Brenham Wildflowers and Blue Bell Ice Cream Store

The most exciting events in spring for us are wildflower touring and crawfish festivals.  We make plans to going to Brenham and Austin to see wildflowers every year.  The plans don’t always get carried out because the wildflowers’ peak time is very short.  Besides, wildflowers are affected by many other factors like temperature and rainfall. 

This year, we finally have a perfect wildflower tour to Brenham during bluebonnets peak time.  Hooray

Bluebonnets are literally everywhere!  You can spot them along the highways, country roads, parks, farms…you name it.

The very first stop we make in Brenham is of course the Blue Bell ice cream store.

They are not open during weekends anymore.  There are no more factory tours either.  But the ice cream store is still there selling delicious ice cream for a very reasonable price.  

You can still peak through the glass from observation deck on the second floor.  No photos are allowed in that area.  To be honest, you don’t get to see much from observation deck.

A lot of people come here in large groups.  The parking lot is full of cars and buses.

The ice cream store is on the second floor, same as observation deck.

Look at the flavors they produce

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There are flavors sold the store

Did I mention the price is very reasonable? O(∩_∩)O~

rocky road  and mocha almond fudge

moo-llenium crunch  and strawberry cheesecake

The ice creams here are a bit too sweet for us.  And I wish they could be creamier.

Peachy peach

It is surprisingly good.  There is an intense peach flavor, and very sweet and creamy with large peach pieces.

There is also a visitor center right next to the ice cream store where you can experience blue bell history.

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I guess this is the oldest ice cream machine O(∩_∩)O~

It is peak time for bluebonnets.  You can spot them everywhere.

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We drive up north to Independence

There is Antique Rose Emporium right on highway 50.  We stop by every time.

They sell all kinds of roses, plants, bushes and herbs here.

Old Baylor Park

The bluebonnets are not very good here this year.  But it is still a very nice picnic spot.

On our way back to Brenham, we come across a very large field of blue bonnets.  I am totally amazed by its beauty and colors.

Indian paintbrush

Not sure what these blue/purple white flowers are.  They are also very lovely.

Sun is coming down.  I take a few more photo shots and head back to Houston  O(∩_∩)O~

Interlochen camping & boating

Usually Labor Day marks the end of summer in Michigan.  A lot camping sites gradually shut down for the season after Labor Day.  However, it looks like we are having a longer summer in 2017.  A couple heat waves have brought over ninety degree hot days even weeks upon us. 

So we take advantage of that and go on camping. 

The leaves are starting to change colors even though it is still very hot.

Set up our tent

Prepare to build a campfire

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I plan to grill beef short ribs

ingredients:

2 lbs beef short ribs
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 to 2 tablespoons rice cooking wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix the beef short ribs and seasonings together.  Refrigerate overnight.  Pack in Ziploc bag and store it in cooler.

When the firewood is half burned, it is time to grill!

Heat a cast iron rack nearby fireside.  When it gets hot, add beef short ribs.  There is usually high amount of fat in short ribs which will prevent from sticking to the cooking rack.

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Looking good

Ready to eat  O(∩_∩)O~

BBQ and cold beers go hand in hand

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This is the view we have when having dinner

Isn’t it gorgeous?

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The second batch of short ribs is ready.  The trick is to perfect campfire grilling is patience.

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Bacon wrapped scallops and shrimps are next.

Sprinkle the scallops and shrimps with sea salt and freshly ground black peppers. 

Wrap each scallop with a slice of bacon.  Secure with bamboo sticks. 

Skew the shrimps with bamboo sticks too.

The firewood is turning to charcoal.  It is perfect for grilling.

Add bacon wrapped scallops and shrimps to the grill

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Be patient.  Drink some beer and relax

Bacon wrapped scallops will take some time to be cooked to perfection

Shrimps cook faster than scallops

Dessert is cinnamon rolls I bought from nearby grocery store

Heat up a cast iron skillet.  Grease it with oil and add cinnamon rolls

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Flip them over when half cooked.  

To be honest, they are as good as I expected.

So we decide to drove to monomers for dessert

I have chocolate + pistachio flavor.  My husband has chocolate + rocky road

The chocolate coated waffle cone is good.  But chocolate is too thick to chew.

After dessert, we go hiking in the park for a while before it gets totally dark.

The moon hasn’t risen yet.  When we look up, we can see the amazing star night sky.  The sparkling stars are so bright and beautiful.

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We walk to the lakeshore to get a better view.

We have been living in Michigan for years.  But we haven’t seen such beautiful stars before. 

We can even see the Milky Way very clear right upon us in the sky

I wake up early the next morning; sneak out the tent to watch the sun rise.

The sun isn’t up yet.  The sky is turning color from gray to blue to purple to rose to deep pink

Here comes the sun!

My husband is up too.

We start another campfire for breakfast.

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Heat a cast iron by the fireside.  Add chopped bacon.

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Add bacon wrapped scallops to the grill

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Add diced cooked potatoes.  I bought the mini potatoes from local farmer’s market.  It is one of my favorites. 

Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

When the potatoes is golden brown, add chopped green onion and rosemary

I enjoy campfire cooking even more than I realize

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Alright, time to eat!

Make good use of the fire and grill some sweet corns

Grilled corns are sweet and light smoky; very tasty.

