Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rooftop Ribs at the Peninsula

BBQ usually brings to mind a backyard or a beach setting, but in Beverly Hills' Peninsula Hotel, the roof is the quintessential backdrop for a casual summer meal, casual for Beverly Hills anyway. So if you don't want to do the grilling yourself, pay for the $55 menu available from 4 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. You start with a skewer of grilled duck sausage, charred pineapple, Bard Valley dates and heirloom watermelon, then on to entree choices that include spice rubbed pork ribs, chicken with apricot sauce, Alaskan halibut, or a T-bone steak. You can even get a whole Maine lobster for an additional $15. All the usual sides are kicked up a notch with twists like pepper and corn slaw, and of course dessert is included, even valet parking is included if you go for dinner.

This menu is offered until Labor Day, so go have BBQ on the roof all summer.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Drink Wine for Homeless Aid

Who would ever have thought that you could drink wine and by doing that you could benefit a homeless person in Los Angeles? The Rotary Club. The first City of Angels Wine Fest will be this Monday, May 31, 2010 at the Music Plaza downtown from noon until 5pm. The net proceeds from the tickets ($65 in advance online or $75 at the door, and only $5 entry fee for designated drivers) will go entirely to the Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles' downtown homeless service center which will serve up to 1,800 homeless men and women. The organization provides services to the elderly, veterans and families to help meet their basic needs and empower them to lead more productive lives.

Wineries like Au Bon Climat, Firestone, and Grgich Hills, will be participating along with about 27 others. Food will be offered by the Pinot restaurants, Kendall's Brasserie and Nick & Stef's Steakhouse, and there will be live entertainment, a silent auction and a “Living Mural” project.

This is a day and a way to both feel like an angel and be one at the same time, just make sure you designate a driver or take a cab home.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brooks Brothers Sale

With Memorial Day coming up, many people are heading out of town to play and take some time off, but before you go you might want to stop off at Brooks Brothers and pick up a few dress shirts.

Today and tomorrow only you can get two shirts for $99, and yes this includes the no-iron shirts that normally sell for $89.50 each. Since Father's Day is coming up soon and many new graduates will be needing a new wardrobe for work, you can pick up some gifts on sale for the men in your life at nearly 50% off too. You can save even more time by ordering online and if you buy at least $200 of merchandise, shipping is free.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Crystal Head / Up On The Roof

Although many celebrities live here in Los Angeles, it is not often that they appear in local venues with locals. If you would like to try Dan Akroyd's new Crystal Head Vodka (in a clear glass bottle shaped like a skull), go to the Wine House tomorrow between 5-7pm. Not only will you get a bottle signed by Dan Akroyd, but you can buy the bottle at $41.00 (you will save $3).

The Wine House is also the location for the celebration of libations Up On The Roof on June 13, 2010 from 5-10pm literally up on the roof of the store. If you don't want to go bar hopping to the hot spots finding the bartenders who are making original concoctions around town, then come to this event. There will be food to soak up the spirits, music and dancers, so if you want to taste brands like Macallan, St. Germain, and Sazerac, pay your $75 and enjoy a warm summer night up on the roof.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Paris Flight or Tahitian Cruise?

Now that flights are going in and out of Europe again, Air Tahiti Nui is having a sale to get people to travel to Paris again.

Springtime in Paris is nice, but if you can't make travel short notice or prefer to go in the Fall, you can use code FLYATN1 to save $100 for Economy class tickets or save $400 by using code FLYATN2 for Business class tickets. The codes are only valid for online bookings made through June 6 for travel between May 15th to July 15 or October 1 to November 15, 2010.

If you want to cruise the South Pacific, Paul Gauguin Cruises through the islands of Tahiti, then on to Rarotonga and Auckland. This cruise line was named one of the top three small luxury cruise ships by Conde Nast travelers in 2009, so getting this kind of quality for up to 45% off plus 2 for 1 airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete, makes this even more tempting. Just book by June 30, 2010.

