Tag Archives: Palm Springs

i8tonite: with Palm Springs’ Workshop Chef Michael Beckman

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Chef Michael Beckman: Photo by Van Roo

Palm Springs is known as a resort town – an enclave for second homes, secret hotel pools, and cocktails. The cocktail culture is the town’s prevailing modus operandi. With a population of a little over 50,000, it’s never really been considered a food haven. Ask a few of the locals who live in the desert year round, and the answer is their private chef does the cooking. Or, they recommend one or two restaurants which are more about an elongated drink menu rather than a superbly pan-roasted fish or braised greens from the surrounding Coachella Valley farmers. There are a few notable exceptions to this observation.  The first that comes to mind is the four-year-old Workshop, owned and cheffed by Michael Beckman, which can be the honest answer to the question: “Where to eat in Palm Springs?”

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Workshop: Photo by Michael Horton

There are two reasons for this. The first is that Mr. Beckman is a classically French-trained chef with stints apprenticing, cooking, and learning in European kitchens, including Burgundy’s three Michelin-starred Lameloise and working under noted German chef Thomas Kellerman at the Ritz-Carlton, Berlin. Beckman maybe the only independent chef in the Southern California desert communities to claim to work in a Michelin-starred dining room.

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael BeckmanSecondly, he’s smart enough to promote his restaurant outside the Palm Springs area, getting the first and the last reservations from area visitors. It’s been a very smart business move to market his talents to the gourmand set, rather than wait for visiting travel media shuffling through for an annual Palm Springs pilgrimage. Instead of getting the backend of travel pieces, Beckman put forth the effort and it’s paid off with stories in Sunset Magazine, Bon Appetit, Eater, and Wall Street Journal. But the question remained: how could someone with Beckman’s background become part of Palm Springs? Truthfully, he stated he was a private chef working with a client based in Rancho Mirage. He grew to love the area’s farmers markets and vendors, as well as the community’s natural beauty, so he stayed, opening Workshop and having a family.

Interestingly, Beckman – though successful — is so dedicated to his

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Workshop: Photo by Michael Horton

craft that he recently completed a several month staaj (cooking apprenticeship) with celebrated New York City’s chefs Dan Barber, Blue Hill Farms and Daniel Hume, Nomad (also of the Michelin-starred Eleven Park Madison). Beckman, as a chef, wants to continue to creatively evolve.

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael BeckmanBeckman will have another feather to add to his list of accomplishments – Truss + Twine, a bar serving handcrafted cocktails and small bites; a chef will work in tandem with the bartenders behind the bar in a dedicated cooking area. Palm Spring’s newest watering hole is slated to open fall 2016. Lastly, he also partnered to oversee the food and beverage program for an unnamed independent 44-room hotel concept that that will have a restaurant and rooftop pool area. The hotel’s construction will start at the end of 2016.

Beckman will soon be hailed as Palm Springs’ Emperor to All Things Culinary. Rightly so.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? 16 years.

Chicken Diavolo. From i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Chicken Diavolo: Photo by Van Roo.

What is your favorite food to cook? Braises are most satisfying for me with deep flavors that develop, and the cozy aromas and feel of a braised dish is somehow emotional for me.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Quesadilla mise en place.  Eggs for omelettes.  A perfectly made omelette is one of my favorite challenges to see a chef’s skill set.

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Lentil salad

What do you cook at home? I love my Weber grill for smoking and grilling fish and meats.  I also get nostalgic for the Lebanese food I cooked as a private chef in Beverly Hills and love those flavors.  Super healthy and super flavorful.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Someone who puts us in the drivers seat and trusts us.


What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a

Workshop Burger and Fries. i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Workshop Burger and Fries: Photo by Michael Horta

customer? People who lie at the host stand about their reservation.  People who don’t even read the menu and want to order something they can get anywhere.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? None of the above. Deli cups.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Yes, please.

Your favorite cookbook author? Dan Barber for “The Third Plate

Your favorite kitchen tool? My Chef de Cuisine Max.

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael BeckmanYour favorite ingredient? Eggs.

