Aug 17 2017

Dim Sum Sunday with Friends

A few Sundays ago we met friends at the Sacramento Executive Airport, not because they were jet-setting in from some distance, more because Dan and I were early for our meet up time and he wanted to watch planes take off and land. Seems like ages ago when he was visiting the airport several times a week while getting his pilot’s license. It was a fairly slow morning, but we did get to see some planes take off and land.

Our friends showed up and we mapped out a plan to head over to Hong Kong Islander on Freeport Blvd. for dim sum. Aaron and Carolyn have been talking about the place for a long time and it was our first chance to tag along. I’ve only been to dim sum in Sacramento a few times and was excited to try a new place. 

Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong Islander

I wish I had noticed that the sun was shining right into my camera, but I was too busy walking to try to get in as soon as they opened the doors at 10:00 am. The line gets very long and that started happening about a 1/2 hour after we arrived. The line was out the door and wrapped down the side of the building as we were leaving to head home.

Hong Kong Islander

The restaurant was much larger than I had expected, but very similar to the other Chinese banquet style restaurants in Sacramento where I’ve attended many fundraiser/event dinners as a result of connections and friendships through my Secret War in Laos Oral Histories Project. 

Hong Kong Islander

Big round tables with lots of gold accents throughout. We were one of the first groups to be seated. I could already spy the carts and servers starting to line up near the kitchen entrance.

Hong Kong Islander

I stuck with tea and water and Dan was happy to get a Coke. We got our tally card (I’m sure there is an official name for it) but basically it’s to track how many small, medium, large, special or kitchen plates your table consumes. Small plates were $2.68 and generally had 2-3 items, medium plates were $3.68, large plates $4.58, special plates $5.28 and kitchen plates were $6.68. We had lots of hash marks on our card, mostly medium, large and special plates.I really don’t think much came on small plates, so expect to pay the slightly higher prices. 

I browsed through the three columns on the menu and Dan and I basically left things up to Aaron and Carolyn when the carts came around. 

Hong Kong Islander

In the far back – Siu Mai (also spelled Shu Mai or shumai) – traditional pork Chinese dumplings, one of my favorite dishes of the day. Shrimp rice balls and shrimp dumplings also filled our table for rounds one and two. Aaron knew going in that I would probably like the Siu Mai… and he was right. 

Dan was a huge fan of the BBQ pork buns. He ended up eating a steamer basket by himself.

We got both beef and shrimp noodle rolls. Long rice noodle sheets wrapped around the beef or shrimp filling with onion… I liked both rolls, but preferred the texture of the shrimp roll because of the whole pieces of shrimp. The sauce was a sweet soy sauce, but I’ve also had noodle rolls served with oyster sauce – I like the soy better. These are often served for breakfast with hot tea. I thought they might be fun to make, but then I started watching YouTube videos and got a little scared of the process. Mostly because they were big scale restaurant size… I’d have to make a much smaller “at home” version. 

Deep fried wontons (the round pouch size were shrimp and the others were BBQ pork) and BBQ pork puffs. Lots of BBQ pork items and we were all o.k. with that. 

Lo Mai Gai – Sticky rice with beef, wrapped in lotus leaves. 

A medium plate of steamed pork ribs.

Baked pineapple custard buns, rice noodle rolls and fried pork dumplings in the background.

We ordered too much out of the gate and we all got full before the majority of the fried items and dessert carts rolled through. My strategy for next time will be to sample one thing from each plate, rather than going back for seconds and thirds on my favorites. I would have liked to have tried more items, including some of the desserts. I’ll save this strategy for next time with a bigger group.

Carolyn’s tip for everyone is to make sure to order from the carts that are full of similar items, not the ones that have a big variety… since those are the leftovers from the first cart runs and aren’t as hot. 

I did feel like the carts kept coming, which is much different than previous experiences I’ve had at other dim sum restaurants. The servers were attentive and happy to fill up our table with plates and steamer baskets. I think location is key, where you sit has everything to do with how often the carts come around.

It was a fun way to spend a Sunday and I jokingly said as we left – now we won’t need to eat until tomorrow. Well… that became a true statement when I skipped dinner. Yes, I was THAT full. 

Thanks Aaron and Carolyn for another adventure in the books – or in this case, on the blog. 

If you haven’t checked this place out – you should.

