fresh & easy turns one; Dine 909 crashes the party

It’s truly an unnerving feeling to be somewhere you aren’t normally. Like in a grocery store an hour before they open.

Luckily for Dine 909, that’s exactly what we got to experience November 12.

Dine 909 crept under the Orange Curtain to attend the grand opening of the 100th fresh & easy in Fullerton. Coincidentally, it was just over one year ago that the first fresh & easy store opened in Hemet.

So, what was it like? We dined on slices of breakfast burritos and an assortment of pastries. We were offered a variety of refreshing teas and juices. Since it was a milestone opening, we rubbed shoulders with the likes of Tim Mason, fresh & easy CEO; Mike Ainslie, fresh & easy Head Chef; Simon Uwins, fresh & easy Chief Marketing Officer; and Hugh Cousins, fresh & easy Chief Human Resources Officer.

In other words, it was like dying and going to fresh & easy heaven.

Continue reading

More Q in the IE

Got a press release today from Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. They’re opening a new restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga, but the press release failed to mention specifically where or when.

A quick look on their Web site, however, brings up an address: 9670 Haven Avenue, which is just north of Fourth Street.

On that same page, I saw that they’ve already got a store in Chino at 11971 Central Avenue, and are planning to open in Fontana (16391 Sierra Lakes Parkway), Ontario and Corona.

Don’t know what it is about all these new barbecue places springing up all over, but in today’s economy, I’ll welcome any new business.

Especially ones that offer free ice cream!

If any of you Dine 909ers have been to the Chino restaurant (or any of their other locations) and want to share your experience; or if you have any more info on the upcoming locations, feel free to email us or leave a comment. Thanks!

Safe holiday cooking

Food poisoning isn’t pretty, so don’t ruin your holiday dinner by inviting Sal Monella!

Follow these 12 tips for a safe holiday feast, courtesy of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health:

12 TIPS FOR A SAFE HOLIDAY FEAST

More than one in ten of us cook Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for a large crowd. Catering
safely for a large gathering can be a challenge in a domestic kitchen; refrigerators and ovens
never seem big enough. When there is so much food, some is often served warm when it should
be chilled, or too cool when it should be piping hot. These actions can result in an unpleasant
case of food poisoning for you or your family and friends. The following are 12 tips for safe
food handling practices during the holidays:

Continue reading

Eccellente Italiano, times due

Friday’s Sun and Daily Bulletin gave us two delicious choices for Italian food here in the Inland Empire.

First up is Elaine Lehman’s “Lunch with ‘Lainey” review of Alfredo’s Pizza and Pasta, here in San Bernardino. I must confess to being a longtime Alfredo’s fan. In fact, there was a point in time where I would go there at least once a week, whether to dine in or just to grab a pizza and go. I was there so often that I became acquainted with the owners and much of the staff. They’re really a great bunch of folks.

They’ve won the “Best of the Inland Empire” by both Inland Empire magazine and The Sun for many, many years.

I don’t go there quite as often anymore, but I still try to stop in and chat with some of the folks that are still working there. It’s still a great place to eat and their pizzas are probably the best in town — I recommend trying their White or Bianco sauce pizzas, if you haven’t gotten hooked on them already.

As an added bonus, they’re open ’til 11 p.m.

Elaine’s review can be found here.

Over in the West Valley, David Cohen reviews Paisano Ristorante Italiano in Fontana. I’ve also been to Paisano’s, too. My family tends to go there to celebrate someone’s birthday. I’ve never had a bad meal there, and David is correct — the desserts are outstanding!

It’s one of those places that’s hiding in plain sight. If you’ve ever been to the Target or Stater Bros. in the Falcon Ridge Town Center in the north end of Fontana, you’ve driven right past Paisano’s. It’s just on the right when you enter the parking lot from the main entrance…in the same building as Panera Bread.

Now that you know where it is, go! You won’t be disappointed. Everything I’ve eaten there has been fresh and flavorful, and the ambiance is upscale, yet inviting.

You can find David’s review here.

Now for the $64,000 question — which is better?

Even though they both are Italian restaurants, it’s a little like comparing apples and oranges.

Alfredo’s, to me, is like home cooking. You know what you’re going to get. It’s Italian comfort food. You can almost taste the years of tradition in their food.

Paisano’s, on the other hand, is like being invited over to a rich friend’s house and having their chef prepare the meal. There’s a little more skill involved in the preparation and the flavors seem a little more exotic.

Either way, you’re going to have a great dining experience.

The Mexican Grill Showdown

Chipotle vs Qdoba

This is a grilled vegetable burrito smackdown. Now this is not a
McDonalds (Chipotle) vs Jack in the Box (Qdoba) thing. If the burrito
scale goes from 1 to 10… The 10 goes to… drum roll… Chipotle! I would
hold Qdoba’s burrito at an 8.5. The devil is in the details. The said
details are the type of vegetables that are grilled, the hot sauce and
rice. Chipotle’s grilled veggies are mostly onions and peppers and
Qdoba’s are mostly squashes. The hot sauces are a side extra but make a
big difference to me. Chipotle uses the Tabasco Brand Chipotle Pepper
Sauce and Qdoba sports the wood topped Cholula brand Hot Sauce.

