Monday, August 31, 2009

Bazaar Birthday

Ever since I heard about Bazaar opening in the SLS hotel last year, my taste buds have been waiting for the chance to experience the wonders of Jose Andres' skill in a Philippe Starck setting. I finally went for my birthday last week-end and I can say now that not only are my taste buds still in awe, but I can't wait to go back for more. The tapas menu is three pages long, so we lingered over drinks as we tried to narrow down our choices. My sweet drink loving friend Cindy loved the peach Bellini, while Rohini and I had their driest white wine, served in beautiful stemless Riedel glassware.

We began with a mixed marinated beet salad, which Cindy claimed as her dish after one bite of the smooth, slightly tart dish.

We segued on to the delicate garlic shrimp which were so good I could have easily eaten a dozen, but since we had more orders coming, I contented myself with two.

The Smoked Char arrived in a clear cloche because it was literally smoking as it arrived! As our wonderful server opened the cloche, the smoke enveloped the table, allowing us to inhale the heady perfume. This was my favorite dish of the evening. The Char was so mouthwatering that when there was only a tiny bite left, I literally covered the plate so the bus person could not take it away until the last bite was in my mouth!

As we moved on to more seafood, we couldn't decide which tuna to order, the one cooked with roasted peppers or the tuna ceviche avocado roll (which was literally rolled IN avocado slices), so we ordered both. I preferred the tuna ceviche roll and our waiter Ryan was kind enough to comp us one after we inhaled the first one that arrived. (Ryan also comped us bread and chocolate covered raspberries as gifts; we thanked him for his thoughtfulness with a nice tip.)

We decided to end our savory journey with the crab buns, a cool creamy bite on perfect puffs of bun.

Since they no longer serve the caramelized popcorn balls, we asked our waiter for his dessert suggestion. Ryan simply said Coconut Floating Island and we ordered it without even listening to a description. It was the perfect cloud of chilled coconut foam floating on slices of bananas and caramel; once you broke the dome, the foam flowed like a cloud over the plate, it was so much fun to eat!

All I know is I got my birthday wish of great friends and great food in a gorgeous setting! And I didn't even have to blow out a candle to get it all!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Birthday Wish

Please make someone's day with a random act of kindness:)

My favorite charities would appreciate your donations of time or money:
Feeding America (food)
Amnesty International (freedom)
Habitat for Humanity (housing)
Doctors Without Borders (medical care)

Thank-you all for reading my blog; your appreciation and support are my favorite presents of all.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Malibu Wine Classic

Today's post is going to be short and sweet (like me!) because I have friends coming for my birthday tomorrow; I can't wait to see them and to finally try the food at the four star Bazaar restaurant in the SLS.

If I did not have plans tomorrow, I would be heading over to the Malibu Wine Classic. If you would like to do some good for others, head over to the Malibu Civic Center and you can enjoy wines from about 60 wineries around the "New" Californian wine regions of the Central Coast from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Food from restaurants like Water Grill, Moonshadows, Saddle Peak Lodge, and the Four Seasons Hotel, will be served and the proceeds go to help prevent child abuse through the charity Child Help. If you buy your entry online you pay $79 instead of $100 at the door ($50 of which goes to Child Help and is therefore tax deductible). Please note that although this is a charity event for the prevention of child abuse, no children are permitted into this venue because alcohol will be served.

Having great food and wine come to your backyard makes life so much nicer, and since the Civic Center is on a hill, you will enjoy a nice view of Santa Monica Bay as you sip and nibble your delights. Remember to designate a driver before you go or take a cab to and from the event, or you may end up becoming a celebrity caught on camera in Malibu for all the wrong reasons.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wickedly Good San Francisco

The Fairmont, the Grande Dame of San Francisco hotels, has just undergone an $85 million dollar restoration and the best way to enjoy the beautiful new rooms is to go see it for yourself. Another great thing to see while you are up North is the hit show Wicked, which is returning to San Francisco tonight. You can combine the two and take advantage of the wicked savings package that Perfect Escapes has for the Fairmont starting at $179 which includes a complimentary room upgrade, early check in (12 noon), late check out (4pm), and 2 wicked-tinis (or other specialty drink) at the hotel's Laurel Bar. This offer is good until the end of the year, so book your reservation using offer code OID: 938 either online or by phone.

