In the Kitchen with Rick Marino of Desert Dust

As a touring manager for over 20 years, Rick Marino travels… a lot! And while he’s seen so much of our country and the world, the one thing he hadn’t seen was a food item on the market that represented the hero crop of the Coachella Valley–the date. So he created Desert Dust, a dry rub spice blend that brings the history and flavor of the Coachella Valley into your kitchen.

In the Kitchen with Rick Marino of Desert Dust

Dates are everywhere in the Coachella Valley, from date shakes to other date treats, so it’s surprising that Desert Dust is the first all-purpose date seasoning! How did you come to create Desert Dust?

I love a regional culinary gift! It is the best and most thoughtful thing to bring someone who likes to eat or cook. As a tour manager for over 20 years, I’ve traveled the world and spent tons of time in airports browsing gift shops. You can learn a lot about that place by what they have to offer, from a regional candy or sauce, it’s a quick way to learn about where you have just been, even if you were there for just a day. When I moved to the desert over ten years ago and Palm Springs became my home airport, I realized there was nothing for sale there that represented how awesome and abundant dates are to our region. So, I set out to create a regional culinary gift, and Desert Dust was born! Learning that the Coachella Valley is the largest producer of dates outside of the Middle East, I felt we had more to offer than just shakes and date bread.

What is your favorite way to use Desert Dust?

I currently have a few favorites. I can’t eat eggs without some Spicy Desert Dust sprinkled on top. Boneless skinless chicken thighs liberally dusted with Savory Desert Dust, then grilled on the BBQ or baked is one meal I can eat every day. I also can’t eat mac n’ cheese without it anymore. Desert Dust never leaves the kitchen counter. I literally use it on everything. 

In the Kitchen with Rick Marino of Desert Dust

What is your favorite least obvious/non-traditional way to use Desert Dust?

I have started Dusting my grilled cheese sandwiches and quesadillas! I never thought about seasoning cheese before, but it’s awesome. It brings another layer of flavor, and it just makes everything better.

You live in Palm Desert, but you love to travel and have been known to deliver Desert Dust orders as far away as Utah! Where is your favorite place to visit in the region? Like a weekend trip?

Asking me my favorite place is so hard to answer, but as far as nearby? I really love the little town of Borrego Springs. A dark sky town with no traffic lights and somewhat of a time capsule of a main street—it’s a real desert gem! And it’s home to my favorite desert hotel, La Casa del Zorro. It has plenty of old-school luxury and a resort feel with pools open 24 hrs, a great restaurant, and a bar with a cool backstory. They house dozens of casitas for rent, and some have their own private pools and hot tubs. It really is a special place and a great home base for a day trip around the Salton Sea or up to the little apple town of Julian. 

My absolute favorite place in the world, hands down, is Baja, Mexico. From the carne asada tacos in fresh flour tortillas in Tijuana to the seafood of Ensenada to the wines and Michelin-star restaurants in Valle de Guadalupe, the food is epic. Plus, the waves and deserts, petting grey whales in the Pacific lagoons, and swimming with whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez… you get the picture! 

In the Kitchen with Rick Marino of Desert Dust

Do you have any new products that you are working on/would like to talk about?

There are several new ideas about Desert Dust and other desert foods bouncing around my head that will come out eventually, but coming soon is our take on the original make-it-yourself California-style taco mix, the kind that comes in the envelope that’s sugar-free (yes, we use some Date dust instead), gluten-free, and all organic. It’ll be available in Spicy or Mild, and we have a guacamole mix that makes it easy to whip up the best guac wherever you are.

Check out Desert Dust’s website and follow them on IG to learn more about the brand, see when new flavors are coming, and get an inside look at what’s coming next out of the test kitchen.


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