Sunday, January 31, 2010

Free Food, Good Cirque Prices, & Some Surf & Sand

For drinkers, the bar & Saints & Sinners has $5 margaritas from 10pm to close, and now they are adding free carne asada tacos from 9pm to midnight, every Sunday (yes that means starting tonight). Here, you don't need to drink to eat (unlike some other places where buying a drink allows you to get free food), so you can literally be a Saint or a Sinner on Sunday.

The first time I saw a Cirque du Soleil in the 1980's I paid about $50 for a ticket and it was worth every dollar for the most amazing spectacle under a big top I had ever seen. What is amazing today is that for $51 today, you can see them in San Diego in 2010!

Cirque is offering tickets to their Kooza show in San Diego for 40% off tier 1 seats, for tier 2 seats, it's even cheaper, only $39 per adult. If you have a child between 2-12 you want to take to the show, their tickets are only $27.50-$35.75 depending on the tier. Book here The only restriction is that you are limited to 19 tickets per purchase, so unless you are a school teacher, you can take advantage of this pricing for everyone you know (school teachers can get group discount tickets).

And the Surf & Sand in Laguna has a sale ending tonight for rooms through February 2 (yes THIS Tuesday) starting at only $199 a night. Think of it as an incredible last minute getaway to refresh yourself with some sun at the beach before our next series of Winter storms.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Free Companion Ticket on British Airways

During my airfare shopping for International flights, British Airways had consistently low fares with easy itinerary planning; you may choose flexible dates to see the best prices, or you may chose a specific date for travel. I liked the ease of booking through them and I'm sure other seasoned travelers appreciate their service and prices as well, so their free companion ticket promotion makes flying with British Airways even more enticing.

Register with and book a flight before February 26, for travel by March 31, 2010, and you’ll receive a complimentary companion ticket, which can be used with your next purchased ticket. You and your companion can travel in any cabin, to any of the over 300 destinations British Airways flies worldwide. Book your ticket and your companion ticket before July 30, and travel through December 15, 2010, with all travel completed by December 31, 2010.

There’s no limit to the number of tickets you can earn, so the possibilities really are endless. There is personal in-flight entertainment and complimentary bar service in every cabin. These days when many American airlines are charging for baggage, food and drinks, it is nice to still find a major carrier who still offers complimentary niceties.

The British really do seem to be more civilized.

The AdDress Resale Presale

It's nice to know before a sale begins so that you get to choose what you want before the "general public" descends like locusts on the goodies, and even better when you get presale prices that are an additional 25% off the sale prices!

The AdDress Boutique resale presale begins today and goes until February 5 (public sale begins February 6), so head over there now to literally get the pick of the clothes & accessories now.

It's always so much more fun to be an insider!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tahiti for Two

Since Valentine's Day is coming up in about two weeks, it's the perfect time to plan a trip with your loved one now. Even though I have often traveled to Tahiti alone, I must say it is a truly romantic spot on Earth and there is a reason people from all over the world go there for their honeymoon.

Air Tahiti Nui
has the perfect combination for those who want a romantic trip but don't have alot of time. Four nights with airfare and breakfast starts at only $898* per person at a the Hilton, or get an Ocean View Suite at the Radisson Plaza Resort for $1298*. If you want the ultimate experience of an overwater bungalow, there is the Meridien Tahiti for $1398*. If you prefer another hotel, you can just get airfare for $738*.

Yes, there are options available for you to either travel right before Valentine's Day or including Valentine's Day, so book now to get the dates you want.

*Prices are per person based on double occupancy and do not include fees and taxes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Martinis and Cookies

Pascal Brasserie in Newport Beach has a great deal every last Thursday of the month (that would be today this month for anyone who doesn't know what day it is);$5 Martinis and glasses of wine. For every other day, you can go for their Happy Hour from 5-7pm where you can get $5 house wines and a platter of appetizers for two that include Cheese Sandwich, Tarte Flambée, Charcuterie, Blue Cheese Beef Sirloin Sliders, Buttermilk Onion Rings, Homemade Pâté, Thyme Fries, all for only $10.

Cookies without Borders will hold a bake sale on Sunday, Jan. 31 at Scoops Gelato with proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders. They're encouraging local bakers to contribute whatever they can, and Spork Foods and Whisk LA have already pledged contributions. You can contribute by buying the products instead of providing them, so it's a sweet deal any way yo look at it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eating at Joe's

I started taking advantage of Dine LA week today by eating lunch at Joe's on Abbot Kinney in Venice. I've eaten here before many years ago and I am very happy to find that some good things get even better after time has passed.

My first pleasant surprise came at the host stand when the owner/chef Joe came out and seated some guests himself because the very personable host was busy taking me to my table. I love seeing an owner take on a customer service role himself; it speaks well for the entire operation. My host then made me smile even more when he opened the menu and explained that they had expanded on the Dine LA menu by offering a choice of ANY of their appetizers, main courses, and desserts for the prix fixe price of $18, or $22 with a glass of the house white or red wine. My third surprise was my excellent server Giuliana, who had been my server at another restaurant in the area.

I chose to start with the Tu Tuna, which was both seared and cooked tuna with a very nice frisee salad topped with dry roasted tomato slices.

I segued to the sand dabs with avocado and tomatoes in a chive nage with pink Maine shrimp, based on my server's suggestion, which was so tasty I would have mistaken the sand dabs for the deliciously exotic fish Barramundi if I had not known it was a native fish.

The only way I could I finish my meal was to eat very slowly, as I sipped my smooth Sauvignon Blanc between bites. I was about to ask for my dessert to go, but I thought it would be wiser to eat what I could there while leaving any unfinished dessert on the plate (my version of restaurant portion control).

I chose the warm chocolate tart on caramel sauce, served with blood oranges slices and a refreshing sorbet.

I managed to eat about half of it before surrendering to my fully and happy stomach saying, "Stop now." OK I stopped (for now). Tomorrow is another day.

Joe's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Music for Haiti & Paris in Springtime

For anyone who missed the benefit concert Hope for Haiti last Friday, it's not too late to donate and enjoy some music. You can buy Hope for Haiti Now music via a MP3 download of the show or just the music from iTunes where 100% of the proceeds go to the relief organizations the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Oxfam, UNICEF, Partners in Health, the Red Cross, United Nations World Food Program, and Yele Haiti. You can also buy the Music for Relief download where 100% of the proceeds benefit the UN Foundation’s Central Emergency Response Fund, Habitat for Humanity, and Dave Matthews BAMA Works Haitian relief efforts. Music for Relief is working to support immediate relief with food, water and emergency medical supplies as well as long-term sustainable housing solutions for the people affected by this catastrophic natural disaster. You may want to download both, after all you can never have too much good music for a good cause:)

After getting some great music, you might want to take your new music on a trip to Paris with British Airway's Open Skies Business class fares that start at $740 each way (from NYC) not including fees and taxes based on roundtrip purchase. This offer is good now, so a great Valentine's day present may be to surprise your loved one by traveling in style with an iPod loaded with great tunes by generous artists.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dine LA & 50% off Henry's Hat Restaurant

Today is the first day of the new Winter Dine LA week (which is now two weeks), which means you can eat a three course meal for as little as $16 per person at Cafe Bizou and dinner for $44 for a restaurant like Bazaar. With restaurants doing their best to get new and old diners out to eat, this incentive should help, especially if you register your personal American Express Card with the site, because they will credit you $20 if you dine out at least three times at participating restaurants (spending at least $21 each time). As an added bonus you can also win a $100 gift card in the daily sweepstakes if you follow Dine LA on Twitter or Facebook.

Pssst, CHOCOLATE CAKE. Just say that to your server or bartender at Henry's Hat today and you will get 50% off your bill today, no matter how many people are in your party.

Time to decide what to have for lunch today.....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Makeup @ Sephora

This is just a quick note for anyone who wants a Bare Minerals free trial (10 days worth of makeup) with a free mini brush; just go to your nearest Sephora and ask them for your free sample (no purchase necessary). Check out your skin color here before going so you get a shade that matches your face in either Matte or Regular. If there is no Sephora near you, you can also order it online when you buy something (yes, you must make a purchase to get it online) by adding the code BEBARE or BEMATTE before checking out.

Supplies are limited so if you want this go to your nearest store or order online now. The Uniball pen giveaway on Friday was over within four hours of its' announcement, and I doubt this offer will last past Monday night.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Free Pen

Short quick post now so everyone can get a free new Uniball Super Ink Pen before they run out of the 10,000 they are giving away free today. All they want is your email and an address (to ship it to you). The technology allows the ink to bond to the paper so those of us who still write paper checks won't have to worry about check fraud, and it's pretty cool for just writing the old fashioned thing called letters (you know what we used to do before email).

Hurry and click on the link, the offer was just released at 10am PST.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Drink for Relief, Food or a Bargain

If you drink for relief from your stress, you can help relieve some of the stress Haitians are feeling by doing your drinking at Fig. Starting tomorrow and through Saturday, all the proceeds from wine sales at Fig in Santa Monica will go to Share Our Strength whose largest grant recipient for the last 20 years has been Haiti.

If you want some free food with your drinks, go to Blackboard Eats and sign up for their special today at La Cachette Bistro. It gives you a free plate of appetizer for every drink you order and pay for. All you need to do is get your free pass code before Jan 22, 2010 and use it before February 20, 2010.

If you want some wonderful tastes of Grands Crus Bordeaux for a bargain, you can get 100 of them for only $49 thanks to Wally's Union des Grand Crus Bordeaux next Wednesday at the Annex in Hollywood. This is a deal for anyone who has ever bought a bottle of these wines which usually start at $60 a bottle.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wynning Winter

If you feel it's about time to take a break from all the rainy weather but don't have the time or funds to go to a nice warm tropical beach, you might want to consider a trip to the Wynn in Las Vegas.

Being inside a casino (that smells like fresh air) with flowers, flattering lighting and eye candy decor, could be just the kind of distraction that will add some rays of happiness to your life. All the better when you can get a great deal like staying two nights and getting a third free with a $50 resort credit. Rates start at $139 a night for Sundays-Thursdays and $199 for week-ends; if you do the math that means a three night mid week stay is only $76 a night and a week-end stay is only $116 a night at this five star resort hotel. To get this deal use promo code JANWCE either online or by phone for a stay before February 28, 2010.

I believe that discounted prices only matter if you truly want the product or service, and since the Wynn and Encore provide some of the best rooms and restaurants on the Strip, these discounted prices matter!

Hop Li Encore

With four locations around Los Angeles, Hop Li has been around town. The good news is that after having eaten at the Chinatown, Westside, and new Santa Monica location, I can honestly say that they have somehow managed to bring authentic good Chinese food to neighborhoods that used to rely on fast food delivery as both the epitome and stereotype of take out cartons.

Hop Li does not deliver. Period. Believe me, you will go and pick up take out if you really want to eat at home because the convenience of delivery will be quickly forgotten once you taste their food. Having grown up in a Chinese restaurant (literally) I am very very picky about what really good Chinese food tastes like, and Hop Li is one of the best in Los Angeles. They do things like fresh crab with ginger and scallions ($30) that make you want to do the work of finding the meat underneath the shell even if it takes you an hour. (The order I got had more than one crab...unless crabs now have four claws and eight legs.) The corn starched coating on the chopped up pieces of crab makes the sauce slightly thick and tasty enough for you to want to lick the container.

In traditional Chinese fashion, they include the tamale, so if you love this rich part of the crab, you will get it in your order (if you don't just offer it to your closest Asian friend who will act like you just offered them caviar).

They also have a deft touch when it comes to vegetables like sauteed Tender Greens with garlic ($7.75).

If you are feeling the recession, order one of their lunch specials (starting at $5.75) and although you might feel hungry later, you will feel happy that you ate well (and you can always order extra food so you can have leftovers later).

Hop Li on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Napa Time

I feel like I need a nap. With all the storms raging in California, it's time to curl up in bed with a nice bottle of wine, so what better place to do that than at a 4 Diamond Resort in wine country?

The Silverado Resort is a beautiful place with 1200 acres, where you can go anytime to enjoy a full service spa, 17 tennis courts, 10 swimming pools, 2 golf courses, and hiking and bike trails. Of course the best of all worlds would be enjoying this with a 40% discount so you can stay for as little as $99 a night by clicking here with code TZ99. For an extra $40, you get a King room with a picnic lunch for two two at V. Sattui Winery and tastings at premium wineries (Artesa, Mumm, Black Stallion and Robert Mondavi) by clicking here with code TZOOW. Even when you add in the mandatory $20 resort fee (why do so many places add this annoying fee?), it's still a great deal. The only conditions are you must book by January 29, February 13 is a blackout day, and you must go before April 15, 2010. They also have larger rooms available for good rates so if you want a bigger place so just ask them for their discounted suite prices.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rose Bowl Haitian Help

Go to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and make a donation to help out the citizens of Haiti. Donations can also be made online.

There is someone who could use your help and there will be a time when you will need someone to help you; investing in good will always has a positive return.

Friday, January 15, 2010

75% off at Agent Provacateur & Se San Diego

Having a bad day at work? A secret to feeling good no matter what is wearing something sexy that no one can see (unless you choose to show it off). There are few things that lift a woman's spirits as much as beautiful lingerie (except maybe shoes), especially since it can be worn under the most conservative clothes. Agent Provacateur is famous for supplying unusual, provocative, and sensual undergarments to European women for ages and to daring American women for the last couple years. The are having a great 75% off sale both online and in their store on Melrose, so you can pick up that sweetly sexy or vivacious vixen outfit in time for Valentine's Day now. Getting a $220 bra for $60 just adds the pleasurable secret of knowing you got a great deal.

After buying your new lingerie, it may be time to take it on a road trip to a sexy hotel with your paramour. Whether you are a first time tourist or a frequent visitor to San Diego's Gaslamp district, the Se Hotel is a great place to spend the night. Travelzoo has a special that makes this luxury hotel the place to stay when you mention the code TZO you get a City Lights room for $99 (a $300 savings). You must book by January 22, and some dates (like Valentine's) are sold out, but the offer is good through May. Keep in mind the hotel charges $36 per night for valet parking, so add that fee to your total (or park your car nearby and take the San Diego Tram to the district).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

TiGeorge's Haitian Help

With so many people around the world wanting to help Haitians through the aftermath of the devastating Earthquake, it is heartening to know you can help by eating at a renowned local Haitian restaurant. Go to TiGeorges in Silver Lake today and the proceeds from food sales will go towards relief organizations (who will also be at the restaurant).

If you don't know what traditional Haitian food is, this is also an opportunity to expand your palate with dishes like Goat Meat and Conch, all without expending too much of your wallet since the most expensive item on the menu is under $17. If you prefer to stay with foods you know, they are famous for their rotisserie chicken, rice, beans, salads, and plantains. They even have a vegetarian dish and pasta for people with those dietary preferences. If you are only a little bit adventurous, just order the Haitian soda or take home some organic Haitian coffee and you can say you tasted something authentically Haitian.

With all the money you save on your meal, donate some to the relief organizations who will be at the restaurant today. All of us who live here in earthquake country appreciate escaping a big rumble; let's share our luck and wealth of resources with our neighbors.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rich or Poor?

Are you feeling rich or poor these days? Those who still have a home and an income are probably feeling quite rich, and even if you are making about the same amount you were last year, the money you have goes much further today. If you ever wanted to live the lifestyles of the rich & famous while earning a modest wage, you can in this economy.

Places which want your business like the Wynn in Las Vegas will now give you a ride on a private jet (no more TSA security checks or charges for checked baggage), free parking at a private air terminal (Burbank or John Wayne), champagne for the flight, two nights at the Wynn or Encore, complimentary transport and baggage to the hotel, and free nightclub entry for only $599. Just use the code WYNNBUR for travel before January 31, 2010.

If you are feeling poor, then even going out for a drink may stretch your budget. How about some free cheese pizza to go with that pint of beer during Happy Hour at the new Melgard Public House? This new restaurant incarnation will be soft opening this Saturday at the corner of Melrose & Gardner where the old Louise used to be and will offer 28 types of beer on tap. They won't have their liquor license for about a week, so this deal won't be good until then, but mark your calendars now and note the address 7505 Melrose Ave, L.A., CA 90046 323-651-1650.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free Food & Wine

There is a new Thai restaurant in my neighborhood called Celadon and to get people to order online and try out their food, they are offering a free egg roll with orders over $15 (limited time offer). The recently got a very nice review from the LA Times, so add that to their reasonable prices (under $9 for most entrees) and calm environment, and you have the makings of a wonderful neighborhood retreat. If you are lucky enough to live within 3 miles of Celadon, they will also deliver your food for free.

If Thai isn't appealing to you, maybe Veggie Grill's menu of fresh food is more to your taste. If you have been wary of trying some vegan dishes (or have a fear of vegetables), tonight may be the night to tell your experienced vegetarian or vegan friends you will dine with them. Why tonight? Because if a Veggie friend takes a Virgin to Veggie Grill and tells the cashier you are a Virgin, you will get your meal free. Yes, it will cost you nothing to try. You must go with someone if you are the Virgin, but just as in most things, going with someone who has more experience is always a wise choice. This offer begins at 4pm today, so dinner may end up being the healthiest meal of your day. Don't worry, everyone will be gentle with you if you are a Veggie Grill Virgin (and there will be many other virgins tonight).

For those who want some wine with dinner, you have until the end of the day today to go get the offer from Blackboard Eats for Eva Restaurant, which gives up to four dine in patrons a free bottle of wine with dinner (prix fixe dinners not eligible). The Chef at Eva has worked some of the best restaurants in town from Water Grill to Pinot, so this is a chance to eat well as you drink.

Ready, set, go get your freebies!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Brentwood to the Beach

Brentwood Country Mart is having its' annual sale with merchants offering up to 50% off starting today through the end of the month. Aside from the deals at the merchants like James Perse (the greatest soft T Shirts), Eidelweiss Chocolates, or the feminine haven Marie Mason Apothecary, a portion of the proceeds will benefit the One Voice Emergency Relief organization. One voice provides funds for families who need to pay utility bills, medical bills, they provide resources for children go to better schools, and offer opportunities for kids to go to a summer camp for the first time. You can also donate clothes and furniture directly (in good condition please because they do not refurbish or repair donations before delivering them).

After shopping in town, it may be time to go out of town, say the beach in Nice, France or maybe something closer to home like Hermosa Beach, CA. Gekko is a great website when your favorite hotel in your favorite city is booked for the dates you want and you want the next best choice. Just type in the city and country you are traveling to with the dates and the name of your favorite place to stay, and Gekko will find you a similar style/star/location. I tried it for Nice, France and found some hotels not included on the travel search engines, like the three star Grand Hotel Le Florence, starting at only 43 Euros ($62) a night! They have a helpful photo gallery view so you can see a the picture of the hotel before clicking for more information on the hotel facilities, location, and amenities. For hotels closer to home, I sorted the results by a map view to see what hotels were nearby and when I specified a price under $150, Gekko found the Hotel Hermosa in Hermosa Beach for $109 a night. The website is still in beta, so not all hotels are profiled yet, and there are many large chains featured in some cities, but I did find some gems and great prices, so I'm passing the resource along even in it's "unfinished" state, it works better than many established sites.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Two for One Airfare to Paris

Paris is a very romantic city and although I have gone there alone many times, it is always good to share the experience with someone else. Air Tahiti Nui is making it much easier to enjoy the City of Lights with a sale on airfare, making the second ticket FREE. Air Tahiti Nui is one of my favorite airlines to fly with their gracious flight attendants, spacious seats, free inflight entertainment options, and nonstop flights to Paris and Tahiti.

About the only fine print is that you must still pay taxes & fees of $343 for the second ticket when you buy one starting at $971 RT (this price includes all taxes & fees). For those of you who are math challenged this makes each ticket the equivalent of $657 including all taxes and fees!

As with all great deals there are a few rules; you must buy your tickets by January 15, 2010 and must travel by April 30, 2010, you must stay at least the first Sunday, you can't stay more than a month, and the tickets are non refundable. Please read the details on the terms and conditions on this link before buying your ticket.