A trip around Halloween would seem to be the perfect time to go take advantage of this wickedly good offer, but when an offer is this good, anytime is a good time for a nice treat.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

$129 Boys Night out at the Palazzo

For all the boys and girls who love, or are from, New York or New Jersey, the Palazzo in Las Vegas has a taste of all you love for a great price.

Lagasse Stadium is opening this September with over 70 Hi-Def TVs, stadium style seating, luxury boxes and outdoor seating. The Palazzo/Venetian wants to get the guys to come out to check it all out. For only $129, you get a suite at the Palazzo (you can upgrade to a 720 sq ft luxury suite for $30 more a night), Creole spiced shrimp and green onion beignets with purchase of two entrees at Lagasse's Stadium*, a $10 credit towards $50 minimum food purchase with $100 minimum single sports wager at Lagasse's Stadium, $40 off front orchestra tickets at Jersey Boys, line pass and complimentary admission for two at LAVO, 50% off The Art of Shaving services at The Apothecary at The Shoppes at The Palazzo, Second Level, and $25 in Grazie Slot Credits per stay.

To get this deal, just call or go online and use promo code EPAXOCC and then just forget about it and have a good time.

*If your reservation is made before the grand opening, a substition will be made of either a complimentary glass of wine with the purchase of an entrée at Morels or 20% off your bill at Dal Toro Ristorante.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Velvet Night Life

Have you ever wondered what is the best way to get into a popular nightspot? These days the answer is to get bottle service (meaning you buy a full bottle of alcohol instead of individual drinks for your group). Bottle service usually gets you a preferred seat and service no matter where you go, but how do you get all those advantages without paying through the nose?

There's now an online bottle service reservation site called Velvet Night Life which allow you to literally make an offer to 17 nightclubs in Los Angeles (future locations include Orange County, Las Vegas, and San Diego) to see which club will accept your bid; think of it as Priceline for nightclubs. The minimum suggested offer is $150 per bottle, but considering some of the choices are Champagnes like Cristal by Louis Roederer, that easily cost hundreds of dollars retail outside of a club, you could snag a great deal if you bid wisely.

After telling them how many in your party and what date you want, you choose the type of music you prefer and specify any particular clubs you want to include in your search. Once all your preferences are selected, you put in your email information and the clubs bid for your business. Once a club accepts your offer, you are treated as a VIP with no cover and no wait in line (that alone is worth buying a bottle). Club choices include Les Deux, The Highlands, Mood, Green Door, Halo, and H. Wood.

How nice to be sought by a club after instead of seeking to get into a club. Go out and party like it's 2009!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Flying Sushi

As prolific as sushi restaurants are in Los Angeles, so many are actually bars, nightclubs, fast food joints, fusion, pseudo chains which make California rolls with mayo, or worst of all places where a piece of hacked fish is slapped on a gob of plain rice (shudder).

Ok, so I may be a sushi snob (is that surprising to anyone?), so if you are happy with a big chain supermarket's sushi, do not read any further. If you are willing to trust the sushi chef with your wallet and your taste buds, then head to your nearest Nobu.

If you are simply wanting to treat your taste buds to fresh clean flavors of classically Japanese sushi and sashimi, the head over to Sugar Fish in Brentwood or Marina Del Rey. These restaurants are the hip younger brothers of the famous sushi nazi, Sushi Nozawa. For those of you not familiar with this icon, I'll just recommend that you watch the famous Seinfeld episode of the soup nazi, substitute sushi for soup and you'll get the idea.

Luckily, Nozawa has a good sense of humor, so the most popular menu is the "trust me", which includes Edamame, Tuna Sashimi, Albacore Sushi (2-pc), Salmon Sushi (2-pc), Yellowtail Sushi (1-pc), Halibut Sushi (1-pc), Toro Hand Roll, and a Crab Hand Roll all for only $23.00.

