Retail Therapy: Enjoy flavors of Baja

Fresh Mex: The much-anticipated fresh casual Mexican restaurant Solita Tacos & Margaritas has opened at Bella Terra in Huntington Beach, 7631 Edinger Ave., Suite 1508. Created by the team behind SOL Cocina of Newport Beach and featuring the big flavors of coastal Baja and a showcase wood grill, Solita offers an all-weather patio and indoor/outdoor bar. It is currently open for dinner service and will begin offering lunch Thursday. Information:

For auld lang syne: New Year's Eve offers a variety of ways to ring in the new year. Some of our favorites include two three-course seating options at Back Bay Bistro, 1131 Back Bay Drive, Newport Beach, at Newport Dunes. The menu includes a first-course choice of salad, lobster bisque or seared ahi. Second-course selections include filet mignon with crab stuffed shrimp, sea bass on polenta with chipotle honey glaze or lamb chops in a balsamic reduction. For dessert, enjoy crème brulee, molten chocolate cake or cheesecake. The first seating, from 5 to 7 p.m., is $75 per person. The second seating, from 8 p.m. to midnight, is $95 per person and includes party favors and a midnight champagne toast. Information: (949) 729-1144 or

Over at Bayside Restaurant, 900 Bayside Drive, Newport Beach, a three-course prix fixe menu is $55 per person. It begins with a compressed Maine lobster salad and snow crab claws. Entrée choices include a prime Black Angus filet mignon or mushroom crusted Chilean sea bass. Finally, choose any dessert from the Bayside menu. Dinner will be served from 5 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. Reservations are required. Information: (949) 721-1222 or

The beautiful new Fig & Olive restaurant at Fashion Island will host a French Riviera-inspired White & Gold fête with several options for participation, including a four-course prix-fixe menu ($150 plus optional supplements), complimentary champagne, live music, party favors and a midnight balloon drop. Diners can eat from the a la carte menu at 6 p.m. or enjoy the four-course meal at 9 p.m., which includes first-course options like a Pata Negra 5J and manchego emulsion, grilled Langoustine and seared scallops. Second-course choices include roasted butternut squash or truffle risotto. Main-course choices are Chilean sea bass, filet mignon or roasted lamb rack. Dessert is a white chocolate cake. Celebrity disc jockeys will be onsite, and a $100 cocktail reception from 9 to 11:30 p.m. will feature wine, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Information and reservations: (212) 924-1200 or

Birthday freebies: A little planning can result in plenty of freebies by the time your birthday arrives. Sign up online for the loyalty programs at your favorite restaurants (and even retailers) in order to receive anything from a free birthday milkshake at Del Taco or free ice cream at Baskin Robbins to a full free meal at Benihana or Black Angus. Other options include a free burger at Red Robin, free entree at Veggie Grill, or free beauty product (there's a men's gift too) at Sephora. Hundreds of area restaurants and retailers participate, so take an hour or two to register, and enjoy the benefits year after year.

Kids also receive a bounty of freebies, particularly from restaurant kids clubs. Toys "R" Us is well known for its special treatment of children on their birthdays, including offering a special gift. IKEA Costa Mesa's restaurant is offering free birthday parties for children turning 10 and under from 4 to 6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. Each birthday child is allowed to invite two friends. Attendees can enjoy entertainment, soda and cake, and each birthday child will receive an IKEA gift. For more information or to reserve a place, call (714) 751-7167, Ext. 1470.

Juice it up: Have a goal to improve wellness this year? The owners of local favorites Ritual Wellness and Ritual JuiceBox, Marra St. Clair and Lori Kenyon, have published "The Juice Cleanse Reset Diet," which features healthy recipes for all occasions (including plenty of juice and smoothie recipes), skin-care and beauty recipes, fitness tips and ways to incorporate exercise during everyday tasks. The diet is based on Ritual's own juice cleanse, used by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Charlie Sheen. For more information, visit or search for the book on Amazon.

And remember: Don't drink and drive on New Year's Eve. The Orange County Transportation Authority will offer free bus rides from 6 p.m. New Year's Eve to 2:30 a.m. on New Year's Day.

Have a hot sale tip, or know about a new local business that you think deserves a little attention? Contact CANDICE BAKER at

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