Your least favorite ingredient? Balsamic reduction.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Cleaning the fryer.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Mediterranean basin.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef.

Favorite vegetable? Right now I’m digging parsnips.

Chef you most admire? I like Paul Kahan’s rustic straight-forward style and also how prolific he is with his projects.

The food you like the most to eat? Oysters

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Outside Workshop: Photo by David A. Lee.

The food you dislike the most? Shitty banquet food.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None yet.  Never could figure out the first one…we’ll see.


Recipe: Beet Braised Lentils

Here’s a recipe from Feasting at Home, inspired by Chef Beckman’s dish at Workshop. She notes, “This recipe was inspired by a dish we had at a restaurant in Palm Springs, called Workshop. They topped their Beet braised lentils with a warm, crispy breaded goat cheese “cake”. It was divine. The chef, Michael Beckman, adds browned butter to the finished lentils, which brought it over the top.”

Beet braised lentils, inspired by Chef Beckman, Workshop.
Beet braised lentils, inspired by Chef Beckman, Workshop. Photo & Recipe: Feasting at Home

Beet infused lentils are a healthy side dish, with chicken or fish, or serve it on its own, as a vegetarian meal in a bowl with crumbled goat cheese.

3 T olive oil
1 C diced red onion ( ½ a red onion)
1 C diced carrot
½ C diced celery
1 Cup peeled and diced beet (one large beet, plus 2 more for juicing)
4 cloves roughly chopped garlic
1 T fresh Thyme leaves
1 Bay leaf
1 1/2 C black caviar, beluga, or Puy lentils ( soaked overnight if possible)
4 C chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp salt
salt and pepper to taste
splash balsamic vinegar
1 Cup fresh beet juice (either purchase from a juice bar, or juice 2 extra large beets)
2- 3 T browned butter (optional but delicious)
crumbled goat cheese (optional)

In a large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, beets and celery, and saute for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Turn heat to medium, add garlic, lentils and herbs and sauté for 2 more minutes.

Add stock and salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with lid, and turn heat to low, maintaining a gentle simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the beet juice, taste for salt, add more if necessary, and continue simmering on low for 10-15 more minutes or until tender. If you feel there is too much liquid for your liking, keep the lid off, and increase the heat, letting it reduce. (I like the braise slightly juicy, personally, so I just replace the lid.)

Stir in a generous splash of balsamic vinegar and browned butter (optional) but the brown butter is divine.

Serve in a bowl with crumbled goat cheese, or as a base for fish or chicken.

Read about this recipe – and see more gorgeous photos – here.



The end. Go eat. 




i8tonite: My Most Memorable Eats of 2015 & Moving to the Southwest

Grand Canyon_A. DuarteAt the beginning of 2015, if anyone predicted that I would be living  at year’s end in Phoenix — or starting my food blog for that matter, I would have howled with laughter. Me? In Phoenix? The American Southwest? Writing? Besides, press releases and commenting on Facebook? Yet, I am listening to my fountain cascade into the plunge pool and writing this lengthy post. I open the front door daily to walk the dogs and am awestruck with a view of Pietesawa Peak, crowned by blue skies and cottony clouds. Holly, our eleven-year-old Pitbull waddles past the security guard gate and the golf green, trying to keep up with J.J., our seven-year-old French bulldog, who likes to chase after rabbits. The bunnies hop around on our neighbor’s sixteenth golf hole, the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Arizona Biltmore – a mere five-minute walk to luxury pools and spas.  I look at all this splendor with gratitude. It’s also coming from a person who – 25 years ago — thought he could never leave  Manhattan, then the center of my Universe.

Kevin Dooley 2
Photo by Kevin Dooley

As I grow older, and I’m grateful I am,  the center of my Universe has expanded. Eventually, the Northeastern winters drove me to Los Angeles for 16 years, with 3 years in San Francisco for good behavior. Spiritually, I never felt either city was home though. They both seemed to be stopping points. I never really wanted meant to stay as long as I did. However, where do you go after Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco? These are our national hubs of entertainment, technology and finance. International culture is unsurpassed in these meccas.  You are supposed to want to be there. Did I think Miami? Paris?  Back to New York? Phoenix wasn’t even a thought.