Lastly, the rice seemed just a bit fluffier at Chipotle. Both burritos
are the best the I.E. has to offer so enjoy either if one is close to
your lunch plans.

French toast smoothie or horchata shake? You decide!

Making my way back from Las Vegas last night, I suggested we stop at Sonic in Victorville — since it’s a rarity here in Southern California — and grab a snack.

To my delight, I saw they had a Sticky Bun Dough Blast. Of course, I was curious to know if it was good or not, so I asked the lone carhop, the very helpful K3vin. He said it was pretty good, so I decided it was worth a shot.

I’m very glad I did.

Sonic’s “Blasts” are their equivalent of a McFlurry/Blizzard/etc. — ice cream with candy or other sweet treats blended in. The Sticky Bun Dough Blast has bits of sticky bun dough — sweetly cinnamony with a hint of maple syrup flavor — and praline pecans blended throughout and sprinkled on top, with a dollop of whipped cream. What a delicious treat!

Of course, at 578 calories for a regular size, it’s not something you want to have every day, but as a very occasional treat I’d have to say it was worth the extra calories.

I just couldn’t decide if it tasted more like French toast or horchata. You’ll have to try one for yourself and let us know. Don’t wait too long…the Sticky Bun Dough Blast is only available for a limited time.

It’s Mimi’s grand re-opening, but you and the Red Cross are getting the presents

The newly-remodeled Mimi’s Cafe in San Bernardino is celebrating their grand re-opening with a couple of special events we want to share with the Dine 909ers.

Tomorrow (November 12), Mimi’s is helping out the Inland Empire Chapter of the American Red Cross by donating 15 percent of their proceeds for all guests who present the flier that’s available here. Eat Mimi’s delicious comfort food and do something good for the Red Cross? See you there!

Mimi’s may be celebrating Wednesday by giving to the Red Cross, but on Thursday, November 13, Mimi’s celebrates by giving toyou! Beginning at 9:30 a.m., the first 75 guests 18 years old and older will receive a gift card valued at up to $100. Then they’ll continue giving away coupons and gift cards all day long, to the tune of $3,000 in free stuff!

The San Bernardino restaurant’s remodeling job makes it one of the very first in the chain that sports a new look that will eventually roll out nationwide. The redesign also includes a full bar where you can order a “Mimitini.”

The official grand re-opening, complete with Mimi’s Cafe president, Tim Pulido; Peggy Hazlett, assistant to Mayor Pat Morris; and representatives of the American Red Cross, kicks off at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

The San Bernardino Mimi’s Cafe is at 395 E. Hospitality Lane.

It’s heartening to see a restaurant re-opening rather than shutting down.

Paxton’s Cellar hosting cancer-fighting benefit

Ah…the cancer-fighting benefits of wine!

From the pages of the Redlands Daily Facts, we read that Paxton’s Cellar in Redlands is hosting a benefit for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The wine tasting is being presented by Erin and Kathy Martin from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, November 20.

Erin, a 25-year-old oncology nurse, will be running in a marathon to benefit the society on December 14, her 26th birthday. Her mother Kathy, 56, will be running with her. This will be Kathy’s second time participating.

Each runner is required to gather a $4,700 donation to participate in the marathon.

The Martins’ are asking a $40 minimum donation to enjoy the wine tasting. A limited number of advance tickets will be available. For tickets, call Erin Martin, (909) 855-2953, or Kathy Martin, (909) 557-4395.

To read the story as it ran in the Facts, click here.

All hail the king!

The Splendid Table’s Lynne Rossetto Kasper will be in the Inland Empire this weekend raising funds for our local National Public Radio station, KVCR (91.9 FM).

This Sunday, she will be at Farm Artisan Foods in Redlands speaking about Parmigiano-Reggiano, which some experts call “the king of cheeses.” Now, Lynne spent ten years researching Parmigiano-Reggiano and the region it originates from, so she knows of what she speaks.

The bad news? If you haven’t already gotten your tickets, you’re outta luck. The Farm event is sold out!

The good news? You can still see (and dine with) Lynne at the ESRI Café in Redlands. Saturday evening’s dinner menu will consist of items selected from The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper cookbook, including Pan Crisp Deviled Eggs, 21st Century Mac & Cheese and Sally’s Coconut Macaroons.

The dinner menu was selected and will be prepared by the ESRI Café’s Chef Jim Racela.

Tickets for the dinner are still available at the time of this entry and are available from KVCR via this link, where you can find more information and view the entire menu.

Bon appetit!

Catching up with the Sun and the Daily Bulletin

Since the Redlands Daily FactsBurritoQuest seems to have folded (Get it? Folded…like a burrito! Heh.), I’m glad we at least still get to have Lunch With ‘Lainey. This week Elaine travels south of the border (of San Bernardino County) to explore uncharted territory…Riverside. She ends up at Tummy Stuffer on Iowa Avenue (near Columbia Avenue).

I don’t know that much about Tummy Stuffer other than the fact that I’ve passed by the one in Anaheim on La Palma Avenue dozens of times on the way to check out the gizmos at Fry’s Electronics. Elaine seems to be OK with it, and that’s OK with me.

Also, David Cohen reviews new offerings at Riverside’s Sevilla restaurant here.