Besides sipping cocktails poolside in the desert, one of my favorite pastimes is schlepping luggage from country to country, eating unsavory sandwiches at the airport, and learning how to say, “How much does this cost?” in 15 different languages. This is better known as “traveling.”
The upside is always the unique food, culture, and experiences you encounter during your adventures. Tasting the local food is always a highlight of my trips, and while I long for an In-N-Out burger the moment I land in the U.S., I always wonder moments later, “Where in the heck can I find authentic [insert country] cuisine here in town?”
Luckily, the Coachella Valley has turned into a mecca of international cuisine from all parts of the world. The obscure and imaginative dishes have landed first class into the desert for your palate’s enjoyment. It’s like taking a culinary vacation without losing your luggage!
• See related post: 10 Best Bites and Buys at Coachella Valley Certified Farmers Markets
Umami Seoul ~
Korea & Japan
My next trip for 2018 is to Tokyo. I can’t wait to see the bright lights and big city and to dive into their tempting cuisine. At Umami Seoul in Cathedral City, you get a little taste of Japan and Korea in one dining experience. That mix includes Korean barbecue, fresh sushi and sashimi, and ramen that will rock your world.
A fusion of Korean barbecue and Japanese cuisine, the Bi Bim Bap, comprised of vegies, beef, rice, and a fried egg makes for the perfect lunch.
My tastebuds sure received a preview of what’s to come on what will surely be an epic vacation. I had the Sexy Lady roll, made with shrimp tempura and spicy crab and topped with avocado, jalapeño, and a spicy unagi sauce.
The flavors were erupting off the plate, and the soft shrimp and crab mixed with the crunchy jalapeño made for the perfect bite. I also had the Bi Bim Bap, a traditional Korean dish popular with the locals who put everything they have in their kitchen into one bowl. This particular dish is made with chicken, homemade gochujang sauce, assorted vegetables, and a fried egg on top. While it looks beautiful when it arrives to the table, it’s meant to look messy. Add the included small plates of sides like veggies and chili pepper sauce and break that yolk, stirring everything together to make the perfect meal. Perfect for lunch outside the office. The restaurant decor features beautiful masks and artwork representative of the Asian history and culture. The service is incredibly sweet and attentive and makes the entire meal that much more delightful.
Umami Seoul, 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City. 760-202-0144; umamiseoul.com
Haus of Poké ~
Hawaiian cuisine is an international blend of Far East and island flavors. At Haus of Poké in Rancho Mirage, you can create your own poké bowl as easy as saying “hi” and “goodbye” in Hawaiian (it’s “aloha,” by the way). One of my favorite things about Hawaii is the friendly locals who are so hospitable, just like the staff at Haus of Poké.
The flavors of the islands in various create-your-own dishes like the sushiritto, poké bowl, and salads. You can eat like you live at the beach in the desert.
There are just six steps to making your poké bowl — and you get to be as creative as you want. Choose your size, a base of rice, salad or chips, and add a protein, which includes fresh ahi tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, octopus, and tofu. Then add some mix-ins like red onion and edamame, a sauce like spicy mayo, and some cool toppings — pickled ginger, wasabi, seaweed, and avocado.
The bowl looks like a work of art, and the fish tastes incredibly fresh, which makes the flavors of the toppings soar. You can also make your own poké burrito. Their selection of specialty milk teas like Thai Tea and Jasmine Milk Tea are the perfect drink to complete the meal. While you won’t find an ocean view in the desert to enjoy with your bowl, a palm tree and swimming pool will work just fine.
Haus of Poké, 42500 Bob Hope Drive, Suite 3, Rancho Mirage. 760-636-1892; hausofpoke.com
Now boarding to South America! One of my favorite countries to visit is Peru, and I spent nearly three weeks exploring Lima and Cusco. Peruvian cuisine has recently seen an uptick in popularity due to the fact that two of the top 10 restaurants in the world are from Peru. The recipes are a blend of South American, native Aztec cuisine, and Asian flavors.
Lomo Saltado from Pollo Dokys includes open flamed sauteed filet mignon strips, onion, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, stir fried with french fries served with rice.
Most of the fresh ingredients come directly from the Amazon forest. In Cathedral City, Pollo Dokys is a fast, casual restaurant that features an authentic selection of some of the most popular dishes like pesto spaghetti, cilantro beef stew, and Peruvian beans.
They even have two beverages that are iconic to the region — Inka Cola and purple corn juice, otherwise known as Chicha Morada. Chicha Morada is a tasty juice that is highly addictive (think sangria without the wine) — you’ve been warned. A popular favorite among diners at Pollo Dokys is the Lomo Saltado, a dish made with open flame sautéed filet mignon strips, onions, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, stir fried with french fries and served with rice. It’s a filling dish that is rich in natural flavors. Their most popular offering is the rotisserie chicken, which comes with your choice of sides. Easy peasy for that quick workday lunch.