If you don't quite trust him, you can order a "trust me lite" which includes Edamame, Albacore Sushi (1-pc), Salmon Sushi (1-pc), Tuna Sushi (1-pc), Nozawa Shrimp Sushi (1-pc) and a Toro Hand Roll all for $13.50.

One of the best benefits of their menus is that you can take them to go, so if you are flying out of LAX, stop by MDR and pick up your in flight meal (they will package all the sauces on the side with instructions for what goes where). With Sugar Fish, you can eat as if you are flying to Asia in First Class even if you are flying coach to Houston, and that is surely worth trusting the chef's whims.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Compassion in Action

From fellow blogger Billy Sothern about Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary's action last week:

May we all give the compassion we would like to receive.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hotels in Hollywood 50% off

The other day I posted about great deals to fly to London, by if you don't have time for that trip, take one to the London Hotel in West Hollywood. You can eat at the on site Gordon Ramsey restaurant and judge for yourself if his food is worthy of his attitude, or you can try the Zen fitness program held on the rooftop with Juliet Kaska, who believes fitness should be fun. Either way, stay at least two nights because you get a 50% discount for either 2 nights or two rooms.

Up the street at the Andaz (formerly the Riot Hyatt), you can get a free breakfast with your room or get a second room for 50% off, so bring the kids and give them their own space while you enjoy a spa treatment in yours. If you need anything, the concierge will customize an itinerary for you, so leave your brochures at home and trust the experts here.

If you want to stay in the heart of Hollywood and are a member of Marriott, you get 20% off for your stay at the Renaissance at Hollywood & Highland. Ok, it's not as good of a discount as the at the other hotels mentioned above, but you can literally walk down to the shopping and entertainment complex adjacent to the hotel, and as they say it's all about location, location, location. They have package deals for the Hollywood Bowl and Universal Studios, so you could save more by combining your stay with something to do in town.

Hooray for Hollywood discounts!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tahoe Thursday

The summer is almost over and one of my friends has moved near Lake Tahoe, so I have started looking for things to do on my upcoming visit there.

One sport that looks really fun and different is paddling the Lake on what looks like a surfboard (so you stand and paddle), or paddling around in a kayak; either way it is great exercise and very beautiful.

If you want to stay in a wood cabin along the Lake, head over to the Cottage Inn with rates starting at $158 including breakfast. If country cabins are not your style, then the big Harrah's casino has beautiful rooms and suites all starting at about $90 if you sign up for their special newsletter (the rate is double that if you don't sign up).

Red Hut is a great place to stop for a huge breakfast with a view of the Lake. Vegans and vegetarians (as well as anyone who likes good fresh food) will like Sprouts (they serve meat too). Evan's American Cafe has consistently gotten the best reviews for both food and service for their French inspired menus and romantic dinner ambiance.

Looks like I'll be busy on my trip north; I'll write with more details after I come back!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

London for Less

How about taking a trip where they speak real English (instead of American)?

C & H International has fares to London for only $372 round trip from LAX if you travel between 8/18 - 10/28 2009. The fine print says that you must buy your tickets before August 31, stay over a Saturday night, and buy your tickets at least 14 days in advance. These are pretty reasonable rules considering the price is about the same as a ticket to NYC, and if you live in NYC the round trip price is only $227! You have a choice of departure cities around the US for various fares, and you can make changes for a fee, so if having tea in England appeals to you, polish your manners and make your reservation now!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Feast & Feed Las Vegas

Restaurant weeks have become very popular in cities known for their excellent cuisine and discerning diners, after all why not try out that new four star restaurant, or that new dish everyone has been raving about, all at a discounted menu price?

It's Las Vegas' turn to host from August 31- September 6, 2009, and the Wynn/Encore restaurants have menus prepared with Julia Child's memory in mind. This wonderful win-win proposition provides a portion of all the proceeds from their restaurant week menus for the charity Three Square, a non profit organization dedicated to ending hunger in Southern Nevada. At both Daniel Boulud Brasserie at the Wynn, and Sinatra at the Encore, there will be a special three course menu for $50.09.

If you would like to indulge your palates with plates made by chefs who have cooked for Julia, then head over to Bartolotta, where chef Paul Barolotta cooked for Julia six times, including for one of her birthdays. Carlos Guia has also cooked for the famed chef, and you can taste his dishes at the Country Club while feasting your eyes on a view of the only golf course on the Las Vegas Strip. For dishes inspired by the great cook, nearly every restaurant in the Wynn/Encore has something on the menu to honor her style, if not exactly her recipes. Even Okada, the Japanese restaurant, has some offerings that are fusion versions of her traditions.

Eating as Julia ate is one of the reasons she changed American cuisine. We can all do what she did and expand our repertoires both in the kitchen and at the dining room table. Let the feasting begin!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Brooks Brothers Warehouse Sale

For all the men who are either working or looking for work, a good suit makes an important impression. Unfortunately if you are unemployed or looking to be better employed, finding a good suit at an affordable price can be as challenging as finding a job.

Brooks Brothers is famous for their quality clothing, but their prices tend to be beyond the reach of those who are still striving to pay their rent and car payments. Today's good news is that if you live near one of their warehouses in Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Chicago, they are having a sale that makes their clothing affordable; starting today through Saturday their men's clothing is 75% off! Suits are going for $199-$599, sport coats $99-$199, trousers $69. If you need alterations (essential for the best fit in many cases) they will do alterations for very reasonable prices: $5 to shorten pants, $10 to take in or let out a waist, and $15 to lengthen or shorten a sleeve, all done in house.

A good suit really is a good investment in your future employment; all the better when you can get it at a good discount.

Friday, August 14, 2009

French Friday

For the fans of Julia Child, or Julie Powell, or the movie Julie & Julia, there are some delicious ways to celebrate the icon's birthday tomorrow.

If you live in New York, you have probably heard of the CIA, that's the Culinary Institute of America, not the Central Intelligence Agency. The school has five restaurants on the premises so students can cook in a professional kitchen and serve diners as a kind of dress rehearsal for jobs they will be doing once they graduate. Their Escoffier restaurant specializes in French cuisine, so it is a natural place to honor the Godmother of French Cuisine in America with a menu featuring two of her signature courses, Sole Meuniere, which is the dish that made her want to take French cooking lessons, and her famous Boeuf Bourguignon. A four course dinner with a choice of either entree, a salad, cheese course, and dessert (along with coffee or tea) is only $35 per person until August 28, 2009.

If you don't live in New York and want to try out some of her recipes yourself, head over to your nearest Sur La Table for a free madeleine and cappuccino anytime after 11am on August 15th (her actual birthday). While you are nibbling and sipping, pick up a nice Le Creuset or the 40th Anniversary printing of her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

As Julia would say, Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jet Yourself Blue for $599

If you want to be a jet setter for a month between September 8 and October 8, 2009, you can do it as much as you want to 50 cities on Jet Blue for only $599. The pass price includes all taxes and fees except for International travel and flights to Puerto Rico. Like all great deals, this offer is limited, so hurry and get your pass as soon as possible; this offer expires August 21 or whenever supplies run out.

The fine print is all pretty reasonable, including no name changes on the pass, membership into the True Blue program (you get 35 points for buying the pass), booking at least a three days in advance, only one city per day per flight, and at least three days advance notice for changes and cancellations of bookings. There is also a $100 penalty for no shows with any additional reservations canceled until the penalty is paid.

Where would you like to go? New Orleans? New York? Bermuda? Aruba? The wonderful part about having a pass for unlimited travel is that you don't have to choose, you can go to ALL the places you want during the month.

Go somewhere just to see what it's like, after all isn't that the whole point of traveling?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Los Angeles Staycation Deals

Cheapoair has great deals on flights, but if you are desperate for a vacation but can not justify airfare (especially for a family), they also have deals on places to stay in the Los Angeles area where you can play tourist in your own backyard. This option gives you the perk of maid service and a change of scenery that staying at home does not, so it really is a mini vacation from chores.

