Category Archives: Wander List

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Cocktail Culture ~ WANDER LIST

There are stories and then there are stories about stories. This one, starts at the Palm Springs Racquet Club!

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Palm Springs Racquet Club pool, those umbrellas!

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It’s a strange feeling walking on those old courts

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I loved the idea of being on these dilapidated courts in cocktail attire. I’m obsessed with pairing opposites

Of course times have changed and so has the landscape but this small part of the story is so good it’s worth a throwback to 1934, a time when this was the party spot for much of Hollywood.

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LOVE! Just saying I love this shot, you can feel the energy

 

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Tex Gray was the regular bartender at the Racquet Club. I bet he knew the truth about the Bloody Mary!

Tex Gray manned the bar and good times flowed. Some even say it was here that the Bloody Mary was first created. I couldn’t confirm this but it’s a story that is certainly told and retold in these parts.

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Cocktail Culture, it’s a time, a taste, a memory!

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The Coachella Valley has a rich liquid history. With a beginning and middle fueled by a drink or two. On any given night you can walk down nostalgia lane.

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Heading into Ingleside Inn, this place can have a history book all its own

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Gin martini, up, extra olives please!

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At Ingleside Inn, grab a spot near the piano man and a gin martini. They’ve made them here since 1925. Not much has changed over the years and that’s what keeps bringing folks back in for another round. They obviously know how to do it right.

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I’m not old fashioned but this was the first one I had

It’s a red carpet roll-out for a real classic, in this re-imagined desert haunt. The Old Fashioned. This whisky cocktail can be controversial in its creation, and in its consumption.   Apparently it’s one of the most common messed up drinks. You’ll get a good one at Mr. Lyons, so sip slow and steady and make sure to ask the bartender about the restaurant’s history, they’ve been making Old Fashioned’s here since 1945.

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Rule #1…Must try his cocktails!

Spirits, sugar, water, bitters – that defines a cocktail.
Cocktail Culture that’s much harder to define, especially in the desert where not all libations, through the years, were necessarily good ones.

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Also rule #1 MUST try his restaurant and bar

Michael Beckman, chef and owner of Workshop Kitchen and Truss and Twine
“Palm springs has always been a drinking town for sure but it’s gone from vodka martinis like all day long to being a bit more thoughtful to what we put in a glass.”

Beckman and Truss bar manager Dave Castillo, have a heavy hand in bringing the classic cocktail resurgence to the Coachella Valley. For them it’s more than a trade it’s a craft.

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It’s called The Game Changer. It lives up to its name

Beckman- “It’s rediscovering old classics, looking to authentic recipes and then looking at those spirits that were used back in the day and then to make our best educated guess as to how those spirits actually tasted. They’re stirred, they are double strained, we use beautiful glassware, everything is jiggered. There’s a level of precision. It’s liquid sophistication. Their menu, broken down into eras, golden age, prohibition, Dark Ages and tiki.

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When tiki drinks are both exhilarating and frightening

Tiki, is key to desert cocktail culture. Bootlegger Tiki a tiny jewel, celebrates these iconic cocktails in a big way.  They do so with flowing rum and fire in the historic Don the Beachcomber building circa 1953. That tropical drink culture a liquid muse for everything Polynesian. A flavor savored still today.

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and insanely AMAZING!

And with that we say cheers to a bygone era, one that set the tone for doing it up so to speak. Shaken stirred, boozy bright every drink a careful balance of flavor and history.

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Setting the tone and the trend this one. Posing here on a diving board at the Racquet Club

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Taking a cue from Marilyn M. and one upping her by getting into the pool

 

 

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Candice Held ~ WANDER LIST

It’s a spot where quirk and elegance combine, where a kaleidoscope of color gets you in the door, where the goodies are inspired by the Coachella Valley and made especially for those who love it. I have fallen in deep love with this unique boutique, all its contents of delicious, silky fabric and also the owner, who truly sparkles.

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Step inside a Candice Held boutique, it’s where wonderland and vacation vibe collide. Behold a candy jar of seemingly effortless designs that so truly represents the essence of desert chic. The gal behind the gorgeous goods and Candice Held namesake is a gem herself who’s inspired daily by the Coachella Valley.

Held: I am struck at how beautiful the surroundings are. The mountains and the sky and green, it’s truly stunning.

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Her clothing is light, colorful, happy, comfortable and fluid. It’s just exactly what you want when you’re on vacation. Or when you’re not! I live here year-round and Held’s designs are absolute perfection for both the desert climate and the culture. Browse the endless rows of her original designs. Each dress I touched was my favorite one, I really did want them all.  All the vintage scarf dresses are one of a kind others are carefully crafted in small quantities with her own textile designs.

Held: You can really feel like what you select is more bespoke or special and that’s what I’m going for.

