Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hong Kong 72 Hour Sale

Some of the best deals are limited in either time or stock, but if you are flexible and spontaneous enough, you can get a steal. For the next 72 hours (give or take a few hours depending on when you are reading this), C&H is having a Delta airfare sale from LAX to Hong Kong for $710. Taxes and charges add another $185, but this still means you can fly roundtrip for under $1000! You may travel between now and May 1 or from August 15 until December 9, 2010 with a maximum 6 month stay. If you are traveling from the East Coast, the fare from JFK is only $593 (plus about $185 in taxes & fees), but maximum stay for this ticket is 90 days.

If you need a place to stay they even have a 3 star hotel for only $93 a night at the City Garden Hotel, so give them a call at 866-266-5264 and book your trip while you still have this window of opportunity.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bite and Death by Pig

I shop at Trader Joe's nearly every day, alternating between one of three different locations with a five mile radius of my home. One of the locations is the one in Santa Monica on Pico which happens to be across the street from Bite, a newly opened bakery and cafe.

Even though Bite has not "officially" opened, the doors are open, the counters are stocked with luscious baked items, and they are offering breakfast and lunch specials until 2:30 pm everyday. Think of this as your chance to get an "insider's preview" to the grand opening of the restaurant, which looks like it will be a big hit once the general public finds this place.

In the former Violet space, the interior has been completely redone to reflect a homey cafe, with shelves of books on one wall, artwork on another, and a beautiful display counter of breakfast goodies like croissants, scones, and muffins. For dessert lovers, they also have huge home made "Oreo" patties, brownies, bourbon pecan cookies, double chocolate cookies, and a lime shortbread.

The daily menu is on a blackboard behind the pastry display and along with upscale comfort food like Mumma BITE’s Chicken Pot Pie with Farmer’s Market Micro Salad, accessible gourmet choices like the Toasted Crab Sandwich with Paprika Aioli on Sourdough with watercress Salad, and vegan / vegetarian options like a chickpea “Naandwich” a sandwich with Cilantro and Tomato Salad (Veg+Vegan), they also have daily specials all for under $15 each.

Today's special was "Death By Pig" or a PLT, made with wonderful chunks of roasted pork, bacon, cracklings, lettuce, tomato, and melted cheese on a fabulous fresh bun slathered with a thin coasting of freshly herbed mayonnaise. The sandwich itself was very hearty (I only finished half of it and took the other half home), but it is served with a nice coleslaw of red and green cabbage and fries that were overcooked to the point of being potato crisps. I would definitely eat only the sandwich if I only had limited stomach space. Service was very friendly and although everyone feels still a bit unsure of what to do, their good intentions outweigh any confusion (like forgetting silverware is needed to eat the coleslaw side).

Since I was smart enough to save room to taste a cookie, I chose the lime shortbread. With lime zest in the crumbly buttery cookie and a light glaze, it was a nice way to finish my meal.

Bite is definitely worth a stop for breakfast or lunch (they currently do not offer a take out service), and eventually they will open for dinner as well. I was very glad to have died and gone to pig heaven today.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Free for Passover

"You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you."

~ Isadora Duncan

With Passover beginning today, it fitting that today's theme is about the freedom we all have to choose our education and our pleasures.

I am always eager to learn a new language, or even a few useful phrases when I travel so that I can communicate in the local language. Any traveler who at least attempts a few words like "Please" and "Thank-you" will have a much better experience in a foreign land. Now everyone can be a better traveler by using a free learning resource from Transparent Language that my friend Susie found online. Transparent Language allows you to either download software to learn a new language or get an email with a new word a day from the language of your choice. You can learn with others in their Facebook community, have common phrases sent to your iPhone, read their cultural and language blogs, and there is even a section with "flash cards" you can use to test yourself. Languages available include Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, and even Esperanto!

Many artists perform for the sheer pleasure of it and now you can listen to their music free every Monday through Mashable's Free Music downloads. There are a variety of genres offered and all you need to do is click on the link to download your free (full) songs. It is a great way for unknown artists to get some exposure and a following, so this is a mutually beneficial exchange with their audience. If you are a musician you are welcome to submit your songs to be put on a Free Music Monday by emailing the contact address in this post.