If you leave now you can still catch the sales and if you leave later you'll be in Paris in time for Spring, either way, being able to share the experience with someone you love is priceless.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sanchez Carniceria

I have been craving curry oxtail stew for nearly two weeks. I searched in all the usual markets around my Westside neighborhood, but I could not find any oxtails in any of them. I was hoping to avoid having to trek Downtown to the Grand Central Market, so I Googled local Carnicerias around my zip code. Carniceria's are butcher shops, you know the kind of markets we used to have in ancient times before butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers got bought out (or employed) by megamarkets. There are very few butcher shops left aside from the ones who cater to specific ethnic tastes, like the Glatt (Kosher), the Carniceria, and the Asian storefronts which supply parts of the animal most other Angelenos would never eat, much less know how to cook.

Sanchez Carniceria was the closest and best reviewed in my area, so I decided I would give it a try and I am so very glad I did. It is easy to find at the South West corner of Inglewood Ave & Culver Blvd., and they even have a secure parking lot for both the market and an adjacent restaurant (or you can grab a bite at their outdoor taco window).

The outside looked promising and once I entered I was relieved to find the interior sparkling clean. There was no odor of old meat or disinfectant, which I have smelt in various megamarket meat departments. The refrigerated cases were filled with bright red beef, fresh poultry, and all manner of animal parts, including tripe, beef tongue, hog's feet, and liver. The also have great chorizo, fresh salsas, and real lard. If you want to just heat & serve something for a quick dinner, pick up a few of their cooked tamales to go. The prices were excellent, running about 30-40% less than the superchains charge for similar items like hamburger or steak. It is so reassuring to know there are still places which offer customer service with a smile at discounted prices for fresh food. I was there in the middle of the afternoon during the middle of the week, and there were two others waiting for service at the meat counter in this very small shop, so I would say the turnover of product is probably very good.

I asked the butcher for enough Oxtails to serve 4 and I got about 4 pounds for less than $13. It was the freshest oxtail I have had in years.

I made my curry oxtail stew and it turned into this.

I'll write more later, gotta go eat my stew before it gets cold. Sanchez Carniceria, at 4525 Inglewood Blvd., Culver City, CA (310) 391-3640

Sánchez Carnicería on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wally's Desert Turtle

I have wonderful friends who enjoy fine food as much as I do, and one of the benefits of having friends who share my taste is that I can experience places like Wally's Desert Turtle with fellow foodies. Although I used to live in the area, for some reason I could never manage to eat here while they are open in the Winter (they close for several months of the year). There is a season for everything, and this holiday season was finally my season to eat at Wally's.

The decor is stunning. Walking into a candlelit room with glowing mirrors on the ceiling and murals on the walls, I felt as if I was in a mini Californian version of Versaille's Hall of Mirrors. Everyone looks good in this golden light and the twinkling keys from the piano player added a nice aural accent to the visual feast. Unfortunately the atmosphere was much too subtle to photograph our meals (I tried), but the impedance actually led to me simply enjoying my meal without feeling the compulsion to take endless photos of everything.

Because of the chivalrous man in our party of four, all of the women at the table received beautiful roses as we were seated, which added three shining smiles to the light at the table. Our drinks were all made with Stolichnaya's Elit Vodka (now my favorite vodka) thanks to the drink connoisseur at our table. We had Lemon Drops, Martinis and Vodka Tonic's which all glided down our throats with the greatest of ease.

We decided to all start with the escargots in butter, garlic and parsley, presented classically in the shell ($16.50); we ate the appetizer within minutes and spent the next several minutes sopping up the sauce with the wonderful warm chewy rolls served with dinner. Our waiter told us the specialties of the house were the Sauteed Imported Dover Sole Almondine ($46.50) and the Colorado Rack of Lamb, served with Herb Potato Pancake, Garlic Confit, Ratatouille, Fresh Rosemary and Thyme Jus ($48.50), so we ordered those as well as a special of Seared Filet of Loch Duart Salmon Braised Salsify, Balsamic Reduction and Fried Shallots($34.50). Everyone finished every bite with relish and I was grateful that my lamb came cooked perfectly medium rare, just as I had ordered it.

Somehow we found room for desert, so we shared the Profiteroles, Cream Puffs Filled Vanilla Ice Cream Covered with Hot Chocolate Sauce ($10.75) and the Raspberry Sorbet with Raspberries with fresh Raspberries nestled in an Almond Tulip Strawberry Coulis ($10.50). We tried to finish the deserts, but were unsuccessful even after very valiant attempts.