Bon voyage no matter how or where you are going.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Maybe Il Moro

It is graduation season and my friend Shelly is getting her B.A. next week, so we got together for a celebratory lunch at Il Moro as soon as she finished her last exam. Il Moro is hidden in a business park behind the world famous Krav Maga training center, but once you step into the restaurant you are a world away from traffic, work, and intense defense training. Since it was a beautiful day we opted for an outdoor table by the small brook, which effectively drowns out any ambient noise with the soothing sound of water flowing. Once we chose our entrees, we were presented with a basket of assorted foccacia, crisp flatbread, and sliced Italian bread. The glass on the left contained a quality balsamic vinegar with slices of red and yellow pepper, fennel, radish, and an endive spear, it was a nice unusual twist to the usual plain olive oil offered with a bread basket. A bottle of extra virgin olive oil was also brought to the table so we could nibble and dunk as we wished from the selection.

We decided to split a vegetarian pizza ($12) once we saw one delivered to a nearby table, but it was actually more of a very thin flatbread topped with a light tomato sauce, mozzarella, eggplant and asparagus. Tasty and fresh, but not a pizza for those of us who have been to Italy or New York.

The special of the day was Seabass with tomato and olive on top of mixed vegetables ($18). The delicate fish was expertly cooked, the light sauce added a nice sweet and acidic touch for a perfect balance, and the vegetables were crisp.

The only fly in the otherwise perfect Chardonnay of Il Moro was the service which was friendly but inefficient. After we ate, we were left completely alone, unable to find or flag anyone to get our bill, but once we put our money down, the waiter appeared instantly to pick it up. We asked for some of the remaining slices of pizza to be wrapped up and although he said, "No problem", it apparently was because we waited for 15 minutes for his return. We finally went up to find him and ask him about our leftover package, and he replied again, "No problem". After waiting for yet another 15 minutes we decided to leave rather than spoil a nice meal with an exasperating wait for food we were to full to eat in one sitting.

Maybe Il Moro has good service, just not with our waiter.

Il Moro on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sex & The City 2 Party

Today's post is (mainly) for the women who read this blog and who are eagerly awaiting the opening of SEX AND THE CITY 2.

The Landmark Theatre is throwing a party for their Film Club Members (just click on the Landmark Link and join) May 26 at 8:00 pm followed with a screening of the movie at 9:00 pm. This means that you will get to see the movie BEFORE the official opening at midnight! Tickets are $32.50 for the movie and party which will include drinks like Cosmopolitans, pink bubbly, and appetizers. Like any party, go dressed up in your bling and heels because they will be giving away prizes for best dressed and most outrageously dressed. There is free parking in in the building, so you can wear your 5" heels to the movie and enjoy being in the company of others who are navigating the escalators in their stilettos too.

Go to this link to buy your tickets for Wednesday, May 26 and select the special secret title FILM CLUB MEMBER EVENT, or you can purchase your tickets in person at The Landmark box office. This is an adult party with adult beverages, so everyone attending must bring proof that you are over 21 (ID) with you to enter this event and to see the movie.

Cosmo anyone?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Little Next Door Encore

I went back to the Little Next Door today with Cindy and a camera that works, so today's post is a visual one with more (clearer) pictures to go with my previous post.

The daily special was grilled sardines on a fresh bed of spinach, roasted red peppers and a garlic vinaigrette ($18). This was the dish when it arrived.

This was the dish after I had my way with it. I would eat this every day if I could.

Cindy opted for breakfast with the spinach omelette with feta, red peppers, garlic, onions and black olives $13) with a potato gratin side and salad that she said was the best she had ever had (and she eats alot of spinach omelettes).

I took dessert to go, choosing pistachio, black cherry, and lavender* macaroons ($1.75 each) and two palmiers ($1.50 each). The macaroons are rich and delicately flavored and the palmiers were perfectly sweet and crunchy. Cindy took home a mixed fruit tart ($6) and a puff pastry filled with whipped cream, but because she was rushing to avoid rush hour traffic (how ironic) I did not have a chance to take pictures before she left. Oh well, I guess that means there will be a third trip back to the Little Next Door sometime soon.

