3966 Barranca Parkway
Irvine, CA 92606
When I was a little kid, and my parents were having a party, I always looked forward to the food of course. I would park myself as close as I could to the table, and just gorge myself. Yes, things have not changed too much from today. Anyways, I would eat everything, but I always made sure to get my fair share from the veggie tray that would inevitably be put out. I'd eat the carrots, broccoli, and even a few sticks of celery, but would never touch the cauliflower. Even now, I'm a little leery of cauliflower, but that might just change after this visit to Stonefire Grill.
We were recently invited to Stonefire Grill, where they debuted their Spring menu last month. Not only does their new menu include a few dishes featuring my nemesis, cauliflower, but they also premiered some new sandwiches, a new salad, and a shrimp dish.
For those of you that have not heard of Stonefire Grill, they are a mini chain of fast-casual restaurants, featuring freshly made American favorites. Started in 2000, by sisters Maureen and Mary Harrigan, there are now seven locations of Stonefire Grill in Southern California, with two of those in OC, (this Irvine one, and another in Fountain Valley). Their menu is dominated by salads, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, and grilled items, but they are probably most known for their breadsticks and tri-tip, but I am very partial to their carrot cake. Of course dinner is before dessert, as I heard my mom's voice in the back of my head, urging me to try all of the cauliflower dishes.
We were at an event, so the serving sizes were portioned out as samples thank goodness, because there was lots to try. Starting things off was the Roasted Cauliflower Pita ($5.99). This pita was inspired by one of the sister's trips to Israel recently. In fact, the pita bread used here is sourced directly from a bakery in Jerusalem. Inside this very well made pita is roasted cauliflower, lemon tahini, chopped tomato, green onion, and a spicy cilantro-Serrano sauce. I was a little taken aback by this. I thought it was going to be very light and mild, but the cilantro-Serrano sauce really made this pop. It gave the cauliflower a good boost, I liked the slight citrus tinge, and the pita bread was excellent. If you like spice, this sandwich is for you.
Man can not live by cauliflower alone, so Stonefire Grill has added three slow roasted, hand-carved turkey sandwiches to their menu, the first of which we tried was the Traditional Turkey ($6.99). This November favorite included red leaf lettuce, cranberry sauce, mayo, and plenty of turkey, all on a whole grain bread. The turkey was nice and moist, and the cranberry added a nice sweetness. Brought back memories of Thanksgiving dinner, without the family squabbles.
Another turkey favorite at this media dinner was the Italian Turkey ($6.99). This time the thickly sliced turkey was placed inside a French roll with sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, red onion, mozzarella cheese, mayo, and a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. The bread used for these new sandwiches is from La Brea Bakery, which delivers fresh bread every morning to Stonefire Grill. The bread was a great vehicle for this tangy sandwich. Loved the red onion and mustard vinaigrette on this one.
Recently at another sandwich spot, I had a caprese sandwich, and I actually liked it. I have never been a big fan of caprese salads, but maybe I am more of a caprese sandwich fan, because this one was good as well. Stonefire's version of a Caprese Sandwich ($7.99) had all of the usual suspects you would expect from a caprese; grape tomatoes, pesto, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and arugula, all on a toasted ciabatta. Big flavors, which helped me forget that there was no meat on this sandwich.
Stonefire Grill added two new salads to their Spring menu, a Cauliflower Salad ($1.59 for a single serving), and a Keen Green Salad ($8.99). Both of theses salads were pretty solid, but I was surprised that I liked the Keen Green one the best. It included quinoa, chopped spinach, artichoke hearts, avocado, sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and fresh pesto. I think they definitely got the name right with all of these green items in this salad. Even with my disdain with quinoa, it did not get in the way of the other items in this salad. The avocado added a nice creaminess, the pesto added some moisture, and the spinach brought everything together. I felt pretty good eating these healthy salads, they made me feel like I could have two slices of the carrot cake that was to come later.
You probably do not believe me, but this was my favorite item of the night. Even I was shocked when I found myself up at the buffet line getting seconds of this Whole Roasted Cauliflower ($5.99). I had never had roasted cauliflower before, and the roasting gave the tips a tinge of crunchiness, while the inside was very tender. The cauliflower was topped with a lemon tahini and parsley. I added a little extra tahini, which made the cauliflower sing. On our next visits to Stonefire Grill, I can see Katie and I splitting this side item.
The last of the entrees that we tried was this Shrimp ($12.99) dish. The plentiful shrimp is seasoned with lemon, olive oil, garlic, and chopped parsley, then served atop a big mound of quinoa. I stayed away from the quinoa on this one, but the shrimp were seasoned very nicely. Since everyone had filled up on the other items here, and this one was bought out last, I pretty much had as much shrimp as I could handle.
This of course was the moment I was the most excited about, the time when the desserts hit the table. At Stonefire Grill they have three deserts offered. They offer cheesecake and fudge brownies, which I am sure are good, but for me, it's all about their Incredible Carrot Cake ($3.29). This is one of the best carrot cakes we have had. It's moist, but still firm enough to stand up to the good amount of cream cheese frosting that tops this. The frosting is not too sweet, and does not go overboard with the cream cheese flavor. Just like Goldilocks said, "it's just right." A very good end to a wonderful night.
Stonefire Grill and their new menu surprised me on this night. I was surprised that I enjoyed all of the vegetable dishes and salads as much as I did. I even managed to take down some quinoa, although I am still not a fan of it. The turkey sandwiches were pretty good as well. Stonefire Grill is the kind of place that you can bring the family to, and everyone will be happy with their selections. For families, they have plenty of Family Meals that will give you a night off from cooking. They also have several Crowd Pleasing Meals for bigger groups of six or more, at pretty affordable prices starting near $7 per person. A real bargain. Stonefire has helped me get over my cauliflower aversion, and now I might even eat some off of the next veggie tray I see.
We would like to thank everyone at Stonefire Grill for making us feel so comfortable during our visit on this night. From the servers, the cooks, and the hostess staff, you all made this a wonderful night. We would also like to thank Elly Salter and Allie Briscoe for hosting this great event, and answering all of our questions about Stonefire Grill. You guys were awesome. We would lastly like to thank Erick Martinez and Jenna Satariano of the fabulous PR agency, Groff-Hinman, for thinking of inviting us to this great event. It was great seeing you both again.
For more information about Stonefire Grill and all of their menu options, go to their website here: http://www.stonefiregrill.com/