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Dining Around The Desert

Dining Around the Desert: Kitchen 86 El Paseo, Palm Desert

Kitchen 86 El Paseo

The Sheri Dettman & Associates team got together for a night out at Kitchen 86 El Paseo last week. Although they are open for inside dining now, it was a nice night and we sat outside.

Sheri Dettman & Associates team

I’ve reviewed Kitchen 86 in the past, but it’s now under new ownership so we wanted to check it out. Locally owned & Locally Grown - Kitchen 86 is a fantastic, welcoming spot to gather and enjoy an eclectic menu of modern, curated small plate continental cuisine. Using local, organic ingredients, offerings include a tableside cheese wheel pasta, house-made curry, ramens, wood-fired pizzas, plenty of entree selections and shareable small plates. None of that has changed, and I doubt anyone would notice that there was any kind of a change in ownership.

We started out with cocktails and wine to accompany our Boom-boom Shrimp which are lightly breaded in a Thai chili glaze with organic greens.

Boom-boom Shrimp

We then moved on to Penne Pomodoro in an organic tomato basil sauce for Kayla, East Indian Curry with Basmati rice, and a mango chutney for Lisa, Salmon Buon Gusto, with asparagus, tomatoes, portobellos, spinach, and Basmati Rice, for Betsy, the Cognac Rib Eye with a wild mushroom cognac cream sauce, potatoes, and grilled asparagus for Michael, and I had the Penne Alla Vodka with sautéed shrimp in an organic tomato vodka cream sauce.

Salmon Buon Gusto Cognac Rib Eye

Everything was very good, the service was attentive, and the only disappointment for me was that due to COVID restrictions they are not currently using the huge cheese wheel to make the special pasta. But once they are allowed to do that, that will be my next order.

They have live music quite often and it had just started by the time we were done, but we’ll be back to enjoy it in the future.


Kitchen 86 El Paseo

73-130 El Paseo, Suite 1

Palm, Desert, CA 92269


Dining Around the Desert: Mankas Grill, Fairfield, CA

This last weekend, Michael and I attended a wedding in Napa, CA, and had a free night before the festivities, so I did some investigating and found a gem of a place, Mankas Grill in Fairfield.

Two brothers, Kyle and Jason Barraza, opened Mankas Grill recently and are doing a bang-up job. Named after one of the original owners, the building was established in 1853 as a major stagecoach stop. Today, they offer new and sensational twists on culinary staples that they are excited to share with the community.

We arrived very early, but they managed to get us seated within about 10 minutes at a great table. The place was packed and everyone was having a great time. There was truly a really nice buzz about the place that no doubt starts with the brothers who are very visible, including at the hostess stand where they are there to greet their guests. I’d say about half of the diners were regulars, and it’s easy to see why.

They have a small menu, but they cover all the bases. From Shrimp Cocktails, Lobster Bisque, Gorgonzola Wedge Salad to Hungarian Rubbed Ribeye, Pasta Bolognese, and a Grilled Portabella Burger.

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We started out with Pork Belly Nachos, with a beer cheese sauce, pico, and sour cream. These are not your usual nachos! We could have licked the plate.

In keeping with the pork theme, Michael had the special that night, a perfectly cooked Pork Chop. To be honest, I don’t remember what the sauce was, but it was heavenly.

I tried the Cajun Shrimp & Truffle Infused Grits with bacon and cheddar. Unbelievably good.

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We had a very nice 2018 Prohibition red blend from Vino Godfather Winery in nearby Vallejo.

Next time I’m up in the area, I will absolutely go back. In fact, the whole corner is so quaint that I can’t wait to explore what else is around.

We are open for Lunch & Dinner

Wednesday 4-8

Thursday- Sunday 11:30-8!

Thank you for all the support this last year!

Our dining room is now open with our regular menu.

Please check open table for availability or call us

at (707) 428-1600 during business hours to make your reservation!

See you at Mankas Corner!

