Some food, some drink.
No really, I’m here for the Geography: Eating my way thru Palm Springs, CA.
Though it's the geo-geek fest know as the esri DevSummit that brings me to Palm Springs California, more often than not, it's the food that first gets me stoked about the stay. Between lectures on best practices for map caching and seminars on geoprocessing services, I always find time to catch as many good meals as I can while I'm out in the desert. Though this was my fourth time back, this year was worth documenting as I brought my wife along for a little weekend fun after the conference in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary (she's totally worth it).
For the past few years, Palm Springs has been a regular springtime event for me. Budgets and schedules willing, I attend the esri Developer's Summit as part of my continuing education for what my significant other likes to call my "real job" (I work in GIS when I'm not chasing kids). With clear, sunny skies and temperatures hovering around 80F, Palm Springs is a fantastic place to be in late March. In the handful of years that I've been out to Southern California for this event, my wife has never been; so this time around I bought her a plane ticket as well as a means to commemorate our 10 contiguous years of wedded bliss (seriously, it's been pretty good).
I'm of the opinion that you really gotta try to get a terrible meal in Palm Springs. I'm not sure if it's the complete change of pace in dining that I enjoy, or the fact that mega-franchise restaurants are few and far between in her easy stroll of a downtown; either way, I dig it. As it's mighty tough to blog about your cooking when you're not at home, I figured I'd use the opportunity to share a few photos and outline the highlights of our stay while I try to get re-acquainted with my kitchen back at home. Oh, and if you could care less about my prattling on and just wanna see the photos, you can click here and skip past my ramblings and head straight for the eye candy at the bottom of the page.
- If you're the type that goes for real deli eats, Sherman's is a must. Sandwiches are piled high, and the desserts are just plain ridiculous. Given where my hotel was at, I had to walk by this joint just about every day if I wanted to go anywhere downtown, and I don't think I ever saw it not busy.
- It a foregone conclusion that me and the guys from the office will do Shanghai Reds at least twice every year during our week-long stay. In what can best be described as "bar food meets seafood", it's always arguably the best meal(s) I eat during my stay. I love the fact that the food is cooked right at the bar, and the space is so small that every seat feels like your sitting at the chef's table. The fried calamari is the best. Anywhere. Period. And don't get me started raving about the beer-battered fish tacos.
- If you're staying in Downtown Palm Springs, you simply don't need a car as everything is in walking distance. The one exception on the must-see list is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Me and the Mrs. had a surprisingly good (and surprisingly affordable) lunch at over 8,500 ft above sea level, and because we got there when it opened, we got the best view in the place. Plan to spend a half day to get your cab fare's worth; and as long as you're staying a while, you'd best wear your sneakers for hiking those trails (and bring a sweater too!).
- There is an eclectic mix if of shops dotting the downtown Palm Springs tapestry, and sometimes they kind of run together if you're not paying attention. Thankfully, this was not the case the day I spied a sign that said "Olive A'Sudden." I've never been to an olive oil and balsamic vinegar boutique prior to, and if you're a foodie, the place is really fun. You can sample everything that's in-stock (even the truffle oil!), and it really gets the gears spinning as to what you can do in recipes with their creations. Dark Chocolate Aged Balsamic? Hell yes! This is the stuff your grilled chicken's been waiting for; and the whole fruit-fused blood orange extra-virgin olive oil is practically begging to be drizzled over a mess of fresh baby greens. A caveat here: if you're traveling home by air, you're gonna wanna load up to offset shipping costs, lest you draw the ire of the TSA; but at any rate, it'd be a sin to leave the store without at least one of the best bottle pourers ever invented (really, it's a kick-ass bottle pourer; ask 'em about them if you're ordering online).
As I'm eating out every day during a business trip, you can bet that we hit quite a few places. Other Palm Springs establishments that I was in this time around included:
- Las Casuelas Terraza - The carnitas are quite good; big ol' chunks of pork with just enough bark on 'em to let you know they actually slow-roasted the pig. The serving is generous; you may have to ask for more tortillas to get thru 'em all.
- Kalura Trattoria - I had a plate of some nifty-looking green and white-striped lobster ravioli accompanied by pillowy-soft focaccia. I so wanted to take a picture, but alas it was dark, and my phone's camera was having none of that.
- The Sandwich Spot - Great little sandwich place that's looks to be the latest opening of a California-only establishment. It was here that had my first taste of "Dutch Crunch" rolls (which I think I'll be trying to bake real soon). Big tasty sandwiches; friendly and helpful staff!
- Matchbox - According to their site, this is the sole store from this chain to lie outside the Washington DC area (not that this matters at all to a guy who's just happy to have one place to eat sushi that doesn't involve a freakin' day trip). Anyhow, I'm a sucker for some artisan pizza (as some of you already know). Mine that day was the Prosciutto and fig, finished with arugula and drizzled with a black pepper-infused honey. Fantastic.
I gotta say that had it not been for work travel, I'd have never known what I was missing in Palm Springs. If you're the type that's used to eating at home (like me), it can be a bit overwhelming to have to make restaurant choices for meals every day for a week. Quite often there's an urge to "make it count" when you dine out, and frankly I can't stand going out to eat only to discover that what they're serving isn't any better than what you could have made at home. Fortunately, my time in Southern California did not dissapoint. It's always good to get fresh perspective for your own cooking, and though it was fun to get away, I was just as excited to get home so I could start kicking around some of that new recipe inspiration in my own kitchen.