With the holidays in full swing San Diego offers many varied choices to celebrate the New Year. Many hotels offer rooms so you can ring in 2010 and not worry about a DUI.  Check with your favorite places for their holiday events and here are a few more to consider:

**Downtown, the restaurant Suite & Tender at the Se San Diego Hotel offer a New Year’s package of dining, drinking, and dancing.  The Night in Tokyo includes a four-course, wine-pairing menu complete with a Champagne toast. Then choose to dance to a lives band in the ballroom or pulse the night away with DJ’s music at the Siren pool deck. Spend the night at the hotel that offers six different packages, some featuring a Hangover Spa service for two, complimentary breakfast, and overnight valet services, each with tickets to either the pool deck or the ballroom. For reservations and information, call 619.515.3000.

**In La Jolla, Nine-Ten’s Jason Knibb and dessert wiz, Jack Fisher cook up special three-and five-course prix-fixe dinners ($55 to $75 without wine pairing) on New Year’s Eve. In keeping with their ongoing commitment to creating innovative cuisine using only the freshest local ingredients, the chefs’ New Year’s Eve Dinner menus will feature the bounty of the season and the best of the harvest. Click here to see the complete New Year’s Eve dinner menu.  For information and reservations: 858.964.5400 or online.

**The Winesellar & Brasserie in Sorrento Valley features a $75 three course menu with lovely choices that include among others vanilla poached lobster salad, smoked goat cheese tortellini, skate wing and rack of lamb. Seatings from 5:00 – 10:00 pm.   For reservations please call 858-450-9557.

**If you’d rather get out of the city and try your luck at the slots, take a short drive to Lakeside and make it a mini vacation at Barona Resort & Casino.  The Ranch House will serve an all-you-can-eat New Year’s feast priced at $29.95 per person. The special buffet menu will be offered from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Check their website for their other restaurant offerings.

**North Park’s Splash features their second annual wine/finger food pairing for $45.  If you’re partying at home they can help you with your wine selections.

**Rainwater’s on Kettner a San Diego steak and seafood institution for 20 plus years will close New Year’s eve.  It’s all about the over-crowded market that is the Gaslamp, and the desire to reopen closer to their clientele, many of whom live in La Jolla. Buzz will keep you posted when they find their new location.

**Euro Food Depot is new and primarily an e-commerce business specializing in hard to find foods from France and Europe.  During the holidays, they are open to the public Saturday, December 12th and 19th (9:30am to 3pm) and Wednesday, 23rd and 30th (3:30pm to 6:30pm). They are committed to selling rare imported foods at competitive prices (after all, they are a depot…) and can special order products as well.  Expect to find (as I did) sherry vinegar, a variety of French mustards, olives oil and cornichons, boudin noir and boudin blanc and other sausages, pates, prosciutto and a growing selection of cheese from France. After the first of the year they will sell online. 6370 Lusk Blvd., #F102, 858-452-9200.

**In  La Jolla, those who love to cook their own steak while smoozing at the grill with friends, can now do it at the latest Cohn restaurant, La Jolla Strip Club, in the old Trophy’s location in UTC.  With nearly 100 vodkas, all of which are $7, and a fun big bar, as well as a couple of pool tables on the patio, this venue speaks to the 21 to 45 year-old demographic. 4282 Esplanade Ct., in the Costa Verde Shopping Center. 858-450-1400.  Open for lunch weekdays, dinner daily.

**San Diego is a tough place to find good take out food that doesn’t come from a large supermarket.  The tiny PrepKitchen is worth noting and does some very good food for takeout or casual patio dining.  This is Whisknladle’s second location and both places feature seasonal, local and artisanal dishes. Buzz recently bought  a pine nut and raisin spiked eggplant caponata with the vegetables finely diced and not overcooked, a gently truffled chicken salad with raisins and a faro salad with grapes and walnuts and a drop dead chocolate brownie topped with  salted caramel…an intense and very good dessert.  PrepKitchen also features sandwiches, green salads, soups and entrees such as PK meat loaf with beef, Fontina cheese mushrooms and fresh herbs ($13.50), roasted fresh catch ($17.95) and hand made pasta at market price, among others. While the salads or snacks as they are called are all quite good, my only minor note would be the overuse of raisins, nuts and grapes in each. They carry Framani cured meats (though they also make their own that you’ll find at Whisknladle) and a few artisanal cheeses—a cheddar from Fresno and a lovely French sheeps milk.  Their cheeses are $5 per quarter pound; those  snacks are all $5 for 8 ounces, enough to serve two and the entrees all come with a side of vegetables or starch. 7556 Fay Ave, across from Vons, 858-875-7737. Open from 11am to 9pm.

