Brunch at Sophie’s Place Redondo Beach, CA

It feels good to get out and try even more restaurants in the South Bay now that I have, dare I say, a little normalcy in my life.

We went to Sophie’s Place for brunch last Sunday. Yes, Super Bowl Sunday. However, we got there early enough to beat all the crowds. Their menu was pretty simple. A few breakfast entrees, eggs benedict variations, and of course, omelets. The service was pretty quick on that busy Sunday morning.  I sipped on a giant latte which was foamier than any that I’ve had at the big chains, and it was a good thing & refreshing in more ways than one. I’m glad it exceeded expectations; especially since the restaurant isn’t known for its handcrafted coffee drinks.

The Corn Hash

Okay, so I vowed that I’d eat healthier in the new year; and for the most part I have. Everyone needs a little cheat day every now & again right? The Corn Hash was just that. A hearty breakfast without going overboard. Everything from the corn beef hash, to the runny over easy eggs, the breakfast potatoes, and toast & jam really hit the spot. It didn’t leave me feeling too full. The great thing about Riviera Village is that it’s such a nice area where you can walk off your meal while window shopping!

So if you’re looking for a place for brunch, give Sophie’s Place a try. With a good selection, you’ll be sure to find something you like.

Sophie's Place on Urbanspoon

 

Two Guns Espresso Manhattan Beach, CA

Well hello there. I’m coming out of my little cave to let you know I finally tried Two Guns Espresso. I know I’m a bit late, but I didn’t drink any coffee while I was pregnant.
I’m so glad I finally tried them out. I liked the cozy feel of the place . A tiny shop, with no Wi-Fi so it’s good for curling up with a good book, or studying. The baristas were friendly & down to earth that made a mean flat white. It’s similar to a latte, but the espresso had a richer taste to it & the milk was very smooth. Also the drink was smaller than a standard latte, only 6oz which is fine by me since it takes me forever to finish those anyway, plus it was not as foamy as a latte either.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I’m all for independent coffee shops in a world dominated by Starbucks and Coffee Bean. Two Guns is no exception. It’s nice to find a good coffee place here in the South Bay since there aren’t many around. Their menu with a New Zealand flair sets them apart. It’s refreshing to have other options to choose from besides the standard offerings at the corporate coffee houses on every corner. My only gripe? I wish they were open later!
I will definitely be back for more coffee and to try their baked goods which are from Breadbar in nearby El Segundo and Cake Bakeshop also located in Manhattan Beach. The shopping center that Two Guns is located in has been a revolving door of restaurants in the six years that I’ve lived in the South Bay & I hope Two Guns puts an end to that.

Two Guns Espresso + Coffee on Urbanspoon

Strawberry Nutella Cooler

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know my recipes are few & far between. I myself am still learning how to make an entree w/o the aid of a cook book. Yes I’ve made a few dishes I’m proud of but it’s a work in progress. However, I was inspired & it lead me to this quick drink recipe.

I’ve been making strawberry nutella lattes for a while now. I’ve been using Dunkin Donuts’ Strawberry flavor coffee, which I was very glad I heard about from How Sweet It Is. However, I wanted a little more. The other day, a coworker told me he likes Vietnamese coffee which is French coffee with condensed milk. I had a light bulb moment right away. I made the common mistake of buying condensed instead of evaporated milk & I’m glad I found a use for it!

Strawberry Nutella Cooler

1 Cup Brewed Strawberry Flavored coffee (substitute any flavored/ non flavored coffee you like)

1 cup milk

1/4 cup condensed milk

4 TBSP Nutella

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Mix for 30-45 seconds. Enjoy!

Serves 2

Thanks How Sweet It Is for the inspiration!

print recipe
Strawberry Nutella Cooler
Love strawberries & nutella? This is the coffee cooler for you!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup brewed strawberry flavored coffee
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup condensed milk
  • 4 tbsp nutella or hazelnut spread
Instructions
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Mix for 30-45 seconds. Enjoy!
Details

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 servings

Neighborhood Grinds Redondo Beach, CA

I’ll admit it right now, I’m sadly, no longer a spring chicken. My nights now end at 11, not start, like they used to way back when.

So what do I do on a Friday night now that my clubbing days are long gone? Why, I go to a coffee house & read of course!

Neighborhood Grinds is located on one of the busiest streets in Redondo: Artesia Blvd, just past the South Bay Galleria. Why I haven’t visited sooner is beyond me but with that being said, I gave it a try.