Photo by Kevin Dooley
Photo by Kevin Dooley

After much discussion, Nick took the offered Phoenix position and we came out to look for a house. Instantly, we fell in love with the desert landscape, rich culture, sheer vastness and low-cost of living. Phoenix, in my eyes, is North America’s hidden gem, but it’s hard to hide the 6th largest city in the United States. However, it feels protected. Off the beaten path, waiting to be discovered. Tourists may come and visit one of Arizona’s 300 resorts but until you become a resident, hike the trails, meet the people, work and become a Phoenician do you understand the city’s natural splendor and sophistication.

I reckon The Valley of the Sun is physically the most attractive place I’ve ever lived. Red mountains are dissected by roads and Camelback, the dromedary rock formation casts its legendary shadow over the valley. It’s peaceful sentinel-like presence feels protective, calming and inspiring.

As we enter into the remaining days of 2015, and for the coming year, I urge you to allow change to happen. Step out of your comfort zone. The things you would say no to trying…try.  Explore new possibilities and never say, “Never.” I’m so glad I did.

Photo by Alan Stark
Photo by Alan Stark

Before I begin my 2015’s five – whoops, six most memorable food experiences, I need to let you dear reader know I still talk about these eats. That’s why I choose them. Some are new, some are not.  I would go back to eat them time and again. Additionally, I paid for each one of these meals. Nothing was given gratis or comped, so I have nothing to gain from telling you about them.

Let’s start:

Photo Courtesy of Carson Kitchen
Photo Courtesy of Carson Kitchen

Carson Kitchen, Las Vegas, Nevada: Chicken Fried Skins, served with Smoked Honey Dipping Sauce ($9). The late Chef Kerry Simon, who died early this year with complications related to Mulitple Sclerosis, was a master of New American cooking. He imbued his dishes with a sense of humor and surprise.  This dish is indicative of that experience. Who is going to order only chicken skins with a side of smoked honey? Well, I did. Three orders of the crunchy, salty, deliciously deep-fried morsels with the side of lightly smoked sweetness. I would never make this at home. Let’s definitely score points for that understanding.

Courtesy of Factory Kitchen
Courtesy of Factory Kitchen

Factory Kitchen, Downtown Los Angeles, California: Handkerchief Pasta with Almond Basil Pesto ($19). I was living in San Francisco when I ate at Farina which is where I first had Chef Angelo Auriana’s superb pasta. I was in the middle of a fight with an ex. I try not to remember him. However, the sheet-like folds of pasta expertly painted with a light basil pesto, I remember. It wasn’t until I went to Factory Kitchen did it come back hauntingly. This time, I was celebrating one of my best friends birthdays (Shelley Levitt) in Los Angeles. We ordered the Ligurian-style noodle with green sauce. One bite, I knew I had eaten it once before. It’s so good that even years later I remembered it, except with this experience, the atmosphere was much more light-hearted and loving to enjoy it.

Photo Courtesy of Tropicale
Photo Courtesy of Tropicale

The Tropicale Restaurant & Bar, Palm Springs, California: Brown Sugar-Brined, Double Cut Kurobata Pork Chop ($28). A little over a year ago, I discovered my longtime friend Chef Scooter Kanfer had encamped to this boisterous watering hole in the resort town of Palm Springs. About 10 years ago, she was the chef/owner of a stunning little place in LA’s Larchmont area called The House. Here, she received national accolades with her inventive takes on homespun items like macaroni and cheese and my favorite milk and cookies which is milk served in a whiskey shot glass accompanied by shortbread animal cookies. Now, she is under less pressure as the Chef de Cuisine of Tropicale but her food is still the best. I choose the Kurobata Pork Chop because she recommends it to me every time I see her. The only other place I ate this type of big, flavorful battering ram was at Cindy Pawlcyn’s Napa Valley-based Mustards Grill. I wasn’t in Napa this year but this may be the best pork chop in a restaurant ever.

