Posted in Events, San Francisco

The Most Wonderful Sale of the Year…

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It’s the sale I wait for ALL YEAR LONG…  People ask how I can afford a premier designer bag.  This once-a-year sale is the single reason I can…

It’s the Saks Fifth Avenue After Christmas Sale!

From the moment they open on December 26th in the morning until 12 noon ONLY, they’ll take an additional 50% off ALL already sale merchandise for a total of up to 70% off!!!  One year, I got a Hogan leather handbag for only $250 (original price was around $1000), and a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes for around $75 (original price was around $300), and my husband got a Hugo Boss suit for $250!  You can’t afford not to go!

But this sale is for the serious designer shopper, so you’ll need some inside tips:

1.) The sale is advertised to start at 8am, but it DOESN’T!  IT STARTS AT 7AM!!!  (San Francisco and Phoenix stores only.  All others nationwide do open at 8.)  You can thank me later 🙂 .

2.) You cannot arrive to this sale any later than 6:30am.  Why?  There’s a line that starts to form outside the store.  Trust me, it is THAT worth it.  And if you arrive after 7:30am, you might as well stay home.  Seriously.  All the good handbags and shoes will totally be gone.

3.) Once the doors open, it will be a madhouse.  You’ll want to hit the handbags first, shoes second.  That said, go to the handbags and pick up the bags that are already on sale.  These are the ones that will be marked down an additional 50% off.  Sometimes, there’s only one of each bag (the Guccis and Pradas, especially), so don’t waste time lingering.

4.) At the SF location, we forget that they’ve moved some of the designer bag labels (Juicy, Kate Spade, Marc by Marc Jacobs) upstairs to the Contemporary department.  If you love handbags as much as I do, you may want to head there before everyone else does to avoid the crowds.  You may be able to score a Kate Spade for 100 bucks or less!  Again, you can thank me later.

5.) The shoe salon will be just as chaotic, if not more.  Pick out all your shoes, and I mean ALL of them, and then go get the salesman to help you.  Again, plan wisely.

6.) Last, head upstairs to apparel.  At the top floor is the newly remodeled Contemporary Women’s department.  You’ll find labels like Nanette Lapore, Marc Jacobs, Vince, Rebecca Taylor, Theory and all the others.  Selection will be vast and a lot of it will be 70% off.

7.) The best advice my Mom ever gave me when it comes to serious sales: “Buy first, think later.”  At Saks, you can return your sale merchandise, with receipt, within 30 days.  If you like it even remotely, buy it.  You can return it later.  Because if you linger too long, it’ll be gone…

This sale will take stamina and patience, and only the most serious of shoppers will survive. 

I know you’re laughing, but I’m serious! 

This is not for the faint of heart, so wear comfortable shoes, don’t wear a big coat (it’ll get hot in there with all the people), and eat a good breakfast.  But you’ll be rewarded with some fantastic finds.

I know this is probably the most shallow entry I’ve ever written, but I don’t care.  A serious sale is seriously fun.

Oh, and you’re welcome. 🙂

Posted in Food, San Francisco, Shopping

The Bay Area’s most overrated spots

A new year is almost upon us, so let’s talk about some of the most overhyped and over-recommended places that have disappointed me in the last year.  And to start the new year off right, I’ll recommend some places you should visit instead, right alongside them. 

First, some restaurants…

OVERRATED: Slanted Door (S.F.)  / INSTEAD: Bong Su (S.F.) or Tamarine (Palo Alto)

I enjoy Vietnamese food so much, but I just can’t justify a one month wait for a reservation to a place that is all style over substance.  You pay for the view and the rising chef that’s making the food.  It’s tasty, but you can get the same or similar dishes at a hole in the wall down the street for a quarter of the price.  Bong Su, or its sister restaurant Tamarine, are so much more innovative in their ingredients, preparation, and flavors.

OVERRATED: Limon (S.F.) / INSTEAD: Scott Howard (S.F.)

I know, Limon serves Latin cuisine and Scott Howard contemporary American.  Totally different foods.  But Scott Howard is the best restaurant in San Francisco that not enough people are eating at.  And Limon is definitely one of the most overhyped (right behind Slanted Door).

OVERRATED: Salt House (S.F.) / INSTEAD: Town Hall (S.F.)

Salt House does have a great vibe and fabulous atmosphere.  But the food is not up to snuff, plain and simple.  Ironically, its sister restaurant, Town Hall, has fabulous food and also a happening scene.  Go there instead.

OVERRATED: The Counter (Palo Alto) / INSTEAD: Jeffrey’s Hamburgers (San Mateo), Taylors Refresher (S.F. and St. Helena), In-n-Out Burger

Why on earth would I return to a restaurant that has some of the worst service I’ve ever experienced in my life?  Easy, I don’t.  The mediocre food could never possibly warrant such poor service from the waitstaff, and the management obviously doesn’t care.  And worst of all, the food isn’t very good!  If you’re in the area and are jonesing for a burger, go to Jeffrey’s instead.  They’re friendly, clean, and no frills.  Oh yeah, and the burger is pretty damn tasty.  And if you’re further north, both Taylor’s Referesher outposts are good, too.  Hell, In-n-Out has a better burger and service than The Counter ever will.

