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

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!

Double Restaurant Review: Lala’s Argentine Grill and Susina’s Bakery

On Saturday, a friend & I braved the rain (read: drizzles) and had a girls night out to catch up over one of my favorite activities: eating! Our first stop was Lala’s Argentine Grill on Melrose. The rain wasn’t really an issue to me, but it was still cold either way you look at it. That’s why I was shocked when the hostess asked us if we’d like to sit outside. That was a unanimous no! Sure the patio was screened in & heated but a cool breeze could still be felt in the restaurant. So much so we requested to sit as far away from the patio doors as possible so as not to catch a cold. We were there to eat and it would be highly more enjoyable if we still had feeling in our limbs!

Our server was very pleasant as she was taking our drink and food order. She even asked us if we’d like the chicken skinless which was a good move considering how health conscious everyone is getting these days.

While we waited for our food, the obligatory bread basket was dropped off at our table. They clearly didn’t skimp on bread, as we both had 4 pieces each. The bread was accompanied with a dipping sauce of olive oil, garlic, and cilantro which I thoroughly enjoyed.

After waiting for close to 20 minutes, one of the bussers dropped off my Pechuga de Pollo which is a chicken breast marinated in an orange and lemon sauce. Alongside that was a very large salad with a citrus dressing. It was a rather large portion of a salad. I’m not used to seeing a restaurant serve a portion so big.

Pechuga de Pollo at LaLa's Argentine Grill

This chicken dish looked highly appetizing and of course very healthy at first glance. Sadly, the taste was nothing like it looked. The chicken breast was very dry and bland. Not a trace of orange or citrus could be sensed at all which was a huge disappointment. Thankfully we still had left over dipping sauce from the bread. Slathering the chicken with the dipping sauce completely saved the dish. The salad on the other hand was very tasty, there were no complaints on that end. This dish was literally hit or miss to say the least. The server barley checked on us during the meal. She did offer us dessert but the menu didn’t seem too appetizing to me.

Average menu price: $10

My rating ** out of 5 stars

Lala's Grill on Urbanspoon

After a less than scintillating dinner, we decided to head somewhere else to dessert. We ended up at Susina’s.

Susina’s reminded me of Porto’s but on a much smaller scale. I liked the warm colors of the dining area and the bright lamp fixtures. Even during the evening hours, the pastry case was chock full with numerous cakes, tarts, pies, and cookies. The selection was very appealing so it was hard to make a decision! I ultimately decided on the Americano cake and a vanilla latte.
The Americano Cake at Susina Bakery in Los Angeles

The Americano cake was made of espresso liqueur, chocolate mousse, and chocolate sponge cake. The chocolate taste was rich but the airy sponge cake balanced that very well.

Vanilla Latte at Susina Bakery

The vanilla latte was a little bit strong for me. It was only a single shot but I felt like it was a double. It could have used a little bit more sugar but it was also refreshing to get a non Starbucks coffee. The latte and the chocolate cake paired very well. After a less than stellar dinner, it was nice to end the evening on such a good note. The bakery stayed pretty busy as the night went on, a good sign.

Average menu price $8.00

My rating **** out of 5 stars

Susina Bakery on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Wildflower Cafe Redondo Beach, CA

I finally tried the Wildflower Cafe after years of driving by it. This small reddish orange building houses a cute upscale coffee house inside. A small dining area, it’s a good place to catch up with a small group of friends, to study, or to read. The walls are a cool green adorned with trendy coffee themed decor and three mirrors that display the beverage offerings that include hot and cold coffee drinks, an assortment of juices, iced tea and bottled waters. A large pastry case displays fresh baked goods. The furniture and the floor are both black several large windows provide ample sunlight. Clearly, Wildflower makes up for its small space by decorating its interior in a way that the diner gets a sense of openness.

The menu carries the usual breakfast fare of omelets, scrambles, pancakes, lighter fare such as parfaits, fruit bowls, and oatmeal. For lunch, they offer salads and soups.

Breakfast,Wildflour Cafe,Redondo Beach,CA,Wildflower Cafe

Some specialties are offered including the bruschetta and eggs with roasted potatoes and a side of fruit. The presentation was appetizing and bright. The tomatoes, eggs, and toast were a wonderful combination with just enough spice. A little balsamic vinegar may have given the meal a little more kick but it was good for what it was. The potatoes, although cooked well were very peppery…a liberal amount of pepper wouldn’t begin to describe. In fact the pepper was a bit too overwhelming that it was tough to finish the potatoes. The fruit on the other hand was very fresh, not the translucent kind that is sadly seen at many restaurants specializing in breakfast.

The meal was accompanied by orange juice which had a bit of pulp and was sweeter than store bought which was nice and it succeeded in washing down the overwhelming pepper taste of the potatoes.

The service was quick and the server was very attentive for the entire duration of the meal. The meal was very enjoyable with the exception of the peppery potatoes. The juice was also a bit on the pricey side at $3.50 which rivals the price of a small latte at Starbucks.