L'Chaim - To Life.

Friday, March 26, 2010

$20 for Chaya Go

Chaya in Venice is one of my go to restaurants for special occasions for the last 20 years; I have celebrated several of my birthdays and a graduation here. Because of their wonderful eclectic Asian food and outstanding service, this is also one of my short listed restaurant recommendations for friends and business acquaintances.

Twenty years in the restaurant business in Los Angeles is like twenty years of a good marriage in this town, a rare and wonderful reminder that some good things do last. Chaya is closing to remodel (a restaurant version of a face lift), from tomorrow, March 27, through Wednesday, March 31, and opening up a mini version of their menu for only $20 per person starting at 5 pm offering all you can eat sushi, beer, wine and sake! All this will be held in the archway next to the restaurant and all proceeds will benefit C-Cap the charity that benefits education in the culinary arts.

It is not often you get to enjoy a longtime favorite at unbeatable prices for a good cause, it's like winning a culinary trifecta! Go Chaya!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Six Restaurant

Six took over the old Jack Sprat location at the end of last year, but I haven't had a chance to try it until today. I went today specifically because one of their menu items is a fried chicken salad that included waffle croutons, and today is International Waffle Day (really, there is an actual day dedicated to waffles). I ordered the fried chicken salad ($13) which was served on a bed of spinach with bacon, cheddar, roasted tomatoes, and the waffle croutons. Perhaps the croutons were invisible, because I didn't see them when I opened my container, do you? Disappointing considering I could not have my waffle bits on International Waffle Day, but the salad was delicious. The fried chicken was perfectly fried, retaining a crispy coating that enhanced the juicy breast meat with a salty slightly spicy batter, and the roasted tomatoes were succulent and ripe. I even enjoyed the freshly made buttermilk dressing even though the salad was perfectly fine without a sauce.

Since there are six items under every category on the menu (six appetizers, six salads, six pizzas, six entrees, six sandwiches, six sides), there are choices for vegetarians like the Winter Bean Cassoulet served with broccoli rabe, celery root, butternut squash, and wild mushroom ($15), as well as serious carnivores like the Prime NY Steak Frites served with double cooked fries and a cognac cream ($24). Some interesting options include a Roasted Jidori Chicken Breast served with caramelized Brussels sprouts and bacon jam ($18) and a shaved Brussels sprouts salad served with satsumas, roasted almonds and a warm spiced cider vinaigrette ($9).

The redesigned space is more of a pub/bar setting, and although there was one table of women, the vibe was definitely heavy with testosterone. The theme is hues of brown with a rough hewn wood community table and bar and chocolate velvet seat backs lining the wall. It is a warm place to hang out, but it is definitely not a "ladies who lunch" atmosphere.

Six serves serve artisanal beers like the Sam Smith organic English Ale, Jamaica Red Ale (from Humboldt), the local Los Angeles Angel City Lager, and classics like Guiness Stout, all for $5-14. If you aren't a beer drinker, they also have wines and champagnes at surprisingly reasonable prices including a Louis Latour 2006 Burgundy for $77 a bottle and Perrier-Jouet's 2000 Belle Epoque for $200, glasses begin at only $5 each for house wines.

The Six Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food And Water

The Hammer Museum is screening a free film on April 1 called "What's on your plate?". The film is a documentary that follows two 11 year olds as they visit New York's food sources, talk to activists, farmers, store owners, and their families as they try to understand what's on their plates and how it got there. The kids will find out how the food is grown, prepared, shipped, cooked, and what is done with the packaging and leftovers. The screening is at 7 pm and free. Seating will be on a first come first served basis with a question and answer period after the film with the director, star, and actor-activists Ed Begley Jr. and Esai Morales.

This is officially water week, which means that from March 21-27, UNICEF's TAP program is asking diners to donate $1 per glass of water (yes, including tap water, hence the name) to provide safe drinking water to a child for 40 days. There are over 9,000 eateries which are participating in this endeavor, including local favorites like Swingers, Real Food Daily, and Hugo's. The complete list is here, and this program is nationwide, so type in your zip code and donate or dine and donate, so that others can drink safely.

