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They call today Cyber Monday; the Internet Sale day for consumers who want to get deals just like the ones in stores last Friday. I saw this deal and could hardly believe my eyes; Southwest has a fare from NYC to San Francisco for $39 each way December 7-11, 2009 (and returns on December 11-14, 2009 are also $39). Fares do not include taxes or fees, but even with those charges, this is still a great deal! If you have any friends who live in New York and they want to come visit before the holidays, you can buy them tickets to sunny (warm) California and join them in San Francisco for a holiday.

Getting from Los Angeles to San Francisco is also on sale today because Alaska, Virgin America, United, and American Airlines are ALL posting fares of $39 each way (excluding all taxes and fees). Hurry and buy your tickets now while there are still seats left and while these fares are still good; like Cinderella, they will disappear at the stroke of midnight (if they don’t get sold out by then).

If you haven’t already gone to see the Cirque du Soleil show Kooza at the Santa Monica Pier, your procrastination may end up saving you 40% off weekday tier 1 & 2 tickets if you order online here. The show in Santa Monica runs through December 20, then moves on to Irvine January 8-31, with a 40% reduction there too for weekday tier 1 & 2 shows through this link. Unfortunately this discount does not apply to the Tapis Rouge Experience or tier 3 tickets, but if you want to see the show, this is a great price for great seats.

If you are one of the millions who ate too much at your Thanksgiving feast yesterday and now want to work it off, then head over to your nearest Gold’s Gym. They have their usual offer of a free 7 day trial membership, but if you go in this week-end, you can simply go and work out free without any further commitment. I wonder how much sweat it takes to burn off 5 lbs of Thanksgiving dinner?

Many people will be heading to the stores in malls this Friday for the biggest shopping day of the year, but as much as I love to shop, I also hate crowds. The best thing to do if you want great deals without the crowds is to shop locally in your neighborhood stores. So many of the great small shops have closed or are struggling these days, so if you want local shops, shop locally and enjoy a less crowded and more personal shopping experience.

Twist is having their first “Black Friday” sale, offering 25% off all things black, and $25 off all full size leather handbags if you simply mention the words “Black Friday Sale” before you pay for your purchases.

The Address Boutique is offering 50% off a second item of equal value or less, when you buy one. The sale starts Friday, goes on for three day, and includes everything except gift certificates, so load up on designer clothes, shoes, accessories and handbags.

If you want to shop for travel, go online to the Club Med website where they are having a sale from 6am-4pm EST (9am-1pm PST) on Friday with prices at three resorts for only $99 per adult and $60 per child, for an ALL inclusive vacation! When you keep in mind this includes meals and activities, this is truly a bargain. If you prefer to call, the call center 1-888-WEB CLUB will open at 9am EST (6am PST).

And finally if you want to save your money for something special, Friday is also the day when ING Direct will be having a savings sale, with special rates for one day only.

Spend or save? Maybe a little of both….

La Cachette Bistro has many qualities, the best of which is that they actually make real French food with fresh local and organic meats and vegetables. Of the fours dishes we tried, three were hits and only one was a miss, so the execution of the menu is definitely good, with some room for improvement.

Their location by the ocean with a secluded tranquil patio and an inviting indoor seating area, makes this a nice choice for either business or romantic affairs. Service was good when we were seated and ordered, but once our food was delivered to the table, we could not find a server or bus person to ask for our check; even with a change of shift, someone should always be within sight if there are customers still eating their meals.

The house salad was dressed in a lemony mustard vinaigrette that was very basic but also very good for a simple accompaniment to any entree.

The beet tower was a construction of both beauty and bountiful flavor made with roasted organic beets, avocados, feta, Heirloom tomatoes, and crispy goat cheese ravolini with cumin that were a surprisingly creative addition to this plate of perfection. It comes as either an appetizer (1 tower for $10) or entree (2 towers for $15).

The Cassoulet ($19) was full of the rich comforting flavors of duck confit, home made duck sausage, lamb shoulder, and pork shoulder. This is one of the better versions I have had in a restaurant, and it is perfect for a cold or overcast day (if there ever is one in Southern California) if you love French country soul food.