One of the things I love about their site is that you can adjust down to the dollar what your price range is, how many stars you want (you can even set half stars), and how much of a distance you are willing to go from your location. They also have what they call their four Golden Guarantees which promise service and price protections for travel you book through the site. I found it impressive that they give travelers credit for flight and baggage delays over an hour, and they refund $10 for lower prices found elsewhere within 12 hours of an airfare or hotel booking made on their site.

I found some deals for hotels in areas where people from other states and countries flock, so why not join them and enjoy knowing your way around town without the need for GPS and concierges to tell you where the good places are for drinks and dinner?

The Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach is not only a landmark attraction for visitors, but you can spent the night for about $95 a night (normally $112). The Standard downtown has spectacular views from the rooftop bar at night, and if you work downtown, you can actually save yourself a commute if you stay over the week-end for $124 a night (normally $323). If you want to live like someone who has money to burn, stay at the Maison 140 in Beverly Hills $147 (normally $234) and walk around town rich with the knowledge that you didn't have to buy a plane ticket to get here. For a taste of something exotic in town, the Kyoto Grand Hotel & Garden in Little Tokyo will make you feel like you took a plane somewhere without the jet lag, and for for $127 (normally $224) you can enjoy Japanese food without having to exchange your dollars for yen. Act like a first time visitor and stay at the Hilton at Universal City $174 (normally $203), take the Universal tour, and go to a show at the amphitheater without having to drive home afterwards. Since our beaches are famous, splurge with a night at the Loews Santa Monica Beach for $387 (normally $449) and wake up to the Pacific Ocean on one side and Third Street Promenade on the other.

Sometimes there is no place like home, except maybe a hotel stay in your hometown.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Discovery Shops & C&H Summer Sales

The American Cancer Society's Discovery Shops are always great places to find high quality resale clothes, but if you go this Friday and Saturday, everything in the stores will be 50% off! That means everything including the jewelry, men's furnishings, and household knick knacks. I have found brand new (tags attached) Donna Karan suits for $50, so at 50% off that makes the suit $25. Yes, you read that correctly, there were only TWO digits in those prices.

With a new wardrobe to show off, you might want to do some traveling. If you have some time this summer, take advantage of C&H's fares from LAX to Asia. For $420 you can fly round trip to Manila, or for $520, go to Hong Kong. Fares are on sale from other destinations too, so if you have friends in New York or Miami, have them meet you for an exotic getaway before Labor Day.

Of course with all you will be saving, you may want to donate to a charity as an act of gratitude for all you have; generously sharing what you have with others who don't have as much is just plain good karma.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Big Island Big Sale

One of my favorite people lives on the big island, (of Hawaii) right next to the Four Seasons and with the deal they have at the Hualalai, it might be time to go for a visit. Like many of the Four Seasons, they are having a sale if you stay at least four nights (which you will want to do at any Four Seasons anywhere in the world); you'll save $1000 which can be applied to your room rate as well as charges to your room during your stay.

This all translates to about $565 per night for a golf/ocean view room, about 30% off the regular rack rate of $815. I know, it's not cheap, but then quality, like good people, is priceless.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Jerk in Jamiaca

I just watched the movie Julie & Julia and just as Julia Child was inspired by the food in France, I believe that you can truly learn to appreciate food by tasting it at the source. If Julia had not lived in France, she may never have been so passionate about French food and shared that joy with those of us in the US.

I have friends who traveled to Jamaica yearly and they brought back with them a love for jerk seasoning. They in turn infected me with their passion and now with Air Jamaica's special airfares, we can all eat jerk in Jamaica. With fares starting at only $184 from New York, or $128 from Ft. Lauderdale, you can literally fly in to eat. You must book by August 11 and fly between September 6 - October 31, 2009, but those are really the only restrictions.

Of course you don't have to come back right away if you don't want to because you have great options at some of the high end resorts on the island to indulge your senses along with your palate. The Half Moon luxury resort has a fourth night free package which works out to $188 per night (code FNFS09), or if you stay 14 or more nights you get 5 nights free (code SSS09). The resort is on a mile long white sand beach, has 51 swimming pools, 13 tennis courts, an 18 hole golf course, an equestrian center, and a dolphin lagoon!

