Along with snow on the peaks outside, finding Palm Springs chef John Fritch–one of the world’s top dining at elevation chefs–was a wonderful surprise. It was not one I expected to find in the desert of Palm Springs, California. Not only an accomplished Palm Springs chef, John also holds worldwide acclaim.
Flown to Rome, Italy, just before COVID, John was a panel speaker at a conference for the world’s top one percent of food and beverage operators. Appearing on television and radio, being personal chef to celebrities, even plating meals for 5000 people, John is passionate about food and turning restaurants into green spaces.
That is why becoming the owner of PEAKS Restaurant in 2016 made so much sense. Surrounded by nature’s staggering views, John’s amazing food and warm atmosphere surrounded my group at what seemed like the top of the world.
Even starting out in his career, John had foodies buzzing. Los Angeles Daily News included John in its Top 20 Chefs back in 2001, and like PEAKS, he has soared to the highest of heights.
Getting There is Half the Fun
One of the best places to eat in Palm Springs, PEAKS Restaurant is only accessible by riding the rotating tramcar up the mountain’s two-and-a-half miles of cable to the mountain station, so getting there is half the fun.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway rotates twice on the 15-minute ride to reach PEAKS Restaurant’s 8516-foot elevation. It’s a win-win with stunning views on the ride up and a really fun way to get there.
Foodies won’t be disappointed by this Palm Springs chef. There is a little bit of everything on the PEAKS menu. Sumptuous salads tickled our taste buds. Sweet candied walnuts, cranberries, and sundried golden raisins, perfectly balanced the sharper salty flavours of feta and the lemon vinaigrette dressing of the spinach salad.
Big beautiful burgers of every style including pork, veggie, and bacon, were alongside the traditional beef. There were amazing appetizers, entrees big enough for a meal, and perfect plates of pasta to rival any Italian chef’s offering. After all, that is John’s specialty. He was sous chef for Italian Consulate events in Los Angeles, California.
In fact, this Palm Springs chef’s Pasta Parisian was so delectable several members of our travel writer’s retreat enjoyed it all four ways it was offered on the menu—vegetarian, chicken, shrimp, and salmon. The vegetarian option’s creamy brie is perfectly melded with heirloom tomatoes, garlic, basil, and the white wine butter pistou. Each wonderfully balanced bite was pure decadence. It also had everyone else oohing and aahing as soon as it came out.
This Palm Springs chef truly knows how to deliver a top of the world experience for foodies with unbeatable food, a cozy alpine atmosphere, and great wine.
Wonderful Wine with Sneaky Side Effects.
A smooth warming Pinot Noir was the perfect accompaniment to my pasta lunch. Getting giggly after one glass was a pleasant surprise, and it added to the fun of dining at elevation.
Dining at elevation takes the effects of wine to new heights. Its deceptive mellow drinkability can hit you harder than if you enjoyed the exact same glass at sea level. At first, you don’t notice. Wine smooths out beautifully in these altitudes, and the warming effects are very pleasant. As you gaze upon the snow-speckled boulders outside, the impossibly blue sky lulls you, and everything seems a little more relaxing.
This is a hidden perk of dining at elevation and one to be aware of when you visit. The warm and fuzzy wine high is a sneaky side effect to be remembered if you were thinking of ordering a second glass, and that’s why you should think hard about enjoying that second glass. Not only does the wine have a greater effect, so does walking at elevation.
All of a sudden, it’s harder to breathe. Small things like walking up some stairs had me huffing and puffing. Plus, you don’t want to trip in the tram car on the way home, or worse, sidestep and stumble over a squirrel while enjoying an after-lunch walk.
Don’t Forget Your Hiking Boots
Seeing snow in a desert was amazing to me. It is one of nature’s contrasts seen regularly in the surrounding national park just outside PEAKS restaurant doors. The views will touch any nature lover’s heart. With over 50 miles of hiking trails, you can indulge at lunch guilt free, knowing you can enjoy a long walk in the alpine surroundings after lunch.
The small climb is worth it for the view. Showing the vast desert valley on one side, and temperate alpine forestry on the other.
Stepping outside into the national park (even if you are not in the mood for adventuring), hiking, or straying too far, you’ll find the warm sun and stunning mountain views make it the perfect spot for soaking up the sun. There is a saying up on the mountain:
“NATURE – CHEAPER THAN THERAPY”
It is easy to see why that saying is so true when sitting enjoying the view.
Overall, this was a big first and a bucket list kind of experience for me. Cliffside dining at elevation is something I would go back and do in a heartbeat. This Palm Springs chef and California’s Mount San Jacinto State Park united with the Aerial Tramway to make lifelong memories of a truly unforgettable dining experience.
*** This dining experience received by the writer was complimentary. It in no way influenced the writer’s opinion, and all views are her own.