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There’s a lengthy creative process linked to each collection. From a spark, to a theme, to a color palate to Held herself sketching and painting what will eventually become fabric.  The print she’s wearing in the photo (above) was inspired by a photo of poppies (below) by her parent’s garage.

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Held: The process is pretty involved but it’s pretty fun and totally engrossing and enveloping and it’s fun to get lost in it.

Held never lost sight of her early inspo, the women in her life with impeccable flair.
Held:  My mom, my grandmother and great grandmother are all from Paris and just have this incredible sense of style. My grandma had a great house in Naples Florida. Great decor, maxi dresses by pool. 

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Schooled many times over in fashion design and textiles, she has worked in big cities and designed for popular brands but it’s in Greater Palm Springs where she feels most at home.

A model walks the runway at the Candice Held Spring 2007 fashion show during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios in The Lightbox October 16, 2006 in Culver City, California.

A model walks the runway at the Candice Held Spring 2007 fashion show during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios in The Lightbox October 16, 2006 in Culver City, California.

Held now holds down the fort at boutiques in Palm Springs and Palm Desert and on the side has influenced the décor at her husband’s hot dog haunt Frankinbun, where you can grab a bite and spy her unique wiener wallpaper.   Which just like the designs are the perfect mix of quirk and elegance to get your attention.

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Rincon Norteno ~ WANDER LIST

 

I could eat Mexican food three times a day, okay I lied, maybe four times a day. There is really no other food I like more. My Italian family certainly has always wooed me with exceptional cooking but I believe this to be true, if there was a bowl of spaghetti bolognese and a plate containing a single burrito, I would select the burrito time and time again.

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It’s one of those places where they know your name, you’ll feel it immediately

When we began looking for the perfect Mexican restaurant to feature for our Wander List video series, I knew it had to have several things going for it. Excellent, authentic food, delicious and beautiful margaritas,  and an exceptional story. After quite a bit of research, we found the perfect spot. It turned out, that it doesn’t just have an exceptional story, but one that exceeded all my expectations.

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How crazy that the menu hasn’t changed since day one? It’s crazy amazing!

And that brings me this: The inspiring story of the Flores family.
The road to a great success story is often a long one. It takes a dream, perseverance, and in this case a whole lot of heart.  “The story goes, mom and dad both arrived in Indio in the mid fifties and met at a farm labor camp.”  What happened next, changed their lives forever. OK now you have to sit for the rest.

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We were obsessed with these old stools…personality plus here and rivets to boot!

Grab a spot at the counter and it’s the simple things you’ll notice. A warm smile, a sense of pride, a genuine happiness. The simple things, that have made Rincon Norteno in downtown Indio a local favorite since 1964. Of course there are other things too, like the delicious Mexican food, the generations old family recipes, the traditionally served warm salsa, and the fact that the menu hasn’t changed since day one.

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It’s served warm and it’s amazing

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I’m a margarita gal, so I didn’t know what to expect with this cocktail (Michelada) but it was really different and delicious

Prudencio Flores Jr. along with his four siblings started working at his mom and dad’s restaurant while still in high school. He remembers his parents Estella and Prudencio Sr always in the kitchen. “I just remember coming home from school, walking in and seeing dad behind the kitchen and mom behind the counter serving people.”

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His parents, met in the mid 1950s at a farm labor camp in Indio my dad was the cook and my mom was washing dishes and cleaning up after dad.

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Estella and Prudencio Sr. when they were first dating

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They worked together there for years hopeful that one day they would open a restaurant. Success came after a combination of hard work, good timing, and luck.
The Flores family first opened the doors to their Mexican diner in a different location, a small spot on Fargo Street next to the old Desert Theater where they stayed put for 15 years.

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The original Rincon Norteno was on the left hand side of the theatre front

There were only 15 stools and a counter in this location but they packed the house with customers, mostly farm workers, who would come to this theater to watch Mexican movies.
Over time they grew a loyal following, return customers and their growing families who craved what Rincon Norteno served.

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The first Rincon at the original counter

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The updated location…more room to roam

I asked Prudencio Jr. what they make the best there and he said, as I expected, “EVERYTHING!” says, “I eat Caldo de rez which is the beef soup, the enchiladas are very popular, our pork chops are really good, a la Mexicana they call them.”

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Caldo de rez

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Mexican pork chops

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YUM

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I really loved watching the train go by…and it rumbles by often

Authenticity of the food aside, there is something to be said about the atmosphere too. The current location just down the street from the original is simple. A window seat will get you a busy road, and a train track view but it’s home.  It’s home for Prudencio Flores, his sister, Rosa and Nephew Damien who still work there every day. It’s also home to his parents, who still stop by often to see how the kids are running the place. To say hi to their forever customers and share memories of building their dream.

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I asked Prudencio what this restaurant means to his mom and dad and he said,  “oh god, it’s their heart and soul, they have put out all their energy into this restaurant…they love the restaurant, it’s their life.”