*There is no picture of the lavender one because Cindy ate it in the car before I could take a picture of it.

Little Next Door on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dresses and Shoes Oh My!

It is Wedding, Graduation and Prom season, with some people still scrambling to find that perfect outfit. The best deal may be at your local designer consignment shop or on eBay, but if you haven't found something you like, you might find it at Pre-Owned Wedding Dress. Some of the gowns are definitely for brides, but many will work for a Prom or Graduation party. With some gowns selling for under $175, designer names like Vera Wang and Givenchy at under $600, and a renowned name like Pnina Tornai for $1450, these dresses are about 80% off retail prices; note that these are not rental costs, these are priced for sale!

When you save so much on a dress, you can splurge a bit on your shoes, right? Have you ever wanted a design just like the one you have seen at a store, but a slightly different color, material, or heel height would make it perfect? Shoes of Prey allows you to design your own shoe for $180-$330 a pair depending on the style and materials you use. They have several leather options from soft kid to patent to snakeskin (print), and heel heights from flat ballet style to 4.5" platforms. Don't worry about having to design from scratch, they have models you can modify or templates you can customize. If you need extra narrow or wide, this may be the best option for you since they will remake at no cost to you any pair that does not fit! It takes 6-8 weeks for delivery, so order them now in time for that event you will be attending in June. It will be fun to tell people who admire your shoes that YOU designed them!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just Soup No Attitude

Even people who have never watched Seinfeld have heard about the Soup Nazi. iI you haven't seen or heard of this before, here is a short clip from the famous episode based on the real life International Soup Kitchen in New York. The notoriety of the strict rules for ordering combined with the quality of the soup made the experience one of the quintessential New York tourist stops for both fans of the show and foodies.

Since the original restaurant and series do not exist anymore, the only way to get a taste of the soup now is to either go to one of the restaurants on the East Coast, or buy it at a grocery store on the East Coast. Now for all of us transplants who live too far away to drive to NY or NJ, we can order the soup online at the Original Soup Man (right now the online link is not working so send them an email to order). You can get your fix of Turkey Chili with Beans, Seafood Bisque, or the classic Chicken Vegetable, all without any attitude or rules to follow.

Hmmm, good food without attitude or rules....sounds like Californian food to me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Little Next Door

Ever since I walked by and saw the very cute French Provinçal patio, I have wanted to try The Little Next Door Cafe, which is literally next door to the Little Door, its bigger and fancier night time sister. The Cafe is also a bakery and shop, so you can stock up on colorful French macaroons or breakfast treats like croissants, or pick up a dessert of Baba au Rhum or a lemon tartelette.

Since the decor is straight out of a sleepy beach side cafe in the South of France and several of the staff are French speaking, it is fitting that the menu has French classics like Escargots, Quiche, Boeuf Bourguignon, and Croque Madame; for vegetarians they have roasted Quinoa, a trio of Roasted Beets, and Green Lentil Salad; for Southern Californians, Ahi Tuna Tartar with Hummus, Roasted Saffron Salmon, and hamburgers. there is something on the menu for everyone, whether you come for Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner.

I went for lunch, so I chose my standard Salade Nicoise* ($16) and was very pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of ingredients, including authentic Niçoise olives, balsamic sauteed onions, haricots verts, ripe tomatoes, boiled yellow potatoes, and my personal favorite touch, anchovies served on the boiled eggs. The tuna was cooked rare with a tasty tapenade, and even though the service was a bit slow (the waiter told me the tuna took longer to prepare than other dishes, but only after I asked why my order was not ready). When my order did arrive, it was beautiful and every item on my plate had a distinctly fresh flavor. It seemed some servers were more efficient than others, so it is a luck of the draw whether you will get good or mediocre service.

