Monday, February 19, 2018

Lisa's Café and Bakery

Lisa's Bon Appetit moved to a new location. It is in the shopping center where Honey Baked Ham is located in Torrance. I heard they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The beauty of this restaurant is that it opens at 7:30 a.m. Monday to Friday and closes at 7:00 p.m.  On weekends, they open at 9:00 a.m. and close at 3:00 p.m.

Last Thursday, Amy, Nako, Sandi and I headed to Lisa's Cafe right after our workout at the gym. I was excited since I haven't been there for many years and I used to have them cater at the surgery center I worked at in the 80's and 90's. If I'm not mistaken, they were the ones that started making the famous Chinese Chicken Salad. Their croissant sandwiches were very good too.

We were the only crazy ones at 7:30 a.m. The restaurant was spacious and they had their famous Chinese Chicken Salad for sale and their dressing as well. They had cinnamon rolls, an assortment of cookies, cupcakes, brownies, various fruit tarts. They had samples of the lemon tarts which were good.

Sandi and I agreed on splitting an order of Avocado Toast and an order of  Banana Waffles. Nako decided on the Strawberry Waffle. Amy who is not a breakfast person thought she would just get a croissant with butter and jam. We had to wait awhile before the first order came out which was the Avocado Toast. It was pretty and colorful; it had a spread of beet hummus underneath the slices of avocado. It was good but it lacked something. That something was salt. Amy got her croissant shortly after. Her croissant looked pathetic. It was flat as if it had been wrapped and was forgotten in someone's purse. The butter was packaged and so was the jelly. If I were to order a croissant, I would want it fluffy and light with lots of layers and served with good butter and homemade jam like I used to have at L'amande Bakery.

Our waffle finally came.  We had to push the bananas out of the way so we could slather it with butter which refused to melt because the waffle was not hot.  Nako in the meantime had not gotten his waffle. They must have just 1 waffle maker. We all were not happy with our waffles. It was not very good. Eventually, Nako got his waffle. There really was no good excuse for the slow service especially since we were the only ones there.  We all agreed this was not a good choice for breakfast.  I guess we will just stick to what they do best; Chinese Chicken Salad.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

StoneFire Grill

The old Macaroni Grill on Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance is now StoneFire Grill. It opened just a couple of weeks ago and we thought it was a good time to go yesterday since it was the middle of the week. Sandi, Mertz and I met there. It is still the size of the old restaurant, big and spacious. The one big change is a counter in front at which you had to place your order. This would not be a good place to go to when there's a line. Fortunately, we got there early so they didn't have a line yet.

They have an extensive menu. What restaurant has 18 different salads?  From the grill they have tri-tip, chicken, salmon, ribs and sea bass pizza, pasta and sandwiches.  They have family meals, crowd pleasers, kid's menu and dessert.

Mertz ordered the Traditional Greek Salad; mixed greens, Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, green peppers, tomato, radishes, red onion in an olive oil vinaigrette dressing. Sandi had the Asian Salad: choice of quinoa or grilled chicken with mixed greens, Mandarin oranges, scallions, red peppers, snow peas, wontons, toasted almonds, sesame seeds in a sesame ginger dressing.

I ordered the petite size Grilled Salad; choice of quinoa (which was not my choice), mesquite grilled chicken breast (my choice) or tri-tip with avocado, artichoke hearts, red cabbage, cucumber, tomato, Gouda cheese with a Dijon mustard Vinaigrette.  I also ordered a small Chicken Tortilla Soup. The soup was delicious with a bit of a kick to it. My salad came and I looked at it and almost cried. It looked awful. It was like someone put me on a horrible diet. They had mistakenly given me the Mediterranean Salad Bowl; Farro Salad, quinoa, homemade hummus, and Mediterranean chopped salad served with Jerusalem Pita. It was my worst nightmare...the only thing lacking was coconut! I told the server that that was not what I ordered. His response was: " Oh" pause....."I will call the manager and let him know." I told him I didn't want it. He then left with the salad. The manager came with the salad and apologized. He left it for us to consume. Mertz, Sandi and I had a small bite of the Farro and Quinoa. We all thought it was terrible. I can't understand why this would be on a menu.  Mertz was not happy with her Greek Salad. It had way too much dressing. Sandi thought her Asian Salad was just o.k.