Hong Kong Islander
5675 Freeport Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95822


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Aug 09 2017

The Rind Patio Preview

It’s once again been way too much time in between posts. Work and life in general have been busy and my free time has been limited. I sure do miss this place in between posts. I realized over the weekend when going through photos that I never blogged about the opportunity I got to join my girlfriend Kristen at The Rind for a soft opening/preview of their new outdoor patio space. Kristen won a contest – which is not surprising because she wins everything when it comes to contests – movie tickets, concert tickets, meet and greets, etc… no complaints here, because I’m often on the +1 end of things. 

The Rind

The Rind

Cheese. Wine. Beer.  – My kind of place. I had heard very good things about The Rind’s mac-n-cheese and I knew that was going to be on my list to try. We had tasted one of their grilled cheese sandwiches at the 2017 Sacramento Grilled Cheese Festival and loved it, so trying a different version was also another thought we had going in.

The Rind

We were greeted at the door and the hostess got us checked in for the patio preview. The patio was full when we got there, but it wasn’t too long before we were seated and greeted by the owners.

The patio space is a great addition and the owners talked about adding some plants where the stairs are. I recently went back and those haven’t been installed yet – but we’ve also broken some heat records this summer, so that might explain why. I think a wall of succulents would look cool in the space. 

The Rind Sacramento

We were offered complimentary glasses of Tre Donne wines to start. 

We both went with the Gavi di Gavi over the Darc and it was delicious! Our server gave us some background and all I remember was her mentioning hints of apples and pears – I was a bad blogger who didn’t take notes and I’m too lazy to GTS right now. I’ve said it here before, I enjoy a good glass of wine, but I’m definitely not a connoisseur and don’t ever plan to be. I usually rely on wine loving friends to help with my choices. A good wine label also draws me in – it’s the designer in me. I love and can appreciate good branding/design. 

The Rind Sacramento

Cheers to the contest queen, much needed girl time and lots of cheese to come!

The Rind Sacramento

The Rind’s menu features organic and locally sourced products as well as humanely raised meats. From their food menu to their cheese, wine, and beer menu, they are aiming to be as “Farm to Fork” as they can with the changing seasons. 

We ended up sharing two items – the Twisted Classic Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and the Not Your Mom’s Mac-n-Cheese with Pulled Pork.

The Rind Sacrmento

Melt in your mouth amazing. It was a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The people watching was great due to Burger Patch Pop-Up in the building next door. I love outdoor patio spaces and I think this one is a great opportunity for guests to enjoy our beautiful Sacramento sunshine – when it’s not 100+ degrees. The patio is located between buildings, so I think that will help with shade for sure. 

Thanks again Kristen for letting me be your +1 – it only took a few months to actually blog about it. Ha-ha. If you are a cheese lover, you must check out The Rind – located at 1801 L St #40 in Sacramento, CA.

And now I want mac-n-cheese, the curse of blogging months after the fact. 


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Jun 09 2017

High-Hand Nursery presents Lavender Picking at Maple Rock Gardens

I was invited by my girlfriend Carolyn for a day of lavender picking on Sunday, June 4. She sent me and our friend Kelly a link to the High-Hand nursery website pop-up event and I was intrigued and immediately started reading.

Maple Rock Gardens

Come picnic, explore the gardens and harvest lavender bouquets… sounded like fun to me. I’d previously visited Maple Rock Gardens for several antique shows and I knew the grounds were gorgeous. I had also been to High-Hand Nursery a handful of times and knew the food was delicious. The plan was to grab brunch first at the High-Hand Cafe in Loomis and then drive on over to Maple Rock Gardens in Penryn.

I then kept reading… Come walk with the bees, um… did I mention that I tend to run and scream like a little girl if a bee lands anywhere near me?


“You’ll be standing in a field of lavender, washed with its color and fragrance. You will also be there with approximately 400,000 other airborne workers. So, let me make a few suggestions for all of you who are unsure about picking lavender with the bees.”


400,000? Did I just read that correctly? Yes… 400, 000 – More from the website…


“First of all, understand the bees really don’t care about you. They are not flying around looking for somebody to sting. They’re busy. They’re working. For a bee to make a pound of honey it has to make approximately two million visits to a flower, so trust me, they’re very focused.


O.k. – I can do this. I can be “one with the bees.” Wear light clothing, no floral patterns, avoid fragrances, walk calmly, don’t flop around swinging your arms like a crazy person (that’s my interpretation of don’t wave your hands) –  I’ve got this. No really… I can do this.

