Best of the Best - Readers Choice 2006

Palm Springs Life Subscribers selected the Coachella Valley’s best attractions, restaurants, spas, festivals, art galleries, specialty retail, nightlife, vistas, golf courses, services — even doggie day care.

Martini Bar
Winner: The Falls, La Quinta
Runners-up: Pacifica Seafood Restaurant and Sullivan’s Steakhouse (tie)

The Falls Prime Steakhouse in La Quinta
Best Martini Bar

The Martini Dome at The Falls Prime Steakhouse in La Quinta is so hot that the drinks are smoking. From the green apple to the cosmopolitan, 35 specialty martinis are served with The Falls’ signature “smoke” curling up from the drink. The martini liquors include gin, vodka, and bourbon, but the secret to these impressively presented drinks is in a special ingredient — and they’re not telling! Mingle with the “in crowd” in the Martini Dome or relax at the patio bar with a soothing backdrop of water features. Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Winner: Starbucks, Palm Springs
Runners-up: Koffi and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Palm Springs (tie)

Vodka Menu
Winner: Pacifica Seafood Restaurant
Runner-up: The Falls Prime Steakhouse, La Quinta

Sports Bar
Winner: The Beer Hunter, La Quinta
Runner-up: Yard House

Cigar Lounge
Winner: Howard’s Hollywood Hangout

Sunday Brunch
Winner: Spencer’s Restaurant
Runners-up: Spa Resort Casino, Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa, and Las Casuelas Nuevas (tie)

Winner: See’s Candies
Runner-up: Lea’s Chocolates

Barbecue Restaurant
Winner: Babe’s Bar-B-Q
Runner-up: Crazy Bones Barbeque

Wine Shop
Winner: Jensen’s, Palm Desert
Runner-up: Trader Joe’s

Sushi Bar
Winner: Matsuri Japanese Restaurant
Runner-up: Midori

Winner: Buddy Greco’s Dinner Club
Runner-up: Toucans

Buddy Greco’s Dinner Club
Best Nightclub
Photography by Susan Werner

The legendary Buddy Greco, whose piano playing and singing have taken him from symphony halls to Las Vegas showrooms, opened his own club in Cathedral City this year. As something of a tribute to 1960s New York and Chicago hot spots, Buddy Greco’s Dinner Club offers a walk down Memory Lane for the older crowd and the closest thing the younger crowd will get to the original pop standard experience. Memorabilia includes photos of Greco with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (Greco performed with the Rat Pack in the ’60s). Vocalist Lezlie Anders  joins Greco on some songs, and visiting guests have included Barbara McNair, Dick Contino, and Pete Barbutti. As for the dinner part of the club, look for special Chasen’s offerings (Chef Isabel Talamantes’ father was head chef at Chasen’s).

Chinese Restaurant
Winner: P.F. Chang’s
Runner-up: Canton Bistro

Italian Restaurant
Winner: Castelli’s
Runner-up: Mario’s

Mexican Restaurant
Winner: Las Casuelas Terraza
Runner-up: El Mirasol

Restaurant for Vegetarians
Winner: Veggie & Tea House
Runner-up: Native Foods

French Restaurant
Winner: Cuistot
Runner-up: Le Vallauris

Best French Restaurant

Cuistot owner and chef Bernard Dervieux not only brings world-class French cuisine to the Coachella Valley, but also brings a bit of the French countryside to his corner of Highway 111 in Palm Desert. Dervieux, who apprenticed with Paul Bocuse, replicated a stone farmhouse from his native Lyons when he built the 7,100-square-foot restaurant. Matching the grand architecture are menu items such as artichoke-filled escargots and Dover sole with hazelnut lemon sauce, as well as a 23-page wine list that, of course, includes many French wines. Over the summer, Dervieux offered “Tour de France” three-course dinners exploring the cuisine of 10 regions of his homeland.

Decadent Dessert
Winner: Melting Chocolate Lava Soufflé at Roy’s Restaurant
Runner-up: Hula Pie at Cliffhouse 

Roy’s Melting ChocolateLava Soufflé
Best Dessert
Photography by Susan Werner

It doesn’t take a scientist to explain why Roy’s lava soufflé makes you feel great. Oh, sure, there’s the theobromine in the chocolate that triggers the release of endorphins in the brain thing. But that’s simplifying it. Rather, there’s something about watching warm chocolate ooze onto the plate as your fork slices into your very own, individual chocolate cake. Using the best semisweet chocolate, creamy unsalted butter, sugar, and fresh eggs, Roy’s manages to strike the perfect balance between a crisp exterior and melting center. Then they serve it with rich vanilla bean ice cream. The contrasts of texture and temperature tempt even scientists to proclaim, “Eureka!”

Power Lunch Location
Winners: Tyler’s and Spencer’s Restaurant (tie)
Runners-up: Melvyn’s, Augusta, and Daily Grill (tie)

Winner: LG’s Prime Steakhouse
Runners-up: Ruth’s Chris Steak House and The Chop House, Palm Desert (tie)

First-Date Location
Winners: Davey’s Hideaway Restaurant and Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (tie)
Runners-up: Le Vallauris, Buddy Greco’s Dinner Club, and Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant

Pet Food/Supply Store
Winner: Petco
Runner up: PetSmart

Doggie Day Care
Winner: The Grand Paw
Runner-up: The Canine Spa

The Grand Paw
Best Doggie Day Care

Doggies (and their people) dig this upscale resort and spa in Vista Santa Rosa that caters exclusively to furry clientele. Canine guests can romp in the indoor Barkalounge or take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool. Feline friends relax in the kitty condo area and frolic in their own outdoor play space. This full-service resort offers hydrotherapy, supervised play, fitness and diet management, party and event planning, grooming, training, pickup and delivery, and overnight boarding. Pet parents looking for that extra treat can even choose homemade snacks, such as Snickerpoodles and Pupcakes, for their babies.

Winner: Agua Caliente Casino
Runner-up: Spa Resort Casino

Perfume Counter
Winner: Saks Fifth Avenue
Runner-up: Macy’s

Winner: Spa La Quinta

Spa La Quinta
Best Facial
Photography by Jon Edwards

One of the things that sets Spa La Quinta apart is the warm, padded chaise longue they use for facials. Another is the fact that they offer facials geared specific-ally for teens and sportsmen, as well as treatments customized to the particular needs of an individual’s skin. The 10 options on the facial menu include exotic ingredients from the rain forest and the depths of the ocean. Seduction of the Senses may be the ultimate facial; it includes warm hand and foot massages and music evoking the sounds of the sea (yours to take as a keepsake with a bag of sample spa products). As a runner-up in the Best Spa category, Spa La Quinta (at La Quinta Resort & Club) also earned kudos for its other services and overall environment.

Winner: Palm Springs Florist
Runner-up: Jensen’s, Palm Desert and La Quinta

Party Planner
Winner: Crayons Catering

Winner: Aaron Brothers
Runner-up: Michaels, the Art & Crafts Store

Winner: The Butler Did It
Runner-up: Crayons Catering

Antique Shop
Winner: 111 Antique Mall
Runner-up: House 849

Winner: Spa Resort Casino
Runner-up: Spa La Quinta

Winner: Indian Canyons
Runners-up: Bump & Grind Trail and The Living Desert’s Eisenhower Loop (tie)

Indian Canyons
Best Hike
Photography by Janice Kleinschmidt

With four distinct canyons to explore, the Indian Canyons in south Palm Springs offer trails through a land of contrasts: the dry heat of the sun and snowmelt-fed creeks; rugged, red-tinged rocks along the canyon walls and water-smoothed, light gray rocks in the canyon beds; cacti on the open desert and shaded stands of skirted palms. Hikers may even find rock art and metates evidencing the early residency of the Cahuilla people in the canyons. Those who want to know more about their surroundings can do no better than the guided hike to the 60-foot Tahquitz Falls in Tahquitz Canyon, depicted as Shangri-La in Frank Capra’s 1937 film Lost Horizon.