Pollo Dokys, 68718 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City. 760-832-6878; pollodokys.eat24.com
~ France & Belgium
Get your backpack ready for a tour of Europe! Traveling across the continent is one of my favorite vacations, and spending time in the quaint villages of Bruges and the stylish streets of Paris are some of the best ways to soak up the European culture. Aside from what you’ve seen Julia Child cook, French food is not as complex as you may think.
PHOTO COURTESY OF POMME FRITE
Mussels in Dijon mustard cream sauce at Pomme Frites.
At Pomme Frite in Palm Springs you’ll find simple, yet flavorful hors d’oeuvres like steamed artichokes, a baked wedge of French brie with cranberry chutney and candied walnuts, and a tasty French country pâté.</p>
These are small bites that hit the spot. Entrées are diverse and range from Belgian waffles and crêpes to steak tartare and a blue cheese mussels platter. They even serve a tasty Pomme Frite Mac and Cheese made with orecchiette pasta, diced ham, and green peas in a béchamel sauce. The restaurant itself is reminiscent of the cozy cafés you’d find across Europe that have that local feel.
Pomme Frite, 256 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-778-3727; pomme-frite.com
~ Germany, Alps, and Eastern Europe
Next stop: Germany and a little rendezvous in Eastern Europe. The most delicious meal I ever had was an authentic homemade sausage and sauerkraut in a small café in Bonn, Germany. At Alps Village in Palm Desert, all the uplifting experiences I had in my two visits to Germany came rushing back again.
Cevapcici features homemade aausages, onions, Kajmak, red pepper and eggplant spread, housemade bread lepine.
The menu is a blend of German, Eastern European, and cuisine you would find in the Alps. There are mainstays on the menu like wienerschnitzel and sausage platters in addition to some tasty surprises like the incredible stuffed cabbage rolls and Cevapcici, which is my new heaven.
Cevapcici is a Balkan dish common in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania that often serves as an appetizer but can double as a tasty lunch entrée. It consists of homemade skinless beef sausages on a homemade bread called lepine served with kajmak, ajvar, and different spreads common in Serbia. (I’m still dreaming about these spreads!) Embrace the authentic experience with a frothy beer, and do not forget about dessert. The homemade baklava is by far the best I have ever had! The restaurant’s interior is welcoming and fun, with beer barrel seating and festive murals that look like they came right out of Oktoberfest. The service is all smiles, and the staff is knowledgeable about the origins of the food since most of them are authentic recipes that have been in the owners’ families for generations.
Alps Village, 77734 Country Club, Palm Desert. 760-200-5400; alpsvillage.com
Aaah, Alicante. Midnight to daybreak, dancing in the nightclubs was the highlight of my 20s. Meeting people from all over the world and eating dinner at 11 p.m. like it was no big deal — this is Alicante. Rich in history and brooding in nightlife, Alicante has so much to offer, including its delectable cuisine.
Sauteed spicy lime-drizzled shrimp from Alicante.
There is paella, but tapas are the tiny dishes that bring friends together, made for sharing and washing down with a tall glass of sangria. Alicante in downtown Palm Springs is the perfect place to get a taste of Spain. Their dishes are creative, yet authentic and capture the full spectrum of Spanish cuisine.
Some of the must-try tapas are pulpo a la gallega, baby octopus with potatoes, and the spicy lime-drizzled shrimp. They also have an Alicante slider on their menu made with beef, bacon, and chorizo and oozing with manchego cheese. Their homemade sangria is perfection, made authentically with fresh fruit, brandy, and spices. The have a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu as well (the waffles on a stick drizzled in maple syrup are to die for) and even the “Best Damned Bloody Mary in Palm Springs” on the menu.
Alicante, 140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-9464; alicanteps.com
The Rooster and
My most recent international vacation was to Vietnam and Cambodia. It was my first trip to Asia, and it definitely will go down in the books as one of the most memorable.
Betel leaf wraps with marinated ground beef and diced peanuts from The Rooster and the Pig.
The experiences I had in Vietnam were unlike any other. Street food tours on the back of scooters in the pouring rain, learning how to cook authentic Vietnamese cuisine in the home of a local family, and drinking straight from a coconut on the Mekong Delta. At the Rooster and the Pig in Palm Springs, you’ll get authentic cuisine with a twist. The unique dishes are imaginative, tasty, and healthy.
I personally fell in love with the panko-crusted chicken stuffed rice ball. The coconut yellow curry sauce was one of the best tasting sauces I’ve had. I highly recommend this dish. Other tasty bites include the marinated shrimp sugar cane stick, the Vietnamese crispy roll, and the lemongrass-glazed crispy chicken wings. Surprisingly delicious was the Lod Chong drink with Konjac jelly. Not much glass appeal, but the flavors are so unique and addicting. The interior design at The Rooster and the Pig is Vietnam meets midcentury modern. The staff is incredibly friendly, and Buddy at the bar is your new best friend! His fresh watermelon cocktail will keep summer alive well through the rest of the year.
The Rooster and the Pig, 356 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-832-6691; roosterandthepig.com