It was a small store with ample tables & chairs plus two living room style chairs that we gravitated towards. After dropping our stuff off, we started to browse the menu, which was all computerized. I guess we’re getting all high tech now, right?

Settling on a mocha, I went back to the seating area where I waited just a few minutes for my drink.

I’m not a picky person by any means, but I do like it when coffee comes in a mug as opposed to a paper cup every now & again. For some reason I don’t feel as rushed. I’m able to enjoy my drink a bit more.

While sipping on my drink and reading my book, i felt completely relaxed. The radio played some pop favorites and the business was fairly slow since it was a Friday evening after all.

Neighborhood Grinds is a good coffee house to get some work done since they have plenty of tables & chairs. If you would rather unwind with some reading material, your options are limited since there’s not much in the way of lounge furniture.

Another interesting feature they offer is the ability to text in your order during the morning rush. Once you arrive, they will deliver right to your car. How’s that for high tech?

Neighborhood Grinds on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Latte

Okay, so Los Angeles isn’t exactly the destination to watch the leaves change color. Far from it. Being a California transplant, what signals the fall is the rainy weather. Proof that it does rain in Southern California as opposed to what those time old postcards will have the tourists believe.

While the weather doesn’t get too cold (thankfully) it’s still nice to whip up a soup or maybe a hot beverage. As we get closer to the holidays, there will be roasted pumpkin seeds, pecan pies, and yes gingerbread & peppermint.

The coffee houses of course have their pumpkin lattes at this time of year & while they’re good & all, I found a recipe from my Hungry Girl cookbook for homemade pumpkin creme which is the latte without the espresso.

I modified the recipe just slightly & here’s what I got.

Homemade Pumpkin Latte inspired by Hungry Girl’s recipe

7oz non fat milk
2 tbsp pureed pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4oz brewed coffee
1 tbsp sugar

Combine the milk, pumpkin, vanilla & cinnamon in a small pot over medium heat. Stir well. Bring mixture to a boil & stir constantly for 1 minute. Once the mixture starts to froth, turn the heat off. Combine with brewed coffee & add the sugar & serve.

That’s all there is to it! What are some of your fall favorites?

Here’s a pumpkin latte in granola form!

NYC Foodventures

In NYC there’s something for everyone, and that includes food. With so many cultures making up the 5 boroughs of NYC, you never run short of food choices.

As a NYC native, I spent this trip not going to the typical tourist spots, but to stop at different food joints as well. After all, there’s more to NYC than chain restaurants in Times Square.

My first stop was Trattoria Trecolori an Italian restaurant in the Theatre District. A business casual atmosphere complete with hardwood floors, wooden tables, and high ceilings set the tone. The typical bread & butter service was given. However, the menu was more than your typical chicken parmesan. Instead there was lesser known Italian flair including a generous portion of Calamari alla Luciana which was squid sautéed in its own ink atop the saffron risotto mixture.

Calamari alla Luciana at Trattoria Trecolori NYC Theatre District

Other than making my teeth black, I loved the dish. I recalled the last time I had a squid sauce dish, and that was last November. Needless to say, those dishes were few & far between and I’m glad I found it here!

Penne a la Vodka at Benito's in Little Italy, NYC

Next stop was an obligatory trip to Little Italy. Sadly, out of the many cafes that serve authentic Italian food, we managed to pick the lemon of the bunch. On the inside, Benitos looked like the type of café you’d expect: brick walls, gaudy décor, and checkered tablecloths. The food was also the norm: linguine, penne, fettuccine, and lasagna. However, like the décor, the food was overdone. My Penne a la Vodka tasted entirely of alcohol. I couldn’t taste any of the components of the dish. At that point I was thankful NYC had mass transit because I didn’t think I would be able to drive home!

Iced Cappuccino at Bella Ferrara in Little Italy, NYC

Fortunately, redemption was at hand down the street at Bella Ferrara Bakery. The smells of Italian cookies and desserts wafted to my nose as I began to recall childhood memories. We however wanted to take in the experience further, so we opted to enjoy our dessert on the patio that overlooks Little Italy, which is perfect for people watching.  The coffee gelato and amoretto flavored hot chocolate were heavenly. I am proud to say that Paciugo in Hermosa does come pretty close but Little Italy showed me exactly how it was done. Light flavoring and texture, but just enough to hit the spot.  The hot chocolate had a fragrant and sweet flavor that was the equivalent to having a liquid version of Italian cookies.  We had such a wonderful experience at Bella that we came back for a second helping of profiteroles & iced cappuccinos.

