Sunday, May 31, 2009


"How you treat me is your karma. How I react is mine."

Quoted from the book, Unfinished Business by James Van Praagh.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Worldwide Cheapo Stays

A four star hotel in Paris for $90? How about the Arizona Biltmore for $127? From Canada to the Caribbean, Cheapo Stays has discounts on about 85,000 properties worldwide. If you don't know the name of the airport or city, just type in the nearest landmark, and the search engine will do the rest.

I love the easy search tab with four star hotels around the world for under $99 like the Sandman Hesperia Tower in Barcelona for $89 or go for a five star, like the Sheraton Dreamland in Cairo for $63; the properties include name brands, like the Intercontinental and the Marriott, in places from Cape Town to Manila and discounts go as high as 50% off the regular rack rates. They also offer a special last minute deal section, as well as week-end and honeymoon deals, so no matter what your criteria, you can search out the best deal. (If you are looking for a last minute deal, there's special $199 deal for 2 nights at the Wynn which is good only for June 2-4 in a resort room if you use code PRPE.) If your dates are flexible, try the Kayak tool that lets you see the best rates for the next 2 months (similar to the airline tool for flight prices based on dates).

If you don't know a hotel and want some reviews before booking, there's always Tripadvisor, but now you also have Travel Post, where you can read what other people (besides me) think about their recent stays at a property; it always helps to get a consensus on places that are new to you or newly renovated since your last stay at the property.

With all these tools at your disposal, it's time to use a few and get your next trip planned!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hotel Sale Expires 2pm PST Friday

Some deals are so good that they are only available for those who are able and willing to take advantage of them immediately; Quickbook has a hotel sale going on that expires tomorrow (Friday) at 5pm EST.

A sample of the deals include hotels in NYC like the GEM in Soho for $161 or the Paramount in Times Square for $116, reflecting a 30% discount on both properties. For something closer to home, the Hotel Nikko in SF is only $129 (30% off) and the luxurious Campton Place is only $200 (20% off). For a drivable vacation, try The Westin Mission Hills for $159 in Palm Springs or the Hard Rock in Las Vegas for $59. If you want a place for guests coming into Los Angeles (or if you want to be a tourist at home), Quikbook has rooms at the Crescent in Beverly Hills for $147 (30% off).

If you want one of these deals, book your room now. Sometimes good things come to those who wait, but other times good opportunities disappear quickly after they first appear.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Brooks Brothers 70% off Sale

With Father's Day coming up, it's time to start shopping for a gift for the Father in your life. Brooks Brothers is synonymous with classic men's styles and they have a clearance sale right now so you can get the best quality at discounted prices; a nice win win when you are looking to give a gift.

The sale in the men's section includes their famous no iron luxury dress shirts for $67.50 instead of the regular $135 and a cashmere V neck sweater for $139.20 (regularly $348). If your father loves to travel, a travel kit is $67.20 (regularly $168) and to keep dates with you, why not get him a leather agenda and put in dates with you before you give it to him for $119.20 (regularly $298)?

If you are getting something for someone else, it's always nice to pick up a good deal for yourself, so check out the women's section of the clearance sale. A Buffalo leather satchel purse or a cashmere cable dress is only $104.40 (both regularly $348). Even though summer is coming, a cashmere cardigan is still a nice piece for chilly nights, and a sensible buy for $74.40 (regularly $248).

If you order $200 of merchandise they will ship it to you free and if you register with them you get an additional $10 discount on your online order. This offer expires June 21, so order in time for your gifts to be delivered before D(ad) Day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Black Market

After a fabulous late lunch at Tofu-Ya, window shopping led to real shopping at Black Market next door. Walking in, it looked like a clothing shop, but actually there are two parts to the store and the left side was full of fun goodies (think a hipper version of Aahs) including blinged out USB keychains and coin purses stamped with the words "My 2 Cents". There are erotic comic artbooks, scented gift packages of travel candles and perfume, and gag gifts like a big shiny ring in a black velvet lined box that is actually the handle of a coffee mug. Whether you are a Hello Kitty fan or a lover of all things foreign and unusual, you are sure to find some unique gift here.

