Hot Link (pork with jalapeno), Linguica (pork smoked with garlic), Italian (pork with Italian spices, served with grilled onions and peppers), Chicken Apple, Chicken Jalapeno and even a Vegan (black peas, mushrooms and brown rice flour). All the frankfurters come with your choice of toppings for free (yellow mustard, spicy brown, ketchup, relish, sauerkraut, onions, caramelized onions or grilled peppers) and some that require an extra .50 charge ( live sauerkraut, mango chutney, spicy ketchup and date chutney). They all come on a fresh bun, with a side of German style potato salad.

As for their own fantasy franks, they have plenty. A couple of which that were highlighted by Food Networks own Guy Fieri, on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, that aired earlier this summer. Fieri went for the Chicken & Waffle and the Vegan Chili Dog. The Chicken & Waffle is a weenie take on the southern favorite, served with two chicken apple sausages baked in Belgian waffles with a side of Maple syrup….who needs Fried Chicken? The Vegan Chili Dog is their meatless dog doused with their vegan chili and topped with live sauerkraut. I must say, I tried both of Frankinbuns chili offerings on my visit there, and it was some of the best chili that I have had. The vegan chili was full of flavor, and that sort of watered down tomato taste that sometimes accompanies vegan soups and chili was absent. It had lingering substance, with all the chili cast members fully visible. Their meat chili was fashioned in the Detroit style. I actually have never had that kind of chili, where the meat is so ground down…but oh my, it was so chili-licious! I will go back just for the chili…both of them.

I did of course have one of their doggy creations. I ventured for one of their classics, the Chicago Dog. It has always been a favorite of mine, and theirs was fantastic. It was served traditionally with pickle spears, tomatoes, peppers, celery salt, onions, mustard, and relish on a poppy seed bun. Other link options include the Frankinflight (flight of 3 sausages with grilled bread and samples of their favorite toppings), Currywurst & Fries (your choice of sausage smothered with sweet tomato curry and fries) Chili & Cheese Dog (remember what I said about the chili) and the Frankinbun’s Monster (snap dog and Italian sausage, grilled onions, peppers, relish, sauerkraut, raw onions, ketchup, all served in a bowl). And if you want a little something more, order a side of their hand cut fries, you can even chili cheese them up if you want.

Prices at Frankinbun are very reasonable, especially for the portions that they serve. They even provide wine and beer for those who want a little buzz with their Frankinbun experience.

It’s thrilling in the world of foodie fun, to have a place like Frankinbun right here in the desert. Traditional or frankin fantastic, their creations will bring familiar flavor to your palate, with whimsical comfort.

Frankinbun is located at 540 S. Indian Canyon Dr. Palm Springs, 92264

760-318-4841 online orders available www.frankinbun.com

 

 

Get Grubbin at The Lunch Box

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                    rsz imag1873 1

Get grubbin on tasty sandwiches and salads at The Lunch Box in Palm Desert. All offered at reasonable prices.

In a secluded little spot in the industrial area off Joni Drive in Palm Desert, sits an awesome little sandwich shop. The interior is cheery, featuring an adhered white picket fence against a colorful painted mountain scape wall. Opened 5 years ago by Kari Kniegge and her business partner Steven Brock, The Lunch Box has been on the radar of local sandwich lovers and even visiting foodies who are in the loop.

Kniegge’s love for sandwiches started as a child, when her mom had a sandwich shop of her own in North San Diego. Kniegge learned the ins and outs of the business, and waited until the time was right for her to open one of her own. While living in the Coachella Valley for over 20 years, she ripened her skills in the restaurant industry. After some time, she came face to face with and excellent opportunity to open a place her own. Although not easily seen by mainstream diners, the little spot is very well known to the multitude of businesses and those working in the Joni Drive area.

Their menu is a combination of some sandwich recipes from her mother, and some of her own creations. But there is a mainstay in all of the recipes, they are made with the freshest of ingredients, from high quality meats and vegetables, to homemade dressings and soups, and top notch breads from Bosch Bakery in Thousand Palms.

Speaking of the bread, one of the reasons that makes The Lunch Box’s sandwiches so good is what they do to the bread. On the sandwiches that don’t require toasting, or being pressed to melt cheese, the bread is steamed. That’s right, I said steamed. I didn’t even realize that it was a thing that you could do to bread, but apparently it is, and makes an amazing impact on a sandwich. The bread is steamed in a special bread steamer, and makes the bread super soft. It’s especially beneficial when used on sour dough, which can have a tendency to be a little on the hard/dry side.

When I asked Kniegge which one of the sandwiches was her favorite, she quickly pointed out that they all are. However, she did hone in a couple (most come with mayo, tomato and sprouts), one being the Pocket Full of Fallbrook, which is an homage to the decorated capital of avocados. The pocket refers to the pita bread which is steamed and filled with sliced avocado, jack cheese, tomato and alpha sprouts. The California Split is also a crowd pleaser, and one that I had the pleasure of trying. It is served on steamed sour dough bread, with alfalfa sprouts, tomato, bacon, jack cheese and avocado.  The sandwich was very well constructed, which is important as the filling to bread ratio needs to be balanced (I’m a stickler for it). All the ingredients married well together, as Kniegge said, this popular sandwich is like a super charged club. The bread really stood out to me. I’m telling you, that steaming of the bread thing is incredible, and brought a creamy element to the sandwich. So good!