Do something nice for others this holiday season.  Get down to Little Italy’s Mercato on December 12 with food for chronically hungry kids who don’t have food for the weekend.  Well-known local food bloggers Caron Golden and Alice Robertson are spearheading this year’s drive that is part of the San Diego Food Bank.  Essentially, for about $6 a week, the program fills backpacks with kid friendly snacks so the children have food for the weekend.  All the program info is here and if you’d like to donate money, Caron and Alice have a special link so that all donations go directly to the backpack program.  Their monetary goal is $5000 and they are half way there, but foods  such as peanut butter, mac and cheese and raisins as well as neutral colored backpacks are welcome on December 12.

Quick takes:   The latest issue of  San Diego’s Dining Out magazine is on the stands now.  It’s a good mag to have around with up to the minute info on our local eateries…and interviews too with chefs.

The Linkery will take over the recently closed Aperitivo space just down the street from their current location on 30th near University. Look for a Summer 2010 open with a California-Spanish-Baja small plate affordable concept.  More to be fleshed out in the coming months.

Join the all-you-can-eat Chefs Celebration finale for this year’s Beer Week.  Sixteen chefs and eight breweries are paired for fun and food from 1 pm to 4pm at the Irwin Jacobs Hall on the Qualcom Campus and all for $65.

We’re hearing Phil’s BBQ could open a North County joint in the up coming months.  The exact location not secure, but perhaps in the San Marcos vicinity.

It is that time of the year…holiday madness begins with Thanksgiving.  Here are a few ideas for the day that include places that will happily feed you and the family.  Also included are places to get turkeys, should you decide to cook at home.

If you’re interested in a Heritage turkey (it looks and tastes a bit different than our usual big breasted beauties), check out and try one from Heritage Foods.  They have other meats and food items that would satisfy any home cook.  Buzz regularly orders turkey from them and Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch.

Not interested in messing up the kitchen?  Then, take the family out to eat at one of the myriad of choices San Diego offers…here are just a few:

Arterra will offer a plated three-course dinner for $39 while Red Marlin (with a gorgeous bay view) let you choose from a buffet for $42.   Truluck’s,  Paon and many others will serve dinners also.

For something healthy and the diet restricted, check out Healthy Creations in Encinitas.  They offer meals to go as well as a gluten-free baking class on November 19. Haven’t had a chance to take a look, but sounds very good.

UPDATE:  Here is the second installment from The Times with more hints for a restaurant.  Note that the blogger is opening a restaurant.  Buzz believes there are numerous positive tips for all involved in the restaurant arena–servers, management, and even customers.

So San Diego’s diners, how well do our restaurants hold up to the blogger’s thoughts?  And perhaps San Diego’s restaurateurs might create their own list for customers!   Consider also, that the first installment topped the most e-mailed list for days at the paper which would make one wonder if they care more about food on the east coast than we do in “Sand” City as a commenter noted below.  Chime in here, you all can’t be out surfing!

Just read a terrific little piece in The New York Times about what restaurants should and shouldn’t do. It’s a list that ought to resonate with diners as well as management and servers in San Diego–a town that wants the food savvy world to take note of their up and coming chefs.  But even good chefs can’t help a restaurant if the management doesn’t understand why most diners want to experience a meal with well-trained servers in a pleasant, congenial atmosphere be it a hole- in- the- wall or fine dining establishment.

As Buzz noted many times, good service isn’t about a server telling me his or her name (you aren’t going to be my new BFF).  Nor is it proper for servers to clear a table, when, as happened to me while eating with three friends, all that was left on the table was my unfinished plate (even the glasses disappeared).  After that who would want to finish a perfectly good pasta dish? And, yes, I mentioned it to the owner who knows better.

When it comes to service, San Diego’s pervasive “mañana”- “let’s go surfing” attitude could be one reason Frank Bruni (former restaurant critic of The Times) commented, during a recent appearance here, that San Diego isn’t known as a food town.

So what do you think?  Let’s hear from you.

It’s all about beer and dinners featuring small artisanal brewers.  Check out the action at The Linkery that goes on for days including a Green Flash bash November 12.  For info:  619-255-8778.

At Roseville, there’s a fun menu featuring Shipyard’s limited edition brews from chef Amy DiBiase’s home state, Maine.  Reservations a must for this all-inclusive $65 dinner also on November 12 . Call 619-450-6800.

If  bubbles are more your style, don’t miss Winesellar & Brasserie’s annual Le Grande Champagne Tasting on November 14 that includes Ruinart, Taittinger and Krug among many top producers.  For $85 it’s a deal that includes appetizers to match the various Champagnes.  Reservations a must:  858-450-9557.

