Desert Golf & Tennis Dining Guide 

Where to find this season’s innovative cocktails and memorable cuisine 

By Kimberly Nichols

Wintertime in the desert means cities in full swing; gaming, sporting, outdoors-ing, and dining all take on that sparkling glow that replaces snow with crisp, star-lit night skies and a decidedly cooler vibe. It’s a great time to romance the palate with all that is adventurous and new, while also spending some holiday cheer snuggling into booths at the valley’s beloved favorites. 

T&T Innovation Kitchen 

For seekers of a contemporary, experimental bite, this innovative eatery launched at the JW Marriot Desert Springs this past fall. An unconventional entrance takes guests through the massive resort kitchen—a nod to the anticipation and mystery of speakeasy restaurants—but the menu is decidedly modern. Executive Chef Peter Smith was inspired by time and temperature and decided to craft new dishes daily according to both; those are the Ts in the name. T&T is open for dinner Fridays and Saturdays only and advanced reservations are required. (74-855 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert; 760.341.1813; Marriot.com/palmdesert)

Counter Reformation 

Another groovy joint in a grand hotel is Counter Reformation at the Parker Palm Springs. Tucked into a swank pocket of the sprawling grounds, the restaurant offers the kind of food F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald might opt for to complement a revolving selection of Scotch. Sink into a booth or grab a seat at the bar for a plate of caviar, crème fraiche and quail egg on toasted brioche with chives; a dish of grilled sweet prawn with sun dried panzanella; or a trendy toast of rye tartine topped with avocado, haloumi and shaved jamon iberico. The wine list is superb. (4200 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760.770.5000; parkerpalmsprings.com)

Libation Room 

Late night cravings are satisfied at this new, modern-day speakeasy with a 1920s twist. Libation Room is the spot for snacks and wicked craft cocktails, sipped to the sounds of a resident DJ. Think Mediterranean hummus plates and fondue-dipped French baguette. Women receive special treatment Thursdays, Ladies Night. For early birds, there are happy hours daily. (73750 El Paseo, #101, Palm Desert; 877.869.8891; libationroom.com)

O’Caine’s 

Recently opened, O’Caine’s features a menu of traditional Irish dishes and answers the call for imbibers who like their brew in ice-cold mugs at an Irish pub. Grab your woolen sweaters, throw on some jeans and belly up to the bar for some Guinness, hearty fare and jovial camaraderie. (36101 Bob Hope Dr., Rancho Mirage; 760.578.4179; ocainesirishpub.com)

Mimmo’s Italian Restaurant & Bar 

A go-to for Italian fare, Mimmo’s delivers traditional hospitality alongside such sumptuous dishes as ravioli di zucca, a patron’s choice dish of butternut squash ravioli accentuated with butter and sage. Equally good, the homemade crab ravioli comes bathed in vodka and cream tomato sauce. (73540 Hwy. 111, #4, Palm Desert; 760.346.9712; mimmospd.com)

Fresh Agave 

Mexican food aficionados will find an elevated experience here. All of the dishes, such as the classic tangy chile relleno and mouthwatering enchiladas de mole, pair perfectly with the upscale tequila program offered at this fun and festive spot. Those watching their waistlines may opt for the skinny agave margarita, saving their calories for happy-hour ceviche tostadas or a guacamole fiesta prepared tableside. (73325 Hwy. 111, Palm Desert; 760.836.9028; freshagavemexicanbarandgrill.com)  

Mélange 

One special perk of wintry valley dining is the array of charming al fresco experiences offered at gorgeous resorts, including Chateau Lake La Quinta.  The onsite restaurant features lakeside seating with sweeping mountain views and a toasty fire pit, next to which you can enjoy a luxurious olive oil-poached filet mignon with truffle butter and Malbec demi glace. (78-120 Caleo Bay, La Quinta; 760.564.7332; chateaulakelaquinta/dining)

Vicky’s of Santa Fe

Locals and tourists alike have celebrated Vicky’s and its elegant comfort food for over 30 years. Think rack of lamb and classic mac and cheese, prime steaks and pork chops after a plate of bacon-wrapped dates. Those in the know order the “off menu” signature macadamia-crusted Chilean sea bass with Thai coconut sauce. Then they wash it down with a Vickyrita or a Rose Tattoo, made with Ketel One botanical grapefruit and rose, grapefruit, lime juice and agave cinnamon syrup. (45100 Club Drive, Indian Wells; 760.345.9770; vickysofsantafe.com)

Kimberly Nichols is a staff writer with Desert Golf & Tennis


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