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How adorable are they? I’ll answer…REALLY adorable

 Prudencio Sr. never wants Rincon Norteno to change and not much has over the years. The stools are the one relic saved from the original restaurant but the spirit of family and good food, well that will never change. And those are the little things, you’ll notice.

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Joshua Tree Nights ~ WANDER LIST

 

“It’s a magical bounty of inspiration just the sunrise the sunset, just any point of the day being the way everything looks and shines and glints, the isolation you feel but belonging you also feel at the same time…I mean it’s an enigmatic place.”

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I’m honestly not quite sure I could say it any better than my brother-in-law, rock n roller, Jesse Hughes. He has a way with words, slightly better than my way. He’s a lyricist, a professional one, so I wouldn’t expect anything less. I digress, these are his words about the high desert and more specifically, Joshua Tree.

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My thoughts…are more of a question. How does one interrupt the feeling of a single place? A place that is so many things to so many. Like its shifting sands, Joshua Tree changes it seems, to accommodate ones needs. It’s a beacon of creativity, of hope, and an outlet of expression for countless nomadic hearts that allow it in.

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Jesse- “Some of the most profoundly stirring and emotional moments I’ve had have been looking out at the landscape of the high desert at night as the clouds pass along the moon and you feel the stillness of the air and can taste it…it’s beautiful it’s unreal.”

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Jesse knows the landscape well. He grew up in the shadow of the High Desert and spent many a night cultivating his career under the desert moonlight.  Out of the stillness of evening and of night in Joshua Tree has come moments of clarity, calm, and of creation that are beyond compare. He says,  It’s kind of a well-known thing that if you’re looking for inspiration, if you’re looking for something to fill you up with an emotion you’re not readily able to describe, Joshua Tree…the high desert, it’s the place.”

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Jesse even has a song about Yucca Valley that goes something like,  Lately in the evening I’ve been thinking bout my life and it casts a gloomy shadow on my sole. I have weakness for the flesh and for powdered speeding death and my heart is aching for my desert home… If you heard it, it would be stuck in your head until eternity.

Jesse, of Eagles of Death Metal fame wrote his 2nd album Death By Sexy in the HD and says he doesn’t design his art without including a piece of his desert influences in some manner.  “There’s no way to strip it from me anymore. It’s metastasized to my spirit. There is almost a supernatural element to it, it’s undeniable…it gets interpreted in a variety of ways…for some people it’s magic, for some people it’s mental physics.

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There’s no denying this strip of desert where the Colorado and Mojave collide, is a place that stirs emotion, inspires direction, and gives latitude when at first you didn’t feel it was there.

Jesse continues…he’s never short on words…”I mean I’m an artist, I’m a musician and I will go to the high desert specifically for the purpose of being charged up or inspired…ummm and I know I’m not the only one.”

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Certainly not the only one…U2, the Rolling Stones, John Lennon, John Wayne, Gram Parsons, Jim Morrison…there are so many elite artists who sought a certain something in Joshua Tree. And so many new artists who still do. Have you heard of Reborn by the Sunshine? If not, make sure you take a listen. The duo grew up in the Coachella Valley and their lyrics and spirit reflect their roots perfectly. We made them come out to JT with us (on a rather cold blustery day) and put their talents on display. Playing music in the open air especially in that setting is exhilarating and adds a whole new dimension for artists.

Jesse – “It’s truly is the most unique place you can ever find…it’s desert but you can be snowed in it’s hot but it will turn cold…it’s just something else.”

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No night is similar either…on this one, a short stroll through town transformed into a long and memorable evening in a place seemingly set back in time. The Joshua Tree Saloon, a spot teeming with interesting folk from far, wide, and down the block. A beer with an old-timer, a beatbox with a new friend. I tried and failed miserably, in case you were wondering.

 

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Jesse- “Coming home to the high desert is like going to Disneyland in a way…you look forward to it…you just can’t wait to get back to it and once you’re there you feel that you don’t want to leave it.”

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A short drive from the Coachella Valley, this High Desert wonderland lies in wait, eager for dreamers to discover and cultivate that certain something they were yearning for. Fresh air, moon shadows, unreal looking landscape, this place will give all that you’re able to take and share all that you’re willing to hear.

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Palm Canyon ~ WANDER LIST

palmcanyonI have been coming to the Palm Springs Indian Canyons for as long as I can remember. As a matter of fact, some of my first very vivid memories are from there, hiking with my mom and dad, picnicking under the lush canopy of towering palms, and trudging through the aqua blue water. I say it every time I’m there, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first time of the 5-hundredth time, every time will take your breath away. I say it’s the definition of  magic. It’s so truly beautiful that you feel like somehow you landed in the backdrop of a painting of Utopia.

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We were lucky to be shooting during the unprecedented spring super-bloom

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I can honesty say that I was thinking that I could be here, standing in this spot, forever

pc11Purple mountains, laced with wildflowers A lapis colored sky, an orange glowing desert holding back a tropical oasis.