Roast Beef Sandwich at the Carnegie Deli in NYC

We ate at the one & only Carnegie Deli. After getting used to the very tightly knit seating where you get to know your neighbors more than at a normal food joint. Elated to find a traditional New York deli, I ordered the matzo ball soup and a roast beef sandwich.

Matzo Ball Soup Carnegie Deli NYC

The matzo ball soup was more like two oversized matzo balls & a side of chicken broth but it didn’t matter to me!  All components of the dish were delicious from the savory broth to the slightly dense but moist matzo.

The roast beef sandwich could easily be a lunch and dinner for one person. With this being said, my husband and I split a heaping portion of roast beef encased in two small slices of bread. I’ll admit I’ve  had better roast beef sandwiches but just the experience of feasting on something that would require me to open my mouth with a tire jack a la Garfield & Friends was just fun. I would come back for the matzo ball soup alone next time.

Margherita Pizza, No 28 Pizza in Greenwich Village, NYC

Of course a trip to NYC isn’t complete without having authentic New York pizza and we did just that in Greenwich Village at No.28 Pizza. It was the tiny café with the big taste. We sat at the small patio to enjoy the cooler weather than we had experienced earlier in the week & take in the sites of the Village which we hadn’t seen in a while.  The margherita pizza oozed of fresh mozzarella cheese while the fresh tomatoes still were steaming as it was fresh from the oven. Also fresh was the ever so green basil which topped the dish. I’m glad to say that the pizza tasted as good as it looked. It definitely ranks up there with Joe’s Pizza just down the street. I’m glad we tried something new on this trip because you always need options. Furthermore I’m glad our new venture was a good one.

These are just a few of my many foodventures in NYC, just to whet your appetite. New York City is a culinary world open to anyone willing to try. With so many choices, you can’t go wrong!

South Bay Coffeeshop Roundup

In the last month I’ve reviewed five coffeehouses. I’ve organized a list to help you decide what coffeehouse is right for you. Yes there are more than five coffeehouses in the South Bay, I will review more as I go but I needed to change pace a bit!

Catalina Coffee Co.

Located in Redondo Beach just moments away from the surf and sand, this coffeehouse offers ample space on the inside and out for studying, working, or just to relax. It is perfect for those who like fresh coffee as the staff produces its own coffee right on site. The pastries and sandwiches are worth trying. This coffeehouse is best suited for those who love to read as it has its own honor code library. It is also well suited for large study groups and meetings as its floor is furnished with many oversized armchairs and couches. A wonderful place for those who enjoy live music and poetry, scheduled often. The staff is knowledgeable and efficient and delivers your order.

Java Man

Located in Hermosa Beach on Pier Ave, this small coffee house is best suited for those taking a stroll with their pet as they offer one dog biscuit per party. It is also a good place to get dessert as fresh desserts are delivered daily from their sister restaurant, the Ocean Diner. The breakfast burritos are worth checking out. The lunch sandwiches along with the lattes were not too flavorful, just average. Its small dining area and busy location is not suited for large study groups but rather for those that would just like to relax with the morning paper.  The staff is quick but not too personable. Note that the order must be picked up at the counter. Its small patio is perfect for those who like to relax under the sun with their friends or pet.

The Healthy Bean

The Healthy Bean in Torrance is a great coffeehouse for those with sensitive stomachs as their coffees are lower in acid. Health conscious coffee drinkers will be delighted to know that this establishment serves many items low in calories and fat even some vegan and vegetarian options. Give the premade burritos and sandwiches along with salads and soup a try. There is also a frequent buyer card available offering a free beverage after the tenth purchase. The coffee is prepared well and the staff is pleasant and will deliver your order. Due to its location on the busy intersection of Hawthorne and Lomita, it is not suited for those who need silence in order to work. However if working in a loud environment is tolerable, be sure to bring your laptop as they offer free WiFi.