Having access to food and water every day is a luxury to many people, so share your resources and your knowledge whenever possible; one day you may need others to do the same for you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Grace's 7 Year Itch

As some people will remember from the classic movie "The Seven Year Itch", many people yearn for something on the seven year anniversary of a relationship. In the case of a restaurant, the yearning may be for their favorite dishes, the ones they first tasted when the restaurant opened.

One of my favorite restaurants is Grace, and since February 26th was their 7th year "birthday", they are celebrating with a menu of classic dishes through May 7th. you can order 3 courses for $47, with an optional wine pairing by adding $27, or 5 courses for $57, with an optional wine pairing by adding $37, or get the ultimate Chef’s Menu for $97, with an optional wine pairing by adding $57.

The menu choices include:

Tuna with a Spanish Touch
olive oil, smoked paprika, lemon, crispy castelvetrano olive
2007 Aveleda Alvarinho, Monção, Portugal

Dungeness Crab Salad
english peas, mint, meyer lemon vinaigrette
NV Drusian Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy

Pumpkin & Sea Urchin Risotto
2008 Cooralook Pinot Gris, Victoria, Australia

Wild Burgundy Snails & Braised Short Rib
hearts of palm, garlic nage
2006 Maison Champy “Signature” Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France

Sautéed New Zealand John Dory
herb gnocchi, pea tendrils, wild mushrooms, basil nage
2006 Qupé “Bien Nacido Hillside Estate” Roussanne, Santa Maria Valley, California

Bacon Wrapped Saddle of Rabbit
anson mills polenta, asparagus, thyme infused game stock
2006 Château de Cazeneuve “Les Calcaires” Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc, France

Braised Veal Short Ribs & New Zealand Langoustine
parsnips, button mushrooms, veal jus
2006 Sol Rouge “The Gypsy” Red Blend, Lake County, California

Salted Caramel Doughnuts
bourbon caramel pecan ice cream
Château Laubade Floc de Gascogne, Southwestern France

Grilled Tenderloin of Wild Boar
yukon gold potato spaetzle, brussels sprouts, violet mustard sauce
2008 De Conciliis "Donnaluna" Aglianco, Campania, Italy

Salted Caramel Doughnuts
bourbon caramel pecan ice cream
Château Laubade Floc de Gascogne, Southwestern France

Sticky Toffee Pudding
hazelnut gelato, toffee sauce, brûléed bananas
Quinta do Noval Ten Year Tawny Porto, Douro, Portugal

Chocolate Soufflé Cake Affogato
vanilla malt ice cream, toasted almonds, espresso syrup
Blandy's Ten Year Malmsey, Madeira, Portugal

The best gift of all is that they will even add something to the menu if you think they are missing a classic from their menu, because we all know that custom birthday gifts are always the best.

Grace on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 19, 2010

SF for $79

The Warwick in San Francisco has one of the most sought after locations in the city, in the heart of Union Square on Geary, next to the theater district and on a cable car line that runs to Fisherman's Wharf. When you can get this at a Sunday-Thursday rate of only $79 through April 8, 1020, with a $15 dinner credit at their restaurant LA Scene, and free Internet, the offer becomes a steal for a AAA 3 Diamond hotel featuring Louis XIV style furnishings.

If you want to wait until it gets warmer to go to the foggy city, you can still get a rate of only $89 if you book a stay between April 9-July 8. To get this deal either book through their website or call them at 800-827-3446 with code TZOO.

Don't forget the LA Marathon will be running from the Rose Bowl to the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday starting at 7:30am, so there will be some street closures and parking restrictions throughout the route. Even if you are not running, you can cheer on those who are :-)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New York to Santa Monica

West Coast or East Coast, whether you are a runner or resort aficionado, I've got a deal for you.

The Los Angeles marathon is this week-end and along with all the goodies along the route, the Lago restaurant in Santa Monica (near the end of the route) offers anyone who dines 15 off your food bill if you simply say the word "marathon" during brunch, lunch or dinner. If you actually ran in the race, bring in your number and you will get a double portion of any house-made pasta entree, their braised veal shank ($29), or roasted bone marrow ($12).

If you are heading to New York in April, the five star St. Regis has some great free night or upgrade options for you; stay 3 nights and get 2 free, or book a studio for 3 nights and get a free upgrade to a 1 bedroom, or book a 1 bedroom for three nights and get a complimentary upgrade to a 2 bedroom. Jet Luxury Vacations has these deals on their website or you can call them to book at 877-JETSET9.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Springtime in Europe

With Spring break coming up, college students may be going to sun and surf, but many families are taking advantage of their children's time off school to take a vacation, and some couples are taking a romantic break to warm up their love lives. All this means it is a perfect time to travel to destinations that are renowned for fun, culture, and romance, in other words, it is a great time to travel to Europe.

C&H has some fares good for travel through May 15, 2010 that make International travel an affordable option. You must purchase your tickets by March 22 (coming Monday), but for fares like $461 from San Francisco to Paris or $558 to Barcelona, it is worth making a decision quickly. If you want a more off the beaten path trip, book Istanbul, Turkey for $668 or Sofia, Bulgaria for $764. Fares are ROUNDTRIP but even after adding about $300 per ticket for fees and taxes, you are still looking at less than $1000 per person for nearly every fare. C&H even has deals on hotels, like a four star in Madrid for only $93 a night.

With prices like this, you can spend your Spring in Europe and still come home to some eggs in your Easter basket.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Suite with a Pool

Now that Spring is finally here (after all we sprung all the clocks forward, so doesn't that make it Spring now?) and the weather is getting warmer, it may be time to go for a dip in a pool or two. In the vast desert of Las Vegas there are probably bigger better pools than anywhere else so why not head there to welcome in the fun?

Of course all great ideas come with a limited window of opportunity; book in the next 96 hours and you can get a suite at the MGM for only $75 which includes a $25 pool credit that you can use for food, drinks, cabana or chair rental. You also get an entry into Wet Republic, and an inner tube rental at the Grand Pool. If you prefer your pool indoors, you can use your free spa entry with this deal. If you prefer to play in a nightclub instead of a pool, this offer also includes an entry into either Studio 54 or Tabu. Just use code INB336 for this suite offer, or if a room will do, use code INB346 and get all the same benefits for only $55.

Clock's ticking and you don't want to be late and miss your Suite Pool deal, so book it while it's available. Good timing can have an impact on your good time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Suite Arrival

As airlines are charging more and more for checked baggage, and as security screenings get stricter and stricter, it would be nice to have an alternative for getting what you want to have to your destination. There are of course the services that will ship your bags and I mentioned in a previous post, and you always have options like Fedex and UPS, but if you don't want the expense of shipping all your bags but still want to avoid the hassles of figuring out what size and quantity of toiletries are permissible, Suite Arrival has a solution for you.

Three days or more before your departure, pick out your favorite shampoo, toothpaste, contact solution, razor, suntan lotion, baby lotion, and even tampons or condoms. Suite arrival will ship your choices to your hotel so they will be waiting for you upon arrival when you need them, saving you the time and energy of shopping, packing, and getting stopped by airport security for taking a container that is over the limit size for liquids. Prices are very reasonable, you will pay less than at the hotel sundry shop, and you will get the brands you prefer. If you are traveling in a group, place your order total $50 or more and they will ship for free.

It's nice to know that you can get a suite deal even if you are staying in a hotel room.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kogi BBQ

My friend was driving to my house when she saw the elusive Kogi BBQ truck parked a few blocks away, so she called and said, "Come downstairs, the Kogi truck is here and there is almost no line!" After waiting for over an hour to get a taste of this hot commodity the last time the truck was nearby, I was not going to allow this opportunity to go to waste. We got to the line at 12:45pm and had our food by 1:15pm.

Since we wanted to try several items, we opted for a Korean BBQ Beef Burrito ($5).

When the burrito was cut open, it revealed this interior of sweet chunks of BBQ'd Korean beef with egg, some cheese and a little lettuce. The over all flavor was sweet and meaty. The fresh tortilla was nice and thin while strong enough it all without falling apart. This is definitely the item to order if you are hungry because I would have been perfectly satisfied with half of this as my lunch.

The sliders ($5) were my favorite of the three Korean BBQ Beef choices. There were the nice soft buns, the spicy kimchee dressed BBQ Beef, and a light mayo that combined for a perfectly spicy, tangy, salty balance to the richly BBQ'd beef chunks.

And lastly we ordered a Beef Tacos ($2) which was our least favorite choice simply because it had no ahhh factor after we had tasted the burrito and sliders. It was decent, but not remarkable.

If only I always had someone at their locations telling me if the lines were horrible, I would go again without hesitation. Maybe we can get a Kogi food line cam, just like the traffic cams for the freeways.

Kogi Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Got $5-$599?

Got $5? For that fiver, people are willing to design a logo for you, Photoshop you into a location picture of your choice, say your name and play a song on a radio station in NM, or go clubbing with you in Copenhagen. Listings range from the practical, like migrating a blog or designing a business card, to offers for fun, like teaching you how to perform fixed gear bike tricks. If you have a talent, skill, or want to make $5, you can make your offer public at Fiverr, and you could use what you make to pay for someone to sing a song for you, or save your fivers and get some apples.

Got $599? Apple Vacations is having a sale on 7 night all inclusive vacations in Mexico including airfare for that amount, which works out to $85.57 per night, for airfare, accommodations, all meals, drinks, entertainment and tips. Even the top rated 5 golden apple resorts are only $1600 or $228.57 per person per day from Los Angeles, which is less than most 5 star hotels here cost just for a room for a night. It actually would be cheaper to go to Cancun for a week than to stay in town on in a nice hotel, so what are you waiting for?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pacific Dining Car

Most of my friends are omnivores, they eat meat, vegetables, fish, fruit, and somethings that can not technically be called food. One of my omnivore friends loves Pacific Dining Car so when invited to dinner, she automatically picks this stately steakhouse located in an old railway car that has been refitted to hold the restaurant.

The steaks are all corn fed USDA Prime cuts that have been dry aged, but they also have crab cakes, scallops, lobster, either as accompaniments to the steak of your choice or Swordfish, Salmon and Filet of Sole for non meat eater choices. There are peppercorn, bearnaise or bordelaise sauces if you insist, but your 8 oz -16 oz steak should be satisfying enough on its own accord. As for cuts of meat, all your favorites are available, from the tender Filet Mignon to a hefty T-Bone or Rib Eye. You might want some spinach (steamed, sauteed, or creamed), green beans, or asparagus to give your meat some color on the side. Of course if you are a strictly a meat and potatoes person, they also have the classic baked potato with all the usual sides.

To begin I chose the grilled artichoke which came with a nice char and a side of a tarragon infused dipping sauce. They were a wonderful way to begin the bacchanal.

John, the Birthday Boy, chose the Crab cakes to start and was still working on them when they asked if he was ready for his Cowboy cut, which is a rib eye with the bone, along with a side of asparagus; he said, "I want it all", so he put the crab cake on his steak plate and made his own combo plate.

I chose my favorite, the Baseball Steak, because it is the thickest cut so it has a better chance than any other of being made as rare as I like it. The very center was perfectly rare, but the outer edges were more medium; it was not a loss as I gave John some slices of the "too done" portion so he could taste the difference between his Cowboy Cut and the Baseball Steak. He made the best choice for himself as he was happy with his Cowboy Steak.

My friend Mika chose the Rib Eye, which she ordered medium rare, but came out well done. She was too hungry to wait for another steak, so she ate it, but she was not pleased that her favorite restaurant had over cooked her favorite steak. But she made up for it by thoroughly enjoying all of her tiramisu.

Since it was John's birthday we had to have a chocolate souffle with a candle for him to make a wish. It was a perfect rendition of a light tasty warm chocolate dream served with freshly whipped cream on the side.

I think John got his wish, since he started off getting a year older with two women by his side....

Pacific Dining Car on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rain or Crabs?

While tweeting one night, @tylerknightxxx wrote about Rain Organics Vodka saying it was his favorite one to use while making a dirty martini and claiming it was a smooth vodka at under $20 that rivaled others at twice its' price. I was intrigued enough search for it in my neighborhood. I found the original at Wally's (of course) for $17.99, they also had the Lavender Lemonade version for $19.31 but since I was making a dirty martini, I went with the original. Other flavored versions are available including a honey mango melon, red grape hibiscus and cucumber lime, for those who prefer making vodka mixed drinks.

