Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Day in the Desert: Yucaipa to Palm Springs

Tokyo Restaurant in Yucaipa

Yesterday Jim and I went for some great sashimi and sushi in Yucaipa, a smallish city known more for its dustiness than its sushi. Sitting down at the Tokyo Restaurant, we ordered lots of tasty nibbles, including a plate of Japanese mackerel sashimi, each piece separated by a paper-thin lemon wedge. There was more than the waitress said there'd be. But my favorite thing had to be their "Screaming Orgasm" (a name like that in conservative little Yucaipa could be scandalous enough). Simply put, it's albacore tuna sashimi piled on top of the radish "noodles" and greens that usually come with sashimi, and smothered in their "screaming orgasm" sauce - mayo and small fish eggs, with a little spiciness and some salmon-y color. I almost screamed, yes it was that tasty. And it made the usually bland and flavorless "noodles" taste almost spaghetti-like. I finished half of them. Note, however, that their miso soup is pretty forgettable.

Russell Wright: Living with Good Design

I made my way to Palm Springs and found, to my dismay, pretty much half the town was shut down! It soon dawned on me why: this is the summer, stupid! There are no tourists here, because it regularly gets up to 115 degrees in the day (August is PS's hottest month by far). One thing that was open was the Palm Springs Art Museum, formerly the Palm Springs Desert Museum. It's removed all of its natural history and anthropology exhibits (sending them elsewhere) and replaced them with more art.

One traveling exhibition hosted by the museum right now is the fascinating exhibition of mid-20th century designer Russell Wright's furniture, dishes and eating utensils. Russell Wright: Living with Good Design put on display objects that I didn't think I'd see in an art museum for a few decades yet: utensils that our parents, maybe even some of us have used throughout our lives. But instead of putting them on display purely as recontextualized art, they were displayed as both art and history: we saw these things as they were meant to be used or displayed. Very cool. And that Iroquois translucent china? Wow.

See's Candies

After a little thrift store shopping at the local Revivals (proceeds go to benefit the Desert AIDS Project, and they have some really neat stuff, too), I finally stopped for a snack at that California institution known as See's Candies. Because most of my family is dieting and forbidding themselves from having fattening, delicious, sugary chocolates - and because I already got them some gifts they probably shouldn't be eating - I got half a pound of candies for myself and friends here (yeah, that's it, my friends). Some of the tasty buttercreams that I bought (I am a buttercreamaholic) were vanilla, brown sugar, toffee and apricot. Too bad they melted together in the car, so I had to freeze them and then thaw them out in the fridge. Should make for some interesting eating.

Hunters Video Bar of Palm Springs

Like San Francisco, Palm Springs has a very vocal and vibrant gay community and nightlife. I explored it, as I have before, with a Guinness at Hunters, a local institution with massive screens showing (last night anyway) Beyoncé, Shakira and Norah Jones (funny, I always think of them at the same time, don't you?). In the gay-specific strip on Arenas Road, it's one of the brighter bars, and one of the ones I like more in that area. Of course, there are many other gay and straight bars all over Palm Springs and nearby Cathedral City (their leather-lovin' Barracks Bar has a popular happy hour).

Las Casuelas - ¿Otra Vez?

I went to Las Casuelas again. Yes, I went there the last time I visited PS. But this time, with so fewer people in town and such smaller crowds - and with so fewer options because, y'know, everything was closed - I went back. Only this time, for a change of pace, I stopped in their much bigger Terraza location up the street from the smaller one that's a favorite with the locals. Here I got a cool, crisp Dos Equis beer in a very tall glass to wash down my tortilla chips and salsa. Then came the two-item combo that I ordered: a mild chili relleno filled with, it seemed, mozzarella (or at least its Mexican equivalent) and covered in delicious breading and melted cheese, and a large pork tamale. All that with rice and Oaxaca-style beans (just whole black beans cooked with onion and cumin; I couldn't really taste the onion). Total price for this delicious food: $18. I left a $4 tip.

Other photos -

Even Lucy thought it was hot - must be why she's sitting near the sprinklers.

Just resting? Or are Duane Hanson's Old Couple even real?

Maybe they'd be more comfortable in these swell furnishings by Russell Wright!

FOOL, please!