One of the best ways to find out about a new destination is through its food. Food tours in Istanbul, Greenwich Village in NYC and China Town in San Francisco have been high points in our travel experiences. And of course our home town is famous as a food mecca. A Chicago bike ride tour from Fork in the Road which gave us samples of BBQ in various ethnic neighborhoods was amazing. We had no idea that BBQ is such an important part of every culture. As you eat, the food tour guide fills you in on the food, the restaurant, the environs. A great way to learn and enjoy.
So we headed to Palm Desert to feast and learn. Palm Desert has been a surprise to us. It looks like what we expected Palm Springs to be. Although we will investigate further, it appears that Palm Springs used to be the "it" place, but has lost its way over the years. Palm Desert is the spot to stay, golf, shop, and eat, especially if money is no object. Winter tourists cause the population of this town to triple.
The tour began at an outdoor mall called The Shops on El Paseo. El Paseo is the main retail street and the mall spills out onto the main drag with fancy stores and boutiques and restaurants for about a mile. Many famous designers have stores here. Wolfgang Puck is about to open a new pizza place. Since this retail area is long and narrow, our walk was almost two miles. Complementary golf carts pick up shoppers along the way and help them make the most of their shopping experience when their arms are full of packages and the car is parked far away. But we were glad we were walking to make a dent in all the yummy calories we consumed.
Our little tour group included a local woman who was considering signing on to be a food tour guide as well, so we were lucky to learn her impressions of things to see and do in the area as well as the information the official guide provided. Even a second week here may not be enough.
When we compare this food tour to our previous ones, we were surprised how recently many of the places we were taken have opened. It was a real California experience. There was much conversation about how the food was sourced, whether it was organic, which of the five kinds of cinnamon were used in the seasoning, etc. Many of the restaurants had al fresco dining areas with heaters installed in the ceiling so that these could be enjoyed even on cool desert evenings. The tour was from 11 - 2pm and with the exception of the wine shop, every restaurant was well patronized no matter the time. Many of the restaurants also boasted Happy Hours, some lasting virtually the entire day. Keeping the tourists happy.