10.2: Here's to Healthy Options!

It’s hard to believe that our first STONEFIRE in Valencia is 10 years old!  Looking back, we took a few risks in our planning, ones that really paid off.  At the time, restaurants didn’t do takeout, and most associated a meal to go with pizza or Chinese food; grocery stores were just beginning to make prepared foods to take home.

We decided to really emphasize STONEFIRE Takeout with the idea that our kitchen could, and should, replace yours regularly!  We prepared simple menu items focusing on value, quality and taste, and the Santa Clarita community responded.  Our overall business steadily increased that first year and the idea of STONEFIRE Takeout became a successful reality.  In fact, we have remodeled our Takeout area four times in the past 10 years, always looking for additional space.  Most recently, we took over the space next door and increased our restaurant size by 1500 square feet, the majority of which went to a new and bigger Takeout area!

Thank you, Valencia, for your support over the years.  The following was written by a regular Valencia guest, Jackie Field, a wife, mom and personal trainer who loves STONEFIRE Grill.

Enjoy,

Mary Harrigan

I Send All My Clients to STONEFIRE

It’s so hard for busy people today to get a healthy meal that’s prepared the way you would prepare your own meals in your kitchen.  With one child finishing up soccer, another to be dropped off at gymnastics or dance, work to finish up that didn’t get done in your regular work day, e-mail to check, a dog to walk (it’s our greatest wish, right?), etc…Come on, you don’t have time to marinate and cook some chicken, chop various veggies, prepare your homemade salad dressings AND set the table?  Those times, unfortunately, are very rare and almost non-existent.

So what to do? As a lifestyle coach and trainer, I send all my clients to STONEFIRE for the best “living” food around.  I’ve trusted STONEFIRE for 10 years now.  I have cross-examined their managers and cooks to find out what they put into their sauces, dressings and marinades.  Everything is made right there with fresh ingredients daily.  Even the carrot cake is made by STONEFIRE cooks.  I recommend it on those special days of indulgences, like Mother’s Day and birthdays.  You can even order a half portion to share with a friend.

STONEFIRE’s menu is loaded with fresh vegetables.  They are the best at letting you modify your order with substitutions or add on additional veggies.  Most of their food items can very easily accommodate a vegetarian diet.  Whenever I have my health and wellness meetings, I’m able to get all the meats and cheeses on the side, as well as dressings, which makes my vegetarian clients extremely happy.  As for my carnivore friends, they love the healthy selection of the lemon garlic salmon or chicken.  You can even order the chicken breast skinless.  It goes without saying; the tri tip is one of the best in Southern California!

I tell my clients, “You should always be conscious of what you put in your mouth and why.  Always be willing to live with the consequences of what you eat.  And always eat for the right reasons.”  I prefer to eat for my health and wellness.  Handle stress with exercise, hobbies, or a good walk under a beautiful blue sky.  Never eat while watching TV or reading a book.  That’s not conscious eating, that’s mechanical eating, and not very satisfying.  Always load up on vegetables to increase the metabolic rate of your meals.  Who wouldn’t want to burn more calories?

So if you’d like a couple of suggestions as to what to eat at STONEFIRE, here are a few of my favorites.  I recommend the Fiesta salad.  It has sautéed and fresh vegetables, which give it a great flavor.  The dressing is amazing, but I like it with no dressing.  The juices from the sautéed peppers and onions give it great flavor on their own.  I also like to get the grilled veggie platter and add a few more grilled veggies at home.  I then take the leftovers home and eat the rest as a snack or side salad later in the day.  When my husband and I go, we like to get the chicken and tri tip combo meal.  It’s plenty for the two of us plus he loves the breadsticks!  My most common order is the lemon garlic salmon meal with a Cartwheel salad.  I was never a lover of beets or cilantro dressing until my daughter talked me into the Cartwheel salad.  Now it’s a must have at family cook outs when I need a big salad that makes everyone happy.

Placing a healthy order at STONEFIRE, for take out or to eat in, allows you to take care of your health while spending time with your loved ones.  Just because we don’t have time to MAKE a healthy meal doesn’t mean we don’t have time to EAT a healthy meal.  Get rid of the excuses and the excess fat, eat at STONEFIRE!  You’ll love it, I do!

Jackie Field, Certified Fitness Trainer/Life Coach

10.4: Our Menu is Your Menu

When the STONEFIRE Grill menu was written, now 10 years ago, we had our personal favorites.  The BBQ Chopped Salad was so good and we knew it would be one of our most popular items.  The Favorite Pizza was our at-home, Sunday night specialty, and we had high hopes it would also find a following in the restaurant. Little did we know that it would quickly win our guests over like it did!

