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...)

A day trip around this man made bathtub is a trip through a unique version of the American dream.
by Morgan Craft

Anybody who spends time in the desert knows about the Salton Sea. Many have even made the drive to stare from its eerily beautiful shoreline. To really know the thing, however, a complete circumnavigation is the way to go about it. And it’s a great day trip, with a truly offbeat set of sights and experiences to be had along the way. (Read on...Click here!)

California's Solar Land Rush Intensifies

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 12:54 PM 0 comments

The Race is on to Land Solar Projects across Eastern Riverside and San Bernardino Counties

by Morgan Craft

   Interior Secretary Ken Salalzar’s recent visit to the Coachella Valley put national focus on the proposed mass development of solar energy in eastern Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “We have set aside 1,000 square miles of public lands in 24 Solar Energy Study Areas that the Department and BLM are evaluating for solar energy development across the West,” Salazar said. “If developed, these tracts could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity.”

(Click image to enlarge)

   To highlight the point, the Interior Department has opened a California Renewable Energy Coordination Office (RECO), right in Palm Springs. “These offices in California, along with our renewable permitting teams in six other western states, will help to swiftly complete application reviews on the most ready-to-go and environmentally appropriate solar, wind, and geothermal projects on U.S. public lands,” says Salazar. The streamlined review and approval process would take one year, instead of the usual three to four years.
   The Green Technology Institute calls the Southern California desert the “Saudi Arabia of green power,” and advocates all who believe in green energy to participate in “California’s green gold rush” taking place right here, right now. Riding the wave of the State Bill 107 mandate that requires 33% of our state’s electricity to be produced using renewable sources by 2020, utilities and solar power developers are wanting to know where they can build, and how soon. There’s a huge motivator: projects that are able to break ground by December 1, 2010, qualify for a portion of $15 billion in Recovery Act money that has been earmarked for alternative energy development. (Click to read full story)

A Different Kind of Rooftop Solar Shingle

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 8:52 AM 0 comments
A Different Kind of Rooftop Solar Shingle

A company out of Grass Valley, California – Sun Energy Engineering Co. – has developed a low-profile solar shingle, or Sun Energy Shingle, to be used instead of roofing shingles or over existing shingles. It’s available in custom colors, too, depending on what kind of look you’re trying to get on the rooftop.

The Palm Springs Dining Scene Springs to Life

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 12:30 PM 0 comments

Desert Dining

The Palm Springs dining scene springs to life

The New Morgan's at La Quinta Resort

Dining in the desert is usually a crapshoot--menus are as dusty as the landscape, never wavering or changing. But with a recent spate of renovations, plus new chefs using seasonal, local and organic ingredients, things are starting to look up.
With its mod style and young, friendly staff, Cheeky's is the locals' new breakfast favorite. The menu changes daily at the whim of the chef, so you might find dishes like maple-sausage hash with sweet potatoes, parsnips and a perfectly poached egg ($9), and buttermilk pancakes studded with fresh corn and blueberries ($9). Get the "bacon flight" to taste all of the house-seasoned strips (cinnamon, jalapeƱo, maple and herbs). 622 N. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-327-7595 or
For a swank lunch, sit poolside at the Riviera Resort's Circa 59. New executive chef Bradley Manchester tosses pappardelle with roasted beets and their greens ($13); brown-butter vinaigrette adds surprising richness to shaved Brussels sprout and fennel salad ($9); and the short-rib panini with pickled onions ($14) is hearty enough for two. 1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr.; 760-327-8311 or 
Even if you're not staying at the sprawling La Quinta Resort, the just-opened Morgan's (pictured) is a reason to visit. The room has rustic desert elegance, with seasonal dishes to match, like creamy roasted fennel soup with apple and bacon ($8), steaks with grilled, plump porcini mushrooms ($32), and roasted Santa Barbara49499 Eisenhower Dr., La Quinta; 760-564-4111 or spiny lobster with herb butter ($36).
The Ace Hotel's Amigo Room could just as easily be in Los Feliz as in Palm Springs. In addition to fresh-fruit cocktails and craft beers, the menu in the bar (and at Kings Highway, the former Denny's across the hall) features addictive truffle popcorn ($5), vegetable potpie with a flaky crust ($8), and locally raised rib-eye steak with herb relish ($29). 701 E. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760-325-9900 or

Senator Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Balance Conservation, Recreation and Renewable Energy Development in the Mojave Desert - Measure would designate new desert conservation lands; streamline and improve permitting process for large-scale wind and solar development on suitable desert lands; and enhance recreational opportunities.