Unreal looking

Unreal looking

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Can you even believe we’re in the middle of a desert?

Now open…you’re here, a spot where the horizon gets lost in awe. Where you can walk amongst giants, feel the power of nature’s blessings and take pause to sense what solitude must have been like thousands of years ago.

Raven Longbow is not just knowledgeable, he's hysterical!

Raven Longbow is not just knowledgeable, he’s hysterical!

Raven Longbow has been a ranger with the tribe for many years, he says this place has it’s own type of magic. “It’s like they say the secrets that are between the leaves and under the rocks are existent out here.”

Pure magic!

Pure magic!

You can feel it, whatever it may be, a sense of self, of calm, of past, or of purpose, you can feel it. Palm Canyon, is the largest undisturbed Palm Oasis in the world. Fifteen miles long, it snakes along the base of Mount San Jacinto which provides a year round water source for the 2-thousand native California Fan Palms.  Its caretakers, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians who settled in these canyons and lived here, in peace for centuries.

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The harvester (Cahuilla)Longbow says, this area wasn’t just part of the Cahuilla universe, to them, it was the whole universe. The tribal legend of how this Shangri-La came to be is still passed down through generations.

 

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Standing in the shadow of giants

“A long time ago there was an elder in the tribe and he felt his spirit was leaving him and time was growing short he wanted to be useful always in his being and when he passes. What can he leave for the people. He walked throughout the cv and said I will become a palm tree.”

The elder, Maoul, planted himself next to a stream. His body became still and rigid, his hair became fronds, his good thoughts, palm fruit. As the legend goes, Maoul became rooted to the earth, leaving his people a source for food, water, and a home wherever there’s a palm tree.

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Giants…and would you look at the beautiful blue sky?

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Do these trees make me look short?

The palms that you see in the Indian Canyons are the largest palms anywhere in north america . They can reach up to 60 feet in height sometimes even higher. Ecologist Jim Cornett, is a leading expert on native fan palms, or Washingtonia Filifera. He has traveled the world far and wide studying Palm Oases. He says you can’t duplicate the stark contrast of Palm Canyon anywhere else on the planet.

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Jim Cornett is so fantastically knowledgeable about the ecology of our beautiful desert, he’s also incredibly kind! I could have asked him questions ALL day, he probably would have let me, he was that nice

Cornett says, “I’m sitting in the Colorado desert subdivision of the north American desert which is the hottest driest environment outside of death valley of any place in all of north America and so we should be hot and thirsty right now but we’re not because we’re sitting in a palm oasis.”

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These guys…photographer/husband Ian in back and director Brian in front assume all sorts of contorted positions to get the best angle….Ian is actually just posing here.

The Cahuilla people expertly used every part of the fan palms, primarily for shelter and for food. They not only survived in this canyon, they thrived.

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Something else that is so incredible about this spot is that you can actually touch mortar holes in several spots throughout the canyons. The mortars were used by Indian women to grind up the palm fruit, which they used to make cakes. I was told that every inch of depth is equal to 100 years of use.

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There are several mortar sites throughout the Indian Canyons, simply ask a ranger and they will point you in the right direction to spot them

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Another hidden mortar site

Longbow says, there’s always going to be science and there’s always going to be spirit. The Cahuilla people want everyone to feel that spirit, to walk these trails, in the footsteps of their ancestors.

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I felt like a Disney princess for a moment here. I had my own reptilian BFF!

To know the trees, the animals, the water. To stand beneath the falls and feel the power of nature.  To appreciate all the life that exists here, in a spot that is the most unreal looking real you can imagine. Palm Canyon, take it in, hold it close, protect it just as the Cahuilla have for 3-thousand years.

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This palm made his own way…the road less traveled

Longbow continues, “you can forget a lot of things but don’t forget the word achema. that is the most important word in the Cahuilla language, achema simply means, thank you.”

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They made me do it!

To learn more about the countless other amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE

 

 

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San Andreas ~ WANDER LIST

 

From above, it’s flawless.
Sunlight casts a glow on its strengths and shadows provide texture to its shape.
The endless maze of canyons gives it complexity. It’s just enough of everything to know it could be dangerous. Perfection to a fault.

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Gorgeous sunrise over Painted Canyon

The San Andreas Fault. It’s a seam in the ground, that snakes 800 miles through California and extends to depths of 10 miles within the Earth. It’s the geological feature responsible for plenty of earthquakes and is capable of producing the Big One.

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Does this even look real to you?

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Wile E. Coyote lives up there

This master fault line runs the length of the Coachella Valley. It protrudes from the earth in spectacular form, producing tangible geology, that anyone can experience.

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Heading into a slot canyon in the Mecca Hills

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This jacket says it all…really…DO IT!

