How I Spent my Summer Staycation

Staycations Rock

Staycations Rock


My husband Richard & I did something different this summer. We stayed home and loved it. Yup, we joined the staycation crowd. Never knew there was so much to do in our own backyard, as it were.  As travel writers we are usually in the air, on a ship, on the road or in a hotel–but not this summer. We are home, sweet home.  And the weather in Los Angeles has been more than accommodating. We are use our pool night and day and enjoy an adult beverage of two, like a zesty new drink called Limoncello

which I discovered. Man is it good. Also do some mighty fine tastings. Just had some friends over to open a  Jeroboam of Pine Ridge Chard which we’ve been saving for about 10 years–it was amazing. We also go hiking, biking, to the gym, and host house guests like our friends Bob and Jules Clampett from Seattle–actually they live on an island outside the Emerald City.  We are also using the time in town to sample new restaurants or return to favorites, go to the theater, and movies. We even treated the Clampetts to  Universal Studio on thespecial VIP tour–the only way to do the theme park. Yes, it’s pricey ($199 per person) but you get a personalized tour with just 12 or so other people in a private van and you get front of the line passes, and special entry to areas others are not allowed to go. They even throw in a great lunch, served on a rooftop and catered by Universal chefs, who actually show up for the affair. We did the new Simpson’s ride, it’s a thriller albeit simulated, based on the popular TV show of course. It’s a must do.

We also go to the Hotel Bel-Air restaurant. regularly for dinner, took Bob & Jules there, too. Going there is almost like heading out of town. It’s like a little tropical sanctuary with a peaceful pond inhabited by white swans, lots of lush foliage, a great staff and delicious food created by chef Bruno, one of our favorites. We book a booth on the Terrace and usually get the same spot.

Also tried some new restaurants like STK in West Hollywood, where the steaks are the best in the west–not kidding–served by gracious wait people in a stunning black and white setting. Loved it. Luckyfish, a fun Asian restaurant in Beverly Hills where food circles around on a track and you pick and choose as it passes your table. All good, too.

Returned to Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica after a long absence. It’s on the corner of Arizona and Third St. Promenade. They have a Monday-Friday antipasto buffet for only $12 that’s amazing. Took my niece for her birthday and we both did the spread. The imported (from Italy)dried beef stuffed with goat cheese was divine, as was the chickensalad, tomatoes, mushrooms, pastas etc.

Anyhow staycations are great. Let me know if you’ve done anything like this recently. Sure beats crowded airports and battling traffic.


Hotel Bel-Air offers Prix Fixe Menu for fuel-strapped diners

Okay, probably nobody who dines at the Hotel Bel-Air is strapped, however they are still attempting to help the economy with a $50 per person prix fixe menu Monday through Thursday that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert. Having just returned from a fab lunch on the Terrace (I had an outstanding Asian chicken salad, a couple of Chards, espresso and my favorite plate of cookies) with my good friend Vicky King (she had the Caesar salad with big, juicy shrimp). FYI: even the bread offerings here go outside the box, one can fill up fast however, so watch it, love the flat bread. The Hotel Bel-Air  is one  of my local favorites for special occasion sleep overs like anniversaries and birthdays, but I am also a regular at the restaurant. I love the  tropical, outdoor terrace when weather permits and the classic interior dining room on cool, rainy nights. I can honestly say the food’s sensational, and why not with super chef Bruno at the helm. The big, tall guy stopped by to say hello and I asked him about the new deal on meals. He said it was the right time to do this and I agree. So if you’re in LA or coming soon, be sure to plan a dinner at the Hotel Bel-Air, any night’s good, but if it’s Monday, Wednesday or Thursday you get three courses for nearly half-price.
Can’t beat that. Every night the hotel offers shared plate appetizers that is also a great deal.
Check it out at,  when you make your reservation be sure to tell them Patti Pietschmann, the Dining Diva, sent you. Bon appetit. Ciao.

They Call it Limoncello And it Tastes Great

The Dining Diva Discovers Limoncello 

July 20, 2008 by The Dining Diva

 The Dining Diva  just drank her first Limoncello–a zesty beverage with just the right kick. The one I sampled is called Ventura Limoncello –a traditional Italian/Amalfi Coast beverage hand made with  Ventura County lemon varietals by James Carling and Manuela Zaretti-Carling.  Available only in Southern California, Ventura Limoncello can be purchased at Bristol Farms and The Wine House.  Drink it as a cocktail or ice cold after dinner. Actually I did both, first had one outside by the pool, then another after dinner. Worked great both times. Get a bottle and see for yourself.


Intercontinental Hotels to Give Arizona a Run for its Spas

Friday, July 11, 2008

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Intercontinental Hotels Introduces New Spa/Resort to Phoenix

Wow! I haven’t been this excited about a new spa in a long time. This one’s opening in Paradise Valley, Arizona at the luxurious  new Intercontinental Montelucia Resort & Spa. Went to a press briefing recently and met the impossinbly charming managing director, Valeriano Antoniolli, a transplanted Italian from Milano. Valeriano’s enthusiasm for the new Moroccan-influenced property flowed through The Little Door (a wonderful Los Angeles restaurant where the function was held) as he spoke with a Roberto Bernini-like flair. Anyhow the 253-room resort looks good enough for any Arizona vacation, but the Joya  Spa might prove the real draw.  Designed by spa doyenne Sylvia Sepilli,  the facility spans 31,000 square feet and sits right at the foot of Camelback Mountain. 

Pamper possibilities are endless with Joya Spa Signature Massages, facials, etc. which begin with a relaxing Hammam-style therapy.There’s a  private rooftop pool overlooking Camelback where the plotzed and pampered can end the session. According to Valeriano the spa environment will be completely user-friendly, no rules, no restrictions. “If guests want tons of chocolates, so be it,” he mused, “Even champagne or drinks are available as well as a skinny dipping options.” Sounds dreamy. But we have to wait until September when the affible Valeriano opens the doors to his fantasty resort. Ciao.

Info:  480-627-3141;;   5641 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

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You’ll find amazing treasures from jewelry to hand crafted, personalized invitations, letterhead, cards, announcements and precious collections amassed by this special woman.  Let me know how you like it.