Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Beverly Hills Breakfast Club: A Frugal Diner Splurges on a Morning Meal

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.)


The Food Librarian said...

I love it! I heard about this (unlike the wait staff apparently! :) and am glad you went! And I love the "Oscar" library - and I can attest that they have some awesome and helpful librarians to boot!

Desiree said...

This is a hoot! The funny thing is last week I had to shuttle my daughter to Beverly Hills at 9:am. Great! I thought to myself, I'll snag breakfast on the way back. I took Melrose. I'd forgotten the hipster crowd has breakfast at noon. Everything was shuttered. The FOLLOWING day I heard this special on the radio. So funny.

Cafe Observer said...

$25 - $33 "low pricing" for 1 person is still 2 xxxpensive for this animal.

Susan C said...

FL, The AMPAS librarian seemed genuinely disappointed when she asked if I needed research help and I told her that I was just writing.

Desiree, Ah, so no west side breakfast after all that shuttling? What a shame.

CO,And here I was complaining a couple weeks ago about my $15 breakfast at Auntie Em's.

Petrea Burchard said...

Good for you for being persistent. It sounds like the manager and wait staff had some class as well, serving you with style without attempting to shame you. Beverly Hills can be a lot of fun if everyone takes the right attitude about it!

Anonymous said...

You're my hero. (What are you doing with my family photos?)

Desiree said...

I ended up a Le Figaro on Vermont (not far from my daughter's school, but again never open early enough for us working class folk). The chocolate croissant, cappucino, and atmosphere were pitch perfect; I expected people to be smoking Gaulloises outside

Anonymous said...

Best online store for the Platform Beds India at You will find some of the best designs.

Anonymous said...

This is something you might enjoy next time you visit BH. Has nothing to do with food or plastic surgery. Visit the Fred and Marcia Weisman home. It's their art collection housed in a Kauffman home. Open by appointment (check out the tours link).

Trish said...

shades of our B&B breakfast last weekend! Except, we didn't have to haggle! yuuum-o!

Glad you went out and had a treat, sounds delicious!

From experience, BH is a lot of plastic and glitz and sometimes a tiring place to live (yes, for a while I lived there), but nice to look at and visit. Sorry, I'm a simple SoPas girl, really.

and what's AH talking about family photos?? I could post a few I just came across of my family...but I digress!

Margaret said...

Too funny. Did they ever charge you for the toast?

Piper Robert said...

Bonnie and I have fond memories of Beverly Hills. We got our marriage license there.

Good job on the "bargain" breakfast. I think the Scottish side of you really dominates at times. Do you tear your chewing gum into thirds, like Grandma used to do?

Baby Bird said...

You are such an incredible writer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tale. And I am SO upset that I couldn't be there. I love eggs benedict. Pope Benedict is another story.

Susan C said...

Petrea, Even though the staff members were uninformed, they were warm and welcoming.

AH, It took a while for me to figure out what you were talking about with the "family photos." Oh, no, those really are my kin folk. The Clampetts are from West Virginia, ya'know.

Desiree, I need to add Le Figaro to my list.

PA, What a fabulous tip. I'd love to go on the tour just to see the Kauffman house.

Trish, BH and that whole area is so dense and the drivers are so much more aggressive than "our side" of town.

Robert, I'd almost forgotten that you got your license in BH. That makes for a good story.

Bill, I wish you could have joined us. Next time.

Susan C said...

Oh, and Margaret, our toast was on the house.

Marcy said...

I LOVE that you pulled out your camera and took pictures anyway! tehe ;) Thank you for sharing!

Ronni Gordon said...

This is terrific! As usual, I wish I could have been there. Hey, by the way, send my regards to Bill.

Kerri said...

Sounds like a lovely meal. I wonder what the full retail value of that meal would have been? $50? More?

Marcy said...

Nite Susan, have a good day tomorrow! xo~

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