They have a happy hour from 4-6:30 with 30% off all wines and beers by the glass and all appetizers, so you can sit on the patio as the sun sets and get a taste of the South of France without having to go through airport security (but if you want to pretend you are traveling, you can take off your jacket and put your phone on the table).

*I am still working on getting my new camera to take good pics, so please bear with me, this was the first time I have actually been able to take any picture at all!

** See my new post with new pics on this restaurant here.

Little Next Door on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 14, 2010

Strawberry Time

This weekend there is a Strawberry Festival in Oxnard where all things strawberry will be celebrated and served from strawberry funnel cakes to strawberry wine, and for the adventurous there will be unusual combinations like strawberry pizza and nachos. There will be live entertainment, contests, and a build your own shortcake tent. Entries cost between $12-5 depending on your age and you can buy your tickets online or at the event when you arrive for the same price. An added bonus is that 100 percent of proceeds from non-profit food and concession booths benefit close to 20 charitable groups throughout the Southland. Since the Festival began in 1984, they have raised over $3 million for donations.

Farmer's Choice just opened yesterday next to Trader Joe's on Pico Blvd in Santa Monica and this store will be good competition for fresh produce at the well known chain. I recently bought some organic lemons for $2.99 at Trader Joe's which all started to rot where the organic stickers were placed; for exactly the same price I got twice as many lemons at Farmer's choice and they have no stickers (the bag is marked organic). Everything in the store had comparable or lower prices from the organic fruit to the conventionally grown greens. They even have a few prepared foods in containers like vegan soups and desserts, so you could make a meal from ingredients you find in the store. Right now they have a great sale on organic strawberries, one pound is only $1.49 and they are as delicious as they look, so have your own strawberry festival before, during or after your week-end jaunt to Oxnard.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Huckleberry Dinner

Since I am a night owl, I rarely see sunrise unless I am still awake from the previous night. Even though there are some places I would love to go to for breakfast, I never seem to get to them unless I have a flight to catch.

Luckily Huckleberry Cafe is open most days until 7 pm or I never would have tasted their fabulous pot roast, doughnut or prepared salads (see my previous post here). Beginning tonight at 6pm they will be hosting a family style dinner every Thursday night for $35 per adult and $17.50 for those under 12 years old. They don't take reservations, so get there as soon as you can for tonight's menu of pizza with Niman Ranch sausage, caramelized onions, and arugula, chicken Milanese, and a warm blueberry cornmeal cake with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert.

This may make Thursday the night everyone looks forward to instead of Friday.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Got Furniture?

If you need any furniture for any room in your home, head to the Cort* warehouse where they are having a Tent Sale which starts tomorrow May 13 and continues through the week-end, ending on Sunday the 16th. Do you need a King size mattress for $79, or a leather sofa and loveseat for your living room for $899? From small items like lamps at $9.99 to armoires for $49.99, everything will be under the tent, so if you want the best choices, go tomorrow before the week-end crowd starts packing the place.

*For those of you who may question the quality versus price of the pieces, I was very impressed by the completely Cort furnished homes of several lessors who all loved the ease of furniture delivery and removal combined with the quality of the materials.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Boingo Wherever You Go

So many of us are addicted to being online that when we either lose access or must pay some exorbitant fee to get access, we react as if we can't get our daily drug fix. One of my friends figured out she spent several hundred dollars a month in access fees in airports and hotels, so she bought a USB WiFi card. Unfortunately, she soon found that it only works intermittently with a weak signal in far too many places.

Since I will be traveling overseas, the USB card solution does not work for me, instead I am signing up for Boingo which allows me to access multiple strong connections worldwide for as little as $7.95 a month (for mobile phones) or $9.95 (for laptops) in the Americas. With over 125,000 hotspots, there is bound to be one nearby.