Courtesy of Hollywood Pies
Courtesy of Hollywood Pies

Hollywood Pies, Los Angeles, California: The Hollywood Pie ($27). I was never a lover of deep dish Chicago style pies. I didn’t get it. And then, I ate from this blink-and-you-miss-it spot. Jesus made this pizza for me. Seriously, that’s one of the names of the pie-makers. Everything from the crust to the cheese, the pizza sauce, homemade meatballs is made in-house. Unfortunately, getting a pizza isn’t always easy. They take forever to make (up to an hour). Sometimes, they don’t even pick up the phone to order one. This deep dish thickly crusted – like a casserole – is from heaven. Chewy, hint of heat in the sauce, pull until it snaps mozzarella…..trust me, Jesus made it.

Courtesy of ICDC
Courtesy of ICDC

ICDC, Los Angeles, California: Salt & Pepper Caramel Doughnut/ Buttermilk Brown Butter ($2.50). ICDC, which stands for ice cream, donuts, and coffee, is a dream child of Amy Knoll Fraser and Pastry Chef Maria Swan. I don’t know Maria. I would love to know Maria. I would love Maria to make me  a donut every day for the rest of my life. The Salt & Pepper Caramel along with the Buttermilk Brown Butter are heavenly puffs of circled dough with a little richness (butter or caramel) and a surprise (salt & pepper and not just butter but browned butter). If you have never had a seasoned donut or a browned butter donut – it’s wrong. Just wrong. It’s like being a virgin and everyone around you talking about sex.

Courtesy of Breakfast Club
Courtesy of Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club, Scottsdale, Arizona: Huevos con Masa ($9). On our first trip to Phoenix, we got hungry as people do at the beginning of the day. We had appointments to look at houses and needed to fortify ourselves.  We went to dine at place at 8 am. Twenty-minute wait. We left. Found another highly recommended eatery with a wait-time of twenty-minutes. Nick and I are starving, and it’s 9 am. On the third try, we arrive at Breakfast Club. They have a wait time too. We sit at the bar to avoid the wait time. It’s packed.  Maybe 9:15 am on a Wednesday morning. I order the Huevos con Masa, a creative southwestern version of eggs benedict. Instead of hollandaise sauce, a pork green chile is served with poached eggs and chipotle cornbread. Eating it, I thought it was worth waiting for the discovery. The chile, a little heavier than I normally would eat for breakfast, is rich but compliments the poached eggs runny yolks. The cornbread has just enough heat and is incredibly moist, with flecks of chipotle. The Valley of the Sun breakfast experience also prompted me to write a story on the area’s breakfasts.  (Note: If you like blonde, athletic women serving your food in skin-tight, black fitness wear, this is the place for you. Do not come if you want to see a brunette or red-head. Hell, I don’t think there was a curl in the place, either. Just sayin’.)

Places and dishes of note: Nobuo at Teeter House, Pork Belly  Buns (Phoenix, Arizona); The Original Breakfast House, Cinnamon Rolls (Phoenix, Arizona); Revolutionario, Falafel Tacos  (Los Angeles, CA); Khin Khao, Khao Mun Gai (San Francisco, CA); Pizzeria Bianco, Margherita Pizza (Phoenix, Arizona).

The End. Happy 2016.

Chef Questionnaire with Chef Scooter Kanfer-Cartmill, Palm Springs’ Tropicale Cafe.

Chef Scooter Kanfer- Cartmill is pretty much a California cooking legend as much as the celebrated chefs she’s worked beside. She’s worked and trained with everyone from Fred Eric (Vida), the late Michael Roberts (Trumps), Wolfgang Puck (Spago), Thomas Keller (The French Laundry) and Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feninger (Border Grill).  After stints at The Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop and Nic’s Beverly Hills, Kanfer opened her much-lauded restaurant the house in LA’s Larchmont. Customers could find her cooking up American comfort food at its finest such as “Animal Cookies with a Shot of Milk”, “Grandpa’s Mac-and-Cheese”, varieties of spoonbread and other comfy delights in the early aughts. (The cookies — which came in forms of dragonflies, dragons and monkeys with a shot of milk — was a favorite of mine.) Now, she is coming up with salivating and fun dishes – such as Three Little Pigs (housemade sausage, grilled pork loin and BBQ pork ribs) — in Palm Springs at Tropicale Café. Beside the cool nights and warm days, eating Kanfer’s food truly makes the desert community a destination to relish.