Dining Around the Desert: Joolz in Bend, OR

This August I returned to Bend, OR for the first time in six years with Michael in tow. Bill and I owned a home at Crosswater years ago, and I had friends that I was eager to see – both from Bend and also recent transplants to the area.
Our first stop was at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Joolz on Main St in downtown Bend. Joolz is owned and operated by two of the best people I know, Julie (Joolz), and Ramsey Hamdan. I was so excited to see them and partake of their Middle East Meets The Wild West food. 
Suffice it to say that absolutely everything on the menu is fabulous. I’ve never been disappointed, and I’ve eaten there a LOT! We actually visited them several times over the course of our stay so what follows was not all in one sitting.
Hazelnuts, almonds, pistachio, sesame seeds & cumin roasted & crushed, focaccia, olive oil
Flash-fried cauliflower tossed in lemon and parsley, tahini dipping sauce
Three house-ground falafel, fried crisp with tahini sauce and arugula garnish
Lamb meatballs with bulgur wheat, garlic tomato sauce, pine nuts
Hummus topped with sauteed elk, lemon, parsley, olive oil, sumac & pine nuts

For our main courses, I had the dish I had been dreaming of, FORBIDDEN BLACK RICE CHICKEN BOWL 
Moroccan barbecue braised chicken over rich black rice, garlic toasted nuts, chilled tzatziki
Michael had the TROPHY ELK CHILI 
Braised organic elk, chickpeas, secret spices, tabbouleh, feta and Frito chip garnish, which as a chili aficionado, blew him away.
On the night our friends came along, they had the SMASHED FRIED FINGERLINGS WITH WICKED GARLIC SAUCE
Wicked garlic sauce, Yemeni shoog
Shawarma spice-rubbed Oregon beef, grilled onion, hummus, tabbouleh, Armenian pickles, naan
And even though we were stuffed, we ended it all both nights with the STICKY TOFFEE DATE CAKE  
Our sticky toffee Medjool date cake with warm caramel sauce, whipped cream
Joolz also has a delightful wine list that has a lot of affordable, surprising wines, as well as wonderful craft cocktails.
Joolz is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:00PM to 9PM.
If you are in Bend, OR, you owe it to yourself to make a reservation and experience this food. You will not be disappointed.
Another fave is 900 Wall just a few doors down from Joolz. I’ll save that review for another time, but I will say that on this trip we had the Powdered Sugar Beignets with bittersweet chocolate sauce, raspberry, and vanilla mousse, twice! They were that good.

Dining Around the Desert: Larkspur Grill in Palm Desert

One of the casualties of the pandemic was AC3 at Hotel Paseo in Palm Desert. While we were sorry to see it go, the new Larkspur Grill is in its place, and we are loving it! The room has been slightly redone, and they’ve added a stage for live entertainment.

On Thursday nights, they have a fantastic band called Fun With Dick And Jane Band that plays everything from Woodstock to Coachella. On the weekends, they have a jazz group. Hopefully, once season gets here, they’ll add more nights to the lineup.

The first night we went, it was me, Betsy, and Kayla from my team. We started with a cocktail and were brought Skillet Cornbread with a shallot herb butter and roasted jalapenos. It was so good that I will never not order it!

I started with a County Line Harvest Roasted Beet Salad with oranges, quinoa, avocado, toasted hazelnuts, wild arugula, Humbolt fog goat cheese, and a lavender honey citrus vinaigrette.

Betsy had the Organic Mixed Greens with heirloom tomatoes, English cucumber, red onion, and a toasted torn bread sherry vinaigrette.

For entrees, Kayla and I had the Honey Garlic Glazed Skuna Fjord Salmon with toasted fregula, roasted onion, heirloom tomatoes, and season roasted veggies. Betsy tried the Heirloom Tomato & Artichoke Crusted Alaskan Cod with celery root puree, seasonal roasted veggies, and a citrus beurre blanc.

Michael and I have been twice, and we started with Bacon Wrapped Dates stuffed with goat cheese and rosemary honey. This is a quintessential California appetizer and one that I always make for parties. Fabulous!

We’ve also had the Classic Shrimp Cocktail with tangy cocktail sauce, Mary’s Fred Chicken with applewood smoked bacon, braised collard greens, mascarpone mashed potatoes, and a honey thyme jus. Also, a 14 OZ Grilled Herb Brined Pork Chop with those same decadent mashed potatoes, seasonal roasted veggies, balsamic maple-glazed apples, and a celery parsley salad.

The girls and I shared a Crème Brulee. Michael and I were too full to dare.

Everything was prepared wonderfully, came out quickly, and the service has been excellent every time. The general manager is visible, makes his rounds, and the staff has a great attitude, from the hostesses to the bartenders to the servers. Some of which you will no doubt recognize if you go out at all in the desert.

