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.

Green salad, chicken, two veggies and a starch—that might have been a reasonable meal to serve group attendees in the last century, but it won’t cut it in 2020. Today, guests expect that a growing range of dietary needs will be accommodated, whether they’re eating keto, vegan, paleo, gluten free or some combination of all four. And, in a time when tech employees enjoy gourmet in-house commissaries on the job, it takes some serious culinary pyrotechnics to impress them.

 

Lots of folks claim to be adventurous eaters, but are the epicureans in your group ready for … toasted grasshoppers? If they are, send them to Cultura Comidas y Bebida, a year-old Carmel restaurant specializing in light, inventive and almost-too-pretty-to-eat traditional Mexican dishes tweaked to appeal to a California palate. Chapulines, a common bar snack in Mexico City and the southern state of Oaxaca, from where they’re imported, are salty/spicy/crunchy and taste a lot better than they sound.

 

An acclaimed chef is cooking at a new indoor-outdoor spot.