Thursday, October 28, 2010

Casa Cody - Palm Springs

Compliments of Cody

I had kept Casa Cody tucked away in my mind ever since my mom and I stayed there a couple years ago. As the continuous “budget bounders” we didn’t always stay at the most posh establishments, so when bougainvillea, twined gates opened to cottage-like rows of rooms, we knew Casa Cody was a rare find.

And as I found myself coming up on my first wedding anniversary, I knew Cody’s charming chalet was where I wanted to celebrate with the hubby. Palm Springs was ideal for a few reasons:

1) Two hour ride from San Diego without LA traffic.
2) Enough to do (tram, hikes, shopping), but not too much (won’t feel guilty for just sitting around the pool).
3) Already had a fabulous, affordable place to stay off the main strip, but within walking distance from everything.
4) Casa Cody also allowed dogs ($15 a night = Chianti, our mastiff, got to celebrate with us too!)

Last time I’d stayed along the back row of rooms, steps from a secluded, rectangular pool, though a larger, kidney-shaped number rippled up front, surrounded by other suites, a furnished patio (where continental breakfast was served) and the main office.

I reserved a studio ($99 a night with full kitchen*) and when the woman said she had one near the office, I asked for another, but there weren’t any available. Remembering the layout, I knew that would put us in right the middle of foot traffic and pool shenanigans. So I asked again when we got there and the answer was still “no”…BUT only because they had upgraded us to a one bedroom suite instead! Happy Anniversary to us, compliments of Casa Cody.

Travel Tip: Always let people know when it’s a special occasion because they might want to help make it extra special if they can (i.e. UPGRADE!!)

Sweet Suite: Wide, ceramic tile left its adobe footprint amongst the creature-comfort-coziness of rustic décor. A field of green, equipped with a grill and lounge chairs out front, plus an enclosed, back patio gave us all the privacy we needed (hot tub sat off the main path too).

Room with(out) a View: On our last day of sunbathing at the kidney pool, we noticed a couple emerging from the studio next to the office. Yikes - that would have been our room! Nothing like a front row seat for every passerby – no thank you. Our celebration style would have been severely cramped and our romantic, out-of-the-way, only-people-on-earth vibe that carried us throughout Casa would have evaporated.

Next time, the extra fee of the one bedroom suite would be worth every, extra penny**…privacy is priceless. Either way, we would find ourselves here again. In fact, all of Cody’s customers that we talked to were return ones, as I had been, as my husband (and dog) would now become. This Casa was “su casa” and we wouldn’t think of staying anywhere else.

*Rates change seasonally
**Or even the regular rooms towards the back without a kitchen (but a mini-frig), as my mom and I had before – still more private.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Le Vallauris - Palm Springs

French Connection

When I think fancy, I think French, so for our first anniversary we headed over to Le Vallauris for a night of “bonne chance”. In a matter of steps, we went from foyer to some sort of restaurant terrarium, an outside kingdom surrounded by glass walls, dipping at various angles to make way for limbs sprouting off trees in the dining room. Oval globes of white lights hung like decorative beehives, and I was struck with an air of transcendence, as if we’d fallen down the rabbit hole, but somehow managed to keep our open-air view.

Don’t bring me down, Bruce: Our sommelier/waiter, Bruce, was engaging, kooky and knowledgeable – enough to make a lasting impression, along with the suave, silver-haired owner who fluttered over in his white suit to say, “Bon soir” and wish us a happy anniversary...a personal touch that touched me.

House Specialty: What’s the special here? Everything! A dry/erase board was brought to the table and listed the evening’s menu in marker – because when you’re working with fresh and seasonal ingredients, nothing’s permanent*, except for one thing…great food.

Foie gras ravioli were propped like pillows of decadence and fluffed further by a velvety, parmesan sauce. The swirl of balsamic reduction prettied up the plate, but I wished there was more because its sweet, tartness worked flawlessly with the creaminess of parmesan and foie gras.

Crunchy scallops with apple were wrapped in crispy, potato shoestrings, but still remained juicy on the inside with the perfect amount of acid from the apple.


Veal loin with chestnut pancakes
and porcini, congac sauce – Of course I was drawn in with the promise of savory pancakes, but they were dry and even a tad burnt. If they had come off the flame a few minutes earlier, I believe they would have been sinful (instead of singe-ful)! But the veal made up for it with fork tender medallions and the forest-y foraging of brandy flavored mushrooms.

Lamb chops with vegetable ragout made my husband realize for the first time that he didn’t need a starch. Well, not when the meat is this high quality and the vegetables have caramelized in their sugars all day.

We skipped dessert, only because we were about to burst, but I have no doubt their ending would be the end all. This is the place to impress for special occasions, but be aware that Le Vallauris also leaves quite the impression on your wallet.

Overall experience: the atmosphere – surreal; the menu – exceptional; the service – impeccable; and the memory - unforgettable...we'll be back next year.

*they do offer a seasonal prix-fixe that stays the same.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cheeky's - Palm Springs, CA

Eggs Benediction: A Tale of Redemption

Apparently pigs can fly. The “flight of bacon”, a tasting of four to five, homemade and ever-changing varieties (i.e. jalepeno, applewood, double cut, maple), was the first sign Cheeky’s was going to surpass any expectations we had about breakfast.

This “diminamilist” (= diminutive + minimalist) space used its spit-spot slate of white walls and concrete floors to ensure that their larger-than-life quality of art, staff and food could shine all the brighter. Details like squat-sized condiments were charming, as was our pixie-like waitress, Colby, along with touches like St. Germain in the champagne and a Bloody Mary served in a glass boot (including accessories like the spiciest pickle known to man).

With a menu that changes weekly (fresh & seasonal reigns here), I agonized over ordering the egg/BLT (or what I like to call the “BELT”) with heirloom tomatoes and aioli or eggs benedict. I’d been let down by the latter several times and started labeling it, “eggs Benedict Arnold” since I often felt betrayed by one or many aspects of the dish: soggy English muffin, rubbery meat, broken hollandaise, overcooked eggs – there was just so much that could go wrong. But Colby insisted if I had ever been a fan of benedict, I needed to try this one.

The outcome?

And this is why…
HOMEMADE cheddar scone vs. English muffin
HOMEMADE bacon vs. Canadian bacon
HOMEMADE hollandaise vs. broken/watered-down/congealed/package hollandaise
Sautéed arugula vs. nothing

Every bite, I moaned…and everyone around me understood. The scone stood solid with enough cheddar to counter the spicy bitterness of arugula. The bacon in one word, extraordinary. And if there was a definition for flawless hollandaise in the dictionary - def. 1. a rarity in the restaurant world 2. the norm at Cheeky’s.

I danced in my seat a little to celebrate the miracle I had just swallowed. With renewed faith, I realized there were still righteous benedicts out there after all! Amen to that.

HOMEMADE maple/sage sausage also had me singing its praises and I counted my blessings that I got a bite of Bubba’s heuvos rancheros before he finished them off in a matter of minutes. The Peruano "magic" beans pureed atop gave a new twist to an old favorite. And even though I was stuffed, my eyes followed the brioche French toast with fresh nectarine compote and I was already thinking about the cheddar/bacon waffle I hoped to order next time.

Come for the flight of bacon. Stay for everything else. I don’t have one bad thing to say about this place: clean, friendly, inventive, local fare, fresh ingredients, homemade delicacies…and on a more personal note - epiphany, educing eggs benedict.