The clothing section of the store carries hip trendy clothes and shoes at high end prices; even the t-shirts run around $80. They carry quite a wide range of designers from name brands like Vivienne Westwood to yet to be known names in both jewelry and clothing. There is a sales rack with items 50% off, but even with the discount, expect prices to be in the triple digit range for a dress.

For something less pricey but nice, they have soy candles and perfumes for about $20 and some sunglasses for about $40. With a nice selection of shoes and clothes for men, this is definitely worth stopping by to window shop. If you have the cash, you might find something cool to buy; this is the perfect place to blow your bonus money on a new outfit.

Monday, May 25, 2009


By now nearly everyone has tried Pinkberry, but the alarming thing about their frozen treat is the lack of actual yogurt. Yogurtland, as the name implies, serves real yogurt with 8x the active cultures found in most other frozen treats that are "yogurt like".

I like the flavors that range from the sweet toasted coconut and tiramisu, to fruit flavors like tart pineapple and blueberry, and unusual flavors like green tea and vanilla wafer with cream. All the flavors I saw were nonfat (the peanut butter and Heath Bar flavors are the only ones that had 2.7 grams of fat) and only about 100 calories for 1/2 a cup. If you don't think you like nonfat, then try a taste (they hand you a tasting mini cup when you walk in).

The whole place is self-service, so that keeps the cost low and you pay only $. 30 an ounce for your yogurt (any combination you like) and any fruit toppings you choose, which include fresh kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes and lychee; for candy and cereal lovers, there are also dry toppings like Captain Crunch, Oreo's, brownie bites, gummy worms, and slivered nuts. They even have Ghiradelli chocolate sauce to pump if you want to create a sundae.

I love that you can pick your portion size and pay accordingly, so I pumped some toasted coconut and some tart pineapple into my cup which I topped with a kaleidoscope of fresh fruit and the whole thing only totaled $2.12!

They are running a promotion now; if you buy $10 or more, they will give you a free Yogurtland T-shirt, so bring some home to eat as you lounge around in your new free clothes!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Become a Vagina Warrior

Eve Ensler talks about what real security is all about in this short video; may we all be brave enough to become Vagina Warriors.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chicken a la Carte

Let this short film Chicken A La Carte, inspire you to feed someone in need. Please take a basket of groceries or make a donation to your local food bank or to Feeding America.

Share whatever you have, even your leftovers can feed someone.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A La Mode 50% Storewide Sale

Main Street in Santa Monica has a plethora of both trendy chic and old fashioned mainstays, one of which is the store A La Mode which is selling everything in the store at 50% off. Like many businesses on this popular street, the economy has slowed business to a crawl and the owner says it is time for her to move on to the next phase of her life.

The store carries beautiful jewelry made with semi precious stones and various gifts, decorations and even some stuffed animals in the back for children. I could not resist the Austrian crystal necklace and earring set, so I bought it for only $52; I've seen quality sets like this sell upwards of $200, so it was priced well at the regular price, but it is a spectacular buy at 50% off. They carry all colors of gemstones from ruby red to carnelian and the intricate work on the jewelry belie real craftsmen, not factory made pieces.

This gem of a store will be missed, so go in and buy something to take home that you will remember and enjoy for years to come.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Wood Cafe

I've driven past The Wood Cafe several times, but since it is located at a busy intersection, it is nearly impossible to get into the parking lot unless you are coming from either the North or West. I finally decided I had to make a point of trying it after I drove by last time and saw both the parking lot and outdoor tables were full.