Because Rain is made from 100% organic corn, it has a slightly sweet taste, so it is perfect for mixing with fruit juices to create a mixed drink. After tasting Rain, I would have to agree with Tyler, it is smooth and a rival to many vodkas which cost twice as much. My favorite vodka is still Elit, but at three times the price, I will reserve the Elit for special occasions.

For those who don't like vodka or drink alcohol, George Stone Crab delivers the famous Florida Keys Stone Crab claws to you for $18.95-38.95 a lb depending on the size of claw you order with a 5 lb minimum (figure 1.5 lbs per person). The season ends May 15, so you still have about 2 months to order before they go out of season, not to come back until October 15, so order soon or you will have to wait until the Fall. These claws are renowned all over the world for their sweet meat and people who go to South Florida make it a point to eat this local delicacy during their stay, but now you can have it no matter where you live in the US and that makes it even a sweeter deal.

Of course there are some people who will want to drink a bit of Rain and eat a few Stone Crabs, not choosing one or the other but both, and for those people, I say, welcome to my world!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stefan's at L.A. Farm

It is a rare treat to get more than one of my friends to gather together for dinner, so it is important that our meal is a culinary match for our celebration of being in each other's company. Stefan's at L.A. Farm was our (ok, my) selection since it is close to where I live and everyone knew how to get to the area without GPS aid (or so I thought). Dinner at a regular dinner hour means traffic, so choosing a venue that does not require being stuck for hours getting to it is high on the list of priorities, add to that plentiful and free parking, and Stefan's was an easy no brainer choice.

Unfortunately even the best laid plans still go awry and two of our group were stuck in traffic, listened to a GPS set to avoid traffic, and ended up an hour late to dinner. The good thing is that Stefan's has plenty of small plates that kept us from starving as we waited. I started with the Sonoma foie gras with cracked white pepper, smoked salt and griddled brioche ($3). I was a delicate rich slice of heaven with a smoky aftertaste that made me say "Ummmm."

My Pescatarian friend chose an appetizer salad of red and golden beets with goat cheese mousse and Mesclun $10. She loved it even though the dressing a a tad over salted (I agreed after a taste), but she still enjoyed it enough to eat the entire plate.

After a text from our friends saying they were in Koreatown heading our way, we decided to order more small plates. My friend Cindy had the tomato and mozzarella caprese salad made with a balsamic that had been aged about 15 years; she declared it the best version she ever tasted. I went with the steak tartare with poached quail egg and bread stick ($5), not the best nor the worst version, and a perfect two bite size for someone who just wants to try it.

I also got the Kumamoto oyster with Absinthe jello and fennel vinaigrette which was s nice fresh ocean bite ($3.

Since our friends were getting close and starving, we ordered the edamame with black sesame seeds and the Like a Big Mac ($3) so they would have something to eat the moment they arrived. The Like a Big Mac is about the size of a quarter and my friend Mika said it was delicious.

Cindy and I were already pretty full after all our small bites, so I ordered my last small bite of blood sausage done with perfect caramelized onions and apples.

The late arrivals wanted some satisfying entrees, so one ordered the lamb shank, ratatouille & creamy polenta ($28). It was so tender it literally fell off the bone and so tasty that she took what she could not finish home.

Kelly ordered the steak frites ($17) which was done with a nice herb butter and perfect fries. She is not an adventurous eater and she said it was the first steak without a sauce that she has eaten and enjoyed. The chef also offered us a complimentary Thai lobster bisque with coconut milk and lemongrass that we sipped as a bonus ($4 normally). It had a wonderful exotic creamy kick.

Needless to say we were full and happy after our HOT time at Stefan's.

Stefan's at L.A. Farm on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Plate of Platine Please

The concept of "Bigger is Better" may finally be waning with the demise of huge SUV's and huge expenditures for ego satisfaction. People are finally taking into account that a small bit of quality fattening food might be a better value than a huge amount of worthless calories; would you rather have a small handmade cookie made with real butter or a bag full of chemically altered Styrofoam discs made with a sweetener that could become formaldehyde once ingested?

