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Palm Springs Progressive Dinner – “Hipster Cool”

group at bar

Part 1 – In a Delicious Four-part Series

By Barbara Beckley

So little time – so many fine independently-owned restaurants. It’s true. Palm Springs may have more independent and chef-owned bars and restaurants per capita than any town around. So when you only have a couple of nights – be creative! Savor the dining scene with a progressive dinner! Cocktails, entrée, and a nightcap/dessert at three different restaurants in one glorious evening!

A progressive dinner is a type of dinner party where each course is served at a different location. Guests typically move from place to place for each course, ending with dessert. It also combats the tendency that we often have to rush through the meal; the travel time in between courses affords extra opportunities to chat with friends and family. Plus it’s just fun!

Here are a few suggestions to get you started – bon appetite!

paul bar steak frites
PaulBar Steak Frites

Progressive Dinner Idea #1

Where the Cool Kids Drink & Dine 

Stop 1

Let Tiki torches light the way to cocktails at the Bootlegger Tiki Cocktail Bar at the site of the original 1953 Don the Beachcomber Tiki restaurant in downtown Palm Springs.

Sit at the bar, or in a booth, and let the Polynesian décor – puffer fish chandeliers, paintings of Betty Page-style hula girls, woven tapa walls – channel the good-time cocktail gods. Open the drink menu and – Mai Mai My! The handcrafted rum-based libations are as unique and delicious as their names.

Sip “All Hands on Deck,” featuring Copalli White Rum, Uruapan Anejo, Lemonhart 151, Giffard Fraise Des Bois, Pineapple, Lemon, Grapefruit, Passionfruit, Grenadine, Lemongrass, Angostura Bitters and a Peychauds Float. Or maybe “A Familiar Face,” with Smith & Cross rum, Rhum Barbencourt, Dry Curacao, Lime, Orgeat, Passionfruit, Cinnamon and Herbastura Bitters. Or go retro! With Tiki classics like the “DonnBeach 1934 Zombie,” concocted of Plantation 5-year Gold, Coruba Dark Rum, Hamilton 151, Grapefruit, Lime, Falernum, Grenadine, Cinnamon and Herbastura Bitters. Better yet, be surprised with the “Dealers Choice.” As the menu says, “We won’t do you dirty…unless you’re into that.”

Bootlegger Tiki

Stop 2

Then walk across the street to Workshop Kitchen & Bar. Its way-out American cuisine by Chef-owner Michael Beckman and innovative presentations, inside an old 1926 movie house, is the “New Gen” talk of the town.

Sit in one of the huge concrete booths. Or at the popular communal dining table. Easy to see why Workshop Kitchen & Bar won the James Beard Foundation Award for Design.

Open the menu for an American-Swiss-French-German-California free-for-all. Chef Beckman and co-Chef Joe Mourani met while studying cooking in Lyon, France. Oh my! Begin with the smalls, perhaps the not-what-you-expect “Beets & Citrus,” with date Labneh, mint, ras el hanout, walnuts and lemon vinaigrette. Or “Scarlett Runner Beans,” with pork jowl, collard greens, tomato confit, black garlic aioli and grilled bread.

For the main – the Flannery Flat Iron Steak Au Poivre is a great American/French cross-over. And the market-fresh fish – whatever the day’s catch – with corn nag, Sungold tomatoes, Jimmy Nardello peppers, basil, dill and grilled lemon. C’est magnifique.

indoor seating workshop bar

Stop 3

Top off the evening with a very civilized nightcap and dessert in Manhattan. Well, you’ll feel like it’s New York – at the smooth sophisticated PaulBar / Food, a short drive on East Vista Chino Road. Talk about good taste. A magnificent mahogany bar, dim lighting, men in bow ties. PaulBar is there to welcome you to a cozy corner of the world.

Order the “Paul Cosmo,” with vodka, lime, triple sec, agave and cranberry. Or his celebrated “Black Martini” of old overholt rye, averna amaro and orange bitters.

Dessert? Equally divine. “Caramel Pot de Crem” of caramel French custard, topped with Maldon sea salt; and “Chocolate Pot de Crem,” with chocolate French custard, house whipped cream and orange slice.

paul bar

Progressive Dinner Idea #2

Make Mine Hipster Haute for Cocktails & Cuisine

Stop 1

See and be seen at The Tropicale Restaurant & Coral Seas Lounge on East Amado Road in downtown.

Happy Hour gets going early among the jungle foliage of this indoor-outdoor hot-spot, painted in pink and green reminiscent of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Get the “A” spot at the high top tables between the breezy patio bar and dining room.

If you’re a party of four or more – order a pitcher! Oh my – of “Carmen Miranda Peach Sangria;” or classic mojitos; or margaritas (mango or strawberry Jalapino); or “Tropicale Mai-Tais.” Or – if you dare – the “Kaman Iwana Lei Ya,” with Cruzan coconut rum, Whaler’s Dark Rum, mango, pineapple and guava rums, crème de banana, fruit juices and Bacardi rum. Crazy cool! Also huge martinis. And a killer wine list of organic and sustainable from Napa, Sonoma and the world. Maybe soak up the alcohol with favorite “Crispy Tempura Green Beans” or “Steamed Edamame with Sea Salt.”


Stop 2

Next, swing into the elegance of Copley’s on Palm Canyon a couple of blocks away. It’s helmed by owner-executive chef Andrew Copley, a fun-loving Brit, who worked at 5-star establishments worldwide and luckily chose the former estate of Hollywood heartthrob Cary Grant for his own. Savor his award-winning upscale American flavors infused with Euro and tropical twists. And very sophisticated wine list.

A favorite seasonal starter is the “Little Gem Salad,” of honey roasted peppers, shaved fennel and cucumber, asparagus tips, Cotija cheese, chorizo, pepitas seeds and red-wine-and-mustard dressing! Choose mains like “Peppered Seared Scottish Salmon,” with cilantro rice, petite vegetables, roasted pineapple salsa, and coconut mint-and-cucumber dressing. Or outrageous “Prime New York Steak,” with caramelized onion-and-fennel, sautéed asparagus, and Truffle parmesan fries! Maybe the hipster vegetarian “Sesame Seared Tofu,” with basmati rice, sautéed baby carrots, crispy mango-papaya salad garnish, and citrus-ginger dressing. Applause, please!

Stop 3

Call it a fabulous night at Counter Reformation – the ultimate inner sanctum at the Parker Palm Springs a short drive on East Palm Canyon.

Belly up to the bar as if you were in a dark, sultry Parisian “shrine to wine.” Toast to good fortune with unexpected reds, whites and champagne from France, Spain, Portugal, Uruguay, Australia and Italy. Perhaps the Charles De Cazanove Champagne from Reims, France. Or reds like Bodega Bouza Tannat 2017 from Uruguay, and Chinon Le Grand Bouqueteau Reserve Cabernet Franc 2018 from the Loire Valley. Whites? Try the off-the-cuff Petra Unger Q Gruner Veltliner from Kremstal, Australia, and La Casa De Las Locas Godello 2019 from Monterrei, Spain. The small bites aren’t dessert-ish. But close enough with the Gougeres pastry cheese puff with comte espuma filling. And Panisse chickpea fries with smoked crème fraiche, Calabrian gastrique and caviar.



Palm Springs Progressive Dinner – “Contemporary & Classic”

Palm Springs Progressive Dinner – “Old & New” 

Palm Springs Progressive Dinner – “Locals’ Delight”  

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