April 16, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Fine Dining in the Desert

Flatbread loaded with fresh, locally sourced toppings is a signature appetizer at the 3rd Corner Wine and BistroAny excuse to go to Palm Springs is a good one, but Palm Springs Restaurant Week is a great one. During this 10-day showcase of local epicurean talent held each year in early June, more than 100 participating Coachella Valley restaurants offer an exciting array of three-course menus at an affordable fixed-priced of $24 or $36.

Don’t fret if you missed the event this year; you can still order the menu offerings from Restaurant Week year round at regular prices, and save up your appetite for next year. Meanwhile, here is a short list of highlights from this year’s Restaurant Week to help you make plans for your desert dining eat-cation.

Cosmopolitan Comfort Food

Norma’s (4200 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) mayNorma's hip and happening diner is no silver Airstream be a diner, but don’t expect hotcakes in a silver Airstream. This trendy eatery, hidden away at Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs, is hip and happening. Dinner entrees include contemporary comfort food items, such as food like Matzo Balls Chicken Pho and Penne Pasta, but the real highlight for me is their all-day breakfast, including a fruit-filled, fruit-covered waffle with a crackly brulee top called “Was-Za?†For chocoholics, there’s the beyond-indulgent Chocolate Decadence French Toast – layered and saturated-with-chocolate pound cake covered in strawberries, pistachios and Valhrona chocolate sauce.

For more traditional options, there are several versions of eggs benedict and other comfort food and a great variety of salads, such as the popular Charlie’s Chopped Cobb Salad, a light aThe Palm Springs Travel Lodge offers 'affordably hip' accommodationsnd refreshing fresh Ahi tuna salad with wasabi chive dressing, from the “Rabbit Food†portion of the menu. And if you are feeling excessively indulgent, you can always order the Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata with 10 ounces of Sevruga caviar, for a mere $1,000.

Italian Your Way

Arrive early at LeDonne Cucina Italiano (72624 El Paseo, Palm Desert), because the place fills up after 6 pm, mostly with regulars who have been going there for years, and years. The clientele skews toward 55 and up, which made me and my fellow 40-ish dining companion feel like we were at the kids table. This is definitely a local hangout, tucked away in a strip mall, where folks know the owner and servers by name, and generous portions of good Italian food is served with a smile and strains of Sinatra.

Voted the Best Italian Restaurant by Desert Sun for five years running, LeDonne offers a variety of risottos, spaghettis and many veal and seafood dishes among other Italian favorites. One stand out is their zesty salsicce arrabiata, a grilled Italian sausage sautéed in spicy arrabiata sauce. Also good is their chicken champagne, a chicken breast sautéed in a lemon Champagne sauce. If seafood is more your taste, try their large bowl of steamed mussels.

Dining Scene

Adding to my overall wonderful dining experience at Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro (155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) was scoring a primo private balcony table overlooking Palm Canyon Drive for the best people-watching vantage in town. In addition to the great views and exciting vibe, the food is fantastic.

Matchbox’s menu features a variety of inventive offerings, with creative twists on standard fare, that is anything but standard. Even a no-frills dish like mac ‘n cheese got a makeover, becoming “adult†macaroni & cheese,†with grilled shrimp & Andouille sausage, sharp white cheddar & smoked gouda. And while I’ve been to many California pizzerias with creative combos, Matchbox’s steak & gorgonzola pizza — baked in an authentic masonry wood-fire oven and topped with parmesan & garlic béchamel and finished with arugula, red onion, garlic chip and pear tomato salad — boasted the most perfectly crisp smoky crust and the freshest and most complimentary mixture of garnishes of any pizza I have ever had.

As a connoisseur of bread pudding, I thought nothing could beat my fave from Royal Café in New Orleans, but Matchbox’s chocolate chip bread pudding, adorned with caramelized rum bananas, takes the cake. Absolutely scrumptious.

While at Matchbox, it only makes sense to check out The Falls, the elegant fine dining restaurant next door owned by the same partners as Matchbox. Items from The Falls’ menu shared the innovative preparations and exquisite presentations of its neighbor Matchbox but offer a few more variations on creative combinations, such as proscuitoo wrapped shrimp, pan seared in olive oil and stuffed with sage, served over angel Hair pasta with a wild mushroom marsala sauce, and a roasted Berkshire pork chop seasoned with Hoisin Barbeque and served with ginger carrot smash. Dessert at The Falls is also over the top with incredible amalgamations like the house made banana cream pie brulee.