Other sandwiches include the Turkey Terrific, with sliced turkey piled high on steamed squaw bread with alfalfa sprouts and tomato. The Cheese Makers Grilled Cheese, with sharp and jack cheese, tomato and red onion. And one sandwich that I will be trying on my next visit is The Missile, this taste adventure has pulled pork, thinly sliced ham, pickles, yellow mustard, BBQ sauce and Swiss cheese, all smash grilled on a French roll, can’t wait! There are many more sandwiches to choose from even some hotdogs as well.

Of course paring a sandwich with some comforting soup, or some chili is always a good idea. And The Lunch Box offers some fantastic soups, such as Beef Stroganoff, Garlic Mash and Chix Tortilla (offered mainly in cooler months).  

The Lunch Box also offers salads as well if you’re not in the mood for a sandwich. Salad selections include the Postal Salad, which has romaine, avocado, turkey, feta, cucumber and house made croutons. As well as their Chin-Chik Salad, with chicken, purple and green cabbage, carrot shreds, green onions, cilantro, chow mein crunchies, tossed their own peanut-sesame dressing. Plus others.

And if all of this weren’t enough for the little nook, they also offer limited breakfast from 7am to 10:30. Patrons can get a quick egg sandwich, burrito or bowl with jack cheese, ham, bacon or turkey. You even can get a special bagel named after her mother, Jan’s Bagel (toasted bagel with cream cheese, red onion and tomato). Sandwich prices start at a mere $6.95, which is very impressive.

For excellent well priced sandwiches, salads and more, The Lunch Box is the perfect answer. As Kniegge says, “We just want to continue to provide quality food at reasonable prices”.

The Lunch Box is opened from 7am to 3pm, Monday through Friday and is located at 74-868 Joni Drive #1a, Palm Desert, 92260

760-610-1136

Gyro Steals the Show at Athena's

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                 rsz imag1798

Athena Gyro in Palm Desert offers tradional Greek favorites, with their delicious Gyro stealing the show. 

It’s a debate of sorts on how to actually pronounce the delectable sandwich. Is the “G” leading the word, or is it silent? The answer is no, and yes…kind of. You are not doing a dance, so get the gy-rate out of Gyro. The easiest way to pronounce it is to sound it out a bit, YEE-roh. There you go! But in honesty, whether you can say it correctly it or not, it won’t change the fact that the Gyro is a fabulously hearty and delicious sandwich. And with a name of dish headlining the name of your restaurant, it better be good, and at Athena Gyro, it absolutely is.

Athena Gyro opened in the Bristol Farms Shopping Center Palm Desert in July 2016, and sits in the funky roundish building at one of the entrances of the center. It had been a long time dream of owner Alper (“Al”), to open his own restaurant, and after putting his savings into action, he finally did. As a lover of history, Al decided to name his restaurant after Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The charming restaurant reflects Al’s Greek and Turkish heritage, with many of his recipes passed down from his family, but with his own twist on them making the dishes uniquely his.

The Gyro is undoubtedly the star of the menu, and is offered in two different ways. Guests can either order it as a sandwich or served open faced with rice and the pita on the side. Al’s Gyro's are traditional, made with layers of seasoned lamb and beef placed on a Gyro Spit, and cooked rotisserie style with a heated lamp. Al’s Gyro meat does differ, as he likes to place onion and tomato at the top of the cone, which adds another level of flavor to the meat. The meat is then shaved off, and placed in the pita bread with red onion, tomato, romaine lettuce and tzatziki sauce. Al offers either lamb or chicken Gyros.

On my visit to Athena Gyro, I of course had to try the Gyro. I ordered mine as a sandwich on the appetizer side which comes with Spanakopita (phyllo dough filled with a feta cheese and spinach mixture). My Gyro sandwich was put together well, with the right ratio of meat to vegis, to pita. The pita was light and pillowy, lovingly hugging the filling. The meat was savory, with the addition of the tomato and onion dripping complementing it nicely. It was a very satisfying Gyro, one that I would happily order again.

Athena Gyro has more than just the sandwich. Al also has other mainstay Greek dishes on his menu which include, Mousaka (eggplant, potatoes, ground w/meat sauce topped with tzatziki sauce and baked), Kebabs (chicken or lamb) and even Falafels, plus many other items. Al’s favorite dishes at his restaurant include his soups, the Avgolemono (lemon, chicken and rice) and Fakes Soup (red lentil soup, made Al’s special way). He also points out that he makes a pretty mean Lemonade (lemons, Valencia oranges, Mexican limes, mint and a secret ingredient), which they actually make twice daily to keep up with demands. Of course his Baklava has become a crowd pleaser as well.

Athena Gyro is opened daily from 11am to 9pm, and their prices are very moderate. They offer a Lunch Special of a Gyro with a side of soup or salad and a beverage for only $8.99, as well as a Happy Hour from 3pm to 9pm with discounts on wine/beer and appetizers. On weekends make sure to ask about their featured specials which can range from Lamb Chops to Shrimp dishes.

Whether you’re in the mood for a meaty Gyro, Kebab, or other Greek favorites, Athena Gyro will delight you with their savory Greek dishes again and again.

Athena Gyro is located at 73-121 Country Club Drive, Suite E-7-8 Palm Desert, 92260

For more information visit www.athena-gyro.com

 

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