A subscription to Boingo allows you to use the airport or hotel connections you would probably end up paying for, but for a flat one time fee. One example is that you get access to the Marriott Wifi (and other international hotel chains) for the subscription, but instead of paying $20 a DAY for using it, you pay $9.95 a MONTH. And the monthly subscription allows you to use it in any of the hotspot locations they have in their system, including Starbucks cafes.

I checked and they have several locations even in tiny villages in France and in Athens, so their coverage will fit my needs perfectly for a great low price. You may cancel the subscription at any time, so there is no contract to tie you in at the low rate, unlike the USB WiFi cards. My friend is going to Boingo as soon as her contract expires and she will save $50 a month when she does; she is chalking up her expensive contract as the cost of learning a life lesson.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy at Hachi

I love finding a new restaurant which is better than the old one that was in the same location. Hachi took over the old Takanawa space on Wilshire with upgraded decor, new chefs and a new menu. The Executive sushi chef Masa Yamamoto has over 20 years of experience both in Japan and in Beverly Hills, Master sushi chef Nobu Shishido has worked at the New Otani in Tokyo and New York, and Master chef Yoshiyuki Tago has over 22 years of experience in Japanese fusion and sushi styles.

Pedigrees aside, the restaurant is a calm oasis with excellent food. They offer both sushi and robata grill, so whether you want one or both styles , you can get it here. I opted to stay with sushi since the restaurant tables were filled with mainly Japanese people I took it as a good omen that the sushi would be fresh and well made.

I started with the Oysters, which are flown in from the Northwest and served with a ponzu sauce, and lime wedge ($3 each). Both were excellent and even though topped with ponzu, they still tasted of the sea.

I segued to the sushi, the Spanish mackerel ($9.50), albacore ($6.20), and halibut ($6.20) and a blue crab special hand roll ($6). Every piece of fish was perfectly cut, expertly mounted onto the rice, and fresher than the fish offered at most sushi restaurants in Los Angeles.

I will definitely be back (with a camera next time) to try some of the other creations and perhaps test the robata grill choices. I may come back for one of their lunch special which include a 15 piece sashimi combination for less than $19, and ribeye and salmon bento box choices for less than $13. They also have a happy hour from 5-6:30 with oysters only $1 each and 50% off draft beer.

Finding a replacement that is better that the original is a rare but very happy event, and I am very happy that Hachi has moved into my neighborhood.

Hachi on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sunday Beacon

With so many people going out to eat on Mother's Day, it's nice to have a few choices. In addition to yesterday's post on a few places offering free food for (new) mothers, here's one more (almost free) choice for people who live near Culver City and enjoy Asian inspired dishes.

Beacon has a Sunday supper menu starting this week (yes just in time for Mother's Day) which offers three courses which include a choice of soup or grilled asparagus with prosciutto, ricotta, garlic toasts with basil pesto, mustard and herb crusted snapper served with creamy polenta with a shitake mushroom sauce, and a dessert. All this for only $20.10 and this deal will continue throughout the month, so you can go back and celebrate just the fact that it is Sunday next week.

Beacon on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Free Food For Your Mother

If you (or your mother) live close to downtown, you can go to Checkers for Mother's Day brunch between 10am and 5pm and it can be "your treat" because mothers eat for free (up to $30) when accompanied by a paying guest. Choices include Main Lobster Risotto, Seared Maine Diver Scallops with Moro blood orange, or more rustic fare like Open-Faced Fried Egg Sandwich on grilled sourdough with prosciutto, stewed tomatoes and arugula. There are of course the traditional pancakes and French toast options, but why not indulge?

Taking your Mother to the old Riot Hyatt on Sunset for dinner may seem counter intuitive unless of course she is a nostalgic rocker chick. The sleek Andaz reincarnation houses the very French RH restaurant and they are giving away a a free meal to all new mothers and new grandmothers when they come in with a paying guest. Every guest over 21 also gets a free Bellini, so if you are taking a new mom or grandmom out, you will get a treat for treating them to dinner. Dinner here is served family style, so you will share dishes just like at home, only you don't have to do the cooking or the dishes, and for $55 per adult or $20 per child that is a great deal on dishes like slow braised beef cheek, roasted veal chop, or seared halibut served with artichokes, roasted potatoes, or green beans.

