The Desert Dawg Blawg

All things California desert: Travel, politics, environment, adventure, offbeat experiences, local hotspots, insider's tips, people and commentary about life in Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley and the California desert region.

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By Morgan Craft

Ever wanted to swing into the chic desert abodes of Frank Sinatra, Liz Taylor and Steve McQueen? How about reliving the fight scene in the James Bond thriller “Diamonds are Forever”? Then slip on those vintage slacks and take in the desert’s coolest international architecture gathering.
 The Elrod House, seen in "Diamonds Are Forever"
The Palm Springs Modernism Week, the only event of its kind in the country, has become one of the desert’s main events, and with over 40 stylish and educational events around the city, this year’s 5th annual week is expected to be bigger than ever.   (Click to read more...)
by Morgan Craft
One of the reasons we desert dwellers extol the virtue of living in our arid environment are the many choices we have to get away from it. Idyllwild has always fit the bill, and it’s only getting better.

With its many art galleries and the Idyllwild Arts Center (, this funky mountain hamlet has been named as one of the top 100 small art towns in America. The town hosts regular art and musical events like Jazz in the Pines, numerous Art Walks and festivals, and Idyllwild's Adult Arts Center attracts adult students, drawn by its diverse offerings in contemporary arts, theatre, and creative writing.
Park in the small town square, and most of the town’s offerings are within walking distance. Idyllwild tried for decades to cash in on a Swiss Village theme, and much of the downtown architecture reflects this. And while there’s a dearth of touristy knickknacks and high-calorie temptation, a new generation of hip, enlightened businesses has taken root. The community now offers yoga, pilates, an organic market, watsu (floating) massage, spiritual and meditation retreats, and of course, thousands of acres of contemplative wilderness. (Click to read on...)

Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet Looks to the Future

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 2:17 PM 0 comments

From Palm Springs to Washington:
Mayor Steve Pougnet Looks to the Future

Interview by Morgan Craft

Palm Springs mayor Steve Pougnet is in the thick of things here in the Coachella Valley. Elected to the Palm Springs City Council in 2003, he eventually won the Mayor’s seat in 2007 with over 70 percent of the vote, and now serves in leadership positions on numerous commissions and boards throughout the region.
Pougnet is the Chairman of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG), Chairman of the Energy & Water Conservation Subcommittee, as well as Vice-Chairman of the CVAG Energy and Environment Committee. He’s also Vice Chairman of Sunline Transit Agency, a Board Member of the Palm Springs Desert Resort Convention and Visitors Authority, and a member of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.
And he’s running for Congress this year, against an entrenched incumbent in a historically conservative district. I sat down with the Mayor to discuss the city, the region, and his race for Congress. (Click to read on...)

Chef Jimmy Schmidt Brings His Artistry to Morgan’s in La Quinta
By Morgan Craft

When we heard that chef Jimmy Schmidt had relocated to the La Quinta Resort to open a new restaurant there in an old space, we gave it a week and headed down valley. Schmidt had left the Classic Club’s Rattlesnake after its demise (losing the Hope Classic obviously didn’t help), and was offered the operation set to open in La Quinta’s old Azul space.

The dining room and lounge has been given a thorough remodel, and is much warmer and richer than its predecessor, as we were ushered to a cozy table next to the Spanish tile fireplace, which was uncovered in the remodel. The cathedral-like room feels like a combination of Mission and Santa Fe styles. The fireplace is fronted by a wooden bread-carving station, where the restaurant’s homemade artisan breads are on display, four kinds each day. As we’re early, Chef Schmidt stops by to chat, and as we look over the menu, he eagerly fields questions about his food and culinary philosophy.

“I take the food and the operation very seriously, so you don’t have to,” he says. “The room is very comfortable and relaxed, and the menu is simple, but a lot of planning and effort goes into what we do here.”

He makes a point of informing us that wherever he can he sources local product. Artichokes (which are on the menu), local herbs, citrus, lettuce, grapes, figs, peppers, even dairy from over the hill in Anza – and the seasonal list goes on. Fish are wild-caught – often from native tribes with fishing rights – and the meats are antibiotic and hormone-free, sourced from a Nebraska coop that the chef has been doing business for twenty-five years. He’s the only chef in the valley they do business with.

“We are increasingly capable of getting excellent product, and often direct from the farms here,” he says proudly, “and it is often more ripe and fresh that what ends up going to the larger market in LA and to the distributors. Sometimes these guys are pulling up right to the back door in their pickup trucks. You should have seen the local figs I just had.”

He also works with local 4-H clubs to promote education and often gets herbs and produce from them. “It’s kind of a competition among the parents to see whose kids can raise the better produce that makes it onto the menu. It’s bragging rights when they come in to eat with their friends,” he adds.

We set into the bread basket and spread the artisanal Vermont butter that’s so rich it borders on cheese until our first course of soup and oysters arrive. The fennel puree with shaved fennel and chive oil is among the best soups my wife (who’s a soup snob) has ever had. It’s so rich we’re amazed that it’s dairy-free. Oysters are ingeniously topped with an apple and cucumber mignonette with cider vinegar, allowing me to truly taste the sweet Malpeque mollusks.

Next, there are soft local baby artichokes, quartered, lightly breaded and barely fried with a sweet chipotle aioli. A hearts of romaine salad uses lettuce that’s so sweet it barely needs a dressing, which is why the light garlic-Meyer lemon vinaigrette works perfectly.

