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Friday, October 16, 2009

Snow at First Sight Travel Contest

The Colorado Tourism Office has launched an interesting twist of a contest for those that have never seen the snow. These "snow virgins" can submit a video to explaining why they should win. Other viewers then vote for their favorites sending ten finalists to Colorado to audition for the grand prize.

The grand prize is an all-expenses-paid, three-month trip to Colorado for three lucky winners to indulge in all sorts of snow activities from skiing to dog sledding. And on their down time? They will be treated to relaxing spas and first-class restaurants. In return, all they have to do is describe their experiences on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

As a longtime snowboarder this one is not for me - but for the rest of you Californians that haven't made it to Big Bear - Enter!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

L.A. Restaurant Week: Date Night at Anisette Brassiere

Over the weekend, we had date night at Anisette Brassiere near the Santa Monica promenade - yet another L.A. Restaurant Week location. It too is a $$ restaurant, so dinner was around $34. The restaurant was so cute with old-fashioned lighting and romantic little booths to sit in. It was all very French.

Our waiter was a little dorky though and would leave us for hours at a time which was annoying. From the Restaurant Week menu I ordered the Petite Onion Soup Gratinée, Poulet Roti, and Profiteroles.

My memories a little fuzzy but I feel like the French Onion soup came out pretty quickly. It was really hot but also really delicious and went well with the great French bread they provided for the table.

It then took FOREVER to get my entree, the rotisserie chicken. I feel like it would tasted really good except that it seemed a little pink on the instead which freaked me out a little bit. When we asked the waiter he said that it seems pink because they brine the chicken to make it hold in the juices more. Hmm.... still sketchy. The boyfriends ordered the Boeuf Bourguignon, which tasted good but was probably a little on the rich side.

I was feeling kind of complacent about this place until the dessert came. As I've said before dessert can make or break a restaurant for me. In this case, Anisette got MAJOR brownie points. My profiteroles were filled with vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce drizzled on top. They were delectable. I also got a taste of my friend's Vacherin Glacé (lavender-flavored ice cream with strawberries) which had the most refreshing taste and smelled good.

Overall, the restaurant ambiance was enchanting even if the wait staff wasn't. My entree was "comme ci comme ca" but the appetizer and dessert more than made up for it. They were "tres delicieux!" Lastly, the Restaurant Week menu was cheaper than the normal one which also garners some points. Overall, I may be convinced to come back here if management were to light a fire on my waiter ass.

Come back tomorrow for a review of my next restaurant.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

L.A. Restaurant Week: Dinner at Drago

Last night, we tried out Drago in West Los Angeles. It's a $$ restaurant, so dinner was around $34. The restaurant was a little odd; the decor was kind of old-fashioned, but the music was Rihanna. Weird. The people-watching was priceless - bleached cougars with investment bankers - all over 45 years.

Our waiter was straight from Italy and extremely charming and attentive. From the Restaurant Week menu I ordered the Insalata di Spinaci Pere e Pecorino, Ossobuco D’Agnello, and Creme Brulee di Frutti della Passione.

The appetizers and my glass of Pinot Grigio came right away. My salad was baby spinach with pears and large, thin slices of Pecorino cheese. The dressing was light and the lettuce was realyl fresh. It was a great starter.

My entree was the lamb ossobuco with risotto Parmiggiana and cubes of butternut squash. Lamb ossobuco is essentially a bone shank with meat. The bone marrow is part of the appeal of the dish but doesn't really appeal to me. However, the succulent, soft lamb meat that literally fell of the bone did appeal to me. The meat paired perfectly with the risotto and the butternut squash.

I was feeling really really happy and really really full by the time dessert came. I picked the creme brulee because it was the lightest one on the menu. It looked beautiful when it came to the table but the hard caramel layer on top left a burnt taste in my mouth and the addition of passion fruit to the custard made it way too sweet. Dessert is practically the reason I do Restaurant Week so I was a little disappointed with this one.

My boyfriend didn't order from the Restaurant Week menu but you can at least see some of the options at Drago below.

Overall, the restaurant wasn't really my scene from an ambiance but the wait staff was yet again attentive and friendly. My entree was heavenly but the dessert left something to be desired. Lastly, one of the perks of Restaurant Week is to eat at restaurants that you wouldn't normally be able to afford. The RW menu at Drago pretty much equaled the regular prices for my meal. Lame.

Come back tomorrow for a review of my next restaurant.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

L.A. Restaurant Week: Lunch at Circa 55

So, this week is going to be spent telling tales of my L.A. Restaurant Week dining experiences.

To start off, here is my review of Circa 55, the restaurant in the Beverly Hilton off Santa Monica in Beverly Hills.

Circa 55
Beverly Hills
Lunch = $22

First off, the Dine LA website says nothing about Circa 55 being in the Beverly Hilton so it was a bitch to find the place. I ended up parking in the service parking lot by accident and weaving my way through the "non-hotel guest" areas of the hotel until I found the restaurant.

Upon entering the restaurant, I was immediately struck by how "old" it looked. It then dawned on me that "Circa 55" references the decor... as in "circa 1955." It was an "ohhhh" moment for sure. The host was extremely gracious and sat us immediately. There was hardly anyone there even though it was during "lunch rush hour" as I call it.

Unfortunately, though we were seated right away it took FOREVER to get our food. From the Restaurant Week menu I ordered the Grilled Caprese Salad, Goat Cheese Ravioli with roasted garlic, Shitake mushroom & endive, and Chocolate Raspberry Torte.

