Counter Reformation

Haute Tastes

Outside the bounds of classic cookery, the contemporary culinary landscape thrives on playfulness and good looks.

Lizbeth Scordo Current Guide, Restaurants

Counter Reformation
Caviar, Crème Fraîche and Quail Egg from Counter Reformation in Palm Springs.

Thanks to an ever-expanding Modernism Week celebration fêting architecture and mod masterpieces throughout Greater Palm Springs, visitors to the area this month turn their attention to design and aesthetics even more than usual. When the tours, talks, and trips to vintage shops break for the day, you can still spot dazzling designs elsewhere — on your plate. Local chefs are crafting dishes that double as avant-garde, Pinterest-worthy art. Here, we present nine picks that are almost too pretty to eat.


Caviar, Crème Fraîche & Quail Egg
Counter Reformation, Palm Springs

The sexy, dimly lit wine bar at the Parker Palm Springs hotel is the perfect place to sneak off to for a late-night nibble. And while all the food here is first-rate, this trio of buttery brioche rounds layered with rich crème fraîche, delicate poached quail eggs, and American caviar and garnished with bright green chives is hard to beat.


Handspun Cotton Candy
Lulu California Bistro, Palm Springs

Treat your inner child to a night out at this always-bustling eatery in downtown Palm Springs, where the chef has turned a whimsical treat into the signature house dessert. An oversized cloud of the blush-colored candy arrives in a giant cocktail glass. Dining with a crowd? There’s also a “Double Your Pleasure” version … enough for everyone at the table.

Lulu California Bistro


Cherry Bomb
T&T Innovation Kitchen, Palm Desert

The uber-inventive five-course menu at this intimate, open-kitchen venue inside the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa changes every weekend, but chances are good you’ll end the meal with an imaginative confection like this. A cherry-and-white-chocolate glaze encases chocolate cream and black cherry mousse, and the sculptural result looks like the real thing — complete with chocolate stems and garnished with Luxardo cherries, pistachio gelato, crushed pistachios, and edible flowers.


Basil Semifreddo
Justin Eat & Drink, Cathedral City

Few items remain on the seasonal menu for long at chef Justin Jenkins’ eclectic farm-to-table restaurant, but you’ll find lots of unique dishes all year round including desserts like this herb-spiked frozen mousse. Served atop a smear of strawberry coulis, the dish gets garnished with bites of housemade waffles and snowy strawberry dust.


The Dream
The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge, Palm Desert

This off-menu item is considered a “secret” sashimi plate (though you’ll be glad we blew its cover). Chef and owner Engin Onural cuts meticulously thin slices of salmon, shrimp, and tuna and embellishes the artful dish with teriyaki sauce, spicy aioli, cucumber, and bits of black sesame pound cake.


Frooty Loop Macarons
Heirloom Craft Kitchen, Indio

Pastry chef Ginny Sher creates a series of seasonal macarons at this casual eatery. For this kids’-cereal-themed sweet, Sher bakes a bright blue shell, pipes in a Swiss meringue buttercream filling made with actual cereal milk, and rolls the cookie in crushed Froot Loops for a flashy finish.


Octopus Carpaccio
Workshop Kitchen + Bar,
Palm Springs

Leave it to the Uptown hot spot that won a James Beard Award for design to make octopus look like a Kandinsky. Tentacles get sliced into coin like medallions and topped with pickled cauliflower, roasted red peppers, micro cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of piment d’espellete.

Work Shop Kitchen


Peach Mango Cream Cheese Mousse
The Edge Steakhouse,
Rancho Mirage

Perched atop a cliff, the steakhouse at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage does a dessert menu full of over-the-top offerings that match the property’s stellar views. Pastry chef Troman Felizmenio, who dubs himself “a mad little scientist,” recently rolled out a new batch of meal-enders including this fruit-forward dessert that combines peach-pear and mango custards, white chocolate, passion fruit, and pistachios with basil and marigold flowers.

The Edge Steakhouse


Chocolate Balloon Cake
Mitch’s on El Paseo, Palm Desert

This decadent chocolate cake with granola Oreo crumble crunch and vanilla frosting topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream hides in a thin “balloon” of chocolate. The dessert gets doused with hot fudge at the table to melt the casing away — dinner and a show, indeed.