They advertise that they serve organic coffee and sandwiches, but they offer so much more, from smoked salmon omelets and crab Benedicts, to almond strawberry French toast for breakfast (served all day); everything is made with local organic eggs and various meat substitutions like soyrizo can be added or substituted. Lunch offerings include a grilled vegetable and brie sandwich (which is what I had), grilled beef salad with soba noodles, Waldorf salad, and Mac and Cheese. They also have a board of daily specials, which included a Cobb salad and white bean soup the day I ate here. The desserts showcased some beautiful red velvet mini cakes that would be enough to share with at least one if not two other people. The sandwich I had was made with fresh eggplant and zucchini, basted with a tasty marinara sauce, and made with a very (surprisingly) decent baguette which was offered paninni style (pressed and grilled) with a side salad was a nice mix of spring greens and shredded carrot with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Service was very efficient and friendly, a perfect combination of welcome and hospitality.

All the coffee drinks are made with 100% organic beans from fair trade sources, so you can have a mocha latte, a specialty tea (hot or cold), or a Jones organic soda to go with your meal. The great things is that they are open until 10 pm so if you are looking for a bite late at night, this is a great place to stop. Avoid work week lunch hours though because they are directly across the street from the big Kaiser Permanente building and the workers on lunch break from that building alone could easily fill the small cafe. Go on a nice sunny Southern California day to enjoy the clean patio surrounded by bamboo trees or if you are in a rush, pick up an order to go home.

The Wood in Culver City adds a little bit of green that provides a pleasant refuge in a concrete jungle.

Briggs & Riley Sale

My favorite luggage is Briggs and Riley. I own four pieces and although that is probably enough for me to travel for at least 2 months, I still lust after new pieces; yes, their luggage is THAT sexy (almost as satisfying as shoes!). The only drawback to buying their complete line of lifetime warranted luggage is the price; even the small tote bag runs about $100 and the big pieces go for over $500 each. Sadly, there are really no substantial discounts to to found for this line, but in this economy with fewer people traveling, fewer people are buying luggage, and I got my first notice (ever) from them for a nice savings on their Baseline and @work collections.

Right now you can save $159 on a 26" expandable upright; the regular price is $529 and it's on sale for $370.30. If you need an even bigger bag the 28" expandable upright is only $405.30 instead of $579, saving you $174. Granted the prices are still a bit high, but considering they offer a lifetime guarantee on their luggage even if your airline mangles it beyond repair, consider this a one time investment into luggage that you will never need to replace.

Their pieces are all super lightweight with compartments for everything and quality materials from the zippers to the fabric; this luggage will impress you with both the craftsmanship and ease of use.

They have always been my birthday present to myself, but with this discount maybe I'll celebrate early this year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2 Brooks Brothers No-Iron Shirts for $99

Brooks Brothers is known for their quality shirts, and with the invention of their Miracle no-iron styles, you can literally wear them to sleep in on a plane and still look freshly pressed if you need to head straight into a business meeting from your flight.

Quality does not come cheaply, and although their shirts are not as expensive as say, Armani, you are still looking at about $100 a shirt normally. But for the next 2 days, Brooks Brothers is having a sale, both online and in stores, on their no-iron shirts for men and women so you can buy TWO for $99. That is about half off the regular retail price! If you order $200 of merchandise, they will ship it free, so stock up or buy a couple with a friend and save even more.

I love the fact that their shirts come in petite sizes so I can actually wear them straight off the rack without needing any alterations, and besides the classic white and blue colors, the women's colors include pink and purple!

Don't let the sale turn into a pumpkin; the sale ends at 11:59pm EST on May 22, 2009.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wynning Summer Suites

I don't know where I want to go this year for my birthday, but the Wynn sent me a nearly irresistible deal for their Tower Suites today; to book, just go to their website or call them using code RESCRDT to get a $75 resort credit if you book and pay for at least a parlor or salon suite.

This deal includes airport car service (they will substitute a car cleaning if you drive in or they will pick you up from your home if you live in Las Vegas), 2 spa passes, free internet every day of your stay as well as up to $25 in long distance and $25 in local calls. The $75 resort credit also applies if you book a regular resort room, but without the extra perks. The credit is good for charges to the room, but not gaming or purchases, so if you don't eat or drink your credit then you can apply it to your room rate!

If you don't want to book a Tower Suite then check out my previous post about the $109 special with a $50 resort credit with a free upgrade to an Encore Suite using code MJJAS15. Either way it's a good deal, but both are only good through September (September 7th for the $109 deal and Sept 30 for the Tower Suite deal).

Looks like I'll be Wynning in Vegas for my birthday, anyone want to join me?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Top Falafel

If you were not going to the movie theater from the parking lot at Coldwater Canyon and Victory, you would never see or even know of the existence of Top Falafel; I was directed to this place from someone who worked in the area when I asked for a place to get a good light meal. It is key to ask a local for their favorite places because this was the first place he told me about before rattling off a few other chain names. I always prefer to support small individual owners, so I tried Top Falafel, even though I had a hard time finding it because it is literally hidden in what looks like an alley adjacent to the movie theaters.

The decor definitely needs to be updated, but this is mainly a take away place with a few tables and chairs for those who so hungry they can't wait to eat. It's a 3 person operation with 2 cooks and one person taking the orders and dispensing change (sometimes from the tip jar). The cold drinks are all self serve in the refrigerated case with choices of juices, teas, sodas and water, while the desserts are all variations of ice cream in the self serve freezer case. The only menu is above the grill and the prices reflect the self serve atmosphere, with gyros and falafel sandwiches going for under $6 and full plates for under $8. Portions are generous, and the fillings are fresh and tasty.

Two of us had gyro sandwiches with freshly grilled meat and onions sauteed in front of us on the grill, and the accompaniments were laid out behind the counter so you can customize your sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, hummus or condiments. I ordered a falafel plate and watched as they made my falafels to order, filling my plate 6 big disks of falafels, alongside 2 types of hummus (one was very garlicky and the other one was mild), and three pieces of pita breads, all served with a small bit of lettuce, pickled beets, and a very hot pickled pepper. There was easily enough food for two, but the falafels were so tasty that I tried (unsuccessfully) to finish it all.

The best finds are usually known only by locals and hidden, so hunting for them is half the fun; here's to everyone finding a treasure in their hunt for good food.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Little Help for a Little Squirrel

Sometimes we need a little help from friends who are kind and compassionate, even if they are another species.

Enjoy this video.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cafe Teramo

I was looking for a place other than the big green chain to get an espresso when I saw the Cafe Teramo signage behind the huge flower store on the corner of Victory and Coldwater Canyon in North Hollywood. Maybe it was divine providence, or my years of food hunting instinct, whatever the reason, I was grateful for the resulting delicious find.

Walking into the cafe I did not expect much since it was so hidden and seemed so small from the outside, but the outside appearance was completely different from the inside experience. You can not see anything from the outside except dark glass, but once I walked inside, three HUGE brightly lit display cases showed off cookies, pastries, and cakes in a variety and quality I have never seen before in the Valley. Cafe Teramo rivaled a Parisian Patisserie for the scope and skill of offerings, including three different kinds of Tiramisu, gorgeous full round and sheet cakes ranging from Wild Strawberry to Napoleon, cheesecakes, mousses, tarts, and a range of gelatos and sorbets. They even have petit four versions of several of the cakes and tarts so you can sample several without committing to a full version. They also sell quality chocolate bars, raw and roasted nutmeats and seeds, cookie gift packages, and they serve a nice strong espresso to help wash down their sweet and creamy confections.

The only way this could have been better would have been if they had some tables or chairs set up so you could enjoy your cafe and pastry here instead of schlepping it home. Some of the best things in life only get better with anticipation, so maybe that was a conscious ploy to get you to savor your treats even more by making you wait until you get home to eat them; it gives the expression "Home Sweet Home" a whole new meaning.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen Part 2

RockSugar was so good yesterday that I went back today with 3 friends and we ordered the prix fixe lunch for four of us as well as an additional appetizer, side dish, and main course (we were all very hungry since it was about 3pm and none of us had eaten lunch).

I am happy to report that the service was again very efficient and friendly, and our food pleased even a very picky eater who commented "I thought this would be weird, but it tastes really good." Just goes to prove that everyone can appreciate good food if they are simply brave enough to try something different.

We had the lacquered ribs as our additional appetizer and although they were sweet and sticky, they were not cloyingly so, and meaty enough for the four of us to share one plate. Our prix fixe for four included 2 salads, so we chose the green salad and the jicama with ruby grapefruit and candied walnuts, which was the favorite for all four of us. For our meats we ordered the caramel chicken and the clay pot beef, which was so good we ordered another full order of the beef at the end of our meal to take home (but we ended up eating it). Our noodle dishe of Thai noodles (Pad Thai) and stir fried vegetables were both delicious, but we also wanted rice with our meal so we ordered the ginger fried rice as an additional menu item. The rice was good, but one of my friends found it too spicy (I did not) and another did not like the fried egg that topped it (so one of us ate the egg without having it mixed into the rice); it a personal taste issue, but better to know before ordering it that it can be both spicy and too eggy for some people.

We wanted cake for dessert, but since only ice creams and sorbets are offered at lunch, we passed and had some great drinks, like the Champagne and lychee which was a refreshing dessert-like drink for people who don't like strong alcohol, and some dirty martinis for those of us who like our drinks strong (like me). Even the one who ordered a Coke loved the taste, remarking that it was a "really good Coke."

Always good to know that a place is as wonderful the second time on the day after the first visit. The decor was even more remarkable this time because it was so empty at 3pm that we had the whole place to ourselves and we felt as if we had out own private food temple in the middle of Century City; this must be what nirvana feels like.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen

One of my friends knew about RockSugar coming to Century City's Westfield Mall months before the restaurant opened last year, but it wasn't until today that I actually went to try out this spectacular restaurant.

The entrance is jaw-dropping, with a comfortable outdoor waiting area set up in a garden like atmosphere, complete with tables, comfy couches, and beautiful lanterns hung high above the open space. The entire decor was shipped in from Thailand and the interior was modeled after a temple in Thailand. The first thing you see walking inside is the giant golden Buddha above the host station flanked by huge gilt columns, mirrored with another wooden Buddha above the outside patio area.

The feel of the restaurant is serene, with dark chairs, white tablecloth covered tables, and decorative fabric lined booths built for two. The gold and colored accents are just that, accents, and not at all overbearing. I asked for a seat outdoors on the wind protected patio and I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the walls outside was a cascading waterfall, adding a nice view for those seated facing the wall of the restaurant instead of Santa Monica Blvd.

My server Richard, was pleasant, attentive, and had a great sense of humor, telling me he wanted me to drink my lunch when he inadvertently handed me the wine list instead of a menu. The menu is a medley of different Asian cuisines, ranging from Pad Thai, to Pho, raw Hamachi, and lacquered BBQ ribs. There are numerous choices for vegetarians and low carb eaters as well as an ample selection of meats and fish for all the protein lovers. No matter where in Asia or Southeast Asia your palate takes you, you will find something to feast on here. I ordered the Dungeness crab with cellophane noodles but they were sold out by the time I arrived, so I went with the short ribs with vermicelli noodles instead. It was a tasty spicy mix of thinly sliced beef, sliced carrots, red chilies, cucumber, and cold vermicelli noodles served with a cut up hot eggroll of meat and clear rice noodles. It was a nice combination of cool, spicy, and hot all in one dish. This is fusion at its best. I also tried the blood orange sangria and liked it even though sangria is usually too sweet for me, this blood orange version was tart enough to for me to drink it with a smile.

