Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sandi's Brunch

A simple brunch is what she called it. " I will only serve a green salad and chicken salad sandwiches." We arrived at her house with the table beautifully set.  Her little napkin rings were little creatures with bug eyes and tongues sticking out.

She served champagne and for the non-champagne drinker Amy, she offered red wine. Billie, Ed, Amy, Nako and I drank champagne. Sandi made a green salad, chicken salad sandwiches, and egg salad sandwiches. In addition to that, she also made ham with pepper jelly sandwiches. I brought an artichoke dip that I made which went well with the chips but it also was delicious inside the ham and pepper jelly sandwich.

Everything was delicious. This, of course, was more than your simple brunch. With Sandi, there is no such thing as simple.

Friday, February 23, 2018


Yet another birthday celebration at Forma. I was very happy to introduce my friend Mary to this restaurant. She loves good Italian food so what better place to celebrate than to take her to Forma.

She gave me the liberty of ordering which I love to do for newcomers.  We first ordered a nice bottle of red wine and some bread. This is Italian style in that they do charge $3.00 for bread.  Before you get excited, I have to tell you that the $3.00  is worth every penny. You get quality and not quantity. The bread not only looked beautiful but tasted oh so good with the olive oil and the tomato spread.

 I ordered their wonderful Crispy Artichoke Salad which is fried artichokes with peas, walnuts and goat cheese sprinkled with shredded Parmesan. For our entrée, I ordered their Chitarra Cacio e Pepe with lots of pepper tossed in Pecorino Romano and the Tortellini with mushrooms, light cream, truffle oil tossed in Bela Lodi Cheese. I had Mary go over to where they have several large wheels of cheese to witness how they finish these dishes by tossing them into a specific cheese wheel while the man in charge scrapes more cheese from inside the wheel and mixes it with the pasta.

Everything was delicious as ever and the pasta was perfectly cooked aldente. While we savored our food, Mario, the owner came out to say hello. It is always nice to see him. This is probably another reason why everything is always done right because he has his watchful eye on the operation.

Our charming Italian server Omar was animated and attentive. At first, I thought he said his name was Oma but he promptly corrected me and said: "Omar, like Omar Sharif". I was impressed he knew Omar Sharif since he was a young man.

I knew what I wanted to order for dessert but before I had a chance to do so, they brought Mary a birthday treat which she happily shared. She did comment that she was full but I insisted she try another dessert. I told her she couldn't leave Forma without trying the Banana Pecan Tart with chocolate. That did not disappoint.  It was as delicious as ever!

Forma is always good. A friend that is currently on a diet told me she can't wait to go back there soon. Forma is located at 1610 Montana Ave. in Santa Monica, California. They are open for lunch and dinner.

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.