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Great Chefs of LA is holding it’s annual event with the theme, Go Green Go Organic on November 8th at the CBS studio Center in Studio City from noon- 3:3o pm to benefit The National Kidney Foundation. There will be live and silent auctions, food competitions and challenges, gift bags, a DJ, and the chefs of honor are Neal Fraser (Grace) and Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger (Border Grill). Many websites/bloggers are giving away free tickets, so check out the Great Chefs Facebook page to see where you can enter to get some freebies, but remember that by paying your own way ($150 minimum), you get to support the charity.

If you want a complete freebie, head over to Petrossian between noon and 5 pm. Maybe I should say the tastes of Champagne and food are free, but like all good dealers, they want you to taste so that you will buy. There will be free Champagne, appetizers and chocolate samples, all to entice you to buy caviar and foie gras, smoked salmon, olive oils, and French chocolates. Being a good food junkie, I know the bait will work, so I’ll bringing my purse….

It’s so fitting that I chose to celebrate my birthday at Bazaar (see my earlier post), and now the restaurant is celebrating it’s one year birthday the entire month of November with an incredible menu of six courses and four glasses of wine for $100 per person. The courses are comprised of all the ones made famous by Celebrity Chef Jose Andres, like the liquefied mozzarella caprese, the Philly cheese steak, and the foie gras cotton candy. You can watch him make some of his unique dishes on this clip from the Craig Ferguson show.

If you haven’t already been to this eclectic hip space, it may be time to explore the only restaurant to get tough food critic Irene Virbila’s four star review in recent Los Angeles Times history. Keep in mind that only part of the immense lobby is the restaurant so you can explore the shopping section, the dessert section, get a tarot card reading, or get something from the raw bar.

If it is a crime to have two birthday parties, then I’ll be happy to serve my sentence; all I ask is that I be allowed to finish my meal first.

Sometimes I need a quick getaway that does not require a flight. After the week of nonstop work I’ve had, the last thing I want to do is go through airport security and figure out which containers hold less than 3.4 fluid ounces of shampoo. So all that translates to driving far enough away to feel like I am out of town, but not so far that I need to spend so much time driving to my destination that I am exhausted just getting there in the first place.

The Miramonte Resort in Indian Wells is about a 2 hour drive and Perfect Escapes has a great bed and breakfast deal for only $159 a night. Aside from breakfast for two, you also get a confirmed 2pm late check-out, a $25 spa credit towards any 60 minute treatment at their spa, The Well, and a complimentary upgrade based on availability. This is a perfect peaceful retreat with fountains and mountains. Just ask for offer OID: 515 when you call them at (877) 589-7688.

The Ivy in San Diego at the Gaslamp District is also about 2 hours away by car, but a world away in atmosphere. If your mood is to be around shopping, restaurants, and nightlife, reserve the Gourmet Ivy package and get lively luxury for $189 a night for a two night minimum with code OID: 924. You also get a $50 daily credit for meals and drinks at the Quarter Kitchen, Envy Nightclub, or Ivy Rooftop bar (my fav). Other extras include a welcome glass of Champagne, 12 pm early check-in, 4pm late check-out, and complimentary upgrade based on availability.

Now the only question is do I want peace or to party?

So many of my friends have iPhones and Blackberrys that sometimes I feel as if I am the only one without one or the other. I haven’t leapt into the smartphone revolution partially because I haven’t decided which one I want yet; some applications are made only for one or the other and are so useful that they have become part of the reason to buy a particular brand.

The Red Laser app for iPhone makes your phone a bar code scanner for merchandise so that you can compare prices at the physical store with online prices. It works for everything from groceries to televisions, so next time you see a sale on cookies or a computer in a brick and mortar store, scan the bar code and the app will search all online retailers for prices on the exact same item. It takes comparison shopping to a new level and you literally hold the key in your hand. The laser reading app also allows you to scan items to add to a shopping list, or to see reviews on the product, or scan a DVD in a store and beam the title to you TiVo, so you don’t have to use it only to shop.