Blue Butterfly Coffee

Blue Butterfly Coffee is on Main Street in El Segundo. This eatery offers an extensive food menu featuring crepes, bagel sandwiches, wraps and paninis. They brew their own coffee and they also have a wide selection of coffee beverages at slightly more affordable prices than the more well known coffeehouses. The staff is knowledgeable and is friendly to the newcomers as well as the locals alike.  Note that the order must be picked up. Blue Butterfly has a small dining area, best suited for small groups. Its prime location is perfect for those who would like to grab their coffee and take a stroll around quaint downtown El Segundo. Its two patios are perfect for relaxing and watching the planes takeoff from nearby LAX.

Our Daily Grind

Located on Main Street in El Segundo, this small coffeehouse is best suited for those who like organic coffee without a scene. The lack of music makes it good for those that need quiet to read or study. Our Daily Grind is also good for those that need a quick no nonsense lunch.  The two small patio tables offer a glimpse of planes taking off at LAX. Another option is to get your whole order to go and enjoy the sights and shops of Main St.

Our Daily Grind El Segundo CA

The exterior of Our Daily Grind El Segundo,CA

The exterior of Our Daily Grind El Segundo,CA

Our Daily Grind is located on Main St. in downtown El Segundo. It is one of the very few independent coffee houses in the area. Upon walking in, I saw quaint furniture that reminded me of a grandmother’s house in the country. The chairs were wooden or wicker. Vinyl tablecloths adorned the small tables. Most importantly, no lights were on.  I would hate to see what this place looks like on a cloudy day. It was also silent, no music, nothing.

The furniture reminded me of a country kitchen

I looked at the mostly chalkboard menu which was hard to read with the poor lighting. There was no one behind the counter either. I thought I’d walked in on a closed coffeehouse where they forgot to lock the door. Then I noticed a woman in the back corner reading a paper. She looked at me and asked me what I wanted. It was a very awkward situation.

Brown Bag Lunch advertised at Our Daily Grind

I decided to keep it simple and order the brown bag lunch that was advertised for $5.00 which included a sandwich, chips,fruit, and coffee. I was deciding on what coffee I should have when the woman informed me that she had just brewed some coffee that was a medium roast. I decided to go for it. As she prepared the coffee she told me that it was made from organic beans. She asked me what kind of sandwich I wanted and I said turkey. Then she said that all of her sandwiches are prepared on wheat bread. Clearly she wanted to make a point that this coffeehouse served healthy food. I then picked my chips from a small basket on the counter and a banana.

Contents of the brown bag lunch

I asked her what the operating hours were and she said they open at 6 and usually close at 3. She also said that you could call ahead and order. With that she took off and went back to reading her paper. Feeling such a weird vibe from being inside the place, I decided to eat outside on one of the two patio tables also adorned with vinyl tablecloth. The coffee was not too strong, and not that bitter either. The sandwich was fresh but not too spectacular as it consisted of cold cuts. The banana was fresh. Overall it was good for the price but nothing out of this world.

Our Daily Grind is located at 503 Main St. El Segundo, CA. If you need a quick lunch to go, this would be the place. The menu prices are slightly cheaper than Starbucks. The emphasis is on to go since the interior wasn’t too inviting. The plus about eating outside was that you got to see planes taking off from LAX. You could also take a stroll down Main St. and window shop. Plenty of 2 hour parking is available along Main St.

My rating *** out of 5 stars.

Our Daily Grind on Urbanspoon

Blue Butterfly Coffee Company El Segundo,CA

The Blue Butterfly Coffee Co, named after an endangered butterfly native to El Segundo, is a local favorite. A small brick coffeehouse located on busy Main Street, the eatery has only six dining tables on the interior and two small patio areas on the front and back of the establishment. The dining area is bright and airy thanks to skylights and two entry doors that created a mild crosswind. The walls were brick with paintings next to each table. A large celestial painting was next to the condiment bar. The furniture was light brown, creating a cozy feel. Local business flyers adorned the wall next to the main entrance. Soft music played over the speakers as patrons worked on their laptops or perused the newspaper. The menu consisted of breakfast items such as crepes with chocolate or fruit, quesadillas, “build your own” omelettes, oatmeal, pastries, and cereals and fruit cups.

Blue Butterfly also offered an extensive sandwich menu. Customized bagel sandwiches, available while supplies lasted were cleverly named after local streets and were served with fruit. Fillings consisted of vegetarian, to fish, and meats. Tri tip, chicken, and tuna sandwiches, served with fruit were available. Also available were salads, wraps, paninis, and the soup of the day.

The beverage menu included hot teas, brewed coffee, lattes, macchiato, and cappuccinos. Cold beverages included iced coffee, blended coffee, smoothies and sodas and juices. The menu prices averaged at $1.75 for a small to $4.50 for a large.