What makes us smile today, though, are the ‘favorite menu items’ developed by the STONEFIRE team and our loyal guests over the years.  Here’s a list of our Top 10 – the best, the most unusual and even some that have made it to the permanent STONEFIRE menu:

1. The BBQ Chopped…Every Way. Depending on the diet trend or the health regime you follow, the BBQ Chopped is recreated more ways than we can count! 
- Low Fat – Omit the cheese and tortilla strips and substitute BBQ sauce for Ranch dressing.
- Low Carb – Well, this is harder, but omit the tortilla strips, corn and black beans and add extra chicken or tri tip
- Vegetarian – Sub avocado for the chicken or tri tip, or leave it ‘as is’ without meat.

2. Lemon Garlic Chicken Breast – Another popular item to modify, and here are a few ways:
- No skin, heavy garlic (my choice!)
- ‘As is’ and add artichokes (we call it ‘Oscar’s Chicken’ for our long time team member’s favorite)

3. Our two vegetarian pastas, with marinara and pesto are my kid’s favorites.  They liked them so much growing up that they ate them together, and from this strange combination, we created ‘Tomesto’, both sauces served side by side.  Ask us to bake it with mozzarella and you will have it ‘Justin’s Way’.

4. In West Hills, our team raved about making our salmon ‘lemon garlic’.  We hesitated, but they persisted and offered it to our guests as an option.  Soon it became so popular that we added it to the menu, but didn’t know that it would stand the test of time.  It is now one of our best sellers, and I must admit, it is GOOD!

5. Asian Chicken Salad – sub the Sesame Glazed Salmon for the chicken.  Delicious.  In fact, our salmon has become a very popular substitution for chicken or tri tip on any of our salads!

6. The Breadsticks – our team dips them in ranch, BBQ sauce, in a combination of the two, marinara, in Chile Lime Vinaigrette and most unusual, our Caesar dressing.  This one is a little strange for me, but those that love it are passionate.  Try it and YOU be the judge!

7. Vegetarians find their way through our menu with ease.  Our Poblano Chicken Wrap (no chicken) is a favorite, as are almost all of our salads and wraps without the meat. Adding extra avocado or some cheese are two easy ways to better accommodate the non-carnivore in you!

8. Not that this one is particularly appealing to me, but just so you can see how our guests have fun with the STONEFIRE menu, here’s one that comes from a long time Valencia customer-turned-employee, Marsha. She would take any number of our salads and ask the kitchen to substitute Cowboy Beans for the chicken or tri tip. Any takers?

9. Talk about ‘value’! I’ve seen this one time and again, and if you’re looking for a light lunch on a budget, here’s a tip. Just as many of our lovely senior women do, get together at STONEFIRE, split a small salad four ways, order some water and leave well fed for about $2 per person. Works for us!

10. I could go on, but there’s one item left to discuss. It’s being pushed heavily by the STONEFIRE team as their absolute favorite.  Whether it makes it to the menu or not remains to be seen.  We call them ‘Cinnamon Sticks’, our freshly-baked breadsticks rolled in melted butter and cinnamon sugar. Hey, the competition may serve up something similar, but trust me, there’s no comparison. Served with a side of our cream cheese frosting (yes, the same deliciousness that covers our Carrot Cake), these things are ‘Cinnful’ but ridiculously good!

Enough from me, let’s hear what your favorites are.

Happy Eating,

Mary Harrigan

10.3: Actively Working Together

I don’t know whether I should thank Mom or blame her, but one lesson she taught me is the need to give back, that idea of humble service.  She raised nine children but still managed to find the time to get involved in areas that mattered.  For as long as I can remember, she volunteered in our classrooms, the library and the school offices.  From elementary through high school, she was there.  In retirement, she devoted much of her time to her passion, crisis pregnancy counseling.  She was an activist, a leader, a teacher and a giver.  She was my hero, my example today and every day.

Let’s just say I’ve got a long road ahead of me to find myself just barely in her shadow.

The growth of STONEFIRE has enabled us, as a company and a team of great people, to get involved in a variety of ways in our communities.  From Valencia to Irvine and back to Thousand Oaks, we love to support local groups – especially the schools.  Sports teams, teachers, clubs, outstanding students…you name it and I feel the nudge from above to just say “yes”!  What goes around comes full circle.  As we continue to give, so also do we continue to receive tremendous support and develop great relationships with all of our local schools.

“Community”, that sense of togetherness, one of action and betterment for the sake of the collective, does not stop here.