We’re going big, so our main course does too. There’s sliced roasted duck breast with grilled foie gras and shaved apple salad. The duck is perfectly balanced by the tart apple and salty, rich liver. And a petite Angus filet has been cooked at a high enough temperature that it’s charred on the outside, and running with juices in its middle. Perfectly done, and accompanied by a sea-salt dusted russet potato and sweet, homemade sour cream.

It’s a straightforward menu, caringly stewarded by a passionate chef. The servers are knowledgeable and engaging, and as our evening winds down the room fills with an energetic hum. If you’re a foodie who seeks out quality and ambience, Morgan’s and Chef Schmidt should be first on your itinerary.

Morgan’s at the La Quinta Resort and Club
49499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta, (760) 564-7600
Hours: Dinner, 5:30 to 10 p.m. nightly.
Bar, 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday,
open until 1:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
Entertainment, 7 to 11 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.

America Owns the Internet

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 8:41 AM 0 comments

Of the 100 most visited websites in the world as tracked by, all but six are owned by American companies or their European subsidiaries. Google and its offshoots account for 15 of the top 20, and with 46 among the top 100. The great majority of the top sites are in English, and other than one Russian site (#99), the French sports sites L’Equipe (#94) and French newspaper Le Monde (#79), all non-English language sites are individual offshoots of either Google, Facebook, Yahoo, MySpace, Microsoft, Newscorp or Ebay. The BBC’s site (# 26), is the lone English-language standout.
With Murdoch’s NewsCorp headquartered in Britain, it’s the only non-American player in the game, though its main web presence is based primarily on American companies it acquired.

Palm Springs Hotels Get National Honors

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 4:57 PM 0 comments
PALM SPRINGS - A national travel website unveiled its list of top hotels around the world, and named a handful on Palm Springs-area hotels as tops. came out with the list, which was voted on by its users. They say it recognizes the best hotels, and was based on millions of real and unbiased reviews and opinions.

Palm Springs' Old Ranch Inn was ranked the third best bargain in the United States and ninth in the entire world. It was also ranked fourth best in service in the nation.

Century Palm Springs was ranked ninth best service in the United States and the second best relaxation/spa in the nation.

San Giuliano Hotel was the fifth most romantic.

Andreas Hotel and Spa was the best place to relax in the nation, and the ninth best in the world.

Where’s My Stimulus?

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 12:50 PM 1 comments
Where’s My Stimulus?
Entering the Labyrinthine World of Recovery Act Funds Tracking
By Morgan Craft

Just under one year ago today, Congress passed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, (ARRA). California has to date received $8,180,536,434 of the $18,534,842,086 in Federal Recovery Act stimulus funds it has been awarded. While much of the money remains in the pipeline, debate rages, not only over whether the Act itself was a good idea, but whether those federal funds are actually reaching the Coachella Valley.

Interpretation of the information may be determined on whether or not you support the government bailout, or your belief that the stimulus will make a difference. For regular folk, tracking the information and getting answers can be a challenge, and many of the people you ask will send you to federal, state, and county and city websites for verification. (Click to read more...)

Zero Footprint Organic Farm Comes to the Desert

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 6:54 AM 0 comments
New “Vertical Farm” Plans to Revolutionize How Food is Grown
By Morgan Craft
The developers of a new farm in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs have a big plan; nothing less than revolutionizing the way food is farmed in America. Joint Effort Farms (JEF) is a group of collective farming businessmen who plan to remake the American hydroponic and organic farming industry by setting an example of how efficient, self-sustained farming can be brought first into our local market. The forward-thinking project’s aim is high turnover production from a small area with a radically-reduced carbon footprint, while providing work and leadership experience for a planned local collective. (Click here to read more...

The Organic Desert Architecture of Ken Kellogg

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 2:05 PM 1 comments

by Morgan Miles Craft
South of US Highway 62, in the scrublands bordering Joshua Tree National Park, a knoll of sun-baked boulders rises a hundred feet high. On its opposite flank, shielded from the asphalt tendril of civilization and facing the sentient rock formations of the park, a semi-concave structure of layered concrete crouches largely camouflaged among the boulders, as if in wait. That this is someone’s home seems less significant than that it is actually there. Obviously intelligent in design, it also appears to have evolved from, or perhaps collapsed into, its setting—an outcropping of preternatural elegance… or the vertebral remnants of a prehistoric beast. It is, literally and symbolically, the pinnacle of organic architecture. And it is the brainchild of one Kendrick Bangs Kellogg. (Click here to read on...)

California Water Crisis Ratchets Up

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 8:29 AM 0 comments
The Colorado River Water Dance: Too Many Straws in a Dwindling Glass
By Morgan Craft

The Colorado River provides water to millions of users in seven western states, and Mexico. With millions of people relying on the river for drinking water in the United States, and over 3.5 million acres of farmland in production in its drainage basin, the Colorado River is the single most important natural resource in the Southwest.

The Colorado Basin (click on image to view larger)
In 1922, the seven western states that represent the Colorado River Compact (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California) signed an agreement to divide water from the river. At that time, Las Vegas was a whistle stop, and Phoenix had a population of 50,000. Today, greater Phoenix is home to over 4 million people, with Las Vegas nearing 2 million, and the large sucking sound heard from the river before it trickles into Mexico is the thirsty 24 million souls that live in Southern California today. (click to read on...)