After 45 minutes, I received my salad which was really just two tomatoes still on the vine and a couple balls of mozzarella. Good but not incredible. It doesn't help that I'm a tomato/cheese salad snob.

The ravioli definitely left something to be desired. I hate mushrooms to start so I shoveled those off the plate. I love garlic yet there was maybe three small pieces. And lastly, the raviolis were rubbery and the goat cheese tasted stale. Overall not great.

Some of my earlier frustration was made up for with my dessert. The torte was square in shape with a few raspberries on top. It wasn't until I broke the crust that I discovered raspberries within the chocolate. It was soooo good. It tasted like gourmet raspberry Milano cookies.

The rest of the crew ordered other items on the menu so I've provided pictures for you to snoop.

Tomato Velouté

California Artichoke

Seared Rock Cod

American Wagyu Beef Burger

Mix Nut Tart

Tropical Pancotta

Overall, the restaurant was obviously outdated and the main food was forgettable but the wait staff was adorable and the dessert was delicious. I'm not sorry I went but I probably wouldn't hurry back. And extra bonus was that my car didn't get towed from the service lot.

Come back tomorrow for a review of my next restaurant.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Knott's Scary Farm - One of Those

October 1st begins my favorite month of the year culminating in my favorite event of the year, Halloween (after my birthday of course). And nothing starts the month off better than a trip to Knott's Scary Farm...

We left around 7:30pm on Sunday to head down to Buena Park from L.A. We chose to go on a Sunday because there would be less crowds then Friday or Saturday and no traffic. We also have a secret parking spot we park in for free that is just a block away from the park so we knew we wouldn't have to wait in the two hour line to get into the parking lot (Nice try I'm not telling you where it is).

After parking we wandered towards the entrance since we already had printed out our tickets. If you buy four tickets online in advance it's only $25 a ticket instead of the standard $53. The lines went pretty quickly so the four of us got right in.

We started off in Ghost Town because there are three mazes right next to each other including the newly redone "Lockdown," which has a high-security prison theme and "Club Blood," which as the name suggests is a bloody hospital experiment gone wrong. Club Blood featured a very visual section of the maze with mannequins wrapped in saran wrap with tubes up their noses being drained of fluid. So gross. So awesome. Club Blood also featured the disco room complete with bloody goon strippers. Man I love Halloween.

After these two masterpieces we walked back towards the main area of the park right past the line for the movie-inspired "Stepfather" maze. The line wasn't too horrible so we got in it. Usually the movie mazes are the best because they have the most money backing them from the studio. As we were waiting in line a tall blonde and her posse cut in front of us in line. Luckily, I boxed out her friends so she was alone in front of us. I of course had to make a snide comment which she just smiled at because in her mind she has already won. Right up until the point when we walked into the entrance and the guard told her to get in the back of the line. Karma. Is. A. Bitch. Suck it Blondie.

We walked into the first room of the maze only to be attacked by a falling table saw and three goons. After this the next door opened and we shuffled right out into... the main walkway outside. Yeah. That was it. I CAN'T BELIEVE I WAITED IN A LINE FOR TWENTY MINUTES FOR THAT! It was worse than finding out Santa doesn't exist! In a rage I walked along the line letting everyone know it was a huge waste of their time.

Discouraged we bought hotdogs and funnel cake and ventured towards the log ride (our mutual favorite at KSP). The log ride line was long but not unbearable. Just so you aren't confused if you go the log ride is renamed "Pyromaniax" during Halloween because they make the ride scary. While waiting in line we determined that we would all be making very serious faces when we went down the waterfall at the end.

We got on the ride and floated into the darkness. The ride is pretty fast which makes it exciting and it is really dark right in the places where the guys jump out at you. It's totally freaky awesome and I screamed my way all the way through. Here is the result of our "serious" faces...

Infected with a lust for fun rides we walked past the Boomerang, saw another reasonably short line, and decided to ride the rollercoaster. On the Boomerang, you are first lugged up a huge incline and then released causing maximum speed straight downward that then culminates in a sidewinder straight into a full 360 degree loop and then up another steep incline. They release you again and this time you take the loop and the sidewinder going backwards. It is really fast and definitely makes you lose your stomach. Unfortunately, because the ride is set up this way there is only one at a time unlike most rollercoasters which can have two cars going at the same time.

This meant that the "short" line took 1.5 hours to get through. We were MISERABLE. The only entertainment was two ghetto people getting a fight about who got which seat on the coaster. The guy was gigantic, bald and holding a stuffed Elmo. The lady was also huge with pink hair wearing a tiara. It was like watching two bears mate. Awesome. The best part was once they stopped fighting, rather than take her tiara off, the lady pulled out a scarf which she then used to anchor the tiara to her head. Buena Park - What a kick in the pants.

The ride itself was almost worth the wait. It was fast, it was high and I was literally shaking with adrenaline when I got off the ride. From there we headed back to the car because the park had closed at this point only to find that our friend's car had been towed. Poor girl parked in the Walgreen's parking lot. What a night!

Overall, my recommendation is this: Don't go on the rides unless they have something to do with Halloween because otherwise there isn't any point in going to Knott's Scary Farm you should just go to the regular version of the park. Also, find a secret spot.... because you can't have mine. Worth the $25 entry for sure but not worth the 1.5 hour line for Boomerang.