“The Elder” cocktail at Workshop Kitchen & Bar.

Greater Palm Springs Chefs Celebrate Grapefruit Season

Grapefruit season is in full swing, and local superchefs are getting seriously citrus with food and drink specials that spotlight the tangy subtropical delight. Get ready to pucker up and enjoy, all month long.

Tara Solomon Restaurants

“The Elder” cocktail at Workshop Kitchen & Bar.

“The Elder” cocktail at Workshop Kitchen & Bar.

If sipping an icy grapefruit saketini from a salt-rimmed coupe is your idea of nirvana (as it is ours), read on. Grapefruit season in Greater Palm Springs gets the royal treatment as local hot spots present citrus-centric offerings throughout March. From spunky cocktails to bright seafood crudos and savory entrées — there’s even a creamy dessert curd with juicy grapefruit supremes (yum) — the once “forbidden fruit” gets its due, with naturally delicious results.

Orchard to Table

Every detail of chef and owner Michael Beckman’s Workshop Kitchen + Bar is a photo-op waiting to happen. From the oversize Brutalist concrete booths (the restaurant won a James Beard Award for its impressive design) to the monster slice of grapefruit garnishing your cocktail, Workshop makes fine dining as fun as going to a Saturday matinée.

Inspired by the grapefruit’s “fresh and awakening flavor profile,” Beckman created an orchard-to-table dessert that’s ready for its closeup: oro blanco and Meyer lemon curd with supremes, cacao almonds, and Thai basil — majestically presented in a hulled-out grapefruit half.

Armando’s Bar

Oro Blanco and Meyer Lemon Curd at Workshop Kitchen & Bar.


The restaurant’s playful cocktail menu features a variety of grapefruit-infused libations, including the Matriarch, an assertive mezcal drink with bitters and salted grapefruit; the Paloma, a classic tequila tipple with an upgrade of fresh grapefruit juice; and the Elder, an icy wonder of elderflower, herbal liqueur, sparkling wine, and fresh grapefruit soda topped with a micro-garden of fresh mint.

800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

California’s State Drink

Grapefruit and its aromatic citrus sibling, yuzu are part of chef Engin Onural’s culinary arsenal. “We love citrus. It complements what we do, and pairs especially well with yellowtail,” says the Turkish-born and Japanese-trained restaurateur, who is showcasing hamachi crudo with grapefruit juice, ponzu, olive oil, and serrano chili at his three sleek concepts: Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey in Palm Springs, The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge in Palm Desert, and Tailor Shop in Palm Springs.

The cocktail special at all three venues is the perky Salty Shiba, made with sake and fresh grapefruit juice. Garnished with an edible flower and rimmed in Onural’s signature Norwegian sea salt, this sophisticated palate-pleaser gets our vote for California’s State Drink. (Not sure if State Drink is a thing, but it should be.)

Fun fact: Grapefruit, in addition to tasting sublime, releases hydrogen ions that activate the 200-plus tiny taste buds on the sides of our tongue, Onural shares, “which helps your body to extract the maximum flavors.” And who better to school us in Grapefruit 101 than the desert’s reigning sushi czar?

Sandfish Sushi Bar & Whiskey
1556 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge
73111 El Paseo, Palm Desert

Tailor Shop
140 W. Via Lola, Palm Springs

Armando’s Bar

Salty Shiba saketini at Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey.

Savory Scallops

Chef Gabriel Woo, who presides over trendy haute spot Bar Cecil, has fond memories of his two uncles bringing home “all kinds of grapefruit” from their Coachella Valley landscaping jobs, which his family would juice, slice for a fruit salad, or simply cut in half with a sprinkle of sugar for a fast snack.

“I love the unique flavors of grapefruit, especially the oro blanco, which reminds me of the dry crispness of a good Champagne,” says Woo, who uses the sweet citrus hybrid for a savory entrée: jumbo scallops marinated in white miso, with cauliflower purée, Bloomsdale spinach, and grapefruit vinaigrette. Caramelized under the broiler, the glazed scallops become a bucket list item when paired with Woo’s vibrant vinaigrette made from ruby red and oro blanco grapefruits.

Jumbo scallops in grapefruit vinaigrette at Bar Cecil.

Jumbo scallops in grapefruit vinaigrette at Bar Cecil. 

While reservations book out in advance, the gorgeous, clandestine bar accepts walk-in dinner guests on a “first come, first served” basis. Which means you can show up looking cute and hope someone vacates their prized seat at the bar top. If not, you can always take selfies in the super-chic powder room.

1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

Sweet Hybrids

Aric Ianni, the newly appointed head chef at The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, is a Coachella Valley native whose botanically blessed upbringing included a front yard boasting lemon, fig, lime, and grapefruit trees.

“I couldn’t wait for the holidays to end and the grapefruit tree to have its fruit ready. It was my favorite,” recalls Ianni. To celebrate grapefruit season, Ianni is highlighting the melogold cultivar — a sweet hybrid of the pomelo and white grapefruit — in his melogold and quince with stracciatella, hazelnuts, charred grapefruit, curd, and baguette.

Meanwhile, the oro blanco grapefruit has the starring role in Ianni’s entrée — oro blanco gnocchi with Dungeness crab, grapefruit beurre monté, asparagus, applewood oil, peas, and sunflower kernel — an impressive homage to the chef’s Italian heritage.

32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage

Armando’s Bar

Cured sea bream crudo at The Penney.

Bittersweet Magic

Chef Jon Butler, who oversees the kitchens at both Kiki’s in La Quinta and The Penney at Desert Island Country Club in Rancho Mirage, embraces grapefruit’s versatile flavor profile numerous ways, including making oil infusions, hydrosols, purées of the rind, and other culinary maneuvers best left to professionals.

“I love when grapefruits come into season fully,” Butler says. “As a chef, you get to explore the depth of flavor in the varieties.” At the charming Kiki’s in La Quinta, Butler’s County Line winter lettuce salad with market grapefruits, pistachio, mint, basil, and vanilla vinaigrette is a culinary love letter to Southern California. “The marriage of bitter lettuces and bittersweet grapefruit is magical.”

For a sweet finish, a buttermilk panna cotta with mint meringue, market grapefruit, and basil demonstrates “how buttermilk can be used to make a creamy and ever-so-slightly acidic panna cotta to accentuate the flavor of the grapefruit gel and curd.”

At The Penney, a hip clubhouse restaurant, Butler is featuring a pristine cured sea bream crudo with market grapefruit. Open to the public, The Penney gives you all the country club vibes without having to buy a membership. Plus, the outdoor dining terrace is Insta heaven with glorious mountain and lake views, plus grapefruit trees that can be spotted between the fairways.

46660 Washington St., La Quinta

The Penney
71777 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage