Films, Food and Fun in Palm Springs

The Palm Springs International Film Festival has a certain rakish charm. According to people met on line prior to seeing films, PSIFF, now in its 35th season, is much more organized than in the past. My friend and I stayed at the Palm Springs Hotel, a fifteen room, quirky spot that doesn’t have a restaurant but has a pool and hot tub as well as old-fashioned metal room keys that defeated me for days. The hotel is within walking distance of Rick’s, a popular restaurant for breakfast or lunch; nearby is another Rick’s serving dinner.

Among the films my travel companion and I liked were BlackBerry, Ezra, the Trouble with Jessica, Zone of Interest and, to a certain extent, 20,000 Species of Bees. Despite the presence of Juliette Binoche, I wasn’t as thrilled as critics have been with The Taste of Things–watching a meal being prepared for over an hour felt incredibly slow—I doubt I’ll ever look at veal loin the same way again. But what a relief to not lug metal pots around a 19th century kitchen! (Should you care to watch the trailer and see that veal click here: )

In between films we explored the area. Sunnylands, where Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg welcomed political, business, educational, and entertainment leaders to their 200-acre winter home in Rancho Mirage, CA, is complete with a mansion, guest houses, a nine hole golf course and the greenest grass ever, although they recycle water to keep it that way. The very new Agua Caliente Cultural Center includes a permanent outdoor exhibition with native plants, rock formations and water features; inside are galleries incorporating digital animation, projections, some in a theater setting, and displays of artifacts, all stunning and dealing with the Cahuilla Nation, As Easterners very conscious of saying “Native Americans,” we were struck by the use of “Indian” everywhere including the Palm Springs High School where the team name is —you guessed it—the Indians.

Restaurants abound, some good some not so. One night before a film we ended up dining on soggy sandwiches upstairs in a ‘lounge’ at the Camelot theater, an enormous contrast with the chic white décor and delicious lunch at Eight4Nine in the Palm Springs Uptown Design District. (A stop for a date shake early in our trip was well worth it.)

We arrived at the PS Art Museum just as a wildly enthusiastic docent was starting her tour which we joined, stopping at many exhibits including one devoted to contemporary glass. Another day we went to the Architecture and Design Center to learn about Albert Frey (1903-1998) who introduced Desert Modernism and was involved with NYC’s original MOMA structure.

Walking around Indian Canyon we were greeted by this sign; happily, there were no actual snakes present.






In keeping with the Agua Caliente Cahuilla spirit, here is a recipe for Three Sisters Stew. The Three Sisters are beans, corn and winter squash usually planted together—the corn stalk serves as a pole for the beans, the beans help add nitrogen to the soil that the corn needs and the squash provides a ground cover of shade that helps the soil retain moisture.

Three Sisters Stew –courtesy Veg Magazine

1 large butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 bell pepper green or red, cut into short narrow strips
14 ounces canned diced tomatoes with liquid
2 ½ cups canned pinto beans drained and rinsed
2 cups corn kernels fresh or frozen
1 cup vegetable stock or water
1 hot chili pepper fresh, seeded and minced; or substitute one 4-ounce can chopped mild green chilies
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder (taste and add more if you like spicy)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

How to:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove stem from squash and cut in half lengthwise. Cover with aluminum foil and place halves, cut side up, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until you can pierce through with a knife, with a little resistance.

When cool enough to handle, scrape out the seeds and fibers. Slice, peel, then cut into large dice.

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.

Add the squash and all the remaining ingredients except the last 2, and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ideally let stew stand for one or two hours before serving, then reheat and add the parsley or cilantro.

While you eat watch this video and hear the Agua Caliente Indians sing:




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