Dec 05 2016

Journey to the Dumpling

Friends invited us to meet them to try out Journey to the Dumpling, a new-ish restaurant in Elk Grove, CA owned by Yvonne Nguyen (local to Elk Grove) and her boyfriend Chris Tan. They teamed with head chef, Justin Yang to create a fabulous new dining option in Elk Grove.

Journey to the Dumpling Restaurant Photo

Their soft opening was back in October. When I had driven by on previous occasions, the line was out the door, so we opted for an early dinner this past Saturday to beat the crowds. We arrived right before 5:00 p.m., they open at 4:00 p.m. for the dinner shift. This worked out great and we were able to get a table quickly – the restaurant filled up very fast and the waiting area was full by the time we left. 

Journey to the Dumpling, Elk Grove


I loved that the decor was fairly understated, I enjoyed the overall vibe of the place. 


Journey to the Dumpling menu cover

I was super excited to try the soup dumplings, their signature dish. Xiao Long Bao (XLB) is a thin-skinned dough wrap (similar to a wonton) filled with ground pork or whatever meat or veg ordered and filled with a delicious broth, making them fun to eat.

Journey to the Dumpling Xiao Long Bao

Photo: Pork Soup Dumplings – Xiao Long Bao 

We used our chopsticks to gently lift the dumplings from the steamer basket, in some cases they wanted to stick, so we had to help them along with our human spoons, aka… fingers. You have to be careful to not puncture the dumpling, otherwise the soup will empty out. I plopped the first XLB into my mouth and bit into the skin to release the soup. 

Carolyn watched this all go down and then shared some Anthony Bourdain tips for us newbies. She placed the dumpling into her ceramic spoon, used her chopstick to make a small hole to let the steam out and to release some of the broth before eating. This method helped since my method led to a hot burst of soup filling my mouth – ha-ha!


Photo: Pork and Snow Crab Soup Dumplings – Xiao Long Bao 

The lone carrot marked the difference between our two dishes. These were the “off the menu” special. Pork and Crab Dumplings (made with real snow crab). They recently added their very first vegetarian dumpling – stuffed with tofu, mushroom, egg and cilantro – I’m going to try that one next time. Speaking of next time, Carolyn and I planned our next visit and items to order before we were even finished with dinner. I’d say that is a good sign. 

Journey to the Dumpling Ginger, Soy and Vinegar sauces

To use the ginger, vinegar and soy sauce for dipping – you can add it to your spoon before placing the dumpling onto it. Genius! I’m not going to lie, I did pop several more straight into my mouth for the single bite soup release instead of being all Anthony Bourdain. The guys also went with the full mouth bite as well and nobody died or suffered from severe mouth burns. 

Journey to the Dumpling Pan Fried Pork BunPhoto: Pan Fried Pork Bun

On the recommendation of our waiter, we also ordered the Pan Fried Pork Bun – pan fried, soup filled buns with pork and corn. It was a nice change in texture, but Dan and I both agreed that the thicker dough made it harder to eat. We both preferred the steamed dumplings, but these were also pretty damn amazing. 


Photo: Pork and Chive Dumplings

The simpler Pork and Chive Dumplings were also a very solid choice, especially when teamed with the dipping sauce. I preferred the soup dumplings, but would order these again.

Besides all of the dumplings, we ordered a good sampling of other menu items and as I said above, made our mental wish lists for next time.

Journey to the Dumpling - Roujiamo (chinese meat burger)Photo: Roujiamo (Chinese Meat Burgers)

Roujiamo (Chinese Meat Burger) – Stewed pork flavored with numerous spices stuffed between a lightly pan fried flour bun. According to Journey to the Dumpling’s FB post, Roujiamo dates back to the Qin dynasty and has been called “the world’s first hamburger”  – makes sense. I expected the Roujiamo to be more “team moist” but they were a little dry, so dipping it into the sauce helped. 

Journey to the Dumpling - Photo of Wonton in chili oilPhoto: Wonton in Chili Oil

We also ordered the Wonton in Chili Oil. This was a close tie with the pork XLB as my favorite dish of the night. It was more like a chili paste combined with a chili oil – topped with green onion and peanuts. The perfect amount of heat, this made the repeat list for our next visit.

Photo: Pork & Cabbage Potstickers

Journey to the Dumpling - Pork and Cabbage Potstickers

Photo: Pork & Cabbage Potstickers

The Pork & Cabbage Potstickers weren’t like any other potstickers I’ve ever had. They were formed together and surrounded by a crispy skirt. The flavor was good and it was a nice change from the more familiar potsticker. Carolyn was a fan of the crispy bits. 