The baristas were personable and recognized returning customers by asking them if they would have their usual drink. They were as equally pleasant with newcomers offering suggestions. The staff moved the line quickly as well. They informed patrons that they would call them when the order was ready.

The macchiato ($2.50) was ready shortly after ordering. The milk was just the right temperature and the espresso was smooth with a slightly sweet taste. The mariposa bagel sandwich ($5.50) was ready ten minutes after the drink was prepared. The cheese bagel was chewy and warm. The avocado was ripe and soft, the alfalfasprouts were crunchy, the tomato gave a subtle flavor, the lettuce was crunchy and the cream cheese was a great complement to the sandwich. The side of fruit was very tasty and the grapes, pineapple, melon, watermelon, and cantaloupe were all ripe.

The staff cleaned the kitchen area frequently. They rarely spoke to each other, reserving the quiet atmosphere. The overall aura of the coffeehouse was local and simple. No merchandise, no gimmicks, just great coffee in a cozy atmosphere.

The Blue Butterfly Coffee Co is a small coffeehouse that is popular with locals and tourists alike. Its location on Main Street makes it perfect to grab a coffee and have a walk to the surrounding businesses, have a seat on the front or back patios and watch planes takeoff from the airport, or enjoy the coffee in one of the six dining tables inside. Plenty of two hour street parking is available. Blue Butterfly is located at 351 Main St. El Segundo, CA 90245.

My rating **** out of 5 stars

 

 

Blue Butterfly Coffee on Urbanspoon

The Healthy Bean Torrance,CA

Located in a small strip mall on the busy intersection of Lomita and Hawthorne is the Healthy Bean. Upon entering the coffeehouse, one notices the high ceilings, several arm chairs, small dining tables, and a bar area complete with small lamps and outlets, perfect for study or working on a laptop. Soft music was playing and the dining area was kept very clean. Merchandise such as mugs and coffee presses were displayed on several shelves.

In addition, whole bean and ground coffee were available for purchase. A large cooler was to the right of the order station, packed with ready to eat sandwiches, salads, breakfast burritos, and many juices and teas to choose from. The sandwich wraps were vegan and the burritos were 60% organic and vegetarian. Also ready to eat were baked goods, and organic, low fat and gluten free soup was available as well. 

The menu consisted of fair trade, organic, low acid brewed coffee which was composed of antioxidants such as blueberry, green tea, and pomegranate. Also available were cappuccinos, lattes, blended coffee, iced coffee, organic teas, smoothies, and yogurt parfaits. The average price for beverages ranged from $3.50 for a small to $4.95 for a large.

The cashier was very pleasant while taking the order. He explained that they have a card program in which you get a free drink of your choice after the tenth stamp on the card is punched. He also asked for the milk preference for the drink as well as offering to heat up the ready-made sandwich.

IMG_0460

White Chocolate Mocha

The drink was ready shortly after ordering. The white chocolate mocha ($3.95) was creamy with a nice layer of foam at the top. The milk was a little too hot thus making it longer to finish the drink. A few moments later, the barista delivered the warm breakfast burrito, complete with utensils and a napkin to the table. The burrito ($4.95) consisted of tomatoes, cheese, and potatoes inside a tortilla. The tortilla was warm and chewy, the potatoes were tender and the cheese complemented the burrito well with its subtle taste. The tomatoes were a little tart although not too overwhelmingly so. Overall the burrito was very good despite being a healthy kind.


The staff spoke quietly behind the counter and entered the back room as not to disturb the guests. They were also seen cleaning the dining area as well as restocking the cooler. The condiment station, as well as the two trash cans was kept tidy.

The Healthy Bean is perfect for those that would like healthy meal choices, and organic coffee. It is also perfect for those with sensitive stomachs since the coffee is low acid. The small tables, seating up to four are ideal for small group study; however, please note that the establishment is located on an intersection that is busy for the majority of the day. Healthy Bean offers free WiFi for those who like to have a cup while working. Catering is available upon request; advance notice is needed.

My rating **** out of 5 stars

ETA: This coffee house is now closed as of January 2011.

 

The Healthy Bean is located at 23211 Hawthorne Blvd #1 Torrance, CA 90505. It shares a parking lot with other food & retail businesses in the strip mall.
Healthy Bean on Urbanspoon

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