Blog Swap! Katie's visit, LALLAgrill, and a royal crepe!

Posted by Katie of Happy Hour Honeys:

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I run my blog, Happy Hour Honeys, with my good friend Kelly and while we originally started the blog as an excuse to go to happy hours together, it has since become a way for us to stay connected now that we live across the country from each other.

Similarly, 32 Above provides me with a good dose of Lauren every time I read a post and I love that she has decided to share her observations and explorations of her new town on her blog. Lauren and I decided it would be fun to guest post on each other's blogs so hopefully our readers will enjoy it too! You can read Lo's HHH post here. Throughout our time in college, I made it a regular practice to drive down to SLO and visit Lauren during my school breaks. Things are a little different now that she’s living and working in Seaside and I’m in grad school in Boston, but when I found out I would be returning home to San Jose for my spring break, I thought why mess with tradition?

Also, I have to admit I was curious to find out for myself what the Seaside/Monterey area has to offer. Lauren’s blog has definitely showed me that there’s more going on than I thought, so I was excited to find out what Lauren had planned for my visit.

After I arrived in Seaside and got a quick tour of Lo’s duplex, we headed off to dinner with Lauren’s roommate Sarah. Lauren kept our destination a secret so I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we pulled into Monterey's Del Monte Shopping Center. Turned out we were headed for LALLAgrill, a restaurant that is focused on bringing “freshness” to its customers in every way possible.

The moment we walked into LALLA, I knew we were in for a good night. The interior design was amazing, chic and fun at the same time. And I loved the bar setup. It reminded me of the library in Beauty and the Beast, but with bottles instead of books. The outside patio was gorgeous as well and seemed like it would be a great place to relax with a drink on a warm night.

Speaking of drinks, LALLA has lots and lots of drink choices which is great but also makes it difficult to decide what to get. Sarah went for the LALLAjito which is a traditional mojito but with vanilla rum.

I tried out the MOD mojito which incorporated house-infused pineapple rum and a sprinkle of cinnamon into the usual mojito formula. Lauren charged me with the task of picking her drink too so I recommended that she try the Paloma, a tequila and grapefruit juice-based drink. All our drinks looked great and tasted good too. The Paloma had a much stronger alcohol taste than the mojitos so while it was good, I would only suggest ordering it if you are a big tequila fan.

As far as food, LALLA serves California cuisine and offers a variety of dishes that feature local ingredients. Just like the drink menu, the food menu is expansive and can be a little overwhelming because everything sounds so good. We decided to share 3 dishes off the small plate menu so we could try as much as possible.

Lauren’s favorite was the Goat Cheese Ravioli with crushed tomato sauce. We all agreed that you could tell the pasta was homemade and I especially loved the creaminess of the goat cheese. We also tried the Strawberry Salad which was made up of mixed organic greens with feta, candied pecans, roasted corn, cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, and dried cherries served with raspberry vinaigrette. It was a great combo of fresh ingredients and the contrast of the red strawberries against the greens and the white feta made for a very pretty dish.

My favorite plate was the Crab Cakes with mango salza (their spelling, not mine) and wild rice. I love the idea of adding fresh mango to cut the fried-ness of the crab cakes. The wild rice was a great complement to the cakes as well.

We also ordered a side of their delicious garlic bread. It's crispy with the perfect amount of saltiness. Definitely a great appetizer to munch on while you wait for your dinner to arrive.

Since dinner was so tasty, I’m sure dessert at LALLA would have been good too, but we decided to try our luck at Whole Foods (only partly because it’s supposed to be a favorite hangout of Clint Eastwood’s). Unfortunately, Whole Foods closed at 9 so we were about 30 minutes too late. Lauren and Sarah agreed that there would probably be some kind of dessert place open downtown and they were right.

An open parking space out front was all the convincing we needed to try out Monterey Crepe Company. We decided to split one crepe since we were still pretty full from dinner. We went with the King Zakara, a crepe with nutella, strawberries, bananas, and whipped cream. You really can’t go wrong with warm, melty nutella and strawberries and bananas. So, so good! I have a feeling Lauren might become a regular, especially since they’re open so late on weeknights.

Picture from Yelp - this King Z had caramel added.... perfect without it though!

If LALLAgrill and Monterey Crepe Company are any indication of what the Monterey area has to offer, I think my trips to Seaside might have to become as much of a tradition as my SLO trips were.
Thanks so much to Lauren for a great introduction to her new town and for letting me post on her ever interesting and always informative blog!

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