Photo: Green Onion Pancakes

The Green Onion Pancakes were another “off the menu” item that recently came back after some changes were made to the recipe. These were the right amount of flaky and perfect when teamed with the dipping sauce. 

It should also be noted that two of us had not eaten anything during the day before this meal. What? We were excited to try everything, no judging allowed. 

And on that note, there is ALWAYS room for dessert.

Fried mantou with condensed milkPhoto: Fried Mantou with Condensed Milk

Carolyn wanted to try the Fried Mantou with condensed milk and I was happy to join in. I preferred to peel apart the layers and dip each piece into the condensed milk… because… duh, more sweetness to every bite. 

We had a great night out with friends and are happy to have a new place to add to our “go to” list. If you are local and haven’t tried it, you should. If you have tried it, what should I order next time that I didn’t mention in this post? If you aren’t local and have a fabulous soup dumpling place you like, please share below. 




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Nov 11 2016

I grieve and I celebrate today

I always wake up on Veterans Day not sure how I’m going to feel. Long time friends and readers know that November 11 was also my late husband Ace’s birthday. Today we would have been celebrating his 48th birthday. 

Six years ago I decided to celebrate life, by honoring the amazing veterans that served my country by attending my first local Veterans Day parade.  

Today I’m acknowledging my sadness and grief, but I’m also choosing to celebrate freedom and the wonderful place I live – by once again attending the parade – which has grown so much over the past few years. 


I’m not a person who posts political rants here on my blog or on Facebook. I don’t unfriend people for posting articles and opinions that don’t align with mine. I simply “hide” crap I don’t want to read… but here’s the thing, young students don’t know how to compartmentalize. Kids hear/absorb everything. You MAY think they are busy with their various activities and digital devices, but they are listening, reading and in some cases mimicking your every word.


ALL of the name calling, hatred towards opposing political sides, finger pointing/blaming and the justifications. That stuff follows them onto buses, into classrooms, onto playgrounds and sports fields. I’ve listened to teachers this week, and looked at horrible images and words on Instagram representing pure hate and racial divide among our students and it’s awful. This is happening all over America and that crushes me. No kid should be afraid to go to school, it’s unacceptable and we as adults need to be the change to right this wrong.



I felt such a sense of pride standing along the parade route seeing American flag after American flag and hearing over and over – thank you, thank you for your service and sacrifices made to every veteran attending or in the parade. People were cheering, people were united and for the afternoon – it renewed my faith in humanity. 






VFW 8358 – and dancing dragons



The above veteran served in Vietnam. His wife was standing by me and having trouble with her iPhone. The techie geek in me came to the rescue. She had her brightness turned down so low, her screen was black which was an easy fix. She gave me a huge hug. She was so proud of her husband – when he finally walked by, he saw her, waved and then ran over to give her a huge hug and kiss. I got a little choked up for sure. 



The above was a 1948 antique fire engine that once served the Elk Grove community.


Elk Grove’s Vice Mayor and soon to be Mayor – Steve Ly – handing out flags to parade attendees. 


It was great to be able to say, “hi”  to Steve in person. He has been a huge part of my Time of Remembrance Oral Histories project. His father was an officer under General Vang Pao and a Robin (Backseater) to our American Raven pilots in Laos during the Secret War. 


Our School Board President, Bobbie Singh-Allen, walking proudly with Sikh veterans. 


Sikhs have served in the U.S. military since WWI and the retired Army veteran/father standing next to me made a point to say this to his three children as they passed by us on the parade route. He said, “These men and their families are just as American as we are. They fought shoulder to shoulder with us and deserve the same level of love and respect you give me and my other veteran friends, please remember that.” I pretty wanted to hug him. 



As the mini ponies passed – a parade watcher yelled “Hooray for the poop scooper, they couldn’t do it without you!” – everyone laughed and the poop scooper took a bow. 


So many of our high school bands did such a great job playing and marching along the parade route.




I’m glad I chose to attend the parade today. It’s just what I needed. I will continue to do my work with my co-worker Gail in the area of teaching cultural competence, cyberbullying, LGBTQ community support and our Time of Remembrance Oral Histories project… it’s my way of making sense of all of this and contributing to my own community and beyond. 

There is so much work to do in other areas too. Jump in, volunteer, talk to your family, friends and neighbors. LISTEN to them, their fears, their ideas. Step outside your comfort zone and start “doing” whatever you can to make you community, your city, your state, your country, a place you are proud of.


Now since this is a food blog. I stopped at a deli on my way home and grabbed a turkey, avocado, jack cheese, spinach and tomato sandwich and Ace’s favorite – a Bud. There is nothing wrong with day drinking on Veterans Day. There will also be cake tonight. Happy Birthday wishes to heaven and a huge thank you to all veterans for their service and sacrifices. 


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Nov 08 2016

31st Annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival

Is this thing on? Wow – it’s very hard for me to believe that it’s been over a year since I’ve posted anything here on my blog. How in the world did an entire year fly by so quickly? I have still been cooking, creating recipes, going on food adventures and enjoying life, but blogging took a back burner because it’s what I do for a living – ALL DAY LONG. Enough of that – I enjoy my blog and sharing with family, friends and fellow food lovers, so I’m bringing Foodiddy back. I can’t think of a better thing to do while watching election coverage tonight. 

Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival

I’m going to use a time machine to travel back a few months to September. I decided it’s a good place to start. I attended a dear friend’s bachelorette weekend in Lake Tahoe and part of our intinery included attending the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival and a special winemaker luncheon at Petra. 

Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival Guest Chefs


Petra is a casual wine bar located in the Village at Northstar. They have over 150 wines to choose from with a focus on limited-production and family-owned wineries from California and around the world. 


We could not wait to dive into our multi-course food/wine adventure.


I have been to the Village at Northstar on many occasions, but this was the first time venturing into Petra. I loved the simple decor and upscale rustic vibe of the place. 

Albatross Ridge Winery

We learned the history behind Albatross Ridge Winery and it’s creators, the father and son team of Brad and Garrett Bowlus. Their vision was to find a place where they could plant two styles of grapes – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their search included many places along the California and Oregon coasts. They finally found what they were looking for high upon Monterey’s Carmel Coast – a place near and dear to my heart. 

I’m kind of obsessed with wine labels and the story behind each one. The Albatross Ridge rep explained how the name Albatross Ridge came about and the connection to the name. I later went to their website and learned even more. 


“In the 1930s, famed engineer and pilot William Hawley Bowlus, whose pioneering sailplanes are in the Smithsonian, used to fly gliders of his own design off the ridgetops of Monterey’s majestic Carmel Coast. Eight decades later, his grandson and great-grandson unknowingly came to the same mountain slopes, where they have established one of California’s most exciting vineyards. 

It was only after planting the vineyard, when Brad and Garrett were searching for a name for the site, that they discovered an old book on local Monterey history. On its very last page, they found something as remarkable as it was improbable—a photo of Hawley Bowlus launching his Albatross sailplane off the same high mountain slopes where they founded their vineyard. “It was such a serendipitous discovery,” says Brad. “It affirmed everything we had been working so hard to achieve.” – Source:

Let’s bring on the food…

Spring Ricotta Spread

First up was Spring Ricotta Spread – pea shoots, basil, lemon, ricotta and toasted flatbread points. The balsamic drizzle on top made for a delicious first round. At this point we were all wishing we had a lighter breakfast knowing what was to arrive next.


Albatross Ridge Chardonnay was served to be paired with our next course – Handmade Artichoke and Crab Ravioli.

Handmade Artichoke and Crab Ravioli

Lemon cream sauce, heirloom zucchini and cherry tomatoes were the perfect pairing to the artichoke and crab stuffed raviolis. 

Dry Rubbed Berkshire Pork Tenderloin

Next up was Dry Rubbed Berkshire Pork Tenderloin served with a creamy polenta, cremini mushroom sauce and charred green beans. This dish made me ask the same question I ask myself every time I have polenta at a restuaruant – Why the heck don’t I make polenta at home? The pork was delicious and served with Albatross Ridge “Vivienne” Pinot Noir – equally fabulous and my favorite glass of the day.


We did manage to save room for dessert. This was prior to playing a game of trivia about what we learned throughout the event. 


Artisan Cheese & Chocolate – triple creme brie, fig jam, dark chocolate dipped strawberries, toasted flatbread points and honey glazed marcona almonds. This course was paired with Albatross Ridge “Reserve” Pinot Noir. Chocolate dipped strawberries… YES PLEASE! I was very full, but those were the perfect ending to our delicious meal. 

Lake Tahoe Autum Food and Wine Festival

We definitely needed to walk around after our two plus hour lunch. We checked out some of the booths and stopped at every dog along the way. I was lucky to be with three other dog lovers that equally missed their fur babies.

We later drove to Incline Village – a place where I spent many summers full of fond memories. We enjoyed a few more beverages at Lone Eagle Grille and then headed back to the cabin for a walk to the beach with more wine… in our custom sippy cups – thank you very much. 


It was a wonderful weekend away with some pretty amazing women/friends. We chatted a lot about the upcoming wedding, but most importantly just chilled/relaxed. Very different and more my style compared to the bachelorette parties I attended in my 20’s and 30’s. 

Wow, that was like riding a bike. One post down and a handful more in the works. I just had to rip the band-aid off – no turning back now. Thanks for sticking around during my long break, it feels good to be back. 




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