Go try them for lunch with a friend because for two or more people, they offer a special prix fixe lunch menu for only $12.95 for three dishes or $14.95 for four dishes per person. Next time I will bring more people so we can all taste the varied menu at prix fixe prices and maybe split a dessert, like their home made coconut doughnuts with passion fruit sauce!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cirque du Soleil tix for $25

I love Cirque du Soleil and have seen almost every show, both their traveling tent and permanent stage shows in Las Vegas. Tickets can be pricey for some of their shows like "O", which run from $99-$150 a seat, but to celebrate 25 Years of Cirque du Soleil, you can buy one ticket regularly priced ticket and bring a friend for $25; call 866-998-4833 to get this deal offered ONLY by calling them. The discount is for a limited amount of tickets at ALL shows, so call soon if you want a ticket to the most entertaining shows I know of at the most unheard of prices I've ever seen!

If you want to stay at the Bellagio while you see "O", they have a great deal from May 26-October 1, 2009; if you stay 2 nights, they will give you the third one free. The rooms start at $159 so if you do the math that works out to $106 per room per night! Just use code BSUMGB to get this offer; the code also offers a 25% discount off tickets to "O"; but the deal I wrote about above is MUCH better if you can get the dates you want, after all for about what you would pay for a movie with popcorn and a soda, you'll get one of the best live performances in Las Vegas!

Monday, May 11, 2009


I'm back in Los Angeles, and for my first meal out, a friend and I went to Surya on Third Street. Surya was recommended by Chantal as her favorite Indian restaurant in Los Angeles, so since she had such great restaurant suggestions in Miami, I had to try her L.A. spot.

I ordered the tandoori prawn dinner ($24) pictured above, which came on a bed of raw onions, alongside dal, spicy chick peas, rice and warm nan. Everything was spicy but not overwhelming, and freshly prepared. The only fault I found was the shrimp were not warm by the time the plate reached the table.

Timing delivery of dishes is a crucial key to a good kitchen staff, and I think my friend's order of chicken tikka masala ($18), cooked in a mild fenugreek tomato sauce took longer to cook than my dish, so the kitchen had trouble coordinating the delivery of both our dishes to our table at the same time without one suffering from a temperature fluctuation.

The dinner portions were ample to feed a very hungry person, and although we were both full halfway through our meals, we kept eating a just one more bite until we had finished everything, even sopping up every drop of the delicious fenugreek sauce with the nan. We had no room for dessert, so that will have to be left for a future trip.

Overall the food was well executed, the service was attentive (especially since there was only one server on a busy night handling about 10 tables), and the decor was as warm and exotic as the food.

Surya is a nice neighborhood find, even when it was found on a trip to Miami!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Good News Tonic

Ever wish there was a place where you could get inspired by the news and events without having to sift through the tragedies and gossip of the day? Tonic is one site that gives good and inspiration news without one iota of fear mongering or focus on misery.

The site also promotes charities and some good green things; if you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, they will plant a tree for your follow. Their features range from the new Tesla to a documentary style film, so you will find something of interest to you as you peruse the site, no matter what your preferences.

They are a for profit company because as they explain themselves, as they generate more money, they can do more good, so spend your time with them if you would like a little tonic that is good for your heart and soul.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fontainebleau Miami

The newly renovated Fontainebleau in Miami is beautiful after its' $1 billion dollar face lift. Rooms start around $350, but they are offering all kinds of promotions to get people to come and stay, including prepay discounts, a fourth night free, and a breakfast package.

The hotel itself consists of two parts, the renovated original building and a new adjacent tower with views of the beach. As they say in Real Estate, the best thing about this place is the location, location, location; the hotel is literally steps from the boardwalk that runs the length of the beach and the beach itself just behind the pool area of the hotel.

The pool area is huge, with a poolside bar area and private cabanas that include plasma screen TVs, telephones, and food service. The pool is large enough for several people to swim laps while others wade, and although it is heavily chlorinated, it is a great place to hang out for the afternoon if you don't want to get sand on your bikini and toes.