Note that all the free meals do not include taxes, gratuities or alcohol, so please be generous with your servers who are working to make your day with your mother easier and more pleasant (which is a priceless gift, but giving them a nice tip would still be appreciated).

RH at Andaz West Hollywood on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Going to the Border Today

I have no idea what they are doing today in AZ, but those of us who live here in CA can enjoy going over to the Border today and enjoying great food and drinks without needing to carry our passports or birth certificates (although IDs for alcohol will be required).

Border Grill is having an all day Happy Hour today starting at 11am and going until 10pm; drinks including mojitos, sangria and reposado margaritas, and appetizers like green chile tamales, vegetarian enchiladas, chicken tinga empandas, beef brisket taquitos, chili poppers ranging from mild to habanero, and desserts like dulce de leche churros are all only $5. The tacos all served with freshly mashed guacamole, are only $3, and the selection includes carne asada, roasted lamb, grilled fish and carnitas tacos!

Please remember to designate a driver or hire a taxi if you are going out drinking, especially today when so many others will be drinking.

Border Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

72 Hour Palazzo Suite Sale

Some of the best deals require you to have enough flexibility and spontaneity to take advantage of them (like getting on a trapeze with a Cirque de Soleil artist), today's special is one of the ones you must act on within the next 72 hours (give or take a few hours depending on your time zone and when you are reading this post) if you want the deal.

You can book a suite online at either the Venetian or the Palazzo for only $109 a night using code EPLDTOX by May 7, 2010. The best part of the deal are the extras thrown in for being a Grazie member (free sign up here):
You must be over 21 to book this offer and if you call in your reservation you will be charged an additional $10 per night, but those are pretty much the only restrictions, so get away for a day or two and enjoy a sweet deal in a suite.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Good Basix

I am always happy to find a place that serves good food in a trendy neighborhood. Basix on Santa Monica Blvd is just down the street from all the action on Sunset and a few blocks east of West Hollywood's hotspots.

I walked around the area looking at restaurants looking for a casual atmosphere and a nice people watching terrace, finally settling on Basix because their menu looked the most promising. With a mix of omelettes, salads, sandwiches, mesquite grilled pizzas, pastas, and desserts, I could have a little of everything. Sorry my pictures didn't come out, but my new camera phone didn't want to take any photos in the low light.

I chose the the Apple Cobb, made with chopped radicchio & romaine lettuces, fresh roasted turkey, crisp apple, candied pecans, applewood bacon, sundried cranberries & crumbled bleu cheese in a creamy apple cider dressing ($7 or $10). I chose the smaller version so I could try more than one thing on the menu and was pleasantly surprised by the tasty chunks of freshly roasted turkey and the wonderfully crunchy sweet candied pecans in this salad. It was a lighter choice than a traditional Cobb because the apple slices replaced the heavier egg, and they had a light hand with the bleu cheese. This salad inspired me to make my own lighter version. The salad was so tasty that I didn't even add the apple cider dressing, which was slightly sweet, but not cloying.

I saved room for the Slider Combo, made with Certified Angus Beef® on house-made brioche, w/purple onion marmalade ($8). I was amazed that this small cafe made their own brioche. The sliders with the onion marmalade were very good, but the brioche was amazing! I could not stop eating the buns even though I usually avoid any burger buns and I could have easily eaten a basket of the tiny eggy tender morsels.

They have a Happy Hour from 4-7pm Monday through Friday that includes the appetizers like the Sliders, a pizzette, and martinis for only $5, so if you are in the area stuck in traffic, this is a wonderful place to take a break.

My break here ended with an espresso ($2) since I had no room for dessert. I had to be content to let my eyes feast on the huge slice of Red Velvet Cake served to a nearby table. Darn, I guess that means I will have to come back.

Basix Cafe on Urbanspoon