Curating of Cuisine in the Coachella Valley

By Dann Foley

Living in our resort towns of the Valley, we have a plethora of restaurants, from culinary artisans to the proverbial “diners & dives.”  I do not believe I am overstating myself when I suggest that the Valley is undergoing a bit of a restaurant renaissance. 

This awakening is due, in part, to many years of cooking programming and TV networks.  We have all become foodies.  The restaurant experience has become about ingredients, exclusivity and farm-to-table freshness.  Diners are savvy, they want to be inspired and challenged.  From Palm Springs to La Quinta food hipsters and aficionados are demanding an immersive experience when they dine.

During this month each year, we at The Standard offer the best in Dining.  This year I wanted to go deeper and give my readers an “experience.”  The most successful restaurants are more than just a menu.  They create a fully immersive atmosphere where food, service, décor and a creative nature come together seamlessly.  They create a story.  They become a production.

Case in point: Liz & Mark Ostoich, owners of FARM Restaurant and the soon to be opened Tac/Quila, both in downtown Palm Springs.  Liz & Mark are both attorneys, Liz was looking for her “second act” and decided to focus her razor-sharp intellect, love of food and her organizational skills on an existing restaurant.  She proves the point that dining excellence speaks to all senses.

Since purchasing FARM, she has transformed what was a charming, intimate café type restaurant into a garden dining experience like nothing else our Valley has ever seen. Diners sit among a living garden where the attractive young horticulturalists create performance art while tending the blooms that surround your experience (they even use the fresh blooms in the cooking, cocktail ice cubes and presentation!). 

FARM leaves you with a sense of other-worldly dreamscape.  It is casual by nature and set within nature.  The cuisine is simple French cooking, the staff is well trained and well versed in the food they serve and its preparation.  Their freshly made bread is served with house made strawberry preserves created in the kitchen from their garden’s berries.  All of the ingredients used at Farm are locally sourced, when available and everything is the best quality on the market.  As Liz says, “I know the difference and I know it shows.”

In a short-time Liz has grown FARM into one of the hottest tickets in town.  Friday and Saturday nights also have dinner service, which is so popular, I would always suggest you have a reservation.  Rumor has it that they actually had to turn Beyoncé & JayZ away this holiday season because there was not a table to be had!  The dinner experience includes live vocals perfectly suited to the atmosphere and in the small dining room there is original artwork, and all of its 1930’s architectural charm, including a working fireplace.

So, what does one do when you have one of the most popular and successful restaurants in town?  You open another, of course!  But, how do you top such a unique presentation?  Where do you find inspiration for both the cuisine and the design?  How do you build a restaurant experience from scratch and still maintain the same quality as your existing offering?  I am thrilled to say that we are going to get the answers from the woman herself!

Q.  Mark & Liz, how does one go from the courtroom to the dining room?  What did your prior life bring to “the table”?  

A. One weekend we took a short break from life as lawyers and decided to dream a little. We brainstormed, reminisced, reflected and projected, all with a goal of discovering where our dreams intersected. It was clear after a while that our life change would involve hospitality. We love people and their stories, and nothing brings people together like a great meal in a memorable setting.  Our first restaurant [ad]venture was FARM, in Palm Springs. FARM allowed us to bring our love of the French countryside to a charming little courtyard, chock full of flowers and tucked away from the hustle and bustle.  We love everything that has become FARM, but there was more to be said.

Q. Liz, being a fan of your current restaurant FARM, what is the goal for Tac/Quila?

A. Our goal at Tac/Quila is to share our passion for colorful, flavorful, authentic cuisine and cocktails, created, curated and served by people that love others and want to make your dining experience memorable.

Q.  What does it mean to create an “immersive dining experience” and where do you begin? 

A. We believe that if we invest in the best possible ingredients and people, and focus our resources on presentation and environment, our customers will recognize the difference and will be excited to return and share their experience with others. We believe that a cocktail should be the creative expression of its author, and that a good meal must be an artistic blend of flavor, aroma and color. A true dining experience should involve an awakening of all of the senses and we hope to bring this delight to our guests…again, and again, and again.

Q.  Is Tac/Quila your own name?  What does the name suggest to a potential diner?

A.  Part of our life story involves food – but it also includes travel, history, and of course, tequila! Tac/Quila is our made-up word for combining gourmet Jalisco style cuisine with specialty tequilas and mezcals, in an effort to transport our guests south of the border and into a culture rich in flavor, color, art, and authenticity.

Q. We still live by a casual resort vibe. How do you balance, personal interaction, technology, design and cuisine and not have it become overwhelming?  How do you keep it from becoming too theatrical?

A.  We probably eat out too much, but we really enjoy the social aspect of sharing a meal with others. To us, sharing involves getting to know the staff at a restaurant, from the owners, to the servers, bartenders, food runners and support staff. We love good food, but we also love good people. Our hiring and service philosophy is that kindness, generosity and grace must start with the ownership, flow through the team, and land gently on the customer. If we enjoy what we do, it will be reflected in every aspect of the Tac/Quila experience. We seek to hire joy-filled people with character, that want to work hard at creating a memorable experience for their guests. Many skills may be taught, but these important traits must be individually chosen by each member of the Tac/Quila staff.

