Here it is, that crazy time of year when we all run around like headless chickens.
We buy this, exchange that--and oh yes, with the recession, seek the perfect bargain.
In this year's search, you might consider some of the changes taking place in several area restaurants.
The common denominator is that they have all become more affordable.
Up toward Santa Barbara, there's Mischa. Located on Coast Village Drive in Montecito, it is a combination wine shop/restaurant that has recently lowered prices and changed its menu format.
For lunch there is a variety of salads (up to $8.95) and an elegant grilled-cheese sandwich with Zinfandel mushrooms and water cress ($4.95). Dinners include salmon with mango chile chutney, grilled loin of lamb with mint walnut pesto ($13.50 each), and a rich seafood bouillabaisse ($12.50), each served with a fresh garden salad.
The Monday Night Special dinner for two is $25, and includes choice of soup or salad, entree, dessert, coffee or tea.
If you are planning a trek to Ojai in January, prepare for changes at MK's as well.
After county health officials limited use of the restaurant's outdoor bar, co-owner Marty Gay said he decided to build an indoor bar and make a variety of other recession-related changes.
The restaurant was closed Dec. 23-30 while the bar was moved. (Musicians still play in the patio, and customers can sit there, but drinks will be poured indoors.)
There will be changes on the menu too--a package of price reductions that Gay estimates will reduce lunch and dinner prices by 20%, and incentive specials as well.
Eat three lunches at MK's in a seven-day period and you get the third one on the house.
In Westlake, The Dockside Terrace, previously New Orleans West, is revitalizing its menu.
Under the management of Judy Hollis, former owner of Sedona Restaurant in Westlake, a new kitchen staff will be replacing the current chef.
The new menu is more traditional, with a larger variety of pastas, pizzas and fresh fish.
Also, says management, the prices will be lower.
Significant reductions are planned in both the food and wine prices.
1151 Coast Village Road, Montecito; (805) 969-4295
Open Monday through Friday, noon to 2:20 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday 6 to 9 p.m. Major credit card and reservations accepted. Beer and wine. Lunch for two, food only $10 to $20; dinner for two, food only $18 to $35.
139 East Ojai Ave., Ojai; (805) 640-8001. Wednesday through Monday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Closed Tuesday. Full bar. Major credit cards and reservations accepted. Meal for two, food only $20 to $58.
The Dockside Terrace
32131 Lindero Canyon Blvd., Westlake Village, (818) 707-9378; Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner until 10 p.m. On weekends the bar is open until 12:30 a.m. Major credit cards and reservations accepted. Meal for two, food only $15 to $45.