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Director Brian navigating the trail and Videographer Ian wearing my pink-ish hat so I can navigate better. (low rock ceilings) He’s such a gentleman!

The Meccacopia wilderness; home to dozens of hiking trails where you can reach out and touch a piece of what the San Andreas Fault created. Hike the canyons; the effects of its constant shifts are everywhere, major uplift, colorful outcroppings and sandstone hillsides that look more like moonscapes than desert.

 

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Ladder Canyon…it feels like you’re in a Star Wars Pod race!

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Now Ron has a cool job!

Ron Chang of Big Wheel Tours says his guests often use the word otherworldly to describe the terrain through this area. He leads jeep tours through these parts, the visible boundary between two massive tectonic plates.  The North American and Pacific plates work against each other here creating both a constant threat and fascinating eye candy.

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We’re heading into the Meccacopia Wilderness here

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I shed a tear walking up this hill, it felt WAYYY higher than it looks here. I only could look out, not down. Good thing the view is AMAZING!

The Fault forms a narrow break in the Earth’s crust, there’s not a particular spot where you can gaze into the center of the earth, it’s covered by erosion, but the effects of its active existence are everywhere.

 

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The Salton Sea in all is beautiful glory

 

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The Mud Pots blew my mind. They were percolating little wonders.

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A mud volcano formed from all the spewing mud

 

The Eastern most point of the San Andreas runs parallel to the Salton Sea.
Where it ends, an explosion of bubbles! In geologic terms, mud pots and mud volcanoes.
They release gases from inside the Earth; bubble up through holes in the ground, and give a muddy grand finale to a day of exploration.

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Bubble, bubble, bubble, they never stop

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There are multiple pot holes to choose from and then you just have to stand there in amazement

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Ian vs. the volcanoes

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Mud Volcano in all its glory

Not quite as dramatic as an Earthquake but a fascinating mess none the less and another visual reminder, of the fault below the surface. Geologists say it’s been there for 15 to 20 million years and seismologists predict it will be the one to blame for plenty of shaking for years to come.

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After a long day of shooting we were reinvigorated by this incredible close! Thank you Mother Nature

For the latest information on the accessibility of the geothermal mud pots contact the
Visitor Center at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.

 

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Birding ~ WANDER LIST

I’m typically not one for quoting quotes, but who can go wrong with Shakespeare? Especially Shakespeare lingo that one can understand. I certainly can’t say it any better than that beaded English poet. So here. “The earth has music for those who listen” ~Shakespeare 

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He’s just got to be talking about the wind through the trees and the creatures within them, right? In this case yes because it’s fitting. It’s fitting to my blog on birding.

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I pretty much love birds in all their chirpy glory they are darling little creatures. If they weren’t such elusive fliers I would probably hug a bird a day. Perhaps that’s why there were given the gift of flight because they are just so cute, evolution had no choice but to protect them.

I grew up with parents who are pseudo birders. Mom and dad mostly stalked birds from their backyard then jotted notes in their bird guide. They keep natural skirts on their palms and a fairly lush backyard so they had plenty of year-round visitors. They even raised a few that either got blown out of their nests before feathers or were runts and were rejected by their biological bird parents. My dad once attempted to incubate owl eggs that were blown from a palm. They feed ravens and hummingbirds and my mom can identify and rattle off names (mostly with correct pronunciations) of pretty much every bird species native and migratory that lands in the Coachella Valley.  So I either inherited an innate love of feathered friends from my folks (nature) or there was no way to escape loving them (nurture).

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With that out of the way we dive head first into more bird info. than you may have ever wanted from a blog.  The first peak of daylight is their cue. The early bird, always gets the worm. And for those who relish in his every move, well they’ll get the first glimpse. Passing time looking for feathers…birding is a love for many, an earthy hobby that has captivated tens of millions of people eager to spy one of nature’s chattiest critters.

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In the Southern California desert, the bird watch is beyond compare.
The area is part of the Pacific Flyway, a major migration route. Between native and migratory birds, there are easily 1000 different species to be found in and around Greater Palm Springs.

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Varying habitats from palms to pines provide perfection for birdies and for those who love them. The Salton Sea is particularly important in our area. No matter the season you can find thousands of birds and more than 100 different species on any given day. The sea is 380 square miles with varying habitats the number and variety of birds can be overwhelming.

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In the high desert, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is a birders paradise. Nature trails weave through 31-thousand acres. From cottonwoods, to chaparral, the landscape is home to 250 bird species, making it one of many spots to track tweeters.

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College of the Desert Natural Resources professor Kurt Leuschner moved to the Coachella Valley because of the birding potential. “As soon as I got here I was amazed at how many places you could go to find interesting birds within a short drive. In fact I don’t know any other place that has great birding potential in one concentrated area, surrounded by natural protected areas.”

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One of the prime areas is Sunnylands, where US presidents seek peace and so do more than a few of our feathered friends. Leuschner leads weekly bird walks through the lush thicket of native plants.

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I wandered along with a surprisingly LARGE group of birders and spotted a couple of our most popular desert residents, a pair of hummingbirds and several delicately darling hummingbirds.

If you want to talk birds, Leuschner is your man. One of the best tidbits from our chat was in regards to the Blue-Footed Boobie, a bird that is known mostly to frequent the Galapagos Islands far, far from the Coachella Valley.  Pairs shuffle around on their fabulous blue feet and meet on the Galopagos shoreline. The Blue-footed Booby also nests as far north as western Mexico. But in some years, small numbers stray north into the southwestern United States, and take up residence at the Salton Sea. That’s pretty AMAZING!

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For a closer peek right into the eyes of birds, the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center is the place.
Nestled in an unlikely spot in Indio with a view of Interstate 10, it’s the center of Lind York’s world. “You know how people like cats, some like dogs, I like birds.”

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Burrowing-Owl

York’s mission is to care for and rehab orphaned, sick and injured native birds and get them back into the wild. She’s been at it a lifetime with unwavering commitment and countless accolades.  Her humble facility is open to birds of a feather or anyone curious to take peek.
Grab the handwritten birders list, walk the grounds and meet the residents.

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Most of the birds eventually fly free, those that can’t be released, are used for education.

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There’s Butler a talkative American Kestrel, Corazon, the shy Barn Owl and Mr. WOO (it stands for Wise Old Owl) the Great Horned Owl, he’s blind but has fostered countless owlets. Uulee a female has done the same. There are red tail hawks, silly quail and even an elusive Burrowing Owl. York’s goal is to teach people how to both appreciate and coexist with nature’s creatures.

York says, “it’s amazing what critters can teach us about tolerance and caring.
Kind of what humans can do if we allow it.”

A different take on ‘a bird’s eye view’, or maybe that was the meaning all along…Perhaps that’s why so many are enamored and inspired by what they see when they take the time to look.

If you’re looking for a birding adventure in this area you’re in luck. The Desert Cities Bird Club is a great resource for information and for where to go for the latest guided bird walks.

To learn more about the countless other amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!

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Cactus Mart ~ WANDER LIST

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The eye catching sign just of Hwy 62

It’s a sign of the times, truly. The sign went up in the 1960s and has never once come down.The slogan, a marketing magnet of sorts and trust me, once you’re pulled through the gates, you’re going to want to stick around.

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Did you see…they sell Joshua Trees!

Cactus, in all its prickly glory, from tiny to tall, giant to small, Cactus Mart puts cacti on the map! They have Teddy Bear, Jumping Cholla, Beaver Tail, Hedgehogs, Saguaro, Joshua Trees and dozens of other plants native to the Mojave Desert.

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Like a box of chocolates!

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A little succulent gem

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Agave! Tequila anyone?

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Better than a yellow brick road, a yellow flower path

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Yep, this is the spot for all that and more!

There is so much to love here, the cacti collective, the succulent smorgasbord, the seemingly never ending path of native plants.

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I want all of you, you little perfect plant creatures

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Don’t this the giant clam shell is from the desert

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Poor Barbie, at least she’s in cactus heaven!

The owner of Cactus Mart, Nicole Holland, calls the business a true desert treasure. She scooped up this high desert gem in 2012 and made it what it is today. Along with the plants, the onsite boutique features a plethora of products from local artisans, from candles to coffee, paintings to pottery. Holland says, “It’s kind of like a little desert haven.”

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I will take one of each and my husband will plant them all!

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Would have loved a whiskey from here in the day and I don’t even drink whiskey!

An historic haven with a pretty cool past. In the 1940’s it was Terp’s Hitching Post, a bustling roadside bar. In the 1960’s it changed hands and the owners swapped stiff drinks for rugged plants and that killer catch phrase. Dig Your Own Cactus, 59 cents.

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And that’s exactly what you do

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Not with a shovel…with tongs

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Greenhouse Greg, setting up for the perfect shot

If you want to partake in that, all you have to do is head to the greenhouse, select a pot from tiny to midsize, grab the tongs, pluck, (dig) and plant.  Holland says shes even had people show up with gloves and a shovel asking where they can dig. “Dig your own, it’s the catch, it gets everyone in, they’re curious.”

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Why do I look so series? I assure you I was having fun!

Curiosity, well in this case, comes with cats. Butch and Sundance are the Cactus Mart mascots. “Everyone falls in love with the cats.” I sure did, in fact, as a matter of fact, they ate from my hands.  And I took a liking to these gals, the chicks, the greenhouse greeters.

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Butch!

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Must love chickens!

Holland says between the animals and plants her goal is to make people appreciate the wild desert. It’s conservation via education.

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I sure love these chicks!

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Medicinal plants

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My kind of headquarters!