Q. Tell us about your chef and how you and he created a menu of “elevated Mexican cuisine”?  Where does the tequila come in?

A.  Tac/Quila is Executive Chef Alfredo Carrion’s dream come true. Since he began working in restaurants at the age of sixteen, Alfredo has wanted to bring high quality Jalisco style cuisine to the Coachella Valley. The third in a line of four brothers (all of whom are chefs), Alfredo has been surrounded by tremendous talent, and he is never afraid to seek input or collaborate with his peers. As with any good artist, you will often find Alfredo working into the night to perfect some new sauce or marinade. 

Q. I have heard that you will be serving a number of signature tequila-based cocktails. Tell us about those and about the presentations?

A.  Our lead bartender and master mixologist, Zach Wilhelm, recently relocated from Minnesota, where he spent his life pursuing creative passions, including playing guitar in local rock and roll bands, and producing music.   He has taken his interest in mixology to a new level, creating house made syrups and bitters, and dressing each Tac/Quila libation to be the life of the party.  Zach has developed a full list of specialty cocktails featuring tequilas from Jalisco and Mezcals from Oaxaca.  We are excited to share his artistically pleasing, regionally influenced cocktails, which embody the heart of agave.

Q. I know that you are both huge Midcentury Modern enthusiasts and collectors and that you live in an important modernist home in Palm Springs.  How did the love of all things modern influence Tac/Quila?

A. At the same time Palm Springs was laying the foundation for its current international reputation as a mid-century modern mecca, Mexico City was producing and welcoming some of the most important artists of that same movement. From renowned painters like Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo to midcentury furniture and accessory artisans Pepe Mendoza and Arturo Pani, Mexico was sinking its cultural roots and solidifying its position as a leader of classic design.

Mexico’s artistry extends to its flavorful, colorful and specialized cuisine, which has been so richly honored in places like Austin, Los Angeles and San Diego, but has been otherwise largely ignored. Our goal is to bring you authentic cuisine, crafted by experienced chefs, passionate about exposing you to the best Mexico has to offer. We believe your experience at Tac/Quila should involve the highest quality ingredients, the best possible people, and a rich, inviting ambiance, that reflects the heart and soul of Mexico. 

Q.  Now that you have me salivating, please tell us how soon we can expect the grand-opening of Tac/Quila? 

A.   Look for our grand opening in mid-April.  We are all just as excited to welcome everyone, every day for lunch & dinner.  Or just stop by for drinks in our open bar and people watch from our patio while enjoying the very best of what Tac/Quila, Palm Springs will have to offer!

What Liz & Mark prove every day is that details and the extra effort make the difference between eating and dining.  Atmosphere and design work in conjunction with the menu and creativity is equally applied to both.

For our part, the Palm Springs based design firm of Foley & Stinnette, has been tasked with creating interiors equal to the culinary “high-bar” being set for Tac/Quila.  The design style is pure Palm Springs, infused with Mexican Modernist cultural cues blended with sensuality and exuberance.  We have chosen layers of both color and pattern as a backdrop to the traditional architecture to suggest and celebrate the excitement of midcentury Mexico City, just like the cuisine. 

Diners will be treated to all custom furnishings, period artwork, handmade venetian lanterns and hand-wrought Spanish style fixtures.  Surfaces will sparkle and glow under custom lighting and deep banquettes will invite patrons to revel, relax and indulge in both the surroundings and culinary offerings.  Even the restrooms will be an experience in style.  Don’t miss the handmade tiles, wallpaper and fixtures.  Our partners at Cambria Quartz have worked with Beau and me to utilize the best quartz products in the industry in ways never before seen.  It will truly be an event!

It truly takes a village.  Liz & Mark made sure the entire team was up to the task of creating their vision from the ground up and I would be remiss in not including the importance of branding such a creation.  From the logo, to the new website ( to the signage on the restroom doors, to the design of the roof beam stencil, every detail has been expertly and lovingly executed by Mike Berger of mbdx creative, in Riverside (  Keeping it local has been the mantra for everything!

Today, a successful restaurant is an experience for those lucky enough to partake but, it also has to be full of “Instagram-able moments.  Every detail must make a visual statement that can be shared across the cyber world.  It must stand the test of being shared, discussed and dissected, ad-nauseum.  It can be a frightening and daunting proposition.  As I have often said in these very pages, “successful lifestyle design is in the details.”  That depth of detail and pride that true restauranteurs like Liz & Mark Ostoich possess is what sets them apart. 

As both our Valley and our restaurant offerings continue to grow and flourish, so does the demand for something new and fresh.  Restaurants like FARM and now, Tac/Quila take what we know, or think we know about the food experience and they offer it up in a way we never before knew as possible.

Once again, we are reminded of our good fortune to live in a place of such natural beauty, that anything here that is done with style is enhanced by the backdrop of our gorgeous mountains and beautiful desert.  With the addition of Tac/Quila it seems assured that we have another choice for fine dining as only we can do it here in Southern California’s Valley of the Stars, Palm Springs!

Live Well!

Dann Foley Find Designer Dann on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Houzz & Pinterest