The San Jacinto Mountains towering over Palm Springs are all snow-capped this week and the Coachella Valley is sunny and crisp, the perfect conditions to pose next to one of your favorite Desert X installations dotting the desert or take in a Modernism Week tour (that mid-mod gathering runs through Feb. 24).
Winner of the longest line was Daniel's Table, serving sauteed Icelandic salmon with broccoli and spicy micro greens over Swiss chard.
Koutouki Greek Estiatorio cooked up shrimp with ouzo and Indio favorite Big Rock Golf & Pub provided the music, vegan cauliflower ceviche and house ghost pepper and aged tequilas. The Woman’s Show included chef demos and food lectures, with It’s a No Grainer cookbook author Barbara Rogers sharing her recipe for green chili and egg casserole.
Modernism Week features more than 350 events, including the modernism show and sale, signature home tours, films, lectures, double-decker architectural bus tours, nightly parties and live music, walking and bike tours, tours of Sunnylands, fashion, classic cars, modern garden tours and a vintage travel trailer exhibition. The mission of Modernism Week is to celebrate and foster appreciation of midcentury architecture and design, with proceeds going to restoration and preservation of the Coachella Valley’s iconic structures.
One of the week’s premier events was a tour featuring the Royal Hawaiian Estates, which included a glimpse into local artist Shag’s (aka Josh Agle) ultimate tiki condo of custom-designed wallpapers, fixtures and interior stone wall.
Designed by Donald Wexler and built in 1961, the 40 apartments were created for Jewish retirees in the Valley, and the complex is the first historic residential district in Palm Springs. The units are now condos and are being restored to their original midcentury modern tiki glory. Many units still have the original kitchens, wallpaper and sunken showers, and all face out onto the communal pool.
All that culture can help develop quite an appetite, so once you start getting hungry and feel like continuing on the retro route, a hidden local favorite is AJ's on the Green. It's tucked away in the Date Palm Country Club in Cathedral City and owned by Lee Lovitt, the late Hugh Hefner’s mother-in-law. Service is old-school attentive, and bartender Alec pours a perfect martini in the cozy clubby space with expansive views of the fairway and pond.
Dinner standards include prime rib, bourbon-glazed pork chops and seared jumbo sea scallops risotto. There’s live music seven nights a week; if you check in on Mondays, you can catch Bill Marx, son of Harpo Marx, perform on piano and reminisce about the days when the Marx Brothers roamed and helped develop the Greater Palm Springs area.
Or try Castelli's Ristorante, an old Frank Sinatra hangout, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The menu includes Italian classics like an 18-ounce rib-eye veal chop with mushrooms, and the famous 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye topped with melted gorgonzola and served over braised radicchio.
In keeping with the ’60s tropical theme, pop in to the Reef Palm Springs tiki bar in the historic Caliente Tropics Hotel for a Blue Hawaiian and streaming episodes of Gilligan’s Island.
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If you’re in the mood for fish, Pacifica Seafood Restaurant is one of the best in the desert cities and always reliable, with great service and rooftop views of the Valley. Main courses come in full and half-sized portions. Go for the oysters, sugar-spiced salmon with Chinese beans and mustard sauce over garlic mashed potatoes or the Dungeness crab Louie for lunch, wrapped in a cucumber ribbon.
Check out the list of tours and events at modernismweek.com.
More photos of the Greater Palm Springs Food and Wine Festival and local dining https://www.laweekly.com/slideshow/greater-palms-springs-food-and-wine-festival-10136015options:
Take a tiki tour and glimpse of Shag’s pad in the Royal Hawaiian Estates: