Friday, April 30, 2010

50 % off Ace Palm Springs

It's about time for me to go away for a few days an escape the traffic and work that comes with living in Los Angeles. Palm Springs seems to be calling since it is a relatively easy 2 hour drive. The Spring Breakers and Snowbirds (i.e., people from colder climes like WA, OR & Canada) are gone, the rates are coming down, and the temperatures are still moderate, so this is the perfect time to take a few days to unwind.

The Ace Hotel combines the retro look with modern chic at good prices. For Sunday through Monday reservations from May 1- September 30, you can get 50% off each night if you book two nights. This deal is not applicable during the major holidays in this period and it is hard to find online, so call them at 760-325-9900 and ask for the "Cool Pool" rate which works out to be about $99 a night after the discount. The only thing I don't like about this place is they do have a $20 resort fee that allows you free internet, spa, and pool access, but as more resorts are adding on this fee (like baggage fees) it seems that nickeling and dimeing at resorts is now here to stay. Figure that you are still saving $80 a night off the regular room rates, so it still works out to a good deal even after adding on the nickels and dimes.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dine out For Life Tonight

Wanna go out to eat today? Go to one of the restaurants participating in the Dine Out For Life benefit and 25% or more of your check will go towards Project Angel Food which helps deliver and serve food to people affected by HIV/Aids, cancer, and other life threatening diseases.

The restaurant choices range from the vegetarian like Buddha's Belly and vegan M Cafe, to the steak and lobster classic, The Palm, with choices in between like the upscale Asian Mr. Chow and upscale French Little Next Door, to the casual BLD, and kitschy Hamburger Mary's. Even if you don't want to eat, go to the Abbey and drink in some man eye candy along with your alcohol, after all it's for a good cause ;-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wine & Dine Wednesday

Wednesday is wine and dine time at Upstairs 2.

Actually every Wednesday through Saturday can be wine and dine time at this wine centered restaurant above the Wine House. The four course $55 menu on Wednesdays comes with four wine pairings and a brief discussion, so this makes wining and dining a bit different than other days when you must put together your own combination of tastes to suit your palate because it's always more fun when a wine expert and chef do the work for you.

Make your reservations by calling 310-231-0316 (you may make reservations on other days online through Open Table) and saying you want to attend the "Wine & Dine Wednesday" before this event ends in May. Southern France, Piedmont, and Syrah are all being featured before the end of next month, so pick up the phone (you know that thing you use to Twitter and Text) and make a reservation for dinner next Wednesday by going Upstairs 2 a great menu.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sip & Swirl Tonight

You still have some time to reserve at Vinoteque on Melrose for their Sip & Swirl event tonight which starts at 7pm (there is one at 9pm also). You must reserve because they cap the event at 40 people so that they can serve the three courses that compliment the three wines being presented. The usual cost is $20.10, but tonight's event is only $10 and tonight's wine region is Sicily. If you can't attend tonight, they will be continuing the tasting series every Tuesday through May 25, so reserve for the wine region/varietal that you would like to taste.

If you want to make an entire evening out of the event, book the full three course dinner package for $50 (or $40 for Group On members). The full dinner includes an amuse bouche, wild arugula salad with toasted pine nuts, parmesan, and candied lemon slices. Diners can choose Salmon, served with a Sunchoke purée, spinach, bing cherry, or a Roasted Chicken, served with caramelized brussel sprouts, brown butter whipped potatoes, chicken jus, or Black Angus Skirt Steak, served with fries, and steak sauce. Dessert includes coffee and churros, Marscapone Panna Cotta, shortbread cookie, ginger macerated strawberries, aged balsamic, strawberry chips, and a breakfast muffin to go.

Wine tonight, muffin tomorrow morning, now all we need is to decide what will we want to have for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Place to Sleep for 30 Cents

Yes you read the title correctly, you can find a place to sleep for 30 CENTS through the site Hostel Bookers in the UK. Starting today through Friday, they are giving away 10 beds a day away for .20 GBP which equals 30 CENTS in USD. You must check the site at 7 am EST or 10 AM PST to get the deal because it is on a first come first served basis. The only real caveat is that you must arrive at your destination between May 31 to June 4, 2010 and you must use the reservation yourself, i.e., you can not book for someone else unless you are going with them.

To get a loft in NYC or a place in Miami's South Beach for this price, it is worth setting your alarm to be online when the sale starts. If you want to travel to a primo location like Barcelona, Florence, or Prague, the options include hostels in all those areas. Remember a hostel is not a five star hotel, so no room service or extras like spa services, but for less than the price of a coffee, you can get a clean place to sleep in locations around the globe. Many people pay 100's times more to stay in the same area, and they say in real estate, the three most important things to consider are location, location, location, so save on the most important thing so you can splurge on extra things like food and entertainment.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dr Seuss & Catalina Zipline

Happy Earth Day!

Oceanhouse Media has a novel way to celebrate if you have an iPhone (it's also iPad compatible), just download the app Lorax Garden for $2.99 and you can plant (and design) you own plants and trees in a virtual world which you can then send as postcards, keeping it green from inception to reception. You can also download the book for $3.99 and use it either as a reading and teaching tool.

If you prefer your greenery to be actual rather than virtual, the first Zipline in Los Angeles or Orange County is now open on Catalina Island. You will be traveling at speeds of up to 45 miles an hour about 300 feet up in the air over nearly .75 of a mile through five connected platform stations that hover over various areas of Catalina. Each station will teach you something about the areas you are zipping through, so this is not only an exhilarating ride, it will be educational also. It takes about 2 hours and costs $92.50, but the experience will be priceless.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Aruba $629 1BR w/Air

If you still haven't planned a summer vacation yet, you might want to consider this deal from Travel Zoo which gives you 6 nights in a 1 bedroom suite in Aruba for $629 including airfare from LAX! Price does not include airfare taxes, fees or transfers, but it is still about 40% off the regular price for the three star Aruban Resort.

Just travel between May 1- June 7, or for $60 more, from June 8 - August 30, 2010. The units all include a patio or balcony, dining area, and a kitchenette with a stove, microwave and refrigerator. the resort is across from Eagle Beach, a top rated Travel & Leisure beach destination, and the resort sports two lagoon pools, poolside grill, water slides, and a fitness facility.

Click on this link of call Travelzoo and give them code ARUBA100 by April 23, 2010.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Three Free Ways to Help Others

Social Vibe helps feed people, fight cancer, preserve wildlife, educate, and provide clean drinking water, all you need to do is answer some questions that take about 5 minutes of your time for the cause of your choice.

The Extraordinairies allows you to "micro volunteer" to help change the world for the better, whether it is helping log photos from Haiti so people can locate lost loved ones, catalog animal abuse photos for an archive, or inspire children with a message of encouragement. All that is required to be extraordinary is your time.

Free Rice is a game that you play and when you answer correctly, the game sponsors donate rice to feed people, one right answer provides 10 free grains, five right answers is 50 grains. This is one game that you can play to win obsessively that will result in something good for everyone.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

T Salon

Here in Los Angeles, we now have coffee bars, wine bars, a rum bar, and a whiskey bar, but what about a place for those who drink tea? How about a place that serves tea on tap, chilled without ice just like beer in a bar?

T Salon is now open on Melrose and they pride themselves in sustainability both in choosing the teas they sell, but also the products used to build their spaces. They use bamboo for the interiors and corn containers for to go orders. They even serve food to eat with your tea so you can pair a sweet tea with a sweet scone or drink a green tea with your sushi lunch.

They have several organic products available, and if you do not live in either Los Angeles or New York City, they will ship their products to you, so drink as much tea as you wish anywhere you wish.

Monday, April 19, 2010

City of Lights & City of Angels Film Festival

It is Springtime in Paris and that must mean it is time for the new crop of French films to arrive here at the Director's Guild for the annual COLCOA (City of Lights & City of Angels) film festival which begins today and runs through April 25.

This is one of the few film festivals I attend religiously (or maybe I should say addictively) because some films are screened here in the US only at this festival and some are new releases with their writers, actors, or directors on hand to answer audience questions after the screenings. Remember that this is a French film festival so that means happy hour films with wine served before the screenings, and maybe you will begin to understand why this festival is so much fun. Some discussion panels are free (as are some movies) and ticket prices are $10 per film with free parking at the building, so why not enjoy some French fare this week?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stop Hunger One Cupcake at a Time Today

Many bloggers write about things they love, but it is rare for us to be able to share doing what we love for a charity. Today you have a chance to taste cupcakes made by any one (or several) of the 43 participating bakers at Morel's Restaurant at the Grove Shopping Center between 10:30 am and 1:30pm. All the proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength, a charity which states that their intention for the bake sale is to stop childhood hunger one cupcake at a time.

For those of you who may ask if I am participating, my answer is that I am donating money to the charity, but my baking skills are like my singing skills, and I do not want to inflict those on anyone:)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Delicous Darya

Some of the things I love about traveling are seeing things that I have never before, being immersed in a foreign language, and tasting dishes I have never tried before. One of the best introductions to a new culture before actually going there is going to a local restaurant which a native from that culture recommends.

Darya was recommended by a Persian friend and fellow foodie as the place she goes whenever she doesn't feel like cooking, but wants authentic Persian food. Before going to Darya, the only Persian food I had ever eaten was always at the home of friends, so not only was it authentic, by made with care and the freshest of ingredients.

Walking into to beautiful ornate restaurant was a shocking change from the bland nondescript exterior located next to a Smart & Final on busy Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica. A beautiful crystal chandelier hangs in the center of the room and the walls have delicate gold leafed accents showcasing a painting of the sea (Darya means Sea and is the name of one of the daughters of the owners). Even during lunch in the middle of the week, the room was packed with a variety of people from families, to office workers, and dressed up ladies who lunch. The predominant language was Persian, always a good sign in a Persian restaurant.

I was greeted with a plate of raw quartered onions with butter and flat bread while I perused the menu.

There were so many options that I had trouble deciding, especially since I did not know the names of the dishes my Persian friends made for me, so I had no idea what I had eaten before at their home. I chose the skewers of Filet Mignon ($12.99) with salad and a substitution of Lubio Polo ($1 more) for the regular rice.

The salad was dressed simply with lemon juice and oil, adding a fresh zest to the meat, rice and vegetables on the plate. I asked for my steak very rare and was very pleasantly surprised that it was served as I ordered it, nice and red in the center, and with 8 oz of Filet Mignon on one skewer, this is a great value for the money. There was a container of a condiment on the table for the meat called Sumac, which my waiter explained was made from poison ivy and poison oak! I just did not find it necessary to add anything to my juicy tender meat, but the taste is a bit smoky and fragrant, so you might want to try it. The skewered vegetables of green and yellow peppers, tomatoes, and onions were all slightly crunchy, but cooked through, a perfect balance of flavors. The Lubio Polo, a dish of Basmati rice, green beans, tomato sauce and diced filet, was a complex symphony of flavors that I could easily become addicted to eating; I literally could not stop taking a bite every other forkful.

The fresh flowers on the table were my dessert since I was too full to even finish my plate, much less eat anything else.

Darya Restaurant Santa Monica on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Free Taste Today

In addition to the deals today at places I mentioned in a previous post, there is also a special at Taste today at both their West Hollywood and Pacific Palisades locations. Just say "Tax Free Please" and they will pay the sales tax on your meal all day today. Nice to eat fresh Californian fare at a place that was built in a former residence without having to pay Californian sales tax of close to 10%!