We’ll all be back and are very happy with the new Larkspur Grill. If you go, tell them we sent you!

See menu, drinks, happy hour, and location here...

Dining Around the Desert: Flora Farms in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Since there hasn't been a lot of new restaurant openings in the Valley lately, I decided to review a fabulous place in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. Michael and I were down there at the end of April for my birthday, and Flora Farms was the number one place on my list to go.

Flora Farms is a 25-acre organic working farm in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. Home to Flora’s Field Kitchen, The Farm Bar, Flora Farms Grocery, and Flora Farms Celebrations. The farm is also home to the Shoppes at Flora Farms, the Culinary Cottages & The Haylofts, (their hand-built, straw bale luxury homes for the culinary-inclined), as well as The Farm Spa, an intimate spa and wellness experience achieved through nature-based spa services, in a supremely peaceful setting.

Flora’s Field kitchen is about handmade food using their farm-fresh ingredients. Their goal is to create a healthy family meal with a sense of place.

The original Flora Restaurant was in San Jose del Cabo. After 5 years in town, and the farm serving as the main provider for the restaurant, the owner decided she would rather bring the restaurant to the farm instead of the other way around. Flora’s Field Kitchen strives to only serve what they make, raise and grow.

Their menu is seasonal, with some permanent classics. All meats served at Flora’s Field Kitchen come from their nearby 150-acre ranch where animals are humanely raised on diets that do not include hormones or antibiotics - and they do not offer beef on the menu as it is not sustainable as there is not enough water in Baja.

We started out with a couple of the house specialty margaritas. Michael had the Citrus, while I had the Hibiscus. Both were simply wonderful.

To start, Michael and I shared the Burratta bruschetta, beet salad with goat cheese, and tuna stack in a mango sauce. I cannot give a full description of all the ingredients as I don't fully remember, and they don't have their menu online since it changes all the time.

For our entrees, Michael had the pork shoulder and I continued to work on the starters. We followed it up with key lime pie and carrot cake.

Suffice it to say that I could easily run out of adjectives to describe how delightful not only the food was, but the entire experience. From wandering through the farm ahead of time to just the whole vibe of the property, Flora Farms is a place that will always be one of my stops when I'm in Cabo.



For more on Flora Farms, click here.

Flora Farms

Animas Bajas, San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mx.

Mexico Phone # (+52.624) 142.1000 / 142.1458

US Phone #: 949.200.7342



Tuesday thru Saturday:

Breakfast 9:00 to 10:30 am

Lunch 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

Dinner 5:00 - 9:00 pm

Sunday Brunch

From 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

Dining Around the Desert: TQLAS in Old Town La Quinta

TQLAS  is a Mexican Restaurant and Agave Bar specializing in Tequila and Mezcal craft cocktails, and traditional, fresh Mexican food.  They offer 75+ Tequilas and 20+ Mezcals;  all the Tequilas are 100% Agave.  All of their drinks are served in beautiful handblown glasses from Guadalajara.

They combine the best of Mexico through their food, drink, and colorful Mexican Art... The  large handmade metal “Katrinas” at the entrance will welcome you to a delightful experience.  The indoor dining room takes you to the artful experience of Coyoacan; dine or just have drinks on the patio under the hand-made lighted stars sipping a “Cazuela” and you’ll be transported to Tlaquapaque...The bar transports you to Agave bars found throughout Mexico with more colorful art as well as big screen TV's to enjoy watching your favorite sport.

We were a few minutes early so we went to the bar where Michael ordered a Cadillac Margarita and I had a Mistico which is El Tesoro Anejo Tequila, Prickly Pear Puree, Agave nectar, and lime juice. Very tart and very refreshing. They have a lot of TV's around the room which made for good viewing for future sports events.

A few minutes later, we were shown to our table outside on the patio. The entire staff wears masks, as do any guests upon entering. Once you are seated, you may remove your mask.

We started out with Homemade Jalapeno Poppers which were really good. Just the right amount of heat cooled off by the Blue cheese dipping sauce.

For our entrees, Michael had the Conchinita Pibil. Pork shoulder marinated 24 hours & cooked in a citrus & Achiote (an earthy, peppery Mexican spice) served with rice and beans. It had a nice bit of sweetness to it and the beans were great.