Grand Eating

Lantana California Grill (44-600 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells) is a first-class restaurant, though its location at the Hyatt Grand Champion resort is not the most intimate setting. If you don’t mind the big corporate hotel dining room, you are in for an exquisite meal there.

The menu features a number of enticing and original California cuisine offerings, such as the a watermelon salad with arugula, feta, picked red onion and balsamic vinaigrette or the tomato caprese crostini appetizer of grilled ciabatta, grape tomatoes, balsamic glaze, fresh burrata, micro basil and arbenquena. For entrees, try the hibiscus glazed salmon with chipolte polenta cake and pineapple cucumber salad — a perfect light summer delight; and the “carne asada†of seared prime rib cap steak with Spanish tomato risotto, black bean hummus and fresh avocado adds a sophisticated flair to a traditional Mexican barbeque dish.

The inventiveness of the menu extended into the desserts, such as the “American pie,†which is actually a sweet potato apple pie with Virginia peanut butter custard accompanied with a Medjool date puree. Also delicious is the butterscotch crème brulee with housemade caramel popcorn, which again showcases the chef’s ability to make something traditional into something superlative.

Pair This

The 3rd Corner Wine & Bistro (73101 Highway 111, Palm Desert) is a wine lovers dream come true with a wine shop within the restaurant featuring more than 800 bottles to choose from — to take to your table or take home with you. Their well-trained staff can help you select a vintage to pair with your meal, offering something for every taste, from an assortment of fine wines and collectibles from all around the world as well as a large selection of affordable wines at retail prices.

For Restaurant Week, the bistro offered special $5-per-glass pricing of two premium wines, one red one white, to accompany their $24 three-course menu, which included their signature flatbread appetizers and sophisticated turns on contemporary California cuisine such as grilled salmon with grapefruit burred bland smashed potatoes and spinach and a popular duck confit with white bean cassoulet and whole grain mustard.

I opted to order from the regular lunch menu so that I could sample the renowned 3rd Corner hamburger with bacon, arugula, tomato, aged cheddar, carmelized onion and preserved lemon aioli with rosemary seasoned 3rd Corner fries. Because the chef grinds his own chuck in house, along with trimmings from prime rib, the burgers are thick and juicy with flavor, producing an entirely satisfying, tasty and sumptuous burger. I also ordered the flatbread pizza appetizer, topped with heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and roasted garlic, which exploded with the flavor and aroma of the fresh ingredients on a crust that was deliciously baked to crispy perfection.

Adding to the appeal of the menu options is the fact that an abundance of the dishes are made from fresh, locally harvested and sustainably raised produce, poultry and meats from several farms in Southern and Northern California from which the chef sources his ingredients.

While I visited during the quiet lunch hours, I was told by my very personable and knowledgeable server that the restaurant and bar is lively in the evening, with couples, families and parties of friends filling up the plush leather booths and tables around the large dining room, surrounded by rich wood paneling and floor-to-vaulted-ceiling windows. Certainly the growth of the restaurant, which has expanded recently to two more locations in Encinitas and Ocean Beach, is a sign that 3rd Corner’s concept as a wine bar that pairs affordable wines with great food along with excellent service in a sophisticated and comfortable atmosphere is one whose time has come.

Casual Desert Dining

A good choice for casual dining is Acqua Pazza (71-800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage). Located at the River shopping mall, this California bistro has an inviting patio under bright lime-colored umbrellas beside a made-made aqua-tinted pond and water fountain. It’s a quiet place during the heat of the day but a hotbed of activity at night.

Overall Acqua Pazzo is a good, standard bistro with good quality food and a variety of menu offerings. Their menu items include Caesar salad, minestrone soup, sautéed sword fish steak, chicken piccata and filet mignon. Some highlights are the Salad Acqua Pazza mixed greens with orange vinaigrette, 8-ounce filet and flourless triple chocolate cake, the latter of which is to die-for.
Sleep Easy

Renowned as “affordably hip,†the Palm Springs Travel Lodge (333 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) offers good, standard amenities, including free WiFi, ample free parking, two pools, continental breakfast, in-room coffee service, fridge, Showtime, pet-friendly rooms and great mountain views. Best of all, the reasonable rates won’t break the bank, so you can spend more on dining. After all, most visitors are out enjoying the sites — shopping, golfing, riding the aerial tram or visiting any of the many desert attractions, so why spend a fortune on a room just for sleeping? Because of its convenient, central location, the Travel Lodge often serves to accommodate overflow visitors from the area luxury hotels, and while you won’t be served overpriced drinks poolside in an exorbitantly-priced private cabana, you will experience great, friendly service.