If you prefer the Ritz-Carlton, they are offering savings on spa services, free golf, free breakfast, and free nights for up to 43% off the regular room rates.

Don't be a jerk, go eat some!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happy Hour for $5 or Less

Santa Monica Seafood has been a landmark for years as a retail location, but now that their cafe is finally open, you can enjoy Happy Hour from 3-5 pm. Their specials feature astounding prices, like $1.50 for an oyster on the half shell (like potato chips, you can't have just one, especially at this price!), and $4 for a glass of house wine. After having your appetizers at the cafe, you can take home a seafood feast of some Alaskan King Crab legs for $19.99 per pound or Live Maine Lobster for $13.99 a pound.

With the Malibu International Film Festival starting today, why not stop by the Beachcomber at the Malibu Pier between 5-7 pm? You can choose from five appetizers and five drinks for $5 and they include some cute choices like a drink named Strawberry Fields and bites of cheese pizzettes.

Since some of the films are in Santa Monica, if you want to get a drink and a bite after a film, or simply a little later, while still paying happy hour prices, head over to Le Merigot in Santa Monica. The open air bar Le Troquet has a happy hour from 8-10 pm with 50% off well drinks and 30% off appetizers.

Looks like a Happy Day anyway you look at it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Alila Villas Hadahaa Maldives 65% off

There are some places in the world which are so remote that they are expensive to fly to and to stay in because getting services to a place so far removed from civilization costs money. BoraBora comes to mind as the atolls which make up the "island" include one that serves as the airport, meaning that to get to any of the other atolls there is a required boat trip (yes a boat trip from the airport to the main island and some other hotels located on other atolls).

Another remote island location that is equally famous and expensive is the Maldives. The lowest priced room at the Alila Villas Hadahaa costs $1,183 a night, but with so few people travelling these days, they are offering a rate of $790 a night, including all taxes & fees, with every other night free. If you do the math that works out to $395 a night or 65% off the rack rate. This rate is available from this August (the resort is due to open August 16th) through December.

To make you feel even better about spending your money here, they are an environmentally conscientious resort, where environmental protection and awareness are key (they preserve the natural vegetation to minimize the footprint of the resort's 50 island and aqua villas).

If you are going to spend your green somewhere, spend it where they believe in preserving the green.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Malibu International Film Festival

One day I would love to go to Cannes and see all the films that eventually make their way back to the US after winning prizes with an international audience, but until that happens, I will attend the film festivals here, like the one this week from August 6-8 in Malibu.

Yes, Malibu has an International Film Festival with films from France, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and of course the USA. I looked over the descriptions and found several that sound good (my choices all revolve around food and France, of course, with titles like Last Meal and A Juicy Turkey). The good thing is that tickets start at only $15 for the screenings ($100 for a VIP pass to everything, including cutting in front of non VIPs), and for as little as $20 you can join in the parties that accompany the opening and closing screenings. Several of the films look noteworthy for their subject matter (like a surfing documentary titled Jesse's Story about a C-6 quadriplegic who still surfs big waves).

If you go for the films, you may even see some stars since people in the industry love watching films in their own backyard too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Happy 400th to Bermuda

My birthday is probably my favorite holiday, and since my birthday will be later this month, I will be sharing the celebration with the island of Bermuda which turns 400 this year (yes, the island is OLDER than I am). For my birthday I will be joining my friends at Bazaar, but for Bermuda, they want to share their island with you by giving YOU a present!

If you book a trip to Bermuda for four nights or more by August 17th for stays through August 21, you will get a $400 credit at several participating hotels and resorts. It may be a little bit of short notice, but for anyone on the East Coast, like Boston or New York, the trip only takes about 2 hours, so you could take a long week-end and enjoy the famous pink sand beaches and English sensibilities that abound on the island; you might even run into Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones while you're there (they are residents).

There are spa, golf, family, and wedding/romantic packages, so pack up and head East for a birthday celebration!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ultimate Coach

"Limitation creates value." - Steve Hardison

(Took me a minute to understand the implications of this statement, but for example, the Hope diamond is valuable because it is the ONLY one)