You know times are tough when the recession hits the 90210, home of swimming pools, movie stars and prostitutes who look like pretty women.
The Visitor's Bureau decided to give the Beverly Hills economy a shot in the mouth by throwing a breakfast sale in April. 25 participating restaurants are offering discounts on breakfast specials until the end of this month.
Even though I discovered a long time ago that the city is two parts myth, two parts movie magic and one part silicone, I couldn't resist the idea of having breakfast in Beverly Hills. I emailed a west-side friend last Sunday, "Would you like to join me in the morning for a decadent breakfast in Beverly Hills?" She bit.
My idea was to create a fantasy micro-mini vacation by dining al fresco at a posh hotel. I figured I couldn't afford the suite, but I could get a feel for the lifestyle of the rich and pampered by springing for breakfast.
When I walked out to the dining patio at the five-star, five-diamond Raffles L'Ermitage Hotel, my friend was already waiting for me, nursing a $10 cup of coffee. I perused the menu, but didn't see the advertised $25 special listed. The waiters kept pointing out the $27 continental breakfast special of coffee, juice and pastries, but I didn't drive 90 minutes for an overpriced cup of Joe and a sweet roll.
When it was clear that noone knew what I was talking about, our amiable waiter offered to fetch the manager, who was equally clueless about the offer. He went back to his office, did a Google search and found the special online:
JAAN Restaurant at Raffles L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Burton Way Breakfast: Eggs Benedict, potatoes, steamed spinach and special smoothie of the day, coffee or tea. $25 per person (excludes tax and gratuity)
Apparently, the staff didn't get the memo.
We both ordered the Burton Way Breakfast, and I asked the waiter to make sure that my friend wasn't charged separately for her $10 coffee. While we were waiting, our smiling waiter offered to get us toast. My friend and I shot nervous glances at one another. Would we be billed $15 for sliced bread? We passed.
A few minutes later, the waiter again offered toast or a bagel and cream cheese. This time, we accepted and munched our sourdough toast with butter and jam while we waited for the special.
The breakfast was perfect - beautifully presented and full of flavor. And, with the exception of the hollandise sauce, it was a hearty, healthy morning meal with at least five cancer-fighting foods (blueberries, spinach, tomatoes, asparagus and green tea).
The manager had informed me earlier that picture taking is forbidden in the hotel (apparently for the protection of high-profile guests). But, since no other guests were in the dining room, I pulled out my camera and took a couple shots of our power breakfast.
A beautiful balance of colors and flavors. Not pictured: the blueberry smoothie
A pot of ginger green tea washed the breakfast down.
After breakfast, we asked the manager if we could see one of the rooms. He showed us a spacious 675 square-foot retreat, the smallest size the hotel offers. I've read that Julia Roberts likes to stay at the L'Ermitage when she's in town and tried to picture her lounging on the platform bed.
I know the Visitor's Bureau would have loved it if I dropped a few retail dollars in their city, but instead, I took advantage of two of the city's many free offerings. After breakfast, I headed for the "Oscar Library," the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library for two blissful hours of writing. I would have stayed longer, but I wanted to keep within the city's generous offering of two-hour free parking.
I rewarded my writing with a trip to the Museum of Television and Radio, where (on the advice of my improv teacher) I checked out rare footage of Jackie Gleason in his non-Honeymooner roles.
It will be a while before I drop $25 on breakfast again (almost $33 with tax and tip), but, for at least one morning I felt like a pretty, pampered woman. I also felt like a practical, frugal one taking advantage of the stimulating free offerings in the city. And, that, I suspect, is the real magic of Beverly Hills; it can cater to both.
(You can still become a member of the Beverly Hills Breakfast Club. The specials will continue until April 30.)