I could only finish half the Cassoulet, but I will be enjoying it tomorrow as I decide what my next meal will be at La Cachette Bistro (probably the organic beef tartare $14 appetizer or $18 entree). They have a lunch special prix fixe for only $15 that includes three courses with or without meat, and a happy hour from 5-7pm Monday through Fridays, so you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat good French food.

Bon Appetit!

If you don’t have any plans for November 28, 2009 (yes, that is THIS Saturday), you may want to take advantage of one of the great packages to see Stevie Wonder at the MGM in Las Vegas. If you only want to go for the show and stay one night, it’s only $199 for one night’s deluxe room accommodations and two $105 tickets to see the show. If you go for the show, and you want to stay 2 nights, the package with two $105 tickets, is only $299, and for two $105 tickets and 3 nights, the package is $399.

Sometimes it is great to get out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday and away from the insanity of family get togethers; what better way than to go to a Wonder filled show for spectacular prices.

I’m planning my first trip to Greece next year (actually I’ve planned a trip before but weather or time limits kept me from actually going) and since one of my visiting friends speaks some Greek and lived in Greece for several years, we decided to go to Ulysses Voyage in the Grove/Farmer’s Market for a taste of Greece.

My friend greeted the hostess in Greek and she answered in Greek; it is always a good sign when the people who work in an ethnic restaurant actually have some knowledge of the culture or language. We sat outside on a beautiful warm day, ordered appetizers to share, and since we were havng a Greek experience in Los Angeles, we ordered Ouzo and Retsina to drink. A bread basket of Kalamata olive and rosemary rolls arrived with our drinks and they proved to be a wonderful prelude of things to come.

We started with the Taramolasata, a whipped caviar dip similar to hummus that was creamy, savory, and addictive with the warm soft pita bread served on the side.

The Smelt Marides, fried whole smelt with lemon and salt. For anyone who has never tried smelt, they are like tasty fish fries (if you have a problem with eating the fish head, just hold the head and eat it down to your fingers).

And the Spanakopita, the famous Greek spinach and feta filled filo pastry, which was made in this case with onions and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was one of the best versions of this classic appetizer I have ever tasted.

Finally we all shared a Greek salad (we ate it so fast it was impossible to take a pic before it was gone) with red and yellow peppers, thinly sliced red onions, (pitted) Kalamata olives, diced cucumbers. and chunks of fresh firm feta. It was a festival of colors and freshness; a perfect finish to a perfect afternoon snack.

I can’t wait to have Greek food in Greece, but until I take my trip, I will come back to Ulyssses for a taste of Greece in Los Angeles.

In today’s Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace era of “meeting” people, many friends are virtual; you know people from their pictures or posting online, but you’ve never actually seen them in person. As in most things, this kind of friendship has both advantages and drawbacks; we get to interact with different people we may not have “met” otherwise, but we also miss out on the personal nuances of spending time with someone in person.

Safety is a big concern when meeting anyone in person, and now there is an online way to find out if the person you are meeting is who they say they are, and if it is worth spending any time with that person. Date Check is a service that allows you to use your mobile phone to see if your date has a criminal record; all you need is their name and telephone number (which you should have). They have various variations on what you can check for, from “sleaze” (felonies, sex offenses), to $$$ (property), and living situation (other people at the residence, mom & dad or perhaps a wife). The app works with both Blackberry and iPhone (as well as other types of smart phones), so download it if you are meeting someone new, and USE it if you are meeting someone in person for the first time (even if they are already a virtual “friend”.

What if you don’t have anyone you want to meet in person even though you have 200 followers on Twitter, and 100 friends on Facebook? Sign up for By/Association which is about introducing you to quality interesting people (this is NOT a dating site, although you might make that kind of connection through this). They just introduce you to ONE person you might want to meet IN PERSON each month based on your interests. To join you must fill in an application and if you are approved, they will charge you monthly for membership ($99 per year right now). If you apply and are accepted in 2009, your fees will be waived for the first month.

Their definition of a network is one in which the connections last and are bound together by more than simply business or superficial liens; think of this as your personal matchmaker for friendships. Their manifesto says that a new definition of wealth “should be based on creativity, innovation, and social benefit”. Amen.

I lived in Los Angeles for decades before someone who worked and lived in Malibu showed me Paradise Cove Beach Cafe; I would never have found it or even explored it if it hadn’t been a local. Many people all over the world have seen the beach and pier on numerous television shows and movies; it is the go to location for beach shots because it is secluded and a beautiful natural background. My friends from France said this was truly Heaven; a California beach as they had always imagined it would be from the films. Entry to the parking lot is $25 for the day (or any portion thereof), but it’s only $3 for 3 hours if you order at least $20 at the cafe and get your ticket validated. Prices at the cafe are so reasonable that you may have to order two appetizers or two entrees to reach the $20 threshold.

In 1996 one of the the original family family members who owned the land in the 1950’s bought it back in 1996 and now Bob Morris is raising his family the way he was raised. Apparently he was raised with a fun atmosphere, fresh seafood, and very copious portions. Old photographs show how the place has changed and grown from a dirt road path to the beach to a paved road with a light! It would be a punishment if the portion sizes he serves were what his parents told him to eat before going to bed; two of my friends and I shared three appetizers and we ended up eating the leftovers for a second meal.

We had the shrimp cocktail with a mix of big and small shrimp on top of a bed of shredded iceberg.

The fried calamari on top of a bed of french fries in a HUGE glass.

And their famous BBQ Shrimp Quesadilla.


The plates were so big that at a booth for four, the three of us had trouble managing to put all the appetizers in the center of the table! Big is not always good, but the seafood was fresh in all three versions of appetizers, and there was enough flavor that we wanted to eat it all without needing the cocktail or tarter sauces served on the side.

There is usually at least an hour wait for an outdoor table, but even the indoor spots have a nice view in several directions, thanks to the big picture windows. If you don’t want to eat inside and don’t want to wait for hours, pick up some food to go and take it to the outdoor seating areas that are adjacent to the restaurant where there are no servers, but where you can have a picnic at the beach with restaurant food. The daybeds are great for friends and or families to hang out, but bring your own towels to drape over them to keep you clothes from the bird or food debris that may be on them.

So come by for lunch, hang out at the beach and maybe you can picture what life was like about 50 years ago…or maybe you’re one of the lucky locals who remembers!


While playing tourist guide through San Diego, one of my visiting foreign friends wanted to try an “American” pizza (as opposed to an Italian one, which she has already had in Italy). Sammy’s Wood Fired Pizza is in the heart of the famous Gaslamp district, so it was an easy lunch stop before we headed over to Old Town.

After we looked over the menu, no one wanted pizza; we opted for a salad, rolled tacos, and Ahi sliders instead. It is surprising how easily swayed from our original choice we can all be when it comes to food. It was also surprising how good the non-pizza food was at a place named as a pizza restaurant. Sammy’s was in the top five places named by Zagat eaters in San Diego, so the locals already know what we were about to found out; Sammy’s has something to please every kind of palate.

We chose the grilled shrimp salad with mixed greens, bell peppers, feta, roasted sunflower seeds, scallions, cilantro, grilled garlic shrimp, and a Balsamic basil dressing (which is made fresh daily); the rolled steak tacos with marinated steak, guacamole, pepper jack, scallions, cilantro, and served with salsa; and the Ahi sliders with ginger miso sauce and cucumbers. The service was very professional, but misunderstood the salad order, bringing out a grilled chicken balsamic salad (pictured) instead of the grilled shrimp salad we ordered. Our server apologized profusely for her mistake, but it did not bother us since we were sharing plates. The kitchen immediately made us the correct order and the manager offered us the Balsamic chicken salad gratis.

When the shrimp salad finally came, it was thoroughly enjoyed by my friend who said she loved the slightly sweet dressing and the slightly spicy shrimp. My other friend loved everything about her rolled steak tacos, from the salsa to the coleslaw that came with them; she said the steak was juicy, tender and perfectly balanced with the other ingredients in the tacos. My Ahi sliders came on delightfully soft slightly sweet rolls (think Hawaiian bread), with a slice of cucumber and the dressing. Although I found the sliders themselves tasty, they could have been hotter (they arrived barely warm); the fries on my order were also barely warm, so I suspect they may have made my order first as the kitchen waited for the other orders at my table to be completed.

We were all full from our meals and tried to have them take the mistaken salad order back, but they said it would be thrown out if we didn’t take it, so we bagged it to go. We ended up giving it away to some hungry people at Horton Plaza; some people in the park ate a very nice lunch that day.

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