I had the Shrimp Diabla. Grilled Shrimp with a spicy red sauce served with veggies and rice. The shrimp was cooked perfectly and the sauce was flavorful but not too spicy. The veggies were overcooked so next time I'd ask for beans instead.

The service was personable, quick, and efficient. Since the restaurant had just opened right when the pandemic hit, it really hasn't had a chance to operate under "normal" circumstances. All and all it's a welcome addition to Old Town La Quinta and we'll be back!

Click here to go to the website

78015 Main St. Suite 109

La Quinta, CA 9253

(442) 256-4059

Open Daily 12 PM to 9 PM

Closed Tuesdays

Dining Around the Desert: Pueblo Viejo Grill in Indio & Palm Desert

I’ve written about Pueblo Viejo Grill in the past, as it’s our favorite Mexican Food place in the desert. Both Indio and Palm Desert are equally good. Since the restaurants here are just starting to open, we picked Pueblo Viejo in Indio as our first venture out into the new world of dining out during a pandemic.

One of the upsides is that they are taking reservations for the extremely limited seating, whereas in the past unless you are a party of 6 or more, there was no way to guarantee a table. We would normally sit at the bar, but right now there is no bar seating being allowed.

We were seated immediately at a booth, were greeted right away by our server, and asked if we’d like a drink. You have the option of using the regular menus or scanning the code on a posted sign at your table and seeing the menu on your phone. The entire staff wears masks, as do any guests upon entering. Once you are seated, you may remove your mask.

As usual, the food was wonderful. My go-to is the Taco Salad with Chicken and Michael likes the Salmon Fajitas. We both agreed that they were probably the best we’ve ever had. The Cadillac Margaritas were not bad either!

A nice bonus is that it’s pretty rare that I go out to dinner and don’t run into a friend or client. In this case, purely by chance, a brand new client who had just flown into town to see homes with my team member Adam Cheng walked in with his friends and was seated at one of the other tables. The next day we opened escrow on a beautiful new home in Andalusia!

Click here to go to the website

81931 US Highway 111 (4.20 mi)
Indio, California 92201

Get Directions

(760) 342-5900

Call for hours

Dining Around the Desert: Okura in La Quinta

About Okura Robata Grill & Sushi Bar

Located in La Quinta, Okura offers a unique style, inventive specialties, and focuses on fresh ingredients. Over the years, Okura has become a local phenomenon, winning first place in The Desert Sun’s “Best of The Valley” award in the Japanese restaurant category for over 8 years.

Okura’s menu spans a wide range of delectable options, from unique appetizers to classic Japanese sushi to delicious Robata Grill entrees, including succulent Kobe steaks. Okura serves only the freshest selection of raw fish and seafood, delicately and skillfully prepared by master sushi chefs.

Okura cultivates an atmosphere that is both soothing and lively. The subdued lighting makes each dining experience feel intimate, while vibrant music selections create a convivial ambiance. They are especially proud to offer a large selection of sake to pair beautifully with their menu items – ask them for a recommendation!

Okura just moved across the Point Happy parking lot to the site of the old Las Casuelas on the corner of Washington and HWY 111. After months of renovations, we are pleased to report that they did an excellent job. You wouldn’t know it was the same place. One of the highlights is a huge tree in the center of the dining room that has changing lights, surrounded by a really cool fixture (in the above photo), that creates a very elegant feel.

Four of us enjoyed dinner there a couple of weeks ago. We ordered a lot of food, and all of it was delicious. The service was spot-on, and we can’t wait to go back.

One of the biggest challenges is just figuring out what to order. We started with Edamame and then headed straight to a selection of specialty rolls and sushi.

We shared the Lemon Delight, Protein, Volcano, The Madonna, and Hamachi Jalapeño. Deb and I had a favorite in the Lemon Delight, the guys like the Protein and Hamachi Jalapeño best. I actually think there was one more item we shared, but I can’t remember! It was all really great.

Of course, Okura has Sake, Beer, Wine, and a surprising amount of specialty cocktails.

Overall, we are happy to see them in a new, larger, space that has a really nice ambiance. We’ll be back!


78480 Hwy 111
La Quinta, CA  92253
Phone: (760) 564-5820


Sunday - Thursday: 4 - 9:30 pm
Friday - Saturday: 4 - 10 pm


Visit Okura online… and on Facebook…

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