Thanksgiving is around the corner and you can order a turkey from any of your favorite meat markets.  La Jolla’s Homegrown Meats will have local free-range California turkeys as well as spiral hams and meats.  For information and to order call  858-454-6328.

Celebrate Thanksgiving by not cooking and supporting Slow Food Urban San Diego at a November 19 dinner at UCSD.  Jeff Jackson, executive chef at A.R. Valentien will cook local pastured turkeys from Womach RanchFor information and tickets or call 619-972-3500.

Update:  Another local food writer, Kitty Morse (well-known for her Moroccan food tours and cookbooks) just released her updated A Biblical Feast:  Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table that features foods mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. The nearly fifty  easy -to- make recipes, along with commentary on the history of the ingredients would delight any cook.  The book is available online from Kitty and at local bookstores for $18.95.

Books make great gifts and three  new ones are certain to  get you thinking about cooking and food.  Two cookbooks come from local San Diego restaurant owners:  Su- Mei Yu owns the popular  Saffron on India Street near the corner of Washington Street.  Her latest book, The Elements of Life: A Contemporary Guide to Thai Recipes and Traditions for Healthier Living will be available early October.  This food centers on Sue-Mei’s passion for healthy eating, and in the Thai culture, how seasons and elements (wind, fire, earth and water) figure in the daily diet.

Bernard Guillas, the longtime executive chef at The Marine Room and his chef de cuisine Ron Oliver share cooking secrets and recipes gathered during their worldwide travels as celebrity chefs–from Australia to Hong Kong– on land and on sea.  Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World will be available in early November.  It looks to be a gorgeous book with Guillas’ good food.

Jill Richardson is a local food activist  and blogger with a passion about America’s  food system (or lack thereof).  Her book, Recipe for America:  Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do To Fix It looks at our industrialized agricultural system and gives her vision for a way towards a more sustainable path for agriculture.

We’re hearing that there may be some cranky ex-employers of those souls who left to open Paon.  Word on the street is that much of Paon’s menu is word for word (recipe for recipe, perhaps) that of Winesellar & Brasserie.  Buzz hasn’t been to Paon so can’t comment on how Steve Barr and chef David Gallardo are doing there.  (We also wonder when–or if– they will change their web address to Paon instead of Persecarlsbad–the first name they had until they heard from the original Per Se in NYC.)   Winesellar has executive chef  Matt Smith, who  cooked in France and Spain as well as at the original Laurel Restaurant & Bar and Myres Macdougal as host and sommelier (studying for his Advanced certificate) as well as a top notch Wine Spectator wine list.

And, New York comes to Blanca with a new executive chef, Jason Neroni who cooked his way around the Big Apple at such well-known eateries as Tabla, Table 21 and 10 Downing.  Haven’t been yet to taste his farm to table, down-to-earth cooking, but it sure sounds good.

Finally had a chance to try the wildly popular Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill.  Sat at the bar 5:15 on  a  Wednesday eve,  which is burger and beer night.  Next to me, a couple split a burger and possibly the beer; on the other side a frequent customer raved about the fried squash blossoms and chicken liver paté.  I should have ordered the blossoms that came perfectly fried, not a drop of oil to be seen while my  fritto misto with vegetables, shrimp, calamari and soft shelled crab bites ($14) was an unfortunate grease plate with a flavorful and  not-too-capered mayo dip.  One would guess it’s a tale of two fryers:  one with the proper oil temperature for deep frying squash blossoms and one that didn’t heat up for the the misto.  A margharita pizza serves two with six pieces ($13),  a call vodka ($8.50) and the tab was $35 plus before tip.  The busy room is packed with “stuff” including a hanging cage (over the bar towards the kitchen) with a couple of faux chickens perched and lots of mixed and not matched  chairs.  Good bar service, loud room, nice alternative to the Prado if you’re going to the theater.

With all the opening buzz for Small Bar (an offspring of  Hamiltons Tavern) in University Heights, Buzz decided to meet a pal there at 6pm for a Friday night after work beer.  We didn’t make it in the door.  The name says it all:  Small, very small, very very loud jukebox music, very popular and as a smoker said while puffing away on the side entry way, “The food is great.”  That is  if you can find a place to sit and hear yourself talk.  Hamiltons, however, is larger, equally as loud depending on who is playing with the speakers, and specializes in craft beers.  Check out their event schedule

So, we moved on to Kings Fish House in Mission Valley, sat at the bar, ate a plate of very fresh  oysters from New Zealand, Baja and the East coast, beer, and three very tasty small, Tijuana street style fish tacos.  And we could hear ourselves talk!