Imagine this scenario: You've just received a call from your best friend from high school, the one who always puts on a beautiful dinner when you visit. She's coming tonight or maybe tomorrow, she's not sure. You have a report to finish for work, a California Mission project to help your fourth-grader with, and you sure would like to go to that Zumba class. But you'd love to treat her to a nice meal at home. What to do?
Enter the Spot. The Spot, recently transplanted from Pasadena to Glendale, is a unique dining establishment. Primarily a catering company, The Spot also sells prepared entrees, sides and desserts to take home and enjoy. If you heat them according to simple instructions and reassemble them artfully, your guests will think you spent the whole afternoon in the kitchen. The Spot also has a dine-in option. The cheery eating area with high tables is a nice place for a casual lunch or dinner. It's on the pricey side, considering you order at the counter, but the meals are satisfying and nutritious.
I ate in and chose for lunch the fish entree combo ($15.95). Along with their fish of the day, pesto-crusted salmon, I was allowed to choose a drink as well as a side salad and dessert of my liking from their beautiful display case. Seeing that I was struggling to choose between their many salads, the charming server offered me samples in little cups.
There was an excellent orzo salad with artichoke hearts and roasted peppers, eggplant and red onion in a basil vinaigrette. Then there was a fresh and lively rice salad with al dente white rice, mint, peas and dill. They also had Caesar, mixed green and fruit salads that looked fresh and healthful. I finally settled on a superb Thai salad featuring spaghetti (again, nicely al dente) with pea pods, red and orange pepper slices, cilantro and green onion in a delicate peanut-sesame dressing. This complemented the salmon nicely.
Every bite of the perfectly cooked salmon filled me with happiness. The thick 6-ounce filet was topped with basil pesto and then crispy panko breadcrumbs. I'm guessing they use the same technique here that they use for their popular Panko chicken ($5.95 each). The entree is quickly fried in a little hot oil to make the light, airy crumbs crispy and flavorful, then cooked it in the oven, cutting down on fat.
My dessert options were all tempting — cupcakes, fruit tarts, various bars made of chocolate, lemon, berries and such — but I was ecstatic with my choice of a cashew cookie. It is a mounded shortbread cookie with chopped cashews and a wonderful butter cream frosting on top.
I took home a few items for my family and presented a lovely dinner that night. We started off with two appetizers, phyllo spinach and feta, and crab empanadas ($12/dozen). The phyllo triangles were creamy and delicious. (Though be careful not to overcook them or they'll ooze everywhere.)
But I don't think I'd get the empanadas again. The crust was a little heavy and the filling was nothing to write home about. We also had the Parmesan chicken ($5.95 each) — huge, moist, delicious chicken breasts coated in fresh Parmesan and served with a basil aioli. Two single breasts easily fed my family of four. I supplemented with my own green salad.
By just dropping in to the Spot, my choices were limited to what was in their display case and freezer (usually meatloaf, lasagna and Mexican casseroles). Next time, I'll check their website (www.TheSpot Gourmet.com) a day or two before and call in my order.
They have various combinations, such as the Gourmet Mommy ($26.99 feeds a family of four); Romantic Dinners for Two and Corporate Menus (prices vary). Their various online and in-store menus are a little confusing with differing prices for the same items due to differing weights. Just discuss your needs with one of the helpful, professional employees and they'll set you up. Another option is to call early in the day and see what they're making for a large catering order. If you like what you hear, they'll make extra for you.
All in all, even though, or perhaps because, they are a large catering company, the food at the Spot is handled with care and prepared with a light touch. So next time guests drop in unexpectedly, give them a call.
Infobox What: The SpotWhere: 1936 W. Glenoaks Blvd., GlendaleWhen: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayPrices: Combos $10 to $19.95; entree items $5.25 to $14; salads and sides (half pints, pints and quarts) $4 to $16; desserts $1.50 to $4Contact: (818) 861-7339 or www.TheSpot Gourmet.com