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the author of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, today introduced a comprehensive bill to designate new lands in the Mojave Desert for conservation, enhance recreational opportunities, and streamline and improve the federal permitting process to advance large-scale wind and solar development on suitable lands. The carefully crafted legislation, titled the California Desert Protection Act of 2010, is the product of discussions with key stakeholders in Southern California. (Click on image to enlarge)

(Click here to read full article)

Do You Know Where Your Trash Goes, Coachella Valley?

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 11:49 AM 2 comments

Whither our trash, Desert Dwellers?

The average US citizen produces around 4.4 pounds of trash each day. From April through June of this year, the cities of the Coachella Valley sent 112,734,000 pounds of waste into landfills. And that’s not counting recycling. Very few people know where all that waste actually ends up. (Click to read on...)

Saved From Certain Death, Now They're Models

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 6:53 AM 1 comments
Photographer Frank Bruynbroek captures amazingly regal portraits of four-legged beauties. But you may not see these at the kennel club – all of Bruynbroek’s subjects are rescued from shelters where they would certainly have been euthanized.

“Being a dog photographer is not a profession I chose -- it chose me. Out of the devastation and grief after the loss of my dog Rosalie came a vision to help more than one dog at a time, and I made myself a promise to use my talents to contribute to the welfare of animals. In order to give them a voice I began working on a book of portraits of rescued dogs. The overwhelming feedback of my first exhibit in Los Angeles gave me a new pair of eyes and showed me that it needed to be my main focus. Now it's all I do, and I have a gallery of portraits of rescued dogs located in beautiful Idyllwild.”

“With my art I am trying to create awareness about the unbearable killing in this country of 6 million unwanted pets every year. By buying pets we keep perpetuating the problem. We all need to spay, neuter, and adopt pets. We have to be the change we want to see.”

The desert region is home to a number of humane, no-kill shelters and spay/neuter facilities that need your help. Give a little extra cash or volunteer at these worthy organizations:

The Humane Society of the Desert, Orphan Pet Oasis
17825 North Indian Avenue
North Palm Springs, CA 92258
(760) 329-0203 - Fax (760) 329-7944
Indio Animal Control
45-355 Van Buren Street
Indio, CA 92201
(760) 559-1511
Animal Samaritans, SPCA
72307 Ramon Road
Thousand Palms, CA 92276
(760) 343-3477
Morongo Basin Humane Society
4646 Sun View Road
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
The Pet Rescue Center
80-126 Highway 111, Suite 2
Indio, CA 92201
(760) 775-6691

Frank Bruynbroek’s Photography can be seen at 54-425 North Circle Drive in Idyllwild. His rescue dog calendars can be ordered from

Imagine this: Once a week, a box of fresh, organic and locally grown produce and herbs arrives here in the desert, with your name on it. All year long. Sound like a fantasy? The dream has come true with the Inland Empire CSA.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm or farms and a community of supporters that provides a direct link between the production and consumption of food. Consumers help to cover a farm's yearly operating budget by pledging (purchasing) a portion of the season's harvest. CSA members make a commitment to support the farms throughout the season, and assume the costs, risks and bounty of growing food along with the farmer or grower. The pledge helps to pay for seeds, fertilizer, water, equipment, maintenance, and labor. In return, the farms provide a healthy supply of seasonal fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs throughout the growing season. Becoming a member creates a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land on which it is grown and those who grow it. 
(Click to Read on...)

Cadiz Valley desert water-storage plan renewed |

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 12:36 PM 0 comments

November Real Estate Numbers Show Little Change

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 9:11 AM 0 comments
Desert Area Home Prices Up Slightly in November, But Sales Drop

Trends at a Glance

   According to the Desert Real Estate Report, the median price for single-family, re-sale homes rose 14.5% from October. Year-over-year, the median price was down 3.8%. This is the lowest year-over-year decline since December 2007. The average price for homes was up 6.7% year-over-year. This is also the first time that has happened since December 2007. It points to increased activity in the move-up market, $500 to $1MM, and the upper end market of $1MM plus. (Click to read on..)