Go to Wally's while they are open this season and make the most of your Winter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Marriott Desert Springs

It is fun to go back to a place I once lived and stay in a hotel like the Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert. The picture was taken from my room on the Presidential Suite floor looking down on the lobby. It was impossible to fit the entire lobby into the picture, but the water dock for the gondolas begins where the bottom of the picture ends. Yes, you can ride on boats that will take you on a waterway tour of the property, or take a boat ride to dinner at one of the restaurants.

This immense resort has lakes, a gorgeous spa, fairways and gardens; it is like a Shangari-La in the middle of the desert. The popular lobby bar is an impressive place to meet a date or business associate, with views of a water fountain and the waterway on one side and a resplendent Christmas tree on the other. There is a small Starbucks outpost and a small sushi bar adjacent to the main lobby, so you can grab some caffeine or a California Roll as you get your Champagne at the bar. Service was a bit slow during the holiday season, but it was friendly for the most part (aside from the bartenders who seemed to only be able to see waitstaff).

Rooms are spacious, with views of the green fairways or shimmering lake, and they come with all the fluffy towels, robes, and amenities you would expect from a 4 star resort, including an in room safe and mini-bar.

I have been to the Resort many times but this was the first time I paid for a room here and I bought my room through Priceline, offering $75 a night ($92 with tax). Buying my rate through Priceline worked out very well since I checked the price and found the same room was $199 a night as a MEMBER of the Marriott Rewards club through their resort website. The only fly in my Chardonnay for my stay here was the front desk Supervisor advised me of a MANDATORY $25 resort fee and $12 self parking fee which was in addition to my prepaid room rate. When I told her I did not want to use any of the included amenities covered by the resort fee, she removed the charge from my room (I did not even bring my laptop, so I could not use the wireless WiFi, and I did not even bring a bathing suit to be able to use the spa entry).

This resort is literally a self contained paradise with good restaurants, shops, spa, nightclub, cafe, and fairways all onsite; just be sure to bring along some nickels and dimes to pay for the fees they will add to your bill during your stay.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Spencer's Palm Springs

I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays with loved ones as much as I did on my trip to Palm Springs last week. My first stop was Spencer's Restaurant adjacent to the famous Palm Springs Tennis Club. Even though this resort is a timeshare, you may rent rooms or suites from the owners for between $100-$200 a night during high season (now) or considerably less in the summer months. I highly recommend renting one of the bungalow suites which have their own kitchens and small pool and jacuzzi areas just across from the main building. If you want to live here like a native, staying in the bungalows is the next best thing.

Spencer's has a beautiful outdoor patio area (with trees for shade and heaters for warmth) and a cozy indoor space where there a piano player (yes a LIVE performer!) was performing during lunch on a midweek afternoon. One of my favorite menu items here is the Lobster Club Sandwich ($23), but since I was going to a rich and wonderful meal that night, I opted for the lighter Ahi Salad ($16). It was a decent version of the classic tuna Nicoise, served with a lightly grilled rare piece of Ahi, endive leaves, spring greens, diced potatoes, hard boiled egg, green beans, and loaded with kalamata olives (too many). The salad needed some oomph or seasoning, but I found the dressing uninspiring, so I ended up adding salt and pepper to liven up the flavors.

My friend 85 year old friend Ruth had the Egg Salad Sandwich ($8) which was so big and tasty that she took half of it home for dinner. She is not at all adventurous when it comes to her food and she was happy to find a comforting dish on the menu. It was served with a gorgeous fruit side that included blueberries, boysenberries, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon slices; the fruit side could have been a meal in and of itself!

As with all local restaurants, Spencer's is geared towards the inhabitants. Even though I used to be a resident, I am now only a visitor. I enjoyed the freshness of the food and the beautiful environment of the restaurant, but I would have liked a bit more adventurous menu and seasoning. My friend Ruth however, is the epitome of a local resident (she has lived in Palm Springs for over 50 years), and she enjoyed the atmosphere and food immensely. Spencer's is a very safe bet, and sometimes a safe bet is better than gambling on getting a good meal.