by David Wayne

I came to the realization while dining at Trio restaurant in Palm Springs that not only do I love to eat, but I also love the whole dining experience. Trio has one of the most unique menus in the Coachella Valley, from Crawfish Pot Pie to Lamb Shank; and it has all been created masterfully by Chef Mark Van Laanen. Mark has been in the restaurant business for over twenty-five years, and has captured his love of New Orleans in many of his dishes. Chef Van Laanen, partnered with Tony Marchese an entrepreneurial executive, made the success of Trio inevitable. Trio is located in the uptown design district where art is abundant, including inside Trio itself. The art work displayed inside the restaurant is for sale, and 10% to 20% of the profits go to charity. So basically it is as if you are dining in an art gallery.
My wife and I were immediately whisked off to our table and greeted by Terrence, who became one of our favorite servers of all time. Terrence had an amazing way about him that made us feel as if we were the only patrons in the restaurant. He came up with brilliant suggestions all evening, including our first appetizer which was Country Pate. The Pate was house made with pork, veal, and green peppercorns, bacon wrapped and served with mixed greens in balsamic vinaigrette, garnished with olives and cornichons, my wife’s favorite. I also ordered white bean hummus which was very mild, topped with paprika and served with crostini. Terrence also recommended we share a salad; we chose roasted carrot. The salad was amazing with roasted carrots, arugula, fresh ricotta, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds tossed in a citrus vinaigrette. After having the salad we realized the genius of Chef Van Laanen; it is how he makes amazing combination choices in his creations. The roasted smoky flavor of the seeds mixed with the citrus in the vinaigrette made the salad a treat not soon forgotten.

I was torn between entrees, so Terrence suggested I have both. Now that was genius. I’m a gentleman, so I shared one of my entrees with my wife. The shared entree was the St. Louis Style Spare Ribs, chipotle rub with house made barbeque sauce, on a bed of slaw. The recipe must be secret so I cannot write much more about the ribs except they fell off the bone and were amazing. My other choice was the Shrimp Nola, also known as Shrimp Creole. The sauteed shrimp in Louisiana Red Butter Garlic Sauce was served over brown rice. The Red Butter Garlic Sauce was made with paprika in a beer and Worcestershire sauce reduction. My wife had Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut, with an orange ginger glaze. I had a couple of bites that were delicious, and I know my wife really enjoyed it, as she didn’t eat all of my shrimp after she tasted the Halibut. The shrimp was simply delicious.  We also had a delightful side of sour cream mashed potatoes.

My wife had a glass of Babich Sauvignon Blanc, and by recommendation from Terrence, a quarter glass of 2011 Tolosa Edna Valley No Oak Chardonnay; Chablis like style, crisp acidity balanced, but is mineral light, with citrus and a taste of honey. She later was brought a refreshing Spa-tini which was Pearl Cucumber infused Vodka and Agave, with a splash of Lime Juice. I had a nice brisk glass of iced tea that kept magically refilling itself all evening. We both had a cappuccino to accompany our desserts. Terrence just told us he would bring us dessert, which we liked, as he had been right on about everything all night. We were not disappointed with the butterscotch pudding, which was thick and creamy. We also had a piece of their Three Nut Torte, an indescribably delicious treat that finished off an incredible dining experience.