Speaking of education, I asked Holland what questions she’s asked the most, she says laughing, “how to care for a cactus…less is more, don’t overthink it, don’t love it to death, just let it do its thing.

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Old man cactus…you look dapper!

A Cactus Mart mantra that Holland hopes extends far beyond her budding business and eye catching sign, and into the world!

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Rust makes everything look better

As a side, perhaps beyond the enjoyable afternoon of filming on property, my fav. part was when I asked her if she had any cactus jokes. Without hesitation she said, “I may not know all my cactus but I sure know a pri*k when I see one.” Nuff said!

To learn more about the countless other amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!

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Desert Distilling ~ WANDER LIST

 

I’m not much of a drinker, I’m certainly not a purveyor of fine alcohol. I didn’t even have my first beer until after college and I’ve never taken a shot of anything in my life. So why am I so interested in doing a story on a distillery? Well because it’s intriguing to me, both the science and patience that go into creating these small batch spirits. When my husband and I travel we really love tasting the flavors and learning the inspirations behind the local distilleries and breweries from the area we’re exploring. This particular distillery is local, and everything they make is hand-crafted in the Coachella Valley, which in my opinion, makes it extra special. (not partial or anything)

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Getting a quick lesson in distilling, in truth, I would probably need a four-year program to get all the steps down

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What’s behind warehouse door #1?

And that’s what brings Wander List to Desert Distilling in Palm Desert. Roll up the warehouse doors and inside, a modern day lab where ethanol & infusion give way to bubbles, barrels, then bottles of small batch, hand crafted vodka, gin, and rum. The pseudo-scientists at the helm, two brothers, whose concoction crafting began years ago in their family basement.

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Feels like we’re back in science lab

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If only science lab were this fun…

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The bros, Neil and John Lotz

John and Neil Lotz are the genius behind the spirits and their brainchild is Desert Distilling. It’s the first and only distillery in Greater Palm Springs. The bros both have day jobs, the distillery is now just a little more than a hobby but it’s truly their first love. The long term plan is to sooner than later turn the small batch business into a full-time gig. Right now they have their products in several local stores, bars, and restaurants in the Coachella Valley and in San Diego. Where to taste their products.

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Bros hard at work pretending we’re not there creepily watching them from above

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The alcohol mother-ship

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Distilling machines or something from the ISS?

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Just another step in the seemingly forever process

Several times a week the twosome are in the warehouse, mixing it up.  A little of this, a little of that, it’s a raw ingredient experiment of sorts that has proven to be a success so far. The day we visited, the bros were cooking up local apple cider, which would eventually turn into small batch whisky made to order for an orchard in Oak Glen.

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The whisky aging in barrels, if only you could smell it

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The Desert Distilling tasting bar, bottoms up, bottoms up

The gents were generous with their pours when we sat at the tasting bar to swallow some of their spirits. Their vodka, triple distilled and cold filtered through carbon. A smooth finish with a hint of caramel notes. The American Gin, not a traditional juniper style. This one has a spicy aromatic texture with a crisp finish and their White Rum, crafted with sugar cane and yeast. The slow fermentation, gives way to cherry, banana and butterscotch notes.

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The bottles are really beautiful

See for yourself, the tasting room is open and the brothers are ready to pour and prove that character in never sacrificed for quantity. Neil told us, “Small batches allow us to personally ensure every bottle produced has the exact same quality and finesse.” Speaking of finesse, on every beautiful bottle, a little hummingbird which represents joy and lightness, the true essence of Desert Distilling.  We’ll toast to that!

To learn more about the countless other amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!

 

 

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Lord Fletcher’s ~ WANDER LIST

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About to step through the doors and into a time machine

Memory is a powerful thing! It’s what has kept one desert haunt happening for 50 years. Oh the stories of what happened behind these doors. Opening the door to Lord Fletcher’s restaurant is like stepping into the past. Like time travel to a time when dining was more than a warm meal, a time when the host knew your name, and the bartender, your drink.

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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill greets you on the other side of the door. This is one of only five Churchill portraits painted by famous artist, A. Egerton Cooper. The others hang in London

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Construction of Lord Fletcher’s circa 1966

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Can you see HWY 111 there?

Lord Fletcher’s is that place that has managed to stand the test of time and seemingly, stop time. The Rancho Mirage restaurant opened its doors in 1966. At the time, Michael Fletcher was 10 years old and remembers his father Ron, meticulously selecting everything that would decorate the space.

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According to this newspaper clipping from 1966, “Anything can happen in the desert even British pubs!”

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The original marquis outside the restaurant

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Ron and Shirley Fletcher celebrating the start of construction on their new restaurant, May 1966

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The original inside…looks exactly the same now except the waitress outfits are different

Ron Fletcher originally from England, wanted to create a warm pub atmosphere, with a dining room like an English countryside inn. The antique dealer traveled the English countryside for more than a month procuring every print and mug that you see in the restaurant.