Bon Appetit!

Free Cove Screening Today

It's not often that you can go to a screening of an Oscar winning film for free, unless of course you are a member of the Academy and get free passes to all nominated films. Today is one of those rare days when the general public gets the privilege of being treated like an Academy member; fitting day for it since getting something free on a day when taxes are due is a nice perk.

Head over to the Custom Hotel's Hopscotch Pool Bar & Grill before 7pm to grab some free popcorn, order a drink (cash bar), and grab a seat for "The Cove", a film about how we humans are affecting the planet with our actions around the globe. After the film there will be a Q&A with a member of the Oceanic Preservation Society, so this promises to be an entertaining and educational evening under the stars.

Don't forget to file your taxes before you go because Uncle Sam will not take "I was busy watching a great film and I forgot" as a reason for tax return tardiness.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Earth Day in LA

April 22 is Earth Day and if you live in Los Angeles, you can enjoy it at the Wilshire Center located at 3700 Wilshire (at Oxford). Everyone is encourage to ride their bicycles to the event, they even have a bike valet for cyclists. If you don't have a bike or it's too far to ride, then please take public transportation, or at the very least car pool and lessen your carbon footprint.

Bring your old electronics to recycle, like old TVs, computer monitors, and small electronics. There will be live music, dancers performing traditional dances of Korea, El Salvador, and Bangladesh, food from the local farmer's market, gardening demonstrations, drumming lessons for kids, and you can adopt a tree (or two or three). All this will start at 11am and go until 3pm, so plan a play date while doing something good for the earth.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Freebies

It is always a good day when I can tell you about good things that are FREE, so today is a great day because I've got three deals.

Sprinkles Cupcakes
is celebrating its' 5th birthday today by giving away 5,000 cupcakes at their Beverly hills location. One cupcake per person, so head over there before they are all gone!

Mixt Greens in the Mid Wilshire area is celebrating Earth Day on April 22 by giving away a free tote bag full of green goodies to the first 150 customers, including recipes and seeds to plant, so you can continue the green tradition after the day is over.

Finally BLD is continuing it's tweet an menu contest which allows you to tweet the BLD chef Diana with your idea for a menu item and if the chef chooses your idea on Thursday, you and a friend get to eat your dish for free the following Thursday! You must submit your idea via Twitter and it must be posted by midnight April 15th, so get creative today and reap the fruits of your thoughts next week!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jiraffe's 15th Birthday

For those of you who can't wait until April 15th for the specials I wrote about earlier today, go to Jiraffe tonight for their 15th birthday menu which features a 3 course surf & turf menu that includes a birthday cake (with candle!) for $38. There is a reason this restaurant has been around for 15 years, and the best one (in my opinion) is they know good food; any restaurant which serves a fish en papillote that perfumes the table with thyme when the package is opened, is a treasure.

Tax Free Dining

This is a stressful week for many people as they must not only file their tax returns, but pay what they owe. It is always nice when people appreciate stressful times by relieving some of it in whatever way they can, and in the case of a restaurant, Townhouse is offering everything on their menu tax-free. Yes, this means all food (nothing on the menu is over $19), all wines, all mixed drinks, and they are even including both of their happy hours (the 4-7pm and the 11pm-2am) in this promotion. If you found that you actually are getting a refund, Townhouse is conveniently located in the Sherman Oaks Galleria, so you can spend your refund before or after you you eat.

If you are in the Hollywood area, then stop by BLT Steak for a drink because all drinks will be 50% off. This is a great way to treat a friend who has a massive tax bill to some solace without breaking your own bank.

These specials are good only on Thursday April 15th, just in case you forgot what day you need to mail in your return.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Recycle Today

Everyday is a good day to recycle, but if you are in Pacific Palisades today head over to Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church between 10-2pm and drop off any unwanted electronics FREE. The program is sponsored by California Recycles and Pacific Cares, who have a regular drop off station Monday through Friday in West Los Angeles, but some items require a disposal fee, so take advantage of this opportunity to do some Spring cleaning and start your Saturday off doing something good for the environment.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bombay Cafe Day

I have driven past Bombay Cafe too many times to count. Although many people have told me how authentic the food is at this modest place, I never made a point to stop and try it myself until today. Part of my hesitation to having a meal here is that it is located on a very busy intersection and the interior seemed a bit stark. As it turned out both points were the only bad parts this restaurant because even with very uncomfortable chairs, paper place mats, and metal serving dishes, I would go back for the food.

Bombay Cafe offers street food from the Northern, Central, and Southern parts of India, so the menu has a bit of everything. They offer several lunch specials until 3pm which include vegetarian and meat dishes of varying degrees of spiciness.

I chose the Cauliflower Franki combination ($13), which is the Gobi-sabzi (cauliflower sauteed with green chiles, ginger, ground coriander, tumeric, and cumin), two chutneys, mixed with lime, cilantro, and onions wrapped in a home made egg washed "tortilla". It was served with three pieces of the appetizer Sev Puri, which are small crackers topped with onions, potatoes, three chutneys, and crisp chickpea flour noodles (in the picture they look like rice). Sides included house made pickled cauliflower, a tomato, cucumber and onion salad, and nice raita (yogurt sauce with onions).

Every item on my plate made my taste buds dance with joy. The cauliflower in the Gobi-sabzi had a complex subtle heat that paired beautifully with the cool raita. The tomato, cucumber and onion salad had a nice vinegary pungency that was just strong enough to make it highlight the richer flavors on the plate. The outstanding Sev Puri was so simply addictive, I was tempted to order some to take home. The service is friendly, warm, and efficient with nice touches like a lime slice in the glasses of table water.

If this is Indian street food, maybe we can get them to join the food truck craze and literally take their food to the streets of Los Angeles.

Bombay Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Carribean, Lucy, & Zip

Some days I have a hard time finding anything to write about, but today have have three deals too good to choose from, so I am going to post all three.

For those of you planning a vacation to the Caribbean, there is a 99 hour sale from Cheap Caribbean for up to 60% off all inclusive resorts like the four star NH Real Arena Punta Cana for $59 per person per night. The deals are good until midnight Monday EST and the first 99 reservations can use the promo codes to get an even better deal (I just checked on availability and there are 88 bookings left as of right now).

For those of you who want to buy new workout pants to replace your old ones, Lucy can help you do both and save you some money. This deal is good until the end of the month, so do your spring cleaning and replenish your closet with new clothes by bringing in your old work out pants to your local store and they will give you $10 off a new pair. I always donate my old clothes when I buy new ones so that my closets never overflow, so this deal allows you to do both in one stop.

And finally for those of you you love sushi, head to Zip Fusion Downtown. They are celebrating their eight year anniversary all month by offering all you can eat sushi for $14.95 per person is you order a drink and sit at the sushi bar. This is not your conveyor belt fast food sushi, Zip actually serves quality fish in a nice atmosphere, so rest assured that you will not regret taking advantage of this deal.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Il Grano

I believe that things happen for a reason, call it fate, or destiny, but things that may seem "bad" can actually lead to something good. I got a call today saying a reservation I had made for lunch at Tiger in Beverly Hills was canceled because they were preparing for a grand opening night. With about an hour to spare, I found a reservation at Il Grano.

Il Grano was recommended to me by a local hotel concierge as a good place to take my vegetarian friends, so I went today with my pescatarian (fish eating vegetarian) friend Cindy. With plenty of public parking directly behind the restaurant and quite literally only a few blocks from the freeway, this was an easy place to get to and find.

Walking into the light clean dining room was a harbinger of the light clean food on the menu. Many items are locally sourced or organic, and the chef is wise enough to allow the fresh flavors to speak for themselves.

The bread rolls were soft and tasty even without the olive oil offered.

I chose the prix fixe Sal's lunch because the fish special of Halibut with sauteed spinach, asparagus and capers in a buerre blanc sauce was to be my choice, and the prix fixe included either a salad or tartare of the day, fish or pasta of the day, and gelato for $19.

Cindy chose the daily special of yellow carrot soup ($8) with artichoke chips as her appetizer and offered me a taste; it was a creamy non dairy soup that was as satisfying and comforting as it looked.

I chose the salad as my first course of Sal's lunch and it came with a nice melange of heirloom beets, Fuji apples and Bronte pistachios on Coleman farm's baby lettuces.

Cindy's appetizer portion salad ($13) was a bigger more artfully designed version of my menu starter salad.

My main course was the wonderful halibut, seared and crusty on the outside and tenderly cooked on the inside. The beurre blanc was so good that I ate all the fish and green vegetables just to eat every drop of it. Cindy said she had not seen me clean a plate like that in a long time.

Dessert for me was a scoop of their homespun gelato, which was so creamy that even non chocolate lover Cindy liked it. Our expert waitress was kind enough to offer her a scoop of the vanilla since she was not sure if she wanted a dessert. Cindy liked it so much she finished her scoop even though she was "full".

Salvatore Marino, the chef and owner came by all the tables to personally say thank-you for coming for lunch and to ask what we thought of the food. It was with complete sincerity when we told him we loved everything and would be back. Wouldn't everyone want to come back to a restaurant which served food as light and fresh as the decor, with professional staff and a warm owner who personally checks in with his guests?

Il Grano on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cause On The Rocks Event

I love to attend events for food or drinks in a beautiful venue where 100% of the proceeds go to a charity. Mark your calendars for Tuesday April 13, 2010 for the Cause On The Rocks Event at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. From 7- 10pm ALL the proceeds from the drinks will go to Meals on wheels to provide meals for home bound seniors. One drink purchase will buy one day of food for a senior, so you will literally be putting food on some one's table just by going out for a drink!

I want you to do a good thing for yourself as well as others, so please drink responsibly and take a friend along as a designated driver. Or take a few friends to drink with and take a taxi home after this event, making it a an evening out that ends in a good night for everyone.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tax Free Saturday

Since many people are busy doing their taxes right and (and figuring out how to pay what they owe), the merchants on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica are going to give you a tax break. Go shopping on April 10, 2010 (next Saturday) and they will pay for the sales tax. Since CA tax here is running about 10%, that's like like getting 10% off everything. The stores are located between 7th and 17th street, and the sale will be all day, so browse and shop at leisure.

Participating merchants include clothing stores like ABS, Lucy, Lucky Jeans, Harari, and Footsie, florists, stationary and home gift stores, even furniture dealers like Sofa U Love, and jewelry stores like Cabouchon. While 10% may not seem to be much, it adds up quickly and on big ticket items like jewelry and furniture, it can be enough to pay for a nice meal at a restaurant after your shopping spree (I recommend Cafe Montana).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Perfect Pairings

When you find that perfect combination of food and drink to complement each other, it is like finding a wonderful companion with whom you can have fun, relax, and share a great evening. It is even better when the food and drink combination is chosen by an experienced chef and ordering it generates funds for a charity.

Perfect Pairings Menu Campaign starts today and lasts all month. This is one very easy way to help others by enjoying an excellent restaurant meal with a drink (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic choices) while raising awareness and funds for Meals on Wheels programs.

Restaurants participating include A.O.C., Bazaar, Grace, Nobu, Josie, Michael's, RH at the Andaz, and XIV. All you have to do is choose one of the menu items with the fork and bottle symbol when you order, or ask your server how to participate in Perfect Pairings.

Beneficiaries will be St. Vincent's Meals on Wheels and Citymeals on Wheels, so when you enjoy your meal, you will be helping others get meals to enjoy as well.