The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2013

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Page 60 of 152

TRACKING DOWN THE PROS An Oasis of Food and Drink WE HEAD TO THE DESERT TO DISCOVER WHAT'S TRENDING IN PALM SPRINGS by Rick Riozza V isitors just keep coming to Palm Springs, the California desert oasis where a cool crowd and refreshing cocktails sustain through the sultry nights. Palm Springs and its environs have experienced a 22% resurgence in visitor travel in the last two years. Palm Canyon Boulevard in Palm Springs and El Paseo Drive in Palm Desert indulge the shopper during the day, and eclectic restaurants, pubs and bars light up the night with a renewed culinary scene. Here's a look at some restaurant and beverage professionals who are making Palm Springs happen. Restaurateur: Lee Morcus On any given evening, an abundance of diners are enjoying the restaurants under the helm of Lee Morcus. The Morcus family has been creating unique restaurants in the Coachella Valley since 1992. The family's Kaiser Restaurant Group has built, owned and operated multiple restaurant concepts—from casual to fine dining— in the Palm Springs area. The group continues to pursue slow growth with a "one meal at a time, one deal at a time philosophy." One of the most respected steakhouses in town—known for its in-house butchering—is the Chop House, with locations in Palm Springs and Palm Desert. The legendary Hog's Breath Inn in Carmel (made popular by prior owner Clint Eastwood) is Lee Morcus. now in the Kaiser Group stable and continues at its sister "Desert Hog" location in La Quinta, where their Saloon Bar serves as the gathering hole for the south side of the valley. Jackalope Ranch, acquired in 2008 from Don Callendar, founder of the Marie Callendar's chain, is located on 6.5 acres on the La Quinta/Indio border. At a building cost of $36 million, the 21,000 square-foot, multi-faceted lodge with three kitchens is surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds, gardens, water features and art. Back in Palm Springs, Kaiser goes high-tech sport's bar with the signature grass-fed Tasmanian beef at Grind Brgr Bar where milkshakes (some spiked) and Martinis entice guests to "unwind at the Grind." Further down the boulevard sits one of the family's original Kaiser Grille restaurants, opened in 1998. Lee's up-close-and-personal project is the beautiful Figue Mediterranean in La Quinta. It's his own venture, celebrating the foods he ate growing up in a large Lebanese family. Often times serving as the dinner host, he's brought on board Chef François de Melogue, from famed but now closed Pili Pili in Chicago. Figue serves both traditional and progressive Mediterranean fare— French, Spanish and Italian, with Moroccan and Greek influences. Chef Johannes Bacher. Executive Chef: Johannes Bacher Owner of Johannes Restaurant and known as the "Eclectic Chef," Johannes Bacher was recently honored as one of the country's top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America. Definitely the artist type in the kitchen—call it "Inventive Euro-Austrian Cuisine with a Global Twist" if you need a handle on his métier—his many years of experience traveling the world have contributed to the vision. His subtle, creative dishes are exciting and his cosmopolitan menu shows off his Austrian roots. Resourceful and innovative entrées such as Australian grassfed kangaroo loin, crispy half duck and sear-roasted Shetland Island salmon may appear daily, but come off the menu stat if they're not fresh that day. Vegan, vegetarian and signature dishes are available every night. The restaurant's international wine list boasts of more than 400 wine selections with over 40 listed by the glass. "Palm Springs is a very wine savvy town," Bacher says. "Patrons want the Biale Zins and Saxum's Syrahs, so we have them." 60  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2013 TP1013_034-65.indd 60 9/23/13 10:34 PM

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