The interior is as luxurious and hip as James Bond, with the jaw dropping Bleau Bar in the center of the lobby area shimmering in light, the hip LIV lounge with 30,000 square feet of partying area, complete with skybar service and little locked drawers for purses in the banquettes! For spa lovers there is also a new 40,000 square foot spa

Food options include a classic steak house, Gotham, by Michelin-star chef Alfred Portale, and the trendy chic Blade sushi restaurant, but you can get anything from real French macaroons at Solo Patisserie, to American comfort food at Fresh.

Get dressed in your finest warm weather party outfit and live like Marlene Dietrich for at least one night or week, after all, as James Bond used to say, you only live once.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Miami Brosia

For my last meal in Miami, we went to Brosia in the Design District. The exterior wall is a huge mosaic of tiles which help shelter the outdoor patio from wind, creating a small calm sanctuary of lit trees far from the noise and bustle of South Beach. (If you are looking for more of a nightlife, go to Sra Martinez around the corner during a live music night; see my post from Tuesday.)

Reading the menu got me salivating when I saw one of their salads included a Caesar with white anchovy; although I loved the dressing and the salad itself, I was disappointed that there was literally only ONE white anchovy, I guess that was why it was listed as anchovy instead of anchovies!

Chantal had the prosciutto and melon and was happy with her choice. The presentation was unusual, with sliced rounds of melon laid into a flat fan around the plate with the prosciutto on top of that and a small topping of arugula, shaved fennel, dried figs, walnuts, and pecorino cheese crowning the center. The side of asparagus with kalamata olives was nicely grilled, but not spectacular. I segued into the Catalan shrimp and clams with chorizo, in a garlic red pepper and sherry sauce, which was by far my favorite dish of the evening. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, the clams were fresh, and the chorizo was the best smoky dense version I have ever had. Even though I was full and I could not finish the sauce with the toasted bread points, I lingered until I finished every last bite of this fantastic dish.

Back to Los Angeles in the very early morning (gotta get up at 5 am!), so I'll post again after I get over my jet lag.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Miami's Jaguar Again

Since we had gotten up late and it was raining on and off all day, Chantal and I decided to walk around Coconut Grove, figuring we could duck into a store or restaurant if it started pouring. The one restaurant I wanted to return to the most on this trip to Miami, was Jaguar, so we knew of at least one spot here where we could wait out the rain. I could not imagine a more perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon than their nice patio, rainy or not, with a good friend, a cold drink, and several spoons of their creative ceviche.

Last time I came here, we were so dazzled by the ceviche spoon sampler of six different options ($12) that we never noted our favorites. Jaguar offers eight kinds of ceviche, but only six are available "spoon" size so you can have a taste without committing to a full "Amazon" serving. My favorites were definitely the ceviche Vuelve a la Vida, made with swordfish, shrimp, calamari, tomato, lime, orange, onion, cilantro, Habernero chile & avocado, and the Ceviche Peruano, made with white fish, lime ,red onion, roccoto chile, and corn. Chantal liked the Ceviche Nuevo made with calamari the best, with aji amarillo, ginger, soy, lime and grapeseed oil. We ordered extra spoons of our favorites ($2 each) and tried to save some room for dinner by bypassing the rest of the menu.

Besides the ceviches, Jaguar carries a full menu of salads, grills (meat and fish), sandwiches, and house specialties like swordfish "o lo macho" with shrimp and calamari, aji amarillo sauce with saffron, brandy & Pernod, served on rice. On our last visit we had lunch here which segued into an afternoon, starting with their Crispy Blue Corn Chicken tacos and Chopped Celia Salad ($11 each) and ending with the spoon sampler.

No matter the weather or the time of day, Jaguar is always a perfect spot to stop for a spoonful of ceviche.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Miami's Sra Martinez

For my first dinner in Miami on this trip, I asked Chantal about going to Sra Martinez in the Design district; ironically she had already planned to take me there because she knows the parents of the chef!