I have always loved small things, maybe it is because I am petite and small things are made more to "my size", or maybe it is because quality does not usually come in gigantic packages. Platine means Platinum in French, and it is a fitting name for a bakery which creates works of art worthy of a jewelry box.

The space is very small, with showcase samples of all their cookies and a few other goodies from places like Little Flower Candy Company, but the space is small because you are literally in the entrance to the bakery. Everything is freshly handmade from the finest all natural ingredients in small batches. When I placed my order for an assortment of Platinos (home made Oreo Cookies) $2, Camees (home made sugar cookies with vanilla filling) $1.50, Cakelettes (miniature carrot coconut with cream cheese and Devil's food with fudge) $1.50, and Snickerdoodles, my box was filled from the racks of cooling cookies directly behind the counter.

This is bakery is the passionate progeny of a baker who loves her art and is a master at it. Every cookie may look like they are too good to eat, but believe me, you will eat every bite. If you get addicted, they even have a cookie of the month club so you can get a fix on a regular basis even if you don't live in the area; they will custom make your order for you if you order 5 days in advance and ship it to you via express or 2 day service so you get them immediately.

Platine is proof that precious things come in petite packages.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free Smashion Fashion Listings & Yamamoto Garden Views

My friends and I love to shop for clothes, and even though I have adopted the practice of donating an item for every new one I purchase, I haven't always managed to find pieces to donate because it is hard to part with something I have barely worn and for which I paid good money to take home.

Smashion can be your solution to both freeing up some closet space and filling it with finds from other people's closets. Unlike the big sites like Ebay, using this site is FREE to both buyers and sellers of used clothing! There is no bidding, just fixed prices and you pay through Paypal so your purchases are protected from fraud. There are over 1,500 items listed and you can buy everything from shoes and accessories to dresses and they have clothes for men too. You can even chat with other frugal fashionistas in their forums about their finds.

If you have never been to Yamashiro's Garden in Hollywood, then go this or any other Thursday between 5-9pm because this fabulous famous view is yours for a $2 (mandatory) parking fee. There will now be an ongoing Farmer's Market here starting March 4 that will last through sunset (the time to be here) and will feature organic produce and alcohol all in one spectacular outdoor setting. If you don't want to cook, there will be a grill set up with cooked items from $4-8, and if you want to enjoy a chef making your meal, market produce will be featured on the menu inside the restaurant. The outdoor Pagoda bar will be serving cocktails and if your prefer to BYOB, they will charge just a corkage fee. Live jazz will help set the mood as sun sets, and you wonder how why anyone lives anywhere else.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Greens Up Salad

If you are craving something fresh without having to drive too far or make it yourself, head over to Greens Up Salad on Sawtelle. You can park in the Olympic Collection and the restaurant will validate for 45 minutes, so take advantage of that option if street parking isn't readily available.

The place is very small, with seating inside at three tables or outside at a communal one, but the portions are huge. I ordered my salad to go when I saw the dine in salads were served in medium size salad bowls that could easily feed two. The service was very friendly and the salad counter was immaculate so I looked forward to trying out the food.

They have a variety of unusual twists on classics, like the Spa, made with spinach, orange segments, red onion, dried cherries, goat cheese, toasted almonds for $8.50, or a vegan Thai, made with romaine, spring mix, tofu, carrot, cucumber, tomato, red onion, crushed peanuts, also for $8.50 (you can add chicken or turkey for 50¢). I chose the Texan, made with romaine, iceberg, steak, tomato, corn, cucumber, (I asked them to omit the croutons so they substituted carrots & red onion) tossed with a chipotle salad dressing for $8.75. It was freshly made as I watched and the chipotle dressing had a nice smooth heat, but overall I was disappointed that the meat was not very flavorful and the dressing didn't have enough omph to bring the iceberg and romaine to life.

I think for my next salad, I will go back to my other salad favorites like Curious Palate or Tender Greens, but I would go back and try another salad, perhaps with a different dressing like the tangy apple vinaigrette, or the tropical ginger and see if it would live up to the promise this place has to be a nice neighborhood addition.

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