Palm Springs

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Randy Grubb's Decoliner. Photo by David Lansing.

From our Palm Springs correspondent:

We’d heard about the Vintage Airstream Trailers show during Modernism Week and headed over to have a look at the decked-out Caravels, Safaris, and Bambis. Our favorite, however, wasn’t an Airstream at all. It was Randy Grubb’s Decoliner, an odd beast that looked like a cross between a 50s bus and a hot-rod Globetrotter.

Randy had driven the Decoliner, which has an open-top flying bridge (so it can be driven from either inside the cab or from on top of the roof), all the way from Grant’s Pass, Oregon, where he is a glass-blower when he isn’t messing around with cars. It took him 20 months to construct the beast which is made from a ’73 GMC motor home chassis, a 455 Oldsmobile engine, and a hulking 1950 COE (Cab Over Engine).

This thing is just meant for a long road trip.

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Michael Petry artwork

Some of the 250 hand-blown glass eggs in Michael Petry's art installation in Palm Springs. Photos by David Lansing.

From our Palm Springs correspondent:

One other fabulous exhibit currently at the Palm Springs Art Museum: Michael Petry’s  “The Touch of the Oracle.” The concept behind this is a little difficult to explain but let me try. In a gallery with a blond hardwood floor, Petry has hung 100 gold mirrored droplet-shaped glass vessels that have something to do with the Greek myth of Danae, who was impregnated by the god Zeus in the form of a golden rain shower. So the 100 golden vessels are like sperm.

On the hardwood floor are 250 hand-blown glass “stones” or, really, eggs. In short, the golden sperm hanging from the ceiling is preparing to impregnate the multi-colored glass eggs. Okay, the story sounds a bit lame, I agree, but the exhibit is really quite stunning. Even if you ignore the whole “golden-rain-impregnating-hand-blown-glass-eggs” thing.

The Touch of the Oracle continues through July 29.

100 gold mirrored droplet-shaped glass vessels hang from the ceiling.

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David Hockney's "Sun on the Pool Los Angeles," a composite of Polaroids from April 13, 1982.

From our Palm Springs correspondent:

It was the perfect Easter Sunday in Palm Springs: blue sky, mid-80s, and not a trace of wind. A day for either sitting by the pool or, perhaps, looking at pools in the form of a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum to walk through their special exhibition  “Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982,” part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time exhibition currently running in more than 60 museums in Southern California.

There was so much eye candy here but our favorites were the series of David Hockney Polaroid composites, such as the one above, comprised of dozens of individually shot Polaroids of a backyard swimming pool. So very clever and so very entertaining.

Backyard Oasis continues through May 27.

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Last Friday I wrote about having a Gin-Gin Mule at Morgan’s in La Quinta Resort. Actually, the first time I sampled this Audrey Saunders’ original was at the Tar Pit in Los Angeles. Saunders, aka the “Libation Goddess,” made a name for herself at Bemelman’s Bar at The Carlyle Hotel in New York before moving on to open her own place, the Pegu Club, five years ago. Her signature drink there, of course, was the Pegu Club Cocktail, a somewhat forgotten libation that was all the rage back when the British still had an empire and Myanmar (what a hideous name) was called Burma.

No one knows exactly when the Pegu Club Cocktail was first stirred up but the earliest mention of it seems to be in Harry Craddock’s classic 1930 “Savoy Cocktail Book.” Says Craddock, the Pegu Club Cocktail “has traveled, and is asked for, around the world.”

Well, not for long it wasn’t. In 1942, the British abandoned Rangoon (now Yangon—another hideous name) as well as the Pegu Club in the face of the rapidly advancing Japanese infantry, and they seemed to have taken their cocktail with them. Until Saunders almost single-handedly revived it.

While it’s not all that difficult to get a Pegu Club Cocktail in New York, it’s still rather rare elsewhere in the world. Which is why I was so thrilled to hear that Miss Saunders had partnered with Mark Peel at the Tar Pit in Los Angeles last December. Word was that she was going to go for “neo-tropical” and “old Hollywood swellegant” cocktails, which is exactly what she did. In addition to Saunders’ Gin-Gin Mule you could order a Jamaican Firefly (dark rum, housemade ginger beer—one of her signatures—fresh lime juice, and simple syrup) or a Fitty-Fitty (half gin, half French vermouth, with orange bitters—another Saunders signature ingredient).

