Trio Restaurant – Palm Springs, CA

Although big on most things mid-century, Palm Springs is somewhat lacking in terms of tiki bars and restaurants. Well, aside from the bachelorette party fave/gay tiki bar Toucan’s. I’m more interested in a good cocktail than dancing the night away so we hit up Trio, where Rory “Wildsville Man” Snyder has created a few tiki drinks for the menu.

Trio, which just happens to be located right next door to the Shag Store, made its debut on the dining scene a year and a half ago and has attracted quite a following. The design is very mod, with interesting light fixtures and lots of white, mauve and mellow orange tones.

It was a bustling Saturday night, but we were able to be seated right away at a tall table in the bar area. If you’d prefer something a little more formal, I’d recommend making reservations.

There were three tiki-style rum cocktails on the menu: the Uptown Mai Tai, Palm Springs Punch and Rory’s Tiki Monkey. I opted for the latter, which was made with Appleton rum, pineapple juice, St-Germain, Canton ginger liqueur, creme de noyeaux and simple syrup. Absolutely delicious!

Trio specializes in what’s grown to be my favorite kind of cuisine: creative, upscale comfort food. The rich and hearty crawfish étouffée pot pie was right up my alley.

My date Mr. Baseball also picked a winner with the baked Rigatoni Al Forno with chicken, spinach, mushrooms, fontina, mozzarella and parmesan. Mmmm, carbs and cheese.

I’m thinking a return visit is necessary next time we’re in town. There are so many more tempting dishes to be tried, like fried artichoke hearts with caper aoili and macaroni with five cheeses and bacon. Bonus: Their web site features specials like a 10% off dining coupon and $19 three-course prix-fixe menu from 4 p.m.-6 p.m., plus there’s happy hour in the bar until 7 p.m. with discounted drinks (though not any of the specialty cocktails, alas).

Trio
707 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92262
760-864-TRIO (8746)

 

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A Retro Retreat in Palm Springs – The Riviera

We had some time to spare in Palm Springs before “The Book of Tiki” anniversary art exhibition, so we made a quick side-trip to check out The Riviera hotel. This old-school stunner made its debut in 1959 and counted Frank Sinatra and Elvis among its high-profile patrons. It re-opened to much fanfare in 2008 after a year and a half of renovations.

It’s super swank all the way, and there’s nothing very tiki about it except the Shag prints hanging up along the Starlight Lounge just off the lobby.

Some parts of the resort are sort of mid-century modern meets Lady Gaga (or Liberace, if the thought of Lady Gaga makes you gag). Anyway, it’s very Vegas.

One of the walls in the gift acknowledges another desert hotspot for Old Hollywood: the Chi Chi. That nightclub is now, unfortunately, a shopping center but in its heyday it hosted Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, to name just a few.

That they featured so many jazz greats is already interesting to me, but the Chi Chi was also a Polynesian-style restaurant that at some point was decorated with thatch and tapa cloth. This menu borrowed from Edgar Leeteg’s black velvet painting “Hina Rapa,” an image they also co-opted for cocktail napkins and plates (Images from PalmSpringsLife.com/Palm Springs Historical Society).

The gift shop also had some rad art by Chris Reccardi, who’s worked on tons of cartoon projects including “Spongebob Squarepants,” “Powerpuff Girls,” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” I really dig the futuristic mod style.

If I had my pick of places to stay in Palm Springs, The Riviera would be it. That pool was just made for lounging, and the rooms look pretty snazzy too.

The Riviera Resort & Spa
1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92262
760-327-8311

Book of Tiki Art Exhibition at M Modern Gallery

Back in October, the M Modern gallery in Palm Springs hosted an exhibition of art inspired by Sven Kirsten’s “The Book of Tiki” to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the tome’s release.

If there were a textbook for Tiki 101, this would be it. It’s a serious (though still tongue-in-cheek) look at the history of the “tiki” phenomenon and how it permeated American culture in the 20th century. It’s now out of print, but Taschen also published a condensed version called “Tiki Style” that’s still available, though with fewer glorious vintage photos. Pictured is Moritz R.’s original artwork for the cover.

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit was this diagram showing how images from the book made their way onto fabrics and Aloha shirts as the recent “tiki revival” grew in popularity.

It’s fitting that Shag (Josh Agle) would show a painting, considering it was his art that got many of us interested in tiki in the first place. We were some of the first folks to walk through, and we saw that the $6,500 piece had already been marked “sold” with a red dot.

It was basically a round-up of all my favorite tiki artists, including Heather Watts with one of her fabulous black velvet paintings.

This Witco-esque work from Bosko depicted the Royal Hawaiian Estates, a Polynesian-themed condominium community built in Palm Springs in the early 1960s. The buildings are still there and being restored. See more information about them here.

Hepcat artist extraordinaire Derek Yaniger‘s plywood piece drew inspiration from the very content castaway on page 75 of “The Book of Tiki.”

Dale Sizer‘s sparkly “The Heartbreak of Cricket Blake” paid tribute to “Hawaiian Eye,” a 1960s television show guest-starring Connie Stevens. It was about a Honolulu-based detective agency with a tiki as its logo.

There were many more amazing art pieces besides the ones pictured—these were just a few. I’ll leave with you with this other-worldly drawing from Doug Horne.