Sra Martinez is in an historical building that was once a post office, and has been immensely popular since it's opening, with waits for tables that exceed an hour on week-ends. Even during the week, it is best to reserve a table, especially if you want to eat at a popular nightlife grazing time like 9pm.

The menu is a range of hot and cold appetizers or tapas which you can mix or match. We chose 5 and asked our server to recommend the order of arrival, which he orchestrated very well. Prices range from about $11-$25, with medium sized portions for tapas; as appetizers, each plate was enough to share for two, but you get just a bite for three people, if you are hungry figure on 2-3 plates per person for a full meal. It can get pricey depending on your choices, our dinner came in over $100 for two of us (not counting wine).

We began with the cold shrimp tiradito in a light white sauce with kernels of popcorn; yes, I found it looked strange too, but upon tasting the combo, I can say I was very happy with the inventive combo, and we ate every bite. Next came the lemon coriander fried baby artichokes with a creamy aioli which we could not stop eating throughout the meal, the lemony flavor and crisp texture stood up even after they had cooled to room temperature. The beet salad was a medley of colors and a light contrast between the plates of hot dishes we had coming of roasted pork belly and lamb lollipops. The pork belly was very rich, but so good we even ate the fat. The lamb was one of my favorites, with a perfectly tender center and crusty glaze that was savory without being sweet or spicy. The lamb was served with a nice light cucumber and yogurt dip that was refreshing and a nice accent to the char.

You would think after all this we would have no room for dessert, but after we finished our wine, but we found we could squeeze in the torrejas, a sweet, warm and rich offering of bananas, figs and bread that would make any dessert lover happy. Perfect espressos finished off our meal as we drifted off in a haze of great food to window shop in the design district and walk off some of our meal before heading home to bed with visions of beautiful furniture and food dancing in our heads.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Miami's Creek 28 Restaurant

I arrived in Miami around noon, starving for fresh air, warm weather, and food that was not wrapped in plastic from an airport vendor. My friend Chantal picked me up from the airport and drove me to one of her favorite lunch spots in the Indian Creek Hotel. This very conveniently located 61 room boutique hotel is just one block from the beach and boardwalk, and less than 10 minutes from both South Beach and Lincoln Road, with rooms ranging from a standard room to a suite or 1 bedroom for $79-$149 a night this time of year.

Creek 28 was the tonic I needed after my two connecting flights and seven hours of travel from Los Angeles. The restaurant is behind the lobby in a nice courtyard garden surrounded by trees, bougainvillea, and lush plants growing in a small pond. The swimming pool of this boutique hotel was hidden behind greenery, affording privacy for the sunbathers and calm for the diners.

Even though the weather was a balmy 80 degrees, I couldn't resist ordering the tomato soup with white truffle oil. I am glad I gave in to temptation because it was a fabulously complex, light, and mouthwatering choice; I would have licked the bowl if I was not in public! Chantal had the grilled chicken salad, full of vegetables and greens, perfectly dressed and presented. For my second course I chose the grilled pita and 3 spreads, including a lemony white bean puree, red pepper Muhammara and a mixed olive spread.

Lunch was so good we nearly came back for breakfast the next day, but after staying up until 2am, we slept past breakfast, oh well, that just means I'll have to come back on my next trip.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Palazzo $139 Special

Yesterday I gave you the scoop on the Bellagio special deal and today it's a $139 special on weekdays or $179 weekend price package for the Palazzo or Venetian; just use code EPOAPR to get an upgraded view suite, a 2 for 1 Maverick helicopter tour of the Strip, $30 off the Canyon Ranch Spa Club, complimentary glass fo wine at Morels French Steak House, complimentary line pass and entry to LAVO nightclub, 20 % off your bill at Del Toro Ristorante, and a $25 slot play credit per stay. If you want this deal you must book by May 4th, so make your plans this week-end to lock in your savings of $200 on a $139 room!