For more information on Palms Springs restaurants visit www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com

in Dining
Related Posts

Coucou, the Casual Yet Elegant French Restaurant, Expands to West Hollywood

April 4, 2024

April 4, 2024

Venice’s Delicious Eatery Opens New Location with Exciting Menu Additions By Dolores Quintana As we reported earlier this year, Coucou,...

KCRW’s Good Food 2024 Pie Contest: Bake Your Way to Glory

April 3, 2024

April 3, 2024

Join the Ultimate Baking Showdown at UCLA Bakers all over the city are invited to test their skills and potentially...

Indulge in the Finest Food and Drink for a Charitable Cause at the Masters of Taste 2024

April 2, 2024

April 2, 2024

L.A.’s Premier Food and Beverage Festival in Support of Union Station Homeless Services It is once again time for Masters...

Fleurs et Sel Bakery Opens Storefront in West Adams, Welcomes Customers Three Days a Week

March 27, 2024

March 27, 2024

Indulge in Freshly Baked Cookies at the New West Adams Location Fleurs et Sel Bakery, known for its delectable cookies...

West Hollywood Barista and Founder Claims Top Honor at US Barista Championship

March 20, 2024

March 20, 2024

Be Bright Coffee Takes Top Honors at Prestigious Competition The founder of Be Bright Coffee in West Hollywood has won...

After Four Years, Vespertine’s Avant-Garde Culinary Experience Returns to Culver City

March 20, 2024

March 20, 2024

Chef Jordan Kahn’s Michelin Two-Star Eatery Finally Reopens in April  After a four-year hiatus, Vespertine, the avant-garde culinary experience helmed...

Erewhon Partners with Sofia Richie Grainge With Premium Cherry Smoothie

March 20, 2024

March 20, 2024

Sofia’s Sweet Cherry Smoothie Exclusively at Erewhon Tonic Bars Erewhon, the purveyor of organic and sustainable foods, is extending its...

The Auld Fella: Brentwood and Culver City’s St. Patrick’s Weekend Destination

March 15, 2024

March 15, 2024

Join the Craic at The Auld Fella’s Celebrations: Dining, Drinking, Shenanigans If you are looking for an epic St. Patrick’s...

MICHELIN Guide Unveils 10 New Culinary Stars in California, Anticipating 2024 Selections

March 13, 2024

March 13, 2024

9 Los Angeles Area and Beverly Hills Restaurants Featured as New Additions The prestigious MICHELIN Guide has announced the addition...

Chef Roy Choi Brings Tacos Por Vida to LA With Soft Opening in Palms

March 13, 2024

March 13, 2024

The Lines Are Already Growing at This Newest Roy Choi Taco Stand Celebrated chef Roy Choi is celebrating the debut...

Sweet Lady Jane’s Santa Monica Flagship Faces Temporary Closure: New Owners Offer Solution for Cake Lovers

March 8, 2024

March 8, 2024

Montana Avenue’s Sweet Lady Jane Bakery Temporarily Shut, Julie Ngu Working to Reopen and Get Cake to Fans By Dolores...

Predict the Runtime, Win Delicious Rewards! Shake Shack’s Star-Studded Game for Tinseltown’s Biggest Night

March 7, 2024

March 7, 2024

Shake Shack’s Ultimate Award Show Guessing Game, and You Get the Prizes Get ready for a star-studded evening of predictions...

Wolfgang Puck to Wow Celebs at 30th Annual Oscars Governor’s Ball with Luxurious Feast

March 6, 2024

March 6, 2024

Chef Discusses His Three-Decade Legacy and Teases Decadent Desserts at the Oscars Chef and restauranteur Wolfgang Puck will serve a...

Sweet Lady Jane Bakery Returns with Surprise Soft Opening in Santa Monica on Monday

March 4, 2024

March 4, 2024

Exclusive: Four Other Locations Will Start to Reopen This Week  Things are moving fast with the reopening of the beloved...

CJ Foods Manufacturing Recalls Trader Joe’s Steamed Chicken Soup Dumplings Over Plastic Contamination

March 4, 2024

March 4, 2024

62,000 pounds of dumplings recalled after reports of hard plastic in the product CJ Foods Manufacturing Beaumont Corporation is initiating...