Dry Cleaner
Winner: Desert Discount Cleaners
Runner-up: Roadrunner Cleaners

Locally Made Jewelry
Winner: DeLuca Jewelers
Runner-up: Hephaestus

Tourist Attraction
Winner: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Runner-up: The Living Desert Vintage

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Best Tourist Attraction

Where else can you experience both desert and Alpine environments in a matter of minutes? It’s no wonder the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ranks as the top tourist attraction. In addition to the thrill of the ride to the Mountain Station at 8,516 feet, visitors can hike through forests and meadows to the 10,834-foot summit of Mt. San Jacinto. In winter, they can go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or sledding and then come down, put on a swimsuit, and lounge poolside. The tramway tied with Davey’s Hideaway for best first-date location. Certainly it’s got the wow factor, fresh air, the peacefulness of wilderness, and a great view.That view earned the tramway runner-up position in the best vista category. From the Mountain Station, you can view the entire length of the Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea 50 miles away.

Home Furnishings
Winner: Estate Sale Company
Runners-up: 111 Antique Mall, Cathedral City; House 849; and Modern Way (tie)

Movie Theater
Winner: Century Theatres at The River
Runner-up: Camelot Theatres

Public Golf Course
Winner: Desert Willow Golf Resort
Runners-up: Tahquitz Creek Palm Springs Golf Resort, O’Donnell Golf Club, and SilverRock Resort (tie)

Private Golf Course
Winner: Bighorn Golf Club
Runners-up: Mission Hills Country Club and Rancho La Quinta (tie)

Bighorn Golf Club
Best Private Golf Course

Membership at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert has its privileges. Its Tom Fazio-designed Canyons Course offers widely spaced holes and spectacular landscaping, while the Mountains Course by Arthur Hills is a masterpiece of desert ruggedness high above the desert floor. Home to the Samsung World Championship and The Skins Game, these fine fairways have been graced by such golf superstars as Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Karrie Webb, and members Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie.

Radio Show
Winner: Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald
Runner-up: Dan McGrath

Consignment Store
Winner: Estate Sale Company
Runner-up: Revivals

Pro-Am Golf Tournament
Winner: Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
Runner-up: Frank Sinatra Countrywide Celebrity Invitational

Bed Linens
Winner: Bed, Bath & Beyond
Runner-up: Between the Sheets

Modern & Contemporary Art Gallery
Winner: Coda Gallery
Runner-up: Imago Galleries

Impressionism & Post Impressionism Art Gallery
Winner: Edenhurst Gallery
Runners-up: Zantman Art Galleries and Desert Art Center

Music / Art Festival
Winner: La Quinta Arts Festival
Runner up: Indian Wells Art Festival

La Quinta Arts Festival
Best Music/Arts Festival

Marking its 25th anniversary in 2007, the La Quinta Arts Festival has established itself as a can’t-miss venue for artists from around the country. Last March, more than 18,000 attendees walked the meandering pathways through La Quinta Civic Center Park to view the work of more than 200 artists from 44 states. The venue itself is a work of art: 10 lushly landscaped acres with a lake set against the backdrop of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Enhanced by live entertainment, gourmet food, and wine, the overall ambiance helped the nonprofit La Quinta Arts Foundation tote up more than $2 million in sales of paintings, sculpture, photography, textiles, jewelry, and other forms of art.

Winner: Palm Desert Civic Center Park
Runner-up: Ruth Hardy Park

Local TV News Anchor
Winner: Karen Devine
Runners-up: Dan Ball and John White (tie)

Winner: Vista Point on Highway 74
Runner-up: Top of the Tram

Winner: Tabletop Elegance
Runner-up: Macy’s

Tabletop Elegance
Best Tableware

A beautifully set table transforms a good meal into a work of art. The exquisite merchandise at Tabletop Elegance on El Paseo in Palm Desert is designed to make a statement: that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. The Tabletop staff is hands-on, visiting clients’ homes to create a custom look that reflects their décor and lifestyle, integrating color, shape, and ambiance. The final result can include linens, flatware, china, and more. The store also carries gifts and collectibles for the home.
Palm Springs Life

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