Monday, April 4, 2011

Surprise in the desert

Yucca Valley, April 4, 2010—
FOR THE FIRST TIME in days we had quite a good dinner tonight, in a small restaurant in the nearby town of Twentynine Palms. The place opened just a little over two years ago, full of hope and aware there was no competition. For thirty miles in any direction there's nothing but franchise outlets, greasy spoons, and …

… oh, but that's hardly fair: I certainly haven't tried any of the local ma and pa places, apart from Pete's, Greek and American, where I had a perfectly satisfactory Greek salad for lunch. (Well, almost perfectly: tomatoes are definitely not yet in season. But the chicken soup, built from scratch on the premises, was tasty.)

But I digress. Dinner was in a nicely appointed bistro with a decent menu and wine list — small, but attractive. I began with a Caprese, knowing the tomatoes would be out of season, cold, hard, and flavorless, but lured by the promise of sea salt, fresh pepper, and basil, and especially by the really very good olive oil that had a place on the table when we were seated. (We enjoyed it with equally really good bread, baked, I learned later, at a wholesale-only bakery in Thousand Palms, wherever that is.)

The Caprese was pretty damn good, never mind the tomatoes. The Italian sausage in marinara sauce was a little one-dimensional, overly flavored with oregano of all things, but not at all unpleasant. Lindsey said her Alaska cod, in capers and lemon sauce, was fine, also her Key Lime pie; I was content with a decent grappa.

Pinot grigio, Castello di Gabbiano, 2009; Zinfandel, Rancho Zabaco old vines, ?vintage?
Pete's Family Restaurant, 73780 Twentynine Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, California;760.367.2008
Bistro Twenty Nine, 73527 Twentynine Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, California; 760.361.2229

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