My Grilled Salad finally came and it looked promising but it was a big disappointment. Even though it looked like there was a ton of dressing, it was absolutely tasteless. I asked for more dressing but that did not help. The veggies were chopped up in pieces and they were crunchy but had no flavor.  A rabbit might have been happy.

It must not have occurred to our server or manager when they stopped by our table that my salad was almost the same quantity as when I started and the extra salad looked untouched.  For a new restaurant, I think they should have trained servers who would aim to please. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out something was not good when they see a plateful of food untouched.

It's a shame that all 3 of us will not be going back to StoneFire Grill in the near future.  By the time we left, there was a long line of people waiting to order. We unanimously thought we would not go anywhere where we have to line up just to place your order unless of course, it was spectacular.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Birthday Brunch at Chez Melange

We almost achieved a 100% attendance for Mertz's birthday bash but, unfortunately, Sujata couldn't make it for health reasons. This year is the start of a new tradition. We got rid of the traveling birthday balloon and replaced it with a singing and dancing birthday cake that even blows its own candle out. We also now have a "happy birthday" headband.

We all got to the restaurant before the celebrant who invited us all so when she approached the table, we all yelled "Happy Birthday". It is always fun to not act your age and that we did. Mertz even brought a couple of bottles of La Montina Sparkling Wine from Franciacorta; our favorite!

Our server Lisa had just celebrated her own birthday so Mertz insisted she have some of the wonderful wine. Before we could even decide on what to order, we unanimously agreed to share an order of their addicting Truffle Fries. The birthday girl decided on Steak with scrambled eggs and fries.  Amy ordered the always delicious Fried Chicken Salad. I had something new on the menu and it was Fried Oysters with bacon and mushrooms on scrambled eggs with country potatoes. Sandi and Cindy had the Fried Chicken Nuggets with Brioche French Toast.

To add to the celebration, the jazz band sang Happy Birthday to dear Mertz. It was a nice celebration. We all had so much fun.

Chez Melange is located at 1611 S. Catalina Ave. in Redondo Beach.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Lalo's Catering Company

I needed a catering company recently and since not too many restaurants deliver take out,  my son went online to check Yelp. There he read great reviews on Lalo's Catering. He then called them and spoke to an Aime. He was impressed with her and suggested that I give her a call.

Their menu was impressive but I was still leary since I have never had their food. I have been previously disappointed with Yelp reviews. People can rave about certain things yet when I try them they're not good. But I went ahead and called. I asked her how much the delivery was going to be and she informed me that it was going to be $40 which included the setup, the paper plates, utensils, and the disposable warming trays.

I ordered the Chicken Marsala, Eggplant Parmesan, Shrimp Caesar Salad and Little Filet Mignon Bites wrapped in Bacon. The entrees came with trays of Spaghetti cooked in olive oil and garlic. I told her the spaghetti needed to be aldente.  The food was delivered on time, in fact, a bit early. I didn't even know it included bread and butter! I was so impressed with the food. The chicken Marsala was so delicious with its mushroom sauce. The eggplant was good too. People kept commenting on how good the food was.

I had so much left over that I was eating pasta for 2 weeks after and it was still unbelievably good. The chicken and eggplant were consumed up to 4 days after. What really impressed me was Aime. She patiently answered all my questions and put me at ease. You could tell she has been doing this for awhile. The question stands: Would I use them again? The answer is: Definitely!

Lalo's Catering is located at 1821 Suite D, 213th St. in Torrance, California.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Though Sujata's birthday was in early December, it wasn't too late to celebrate her birthday in January. She treated us to a very nice dinner at Petros, the Greek restaurant in Manhattan Beach.

Mertz had never been at this restaurant before so she was in for a treat. The birthday girl, a vegetarian, ordered the Horiatiki Flatbread Pizza; tomatoes, avocado, olives, red onion, capers, EVO, and oregano. We all were impressed by the looks of it. Sandi ordered the Kokkinisto; slow-cooked boneless short ribs in a tomato and allspice broth served on top of spaghetti topped with Reggiano Parmesan cheese. The short ribs were tender and just fell apart as she twirled them with the spaghetti. She insisted I try it so I indulged and was not at all disappointed.

Cindy, Mertz and I had to have the Moussaka; a classic Greek dish layered with eggplant, ground beef, tomatoes and homemade béchamel sauce. That was delicious as ever. Only Sandi didn't finish her entrée which is probably because she ate too much bread before. The bread was hard to resist since it was always warm.

We had to have dessert so we all decided to share an order of Bougatsa; vanilla bean and semolina custard wrapped in phyllo served with vanilla ice cream topped with walnuts. We have had this previously and have always made it a point to order it since it really is delicious. The Baklava was also delicious, the walnuts wrapped in phyllo were soaked with a citrus syrup and also served with vanilla ice cream.

They presented Sujata with her very own birthday dessert; Loukouma. These were baby Greek doughnuts drizzled with Greek honey, cinnamon and toasted walnuts, served with vanilla ice cream. She was generous enough to share her numerous doughnuts. I was surprised at how good they were. I expected them to be sickly sweet but they were not.

The birthday balloon that we passed around for numerous years has come to an end. We decided that we would end this tradition on the last birthday of 2017. It had a good run while it lasted.

Petros is located at 451 Manhattan Beach Blvd. B110 in Manhattan Beach, California. They now have several locations in Southern California.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Tre Piatti at Bettolino

Mertz invited us to Thursday's Tre Piatti at Bettolino Kitchen. The three-course menu can be had with or without wine pairing. She and I opted for the wine pairing while our friend Sandi passed and decided to just have the "house" water. The three courses looked good to me though I knew my two friends would have a problem with the Salmon because one dislikes fish and the other dislikes Salmon. They are not equal opportunity eaters.

We all enjoyed the Antipasto of Prosciutto di Pama wrapped around grilled asparagus drizzled with Parmesan sauce which was paired with white wine. The warm bread served with olive oil was very good and we tried not to eat too much but we failed because we ended up asking for more. The Pinot Noir was perfect for it.

Our Primo was a serving of Spaghetti alla Amatriciana, a slightly spicy tomato sauce with pancetta and fresh herbs. We loved this aldente spaghetti. I could have eaten a big bowl of it. For the Secondo, I was the only one that had the Salmone alla Caponata; salmon, vegetable caponata-eggplant, tomato, celery, onion, capers, red pepper, spinach. It was fresh, flaky and moist and went well with the vegetables. This was paired with a syrah wine. Mertz and Sandi had the same entree but without the salmon; but they had extra veggies. Mertz later commented that next time, if she does not like one course of the three-course menu, she will just order from the regular menu. I know they do not have substitutions because the restaurant can go crazy with everyone asking for different things, however, I think that perhaps they could substitute shrimp or chicken for people that do not eat fish.

Dessert had to be the Salted Caramel Semifreddo; semi-frozen salted caramel mousse layered with graham crackers with a chocolate sauce. We have had this before and absolutely loved the very light and not so sweet dessert. We also tried the Crostata di Pera, caramelized pears in a pastry crust with vanilla sauce and powdered sugar.  We were not too excited about this dessert. We all thought it could have been flakier but the salted caramel made up for it.

The service was excellent. We all loved Sonia who served like a pro even if she hasn't been there that long. We hope to see her soon.

It was a delightful evening and just the right amount of food. Bettolino did not disappoint. Bettolino is located at  211 Palos Verdes Blvd. in Redondo Beach, California.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bring on the Ham

New Year's Day Sandi decided to bake a ham. Her ham was delicious served with a raisin pineapple sauce. What's funny is she doesn't even like raisins! Of all the other sauces she could have made, why did she choose to make the raisin sauce? Her response was, "Because everyone else likes it." Aaron and I did not complain.

With this ham she thought she would serve something healthy, so instead of mashed potatoes, she made mashed carrots and parsnips which was beautiful on the plate and delicious as it looked. She also served some coleslaw. It was a perfect combination of texture, color, and taste. We finished a bottle of champagne; by we, I mean Aaron and I since Sandi had her mini-champagne glass.

For dessert, she served a scoop of salted caramel truffle ice cream with your choice of sauce. My choice was Fran's chocolate and raspberry sauce.

New Year's tradition is to wear polka dots to bring in money for the year. I wanted to be sure so I wore lots of big polka dots. Sandi was not as greedy so her dots were small. Aaron, however, was just as greedy.

It was a great meal to start the new year. Here's to many more great meals to come. Cheers!