I’m not used to encountering my fellow writers in the kitchen, but there we all were peeling onions, chopping leeks, zesting limes and pitting dates. The occasion was a Cozymeal cooking class, held in a Hollywood loft, to get the word out about Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week. The 10-day culinary event kicks off on Friday, May 31, and runs through Sunday, June 9.

More than 120 restaurants throughout the Coachella Valley are participating, offering two-course lunches at $15, $20 and $25, and three-course dinners at $29, $39 and $49. It’s an opportunity to experience a new restaurants or return to a favorite at a special value, or to check out a few spots for future group outings. Beyond this, Restaurant Week is a chance to give back. For every reservation booked through dinegps.com, $1 will be donated to Find Food Bank, a regional organization that distributes more than 10 million pounds of food annually to tens of thousands of people who are food insecure across the Coachella Valley.

Our Cozymeal menu included dishes inspired by several restaurants participating in Restaurant Week. There was gazpacho from Spencer’s; a spinach salad with dates from La Quinta; fried squid rings with aioli from Justin’s; pork belly tacos from Workshop; a date shake from Shield’s and more.

I’ll be adding this easy recipe to my regular rotation.

Spinach and Date Salad

Ingredients
- 2 dates, plus ¾ cup chopped dates
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil, divided
- 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, trimmed
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
1. To make dressing, blend whole dates, lime zest, lime juice and 1/3 cup oil in a blender until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook shallots, stirring often, until golden brown and crisp; drain on paper towels and season with salt.
3. Toss spinach and chopped dates with dressing. Top with fried shallots.

Taking a page from the rise and success of microbreweries, distilleries are becoming trendy new gathering places in many mountain towns. Here are a few great options for tours, tastings and hands-on distilling experiences for group gatherings. 

Park Distillery
Banff, Alberta, Canada

 

It's the most wonderful time of the year ... unless you're the one putting together the company's annual holiday party. There’s no need for undue seasonal stress, however, say local party planners. Organizing the perfect get-together can be as easy as making your list, checking it twice, and calling one of the locations below. All are experts at making your upcoming event both fresh and festive, whatever its size. 

The Inn at St. John’s: 

Classy and Jolly

 

If you’ve spent time in noon board meetings or luncheon team strategy sessions, you’ve likely suffered through the traditional buffet of cold cuts and stale cookies that have seemingly become the norm for these occasions. But rejoice: Like all things Texas, boxed lunch options in our state are far from standard. Here are a few standout caterers that offer creative menus, seasonal fare, and a commitment to satisfying every palate by offering gluten-free, dairy-free, keto-friendly and vegan selections. 

Alonti