I look in my closet and my first thought is – holy crap, I have a lot of floral tops. My second thought was – I sure have tons of dark stuff – black, gray and navy clothing… last thought – probably not a good idea to wear my bright yellow/ retro New Balance shoes. People, the pressure was real. I decided on jeans, a light blue t-shirt and a mint green cardigan and I was still scared that bees would think I was a lavender bush.

It’s now share and tell time, here’s my bee story…

So I went camping with my aunt, uncle, cousin and brother when I was around 6 years old. It was my first time. We were eating lunch and I got stung in the corner of my eye by a bee. My face and lips swelled up crazy fast, but I could still breathe o.k., thank God. The nearest Mom and Pop medical facility was close to an hour away. I eventually got treated with a shot and ice and by evening I was back at the camp site. From that day on – I’ve been deathly afraid of bees. I managed to not get stung again until my early 30’s, while cleaning the tile in my pool. The bee got me right under my arm. I ran into the house and popped two Benadryl and waited to see if any swelling would happen. Nope, I was in the clear. I either outgrew my allergy, or maybe it was due to actual bee sting juice in my eye, resulting in a faster delivery method to my system. 

We arrived at High Hand just before 9 a.m. to get our breakfast on. I went with the Huevos Rancheros and was not disappointed with my decision. The poached egg on top of the crispy tortilla was my favorite part. I originally ordered a wood-fired pizza, what? – it was ON THE MENU… but apparently they don’t fire up the pizza oven until 10 a.m.

Huevos Rancheros

After a nice/hearty breakfast, we did a little shopping at the nursery and then headed over to Maple Rock Gardens. 

Maple Rock Gardens Parking

We parked and made our way to the entrance. Carolyn came prepared. She brought buckets, shears, a basket for my blog photos, (Love that girl) chairs for all three of us, and a few umbrellas. We were set. The weather was perfect and the views were equally beautiful. 

Maple Rock Gardens

We grabbed our map and headed towards the rows of purple. I had Benadryl in my pocket just in case. 

Maple Rock GardensI’m happy to report that no “Ouch Ice” was needed for our group. It was cool, they were prepared for guests with Sting-Kill packets, ice, water, shears and plastic bags – in case you wanted to just cut off your limb after getting stung. Ha-ha… they were actually provided to store your lavender clippings in the event that you hadn’t reached pro status with buckets or baskets like us – again, thank you Carolyn. 

We went for the Grosso Lavender first… saving the best for last. You can see that the first 5-10 bushes in each row had already been clipped. We had to venture deep into the rows… which meant deeper into the worker bees. As we got farther down the rows of uncultivated lavender, the buzzing increased. It was a constant low hum. 

The rapid wing beats of bees create wind vibrations making a buzzing sound and some bees are capable of vibrating their wing muscles and bodies while visiting flowers. These vibrations shake the pollen off the flowers and onto the bee’s body. Some of that pollen then gets placed on the next flower the bee visits, resulting in pollination – and that is your science lesson for the day. 

We filled our bucket and then walked around the grounds a bit with the scent of lavender following us the entire way. 

The entrance to the Alice and Wonderland Garden is one of my favorite spots at Maple Rock.

Rabbit sculptures and over-sized metal flowers filled the garden beds. The hydrangeas in other areas of the gardens were beautiful too. It was so relaxing to just stroll through at our leisure. We took a break to relax under some crab apple trees and then we started on the Hidcote Lavender. I’ve cooked with lavender before and was excited at the prospect of having a bunch to try out different drink and food recipes. 

We got our second bucket filled thanks to Carolyn’s mad clipping skills. People actually thought she worked there. Yes, she is that awesome. 

We put Carolyn in charge of drying out the lavender. It was a solid choice… because later that evening she texted us a photo of her first attempt at making a lavender wand. Super impressive… love it and all the Pinterest pins she’s been sending. 

Lavender Wand

I’m all about making Chocolate Lavender Brownies because they were great the first time around, but I also see some wreath making in my future. 

Maple Rock Gardens is hosting a second Lavender picking pop-up event this weekend (June 10 and 11). Tickets are $10 per person and you can pick lavender and enjoy the gardens  from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Purchase tickets online or at the event entrance. There is a .50 added PayPal service charge if purchasing online.

Maple Rock Gardens
100 Clark Tunnel Road
Penryn, CA, 95663

Please leave a comment below if you have any lavender recipes or crafty lavender projects to share with me and other readers. 

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