Some applications are great because they promote safety and are FREE, like the app for Blackberry. This converts text and email messages so that you can listen to them and respond without having to text back, even through Bluetooth! This helps eliminate the drivers who are constantly looking at their phones reading text messages and then trying to text back while driving (which is illegal in some states). They are working on a version that will work with the iPhone but for now it’s only available for Blackberry and Android phones.

If MACs and PCs can now translate (most) applications written on one or the other, phones should be able to do the same thing one day. Now if we could get an application that would make people understand each other as well as machines do…..

After three weeks of the Dine LA prix fixes menus, I have become accustomed to eating several courses of delicious dishes for moderate prices. Brasserie Pascal must have been reading my mind because they began a special October 23rd that they are offering all day, everyday!

For as little as $10, you get your choice of any 1/2 Croque (sandwich), soup du jour, green salad, and potato chips.

For $15 you have a choice of two courses, either an appetizer and entree or entree and dessert. The appetizers include a selection of homemade pates, their vegetarian non dairy soup du jour, or a green salad with mushrooms & tomatoes in a house basil dressing. The entrees include Filet Mignon with peppercorn sauce mashed potatoes and vegetables, Alaskan Halibut with Parmesan Risotto, fingerling potatoes and vegetables, or spinach or chicken crepes with chived buerre blanc, vegetables and fingerling potatoes. The desserts give you a choice of a mousse au chocolat, creme caramel, or apple crumble.

For the $20 “splurge” menu, you get a 6 oz Creekstone Farm filet mignon with half a Florida lobster, rice pilaf, and asparagus with a tarragon sauce.

Off on my hunt for another great deal; let’s see what I find tomorrow.

Bev Mo is known for having a 1 cent sale where you can get a second bottle of wine for only 1 cent after you purchase one at the regular price. Everyone I know who loves wine & spirits loves this store and apparently they have plenty of company because Bev Mo just opened their 100th store yesterday and they are celebrating today.

They are having a “Mega-Tasting” event from 11am-5pm at their new Rolling Hills store (located near Trader Joe‘s). Some of the people pouring include the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Glenfiddich Scotch, Perrier-Jouet, and Grand Marnier; check the schedule for the hours your favorite brands will be pouring.

Tickets for the tasting are only $15 and proceeds will benefit the South Bay Boys & Girls Club; you get 10 tasting tickets for your donation, a goody bag, and there will be free hors d’oeuvres. If you want something more substantial, the local fire department will be serving up Jim Beam BBQ.

Go stock up on your spirits for the upcoming holiday fetes now and enjoy helping out a local charity at the same time; I’ll see you there!

Rounding out my Dine LA meals this week is Tengu in Westwood Village. I’ve been to the Tengu in Santa Monica, but not this location and since it’s been a while since I’ve eaten at Tengu, I wanted to see if it was still as good as I remember. For the $22 Dine LA lunch menu you get three courses with four choices each ranging from sushi and stir fried vegetables to NY Strip steak; a great deal considering three courses at full price would normally run about $40 here.

For my first course I chose the red snapper carpaccio, served with okra, yuzu dressing, and shichimi togarashi, which came out in long strips with skin intact. I found it a bit unwielding to maneuver into my mouth until I realized I could roll the slices before picking them up with my chopsticks. (Sorry no pic, the one I took was out of focus.) The fish was fresh, the sauce was perfectly seasoned, and I could have easily eaten several of these appetizers as my main course.

For my main course I asked for the pan seared papaya NY Strip steak, with a ginger, papaya-jalapeno glaze and steamed rice. I specifically requested a VERY RARE steak and when it came out it was medium well. I showed the waiter and reminded him what I had said about doneness (cold in the center); he agreed my meat was overdone and promptly replaced it with one cooked as I had ordered. I must note that hardly any restaurant in the US ever cooks my steak as rare as I request (the one exception so far has been Pacific Dining Car), so when my replacement came out I was very happy to get my preference with only one send back. I know it’s hard to see the steak in the photo, but it was under the sauce, sliced, and a good sized perfectly seared NY Strip steak with a nicely balanced spicy papaya sauce that complimented the meat. Although the meat was sliced, it was a two bite slice and eating this with chopsticks might prove challenging for some people; I would recommend you order a knife and fork for this entree if you are not a chopstick expert.

For my finale the most interesting dessert seemed to be the Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, tempura-style angel food cake, crème de cassis whipped cream, and fresh berries.

The ingenious chef somehow wrapped the ball of ice cream in a layer of Angel food cake, dipped it in Tempura batter and fried it. The result was an interesting (not good, not bad) mix of cake, ice cream, crunchy batter, and cream. I’m not sure I would order this again, but it was definitely worth trying.

As Dine LA ends, I’m off to hunt for more good food with great prix fixe menus.

I met my friend Gloria for lunch in Anaheim because she is one of those unfortunates who is pretty much chained to her desk job in a Monday through Friday 9-5 Inferno. Her favorite lunch spot is Mandarin Taste in Anaheim, and even though I have met her there countless times, I got lost and ended up (literally) at the exit for Disneyland before realizing the newly repaved 5 Freeway has a hypnotic effect.

Mandarin Taste is well known in the area, with newspaper article reviews of the place (you know the paper stuff before blogs) framed on the wall of the entrance. As picky as I am about Chinese food, I would agree with the kudos for this Hunan-Szechuan style semi-formal restaurant. It is rare to see waiters in tuxedos at a Chinese restaurant, but you will see it here, along with trained service and a beautiful tropical fish aquarium on the wall by the booths.

We chose the crispy shrimp $13.99 which were lightly coated and fried before being tossed in a sweet sour sauce,

and the three flavor kung-pao $12.99 which had nicely spiced beef slices, juicy chicken, tender shrimp with peanuts, and scallions for our entrees.

Both entrees came with a very nice spicy hot and sour soup, white rice and a pot of black tea. All the choices here are typically basic American-Chinese food, but it is done well and in a very nice setting with a full bar (and yes, they serve drinkable wines here). Sometimes it’s better to be safely familiar than to be unpleasantly shocked, so if you are going to Disneyland (on purpose), Mandarin Taste is a great place to stop by for better Chinese food than you’ll find anywhere in the Magic Kingdom.

Since my trip to visit my friend in NYC was canceled, I’m looking for somewhere else to go before the end of this year. One of my friends suggest Northern California and some wine tasting now that the crowds are leaving. The nice thing about going after the prime Fall season is the vineyards should be practically empty and there will be no wait for tours or tastings. Of course the other benefit is the drop in rates at places like the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country which has a rate of only $89 a night through Travelzoo from October 25-February 28, and this rate includes week-ends but excludes Oct 30-Nov 7, 1009. The rate includes coupons for free tastings, free parking at the hotel, and access to the hotel’s fitness and business centers.

Another option is going South to the Fairmont in Newport Beach with a Perfect Escapes deals starting at $96 a night if you book by October 22, 2009. This rate includes early check in and late check out and is good for stays through April 15, 2010. With courtesy shuttle to Fashion Island and Balboa Island, this is a great spot for shopping and eating not far from home, but far enough to live like a tourist.

And finally C & H International is having a sale to the Far East with round trip flights from LAX to Hong Kong for $370, Bangkok for $343, or Singapore for $460. The only fine print is that these rates don’t include taxes or fees, minimum stay is 6 days and maximum is 90 days, and Fri-Sun departures are slightly higher ($30-40). Fares are nonrefundable once travel starts and other cities and destinations are available, so contact them if you want to meet a friend in Asia for a vacation who lives in Atlanta, Boston, or Dallas.

So I ask again, North, South, or East?




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