The average menu price was $9 for breakfast and $12 for lunch. The Sunflower Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch. Street parking is available, just mind the signs.

My rating ***1/2 out of 5 stars.

Wildflower Cafe on Urbanspoon

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

Restaurant Review: Java Man Hermosa Beach, CA

Java Man, the 2008 winner of the Best of the Best coffeehouse in Hermosa Beach is a small shop that was converted from a home built in the 1920s. It is only one of a few independently owned coffeehouses in Hermosa Beach, CA. It has a quaint atmosphere that is rare to find in today’s world. There is hardly any remodeling done to the interior of the eatery, keeping its charm.

Traditional café tables & chairs are available with a few couches scattered through the dining area. The room is full of windows letting the beach sun in. The color scheme is bright, to reflect the sun. The aura was vibrant and quick paced. No music was playing so the employees’ banter could be heard clearly. The walls are decorated with paintings from local artists. The coffeehouse is dog friendly with a jar of dog biscuits prominently displayed next to the condiment station, which was kept clean and stocked. There were no paper copies of the menu but oddly enough there were menus of the Ocean Diner. There were also a few tables available outside the coffeehouse complete with umbrellas.

The menu offers breakfast with major emphasis on varieties of breakfast burritos, lunch sandwiches, and many baked goods and desserts which are made from scratch at another Hermosa eatery, the Ocean Diner. Rare bottled sodas are available as well. The coffee menu consists of freshly brewed coffee, lattes, and teas.


The staff chatted among themselves for a bit while customers waited in line. Upon noticing them, they proceeded to take the orders. They instructed the patrons to have a seat while the order was being prepared. They would call the patrons’ orders out for them to pick up. The orders would not be brought to the tables.The mocha latte ($3.00) was ready shortly after ordering. The turkey pesto sandwich ($6.00) was ready a few minutes later. The latte was warm and the espresso overpowered the chocolate taste. The milk was not rich, as accustomed to, but rather light. The sandwich was accompanied by a bag of chips and an apple. The sandwich bread was nothing worth noting. The pesto sauce was barely noticeable and the turkey meat was rather dry. Clearly the meal in itself was just average.


The staff continued to chat loudly as patrons were dining and new patrons entered the establishment. This could become distracting, especially for patrons studying, working, or doing homework.

Java Man is a good place to stop by for a caffeine boost during a stroll on Pier Avenue. It’s also great for sitting outside and people watching with a few friends, or with your dog. However it is not recommended for those who prefer a quiet atmosphere in order to get work done. The desserts and baked goods are worth checking out as they are made from scratch.


As with a majority of eateries in Hermosa Beach, Java Man does not have a parking lot so bring extra coins and allow extra time after 5pm. Many free one hour parking spaces are available during the day and early afternoons. Java Man is located at 157 Pier Ave Hermosa Beach,CA.


I give them ** out of 5 hearts.

Java Man on Urbanspoon
Java Man in Los Angeles

Catalina Coffee Company Redondo Beach, CA




When I was in college, there were mom and pop coffee houses everywhere. I had more fun going to those coffee houses vs the big chains. It was for the simple reason that the staff was always more genuine. They knew you, they knew your story, and of course they knew your favorite drink. Yes, they train you to be nice to the patrons when you work at the “big box” coffee houses, but it’s just not the same. It feels scripted. Not authentic at all.

After leaving college and moving into the real world, I found that the mom & pop coffee shops were few and far between. It was a bit saddening because the years of patronage at independent coffee houses taught me to support local business. I was out to find those coffee houses again, even in a city as vast as Los Angeles.

Enter Catalina Coffee Company. A local favorite just minutes from the sands of Redondo Beach. This quaint coffee house has the mellow feel that reminded me of those in college. Cushy furniture everywhere, an honor code library and even chess tables allow you to relax and unwind. There is no pressure to sip and go, no stress, just sit as long as you like.
Catalina offers a wide array of coffees, teas, pastries, chips, and even soup and customized sandwiches. Simply order what you’d like & they will bring it to you.

The hot chocolate was brought to me moments after placing the order. The flavor was sweet and not too rich. Just right. Moments later the turkey sandwich was also brought to my table. The meat was tender, the bread was chewy. It was a perfect lunch on a cool autumn day.

The staff was very welcoming and friendly. They were seen throughout the establishment cleaning and speaking with the guests. The dining area was clean and although the staff delivers your food, you are encouraged to put it away at the bussing station once you are through. A majority of the patrons obliged with the task.

Catalina is a great alternative to the usual chain coffee houses. It not only has great coffee and sandwiches, but it’s also an ideal place to study, and to catch up on work, or simply to read. Students and professionals alike can be seen throughout on their laptops. It has its own parking lot that fills quickly on weeknights after 7pm. There is limited parking available on the adjacent streets. Bring change just incase you need to park at one of the metered spots. Operating hours are Monday – Friday 6:30- 10pm and Sat- Sun 7am-10pm.
Catalina Coffee Company on Urbanspoon

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