Alas, while the Gin-Gin Mule remains, Miss Saunders split with Peel and headed back to New York last month (just another reason to go to Morgan’s in the Desert at La Quinta).

A couple of notes about the recipe: Saunders loves gin. She carries something like 26 different gins at her bar in New York (and keeps the vodka out of sight beneath the bar). So obviously she’s rather particular about which gin to use for any given cocktail. The traditional gin to use in a Pegu Club Cocktail is London Dry Gin. But I think Bombay Sapphire works just as well (and I like the idea of using a gin named Bombay in a cocktail invented in Burma; it all seems so tropical and cheerio).

Secondly, you’ll notice the recipe calls for orange curaçao. You could use triple sec or Cointreau or something, but there’s a reason why she uses orange curaçao: for the coloring. It’s what gives the drink that lovely sunset glow. If you use triple sec you’ll get something that looks more like a margarita. Personally, I use a kumquat brandy that I make myself but you’ll have to come over to my house to try that (or make it yourself).

Lastly, you’ll notice that the recipe calls for both Angostura bitters and orange bitters. The problem is that orange bitters can be a bit difficult to find. I’ve got a little 2-oz. bottle of Collins Orange Bitters that I’ve had forever (I can’t even remember where I got it). So if you can’t find orange bitters, you’ll be tempted to skip it and just go with the Angostura bitters but it really changes the drink’s profile. The backbone of the drink is the citrus flavors and the orange bitters provide a lovely spicy undercurrent. By the way, the next time you’re in NYC, stop by the Pegu Club, not only for a cocktail but also to buy a bottle of Regan’s Orange Bitters #6. Saunders sells that and Peychauds bitters just because they’re so difficult to find. As she says, “Our markup on these items is minimal—our benevolent, altruistic goal here is to put you on the path of the righteous, and point you toward the light.”


The Spanish Revival style is evident at the La Quinta Spa building. Photo by David Lansing.

The Spanish Revival style is evident at the La Quinta Spa building. Photo by David Lansing.

I mentioned that La Quinta was designed in the ‘20s by an unknown architect from Pasadena named Gordon Kaufmann. Actually, Kaufmann was relatively unknown when he was hired by Walter H. Morgan to design the resort, but he later went on to fame designing such California icons as the Los Angeles Times building, the Hollywood Palladium, and the infamous Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills where Ned Doheny, the son of Edward Doheny, the oil tycoon, died in his bedroom of a murder-suicide with his secretary, Hugh Plunket (parts of the movie There Will Be Blood, with Daniel Day-Lewis, were not only based on the Doheny family drama but the finale, where the Daniel Day-Lewis character bludgeons the ersatz preacher, Eli Sunday, to death with a bowling pin was shot in the basement bowling alley of Greystone Mansion).

Anyway, Kaufmann designed the cottages and offices of La Quinta Hotel (as it was called then) in Spanish Revival, though I don’t know that the style was actually called that back then. According to an architectural guide I have, Spanish Revival “refers to the architectural style that was popular from about 1915 to about 1940” and caught hold after the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. It also says that the growth of California and the film industry during the 1920s and 1930s facilitated the dissemination of this style.

“Spanish Revival,” it goes on, “is an extremely eclectic style. Many Mediterranean touches are combined to create an exotic, but harmonious appearance. Tile roofs and stucco exteriors are characteristic with half rounded doors and windows. Elaborate tilework, applied relief ornamentation, and wrought iron grillwork is used to create frames around doorways and windows, and is used widely as decorative accents throughout the house. Front entrances were often highly ornamented and many were balanced by a commanding triple-arched focal window.”

Well, that just about sums up the architectural style of La Quinta. It may, indeed, be a little eclectic looking but I find that, as I walk around, the buildings around the resort, from my little casita to the spa, are all quite pleasing to the eye—and charming. By the way, Kaufmann died in 1949 and while his obituary in the Los Angeles Times goes on and on about his design of an aircraft plant and the grandstand at Santa Anita Park, it makes no mention of one of his earliest and most indelible designs, La Quinta. Pity, that.


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