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English Toby mugs and horse brass on the fire place

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I adore the dark moody lighting here

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This 17th century grandfather clock was a gift to Ron Fletcher from his mother

The walls are full of odds, ends and antiques among the goodies, English Toby mugs, horse brass, copper pots, fine china, an officer’s sword and the family’s own grandfather clock.  In the Shakespearean Room, stained glass, and two-centuries old black and white etchings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.  And since opening day, so many moons ago, the rooms and decor have not changed.

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Ask for the table in front of the stained glass in the Shakespearean Room, it’s amazing!

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Amazing antique black and white etchings

The Fletcher’s have always felt that they want their guests to feel that it’s not just a restaurant but it’s actually their home and that they have been invited over for dinner.

Fletcher says, “It’s not just for us to come in and do what’s expected of us. We go beyond that because we actually enjoy being here and doing what we’re doing because of the people who come in.”

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This was Frank Sinatra’s table

Over the years, the Fletcher family has welcomed countless celebrities into their home. It was one of Frank Sinatra’s beloved desert haunts for 30 years. In fact he gifted the Fletcher family the portrait which still hangs over his favorite table. There was a time when a dress code was in place, Fletcher laughs when he recounts how Bobby Kennedy was the first person to dine there without wearing a dress coat. “He wore a nice sweater and a tie and that was close enough for Bobby Kennedy.” Fletcher says, Steve McQueen was the second person to rebel against the fancy dress code. “He had just wrapped up filming Thomas Crown Affair and came in wearing a tan lamb skin long jacket. He was Steve McQueen, he wasn’t supposed to follow the rules, so we let that one slip too.”

It’s not just one thing that stands out at Lord Fletcher’s, it’s everything, the stories, the food the atmosphere, the Royal Brandy Ice. That drink will get you…it’s strong! “I tell people it’s like having an after dinner drink and ice cream at the same time so I tell people you accomplish two tasks with one cocktail.” And it’s a tradition to offer that cocktail to guests after a meal.  Michael Fletcher says Frank Sinatra loved it so much that he had the recipe taped to the refrigerator in his desert home. He recounts that Sinatra would often send his driver to the restaurant to pick up a gallon of the praline ice cream that is blended into the after-dinner drink.

Fletcher chuckles, “Sir Andrew here, is probably one of the best guys around to fix any ailment you have.”

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Sir Andrew here! The most fun we’ve had sitting at a bar in forever!

Sir Andrew is the current bartender and only the third to tend bar at Lord Fletcher’s in 50 years. And get this…their main chef,  has been in the kitchen since 1977.

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The main chef doing what he does best in the kitchen he’s been working in for 40 years

So if you’re wondering what the restaurant is known for, wonder no more. It’s the Prime Rib. Fletcher says it’s perfect! The perfect cut, the perfect preparation, the perfect, most succulent, most delicious piece of meat. It’s served with Yorkshire Pudding and mouth watering spinach and did I mention, it’s perfect?

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Yes…the Prime Rib is GIANT

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Ready for its close-up

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Another mood-light sconce

If memory is tied to taste and good memories to nostalgia, this tiny time capsule has the corner on the market.  Night after night and year, after year, after year, this restaurant institution manages to bring people back to a place in time and that place is Lord Fletcher’s.

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It’s 4:05pm time for Calve’s Liver

Fletcher says, “Lord Fletcher’s is one of those places that exists in the desert that to me, brings people back in time a little bit, to how the desert was in the sixties and seventies when things were a little different. We have preserved that unique experience that increasingly is a little harder to find.”

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The Fletcher Family – three generations

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Michael and I inadvertently matched the day we filmed there so I had to get a shot of us

A small side note. I have become quickly obsessed with Lord Fletcher’s and the heartwarming, fascinating, and inspiring story of the Fletcher family. I only started to dine here again in recent months, and only because of an (inside) promise I made to my husband, which happened to include a ‘grand finale’ dinner date here.  We finally, after years of waiting, had our date and that was all it took. We were hooked. The cozy restaurant inspired me to pitch the story for a Wander List episode and the rest is history.

All that said, before our most recent visits, the last time I had dined at Lord Fletcher’s, was when I was 6-years-old. It was around the holidays and my entire family went out to dinner. I remember the maitre d’ giving my father a dress coat to wear (he has an aversion to dressing up and he’s not Steve Mcqueen or Bobby Kennedy). The restaurant was slammed, we waited for a table for a long while. We were seated at a charming table, with a long booth along the wall-side. At 6-years-old, 8pm felt like midnight. I remember lying my head on my mother’s lap while waiting for our meal and then being lulled to sleep by the buzzing conversations of that evening’s patrons. I took note of that table, it’s still there, of course, and just begging for another family dinner. This time I assure you, I will not sleep though it.

To learn more about the countless other amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!