My nephew, Brendan, has lived with Cystic Fibrosis for his 23 years of life.  The disease is devastating but so close to being understood and cured.  We’re proud to partner with CFF to raise money to bring that cure to fruition.  Plans are under way to ask for your help, too, in a variety of fundraisers within each STONEFIRE location to benefit the worthy cause, one near and dear to my family and so many others.  It is the least we can do for Brendan, an accountant in the Bay Area and another one of my heroes.

Keeping with the theme, let’s take a look at some heroes so often overlooked – those men and women in uniform that serve our communities.

I have to say, these are some of STONEFIRE’s favorites.  In Valencia, we’re nicknamed the “Firehouse Grill” because of all our friends in the LA County Fire Department that dine with us. They are selfless, generous and really appreciative of a good meal.  Some of STONEFIRE’s most memorable events have been when we’ve partnered with our various police and fire departments.

In Irvine, we sponsor “Shop with a Cop” every December.  Over 50 kids living in a domestic violence shelter pair with over 50 Irvine Police Officers and go shopping for Christmas gifts for themselves and their moms.  The event culminates with a great meal at STONEFIRE Grill.  I have watched officers time and again increase the shopping budget we provide and reach into their own pockets simply for the smile they receive in return.  They do it like they do their jobs – quietly, without fanfare and with huge hearts. I love to watch the faces of the shoppers in Target when all of those ‘cops’ walk in to shop and leave with Barbie dolls, racecars, video games and more!

Another favorite is Habitat for Humanity.  In recent years, we have done what little we can to help raise needed funds to build homes.  A little goes a long way because of the dedicated volunteers that generously give their time and labor every step of the way.  We are working towards a STONEFIRE Team that regularly picks up the hammer and nails in addition to providing a lunch or two!  It has been a great experience for our team members that have been involved and an exciting opportunity as we move forward.

The best part of trying to be a company that gives back is the attitude that has developed amongst our entire team.  We don’t hesitate to help when an opportunity presents itself.  Both inside our restaurants and beyond, the underlying philosophy is simple – if we can help, we always do so without thinking twice.  We’re in the business of selling great food, but the greatest success, for me, is when I can look around and see a bit of Mom’s influence in STONEFIRE Grill.

Sincerely,

Mary Harrigan

10.1: Celebrating 10 Years

On a small side-street in Valencia in 2000, an idea became a reality as we opened the first STONEFIRE Grill.  We began with a humble attempt to try something new in restaurant dining, and 10 years later, with 7 STONEFIRE locations, it is both unbelievable and exciting that we are the leader in the restaurant industry for fast-casual, family-style dining, takeout and catering services.  The simplicity of our concept – quality, delicious food with exceptional service and value prices – is the key to our success.  Still, there is something more that makes STONEFIRE Grill unique and our success so great.  It’s the people, the team that makes up our STONEFIRE family.  Our growth and success have been fueled by an amazing group of dedicated individuals, many of them with us for the entire 10 years.

Trent is the General Manager of our Pasadena location.  He was on the opening team in Valencia just out of high school.  Elsa started as a dishwasher with limited English in 2000 and today, she is our go-to girl, managing in both Chatsworth and Valencia and recently spending 2 months on our opening management team in Thousand Oaks.  Tig has also been with us since we opened.  He is mentally challenged and has worked for 10 years in our Valencia location bringing smiles to our faces daily with his simplicity, his humor and his honest approach to life that supersedes language barriers, cultural differences and personalities.

My stories are endless, my team irreplaceable.

It has been an amazing journey these past 10 years.  We have come to know different communities spanning Southern California and have gone from a team of 50 to a team of over 500.  We have developed friendships and relationships in each new community we have entered, because it has always been about you, our guest, the STONEFIRE Team and what we are collectively.  With food as our vehicle, we touch each other’s lives and share. We are so proud of our relationships in each community, and we look forward to the future as we continue to grow.

As we celebrate our 10 year anniversary, we also celebrate our beautiful new website.  It was designed by a few very talented individuals on our STONEFIRE Team with an interactive approach in mind.  We hope you enjoy hearing from us regularly via our site as we communicate the many aspects that make us STONEFIRE.  As you can imagine, 10 years has brought many incredible people, stories and events to our family, and we plan to share with you our favorite memories using this blog.  Stay tuned as we count down to our 10 year anniversary celebration and remember all that has made us 10 years old and 10 years strong.

From the entire STONEFIRE Family, we thank you for your support over these years.  As always, our continued goal is for the FIRE that is us to continue to spread from our kitchens to your hearts.

Sincerely,

Mary Harrigan