“…this is one chef who delights in feeding people,” Irene S. Virbila,  Los Angeles Times.
How long have you been cooking?
Too long to remember, fire had just recently been invented. All the “cool” kids had to have it.

What is your favorite food? Don’t have one. It’s like picking your favorite child.

What do you always have in your fridge? Sriracha. Hot Sauce.  Schmaltz. Pickles. Iced green tea. Champagne. At least three different kinds of mustard. Stinky Cheese. Roast chicken.

What do you cook at home? Roast Chicken with all the fixings (i.e.: Hungarian noodles, French green beans, or mashed potato with a garlic butter). Sunday Style Roast-Pork Prime Rib. Beef Bourgogne. Coq au vin or poached eggs with avocado on toast. Simple things that I can put on in the morning (slow-cooker) and that my wife can finish while I’m at restaurant… so we can eat together.

What marked characteristic do you despise in your customer? Wow. Let’s go deep here. Abusive arrogance displayed to my staff — being a celebrity or hipster douchebag.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? An adventurous eater with a sense of humor as well as desire for exploration and appropriate recognition of my staff.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Tupperware and Pyrex.

Image result for tupperware

Beer, wine or cocktail? Champagne, good wine, the occasional Negroni and 15-year old single malt scotch.

Your favorite cookbook author? Too many to list (but that won’t stop me).  Julia Childs. James Beard. M.F.K. Fisher. Gabriella Hamilton. Mark Bittman. Harold McGee. Clementine Paddleford. Michael Roberts!

Your favorite kitchen tool? Iced tea spoon and my intuition.

Your favorite ingredient? Salt. Flavored salts. Chicken, duck and bacon schmaltz (Fat). Foie. Scooter says, “Salt and fat are where it’s at!”


Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Yell at a cook and paperwork.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Pretty much anything that strikes my fancy. (By fancy, I mean American regional, re-thinking and re-imagining old classics in a modern and accessible way.)

Chef you most admire?

  • Michael Roberts: He taught me how to grow and trust my palette.
  • Odessa Piper: She is the Alice Waters of the Mid-West.
  • Fred Eric: He taught me to not just think outside the box — but to blow the box up.
  • Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feninger: They gave me my foundation. “Simple food is the most difficult to do. It’s either perfect and tells a story…or it just sucks”: Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feninger.

Food you dislike the most? Food that is pretentious, derivative or arrogant. Food that tries to be “hip” or trendy. Food that is disingenuous.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None. I’m going to be buried next to the Goldbergs.

Recipe from Chef Scooter Kanfer – Cartmill. Chef, Tropicale Café (Palm Springs, CA.)

Sunday Style Roast: Prime Rib Of Pork With Dried Fruit Sauce

  • 4-5 LB Pork Rib Roast (Have your butcher remove the chime bone so it’s 5-6 bones)
  • Drizzle Roast w/Olive Oil
  • Scooter Spice Rub: Kosher Salt, freshly crushed black pepper, crushed fennel seeds or pollen mustard seeds, garlic, celery Seeds and red pepper flakes.

Make a bed of sliced onions, celery, fennel, and dried fruit (apricots, prunes, raisins, sour cherries) in a heavy bottom roasting pan, Dutch oven or cast iron pan. Place the roast. Add a cup or so of Marsala, little water or chicken stock. Cook in a pre-heated oven of 350 degrees. Internal temperature needs to reach 140 degrees inside thickest part of roast (push the meat thermometer until half way inside the meat). Juices should just run clear. Let roast rest for 20 minutes before carving. Serve with the dried fruit and veggies.

– The End. Go Eat. –