And now, some shopping…

OVERRATED: Daiso (Daly City) / INSTEAD: Ichiban Kan (S.F. and San Mateo)

Daiso is Japan’s largest discount retailer.  Ichiban is a chain of two Japanese “dollar stores” in the Bay Area.  How do they compare?  In the words of my husband, Ichiban may be smaller, but their merchandise is much better.  You get Japanese name brands that you can trust in food and healthcare products, like Kanebo, Calbee, Meiji, and others.  Daiso may be as big as a Target store, but it’s void of anything worth buying.  It’s a huge waste of time.

OVERRATED: Gilroy Premium Outlets / INSTEAD: Great Mall (Milpitas) 

This one used to be the other way around.  But with the addition of Neiman Marcus Last Call and its competitor, Off 5th, Great Mall now wins this challenge.  Now all they need is a Barneys New York outlet and it’ll be perfect.

If you have any thoughts on what’s overrated in the Bay Area, let me know.  Until then, Happy New Year!

Posted in San Francisco

Living the Lush Life

lush.jpg Courtesy of www.lushlifenailbar.com

My pal Kous and I were in the mood for a little R&R and I needed to get the tootsies done for the two holiday parties I was going to over the weekend.

We had no reservations anywhere and wanted to go someplace other than the tiny sterile place down the street with the mean ladies who talk about you in foreign languages as they work on your toes.  Our first choice was the Polished Lounge (which still remains my fave spot no matter where I go), but they’re always so booked, so a walk in was out of the question.

A call to pal Jen steered us to Lush Life Nail Bar on Fillmore between Union and Lombard.

The place is very retro and clean, like something out of the W Hotel with a South Beach vibe.  There was lots of white, some pink and some neon, and a flat screen HD television with one of the Charlie’s Angels movies playing.  Semi relaxing, but much more of a “seen and be seen” scene.  The clientele was hip, with some Marina soccer moms thrown in. 

We were without a reservation, but only had to wait 15 minutes until they could take us for our basic pedis.  The service was alright by our manicurists, but the front desk could’ve been a bit more personable.  They seemed disinterested and were just waiting for quitting time.   The bathroom and back room could’ve also been a bit cleaner.

They did a very good job on our pedis and never once rushed us out of the place.  They let us chat, linger, and just chill out in our white chairs.  But it was nothing…special.  More attention to the details (a scented footbath, slightly longer massage) and a little more service (we didn’t even get offered any beverage, though they had some water sitting in an area) would’ve made this experience one to remember.  The lack of details and extra service makes it a good standby if you’re in the area, but nothing to write home about.

And for $26 for a basic pedi (standard for these kinds of spots), I would’ve liked to see just a little bit more if they wanted me to return.

Lush Life Nail Bar – 3108 Fillmore – SF – 415.776.LUSH

Posted in Food

Japanese Bar Food

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Flickr photo by “kewlio” 

I recently read an article about “izakayas” in the S.F. Chronicle.  They’re Japanese restaurants that serve their version of bar food, which means tasty little appetizer sized dishes much in the style of tapas.  I was intrigued.  Very intrigued. 

My hubby and I love Japanese food, so it was an easy decision to give it a try.  We chose Izakaya Mai in San Mateo.

We’d heard about the long wait during peak times (much like at Hotaru around the block), so we got there at 8:30.  (That’s considered late in the ‘burbs.)  They’re open until about 11:30 on most nights, so we were safe.

The menu is so extensive it’s absolutely overwhelming.  Good thing I did a little research before heading over, otherwise we wouldn’t have known what to order!

We started with the Cherry Blossom Roll, which were eight salmon and avocado rolls wrapped in fresh thick pieces of tuna (maguro), and then topped with tobiko.  Some sushi can lack any distinct flavor (poor quality) or taste overly fishy (signaling that it isn’t fresh).  But this fish was extremely fresh with bright, deep flavor.  Delicious, albeit a bit overpriced at $14.95.

The Miso Eggplant was my husband’s favorite dish of the night.  It was a large thick slice of eggplant grilled and topped with miso glaze.  A little oily, but totally worth ordering again and again.  The skin of the eggplant was left on so it provided a crisp texture contrast to the soft flavorful flesh.

We also ordered the Miso Pork Don and the Unatama Don (eel and egg).  Both were absolutely out of this world.  The pork was not breaded and had a slightly sweet, slightly salty flavor that had real depth.  We’d never had pork prepared with miso this way.

And the unagi (eel) was soft, tender, and delicious.  Along with the slightly sweet soy sauce flavoring the rice, sweet onion slivers and softly cooked egg, it was perfect fare for a chilly night.

The atmosphere here is a little wacky with all the toys (planes, trains, and pirate ships, literally) and tons of pictures with overly cute Japanese captions all over the wall.  It’s a bit frantic, and if you come during peak times, so is the service and the crowd.  But since we got there after the rush, the place was leisurely and extremely pleasant.

I can’t wait to go back and order a completely different meal.  Hopefully all will be just as tasty.

Izakaya Mai – 212 Second Ave., San Mateo – 650-347-2511

Izakaya Mai Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon