If there were no romance, there would be no babies. OK, maybe that’s simplistic, even inaccurate, but one reason we like Jillian’s is because it’s named for the owners’ first child. The circle of life embraces everybody, and few restaurant settings make you want to embrace your sweetie more than the fireplace-warmed patio of this 1948 Spanish hacienda.
Four dining rooms with adobe walls and beam ceilings hug a central court where you linger over cocktails or wine before the meal. Owner June Trubee has heightened the seduction with fresh flowers, antiques and original art, and Chef/owner Jay Trubee moves things along with signature dishes including lobster salad (inspired, no doubt, by the Trubees’ annual travels to Nantucket), spicy corn chowder, scallops risotto, and Lake Superior white fish. Bread, pasta, and dessert are homemade daily. Is there a more appropriate finish to a romantic meal than the Decadent Date pudding?
74155 El Paseo; Palm Desert, 760-776-8242; www.jilliansfinedining.com
SO.PA RESTAURANT at L’Horizon Hotel
Being outdoors stokes the appetite. All the appetites. SO.PA gets that. The newly renovated space offers alfresco dining exclusively, with a few booths under patio cover against one wall. Opposite and under the pepper trees ajacent to the garden walls are well-spaced, privacy-enhancing two- and four-top linen-clad tables. The space is bisected by a 26-foot communal table wrought from walnut.
Romance sustains your inner glow, and SO.PA’s firepits keep the rest of you warm as fountains mumble messages only those in love understand. At night, the mood lighting is supplied by chandeliers and candlelight. It’s not a love story without candlelight.
And it’s And it’s not a meal without food. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the vegan, raw and gluten-free choices speak to a healthful ear. Not interested in chia seed pudding? Try the Frittata Mare-Monti (butter-poached Maine lobster, house-pickled mushrooms, homemade toasted brioche scallions, and flowers. And that’s just for breakfast.
Dinner choices range from braised veal cheeks to roasted Spanish octopus.
Chef Giacomo Pettinari earned his toque studying at many top restaurants in Europe, then took his expertise to the renowned Valentino in Santa Monica, and helped it collect its first Michelin star.
1050 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760-323-1858; www.lhorizonpalmsprings.com
Morgan’s in the Desert at La Quinta Resort & Club
To our knowledge, Jimmy Schmidt and Brian Recor never lived on an 18th century California hacienda, but the James Beard Award-winning chefs’ authentic and sophisticated, locally sourced cuisine makes a happy marriage with the warm, amber glow of the Southwestern-style lounge, piano bar, dining room, and patio framed by fire pits and bougainvillea.
Candlelight flatters every face at every table, but Morgan’s gorgeous presentation needs no special assist. We like the small plates (crispy baby Coachella artichokes), the large plates (pan-roasted Maple Leaf duck breast), and a side of roasted five-cheese macaroni gratin.
Because the menu changes with the season and the valley’s gastronomic yield, some dishes might not be available on your visit. You’ll just have to come back for another meal.
49499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta, 760-564-7600; www.morgansinthedesert.com