Lets cook and pose like an iron chef! O(∩_∩)O~

You think the breakfast is over?

Of course not!

Let there be smore! O(∩_∩)O~

I add a couple dark chocolate with caramel filling to cookies and briefly heat them up by the fireside too; just warm enough to melt the chocolate.

And toast the mashmarrows

Add the mashmarrowson top of chocolate

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Now we have perfectly cooked S'Mores

Ok, now it is time to dissemble the tent and pack.

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Moomers ice creams again

We drive to Traverse City downtown and rent a double kayak for 4 hours

I have my camera and keys locked on shore and take just my phone with me.

Traverse City downtown rive doesn’t look pleasant this time.  So we turn around back into the lake.

The water near old mission peninsular is very clear and beautiful

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4 hours later, we get back to the shore and ready to go home.

Another perfect camping trip accomplished! O(∩_∩)O~

Houston Weekend Eats

Last weekend, my husband surprised me with a weekend getaway trip to Houston.  We are both foodies.  So it is no surprise that our weekend trip turned into a culinary adventure. O(∩_∩)O~ 

I did some homework right before we leave.  Every star on the map stands for the restaurants on our to eat list.

We went for a hair cut in Chinatown after arrival.  So we had our dinner at a nearby Sichuan cuisine restaurant named Mala Sichuan Bistro. 

We ordered crispy and water boiled beef, sour and spicy noodle, dan dan noodle, spicy pork intestines.

Water boiled beef came first.  It was really far away from authentic Sichuan style.

Neither of us enjoyed it at all.  The beef was coated in thick and mushy starchy batter and boiled into a bowl of beef soup.  

Sour and spicy noodle was bit heavy on the sour side.  The broth was kind of flavorless despite of heavy dose of chili oil sauce.

He thought it was ok.  I agreed to disagree O(∩_∩)O~

Don’t be scared by the name of spicy pork intestines.  They were actually a delicacy in Asia. 

It was the only dish I found ok.  It was hot and spicy.  The intestines were a little bit crunchy and crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. 

Dan dan noodle was also far away from traditional and authentic.

Dinner didn’t go well, so we treated ourselves with dessert at Star Ice & Teriyaki.

Matcha shaved ice was really good. 

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Although it was named shave ice, it was just like eating fine ice cream. And you can pick four toppings.  

Milk tea was ok.

The second morning we went to Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q for breakfast.  This one is conveniently located close to the Houston Space Center.

They had breakfast menu.  I asked if they had BBQ, and yes they did! O(∩_∩)O~  They were sold by pound.  We ordered 1/4 pound lean beef brisket, 1/4 pound moist beef brisket, one jalapeno smoked sausage. 

Lean brisket was good; tasty and smoky. But they were so lean that they taste a little bit dry.

There was a seasoning basket on every table.

The moist beef brisket was so much better than the lean one.  They were smoky, juicy, tender and loaded with tons of flavors.

Each piece came with beautiful smoke ring.

The sausage was surprisingly tasty!

We spent most of our day at Houston Space Center.

We went toJinya Ramen Bar for lunch.  It has two locations in town.  This one is really close to Space Center too.

I am ordered number 2 Cha Cha Cha

The pork broth is very thick and rich, just the way I like it! 

He ordered NO.3 Jinya Tonkotsu Black

The noodle was thicker than mine.  Brussel sprouts were added to the broth to create rich and refreshing flavor which was also quite tasty.

We continued our tour back at Space center for the afternoon.  And then we headed back to midtown for dinner. 

We made a reservation for two at 6:15 at Pappas Brother Steakhouse.  The parking was already full although we arrived before 6: oopm.

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The restaurant atmosphere was great, elegant and upscale.  A gentleman in suit was playing piano next to the entrance. 

My attention was soon distracted by the meat counter.  There was a huge display of all kinds of dry aged meat.  I was drooling like crazy inside. O(∩_∩)O~

Numerous waiters and waitress greeted us on the way to our table.  Too bad it was so dark in there that every photo blurred even though I bumped up the camera ISO to 2000.

The bread was really good.  It was crunchy on the outside but with a soft and light inside texture. 

Pappas is famous for their wine collections.  I couldn’t drink at the time.  So he ordered a glass of cabernet sauvignon.

We ordered bacon-wrapped scallops, steak house salad and 18 oz dry aged prime ribeye.

The scallops were very amazing.  They were wrapped in crunchy bacon but stayed tender and juicy inside. 

Salads were a bit too sweet for my taste.

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Maybe I had held my hope too high for the steak that I was slightly disappointed by the steak.  Yes, it was grilled to medium rare just the way we like.  And it was good steak, juicy and tender.  But I didn’t find the beef flavor intensified by the dry age process.     

What I am trying to say is that I prefer my husband’s version of fire grilled ribeye over Pappas’. 

Dun Huang plaza became our new favorite hang out spot in Houston.

We went to Gong Cha for tea.

It was late in the night.  There was still a long line.

One bubble milk tea and one red bean milk tea.  The tea flavor was really good.  But both of them tasted too sweet for me.  I should have asked for half sweetness. 

It was only 11:00 pm.  The night was still young. O(∩_∩)O~

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What would you do when you see somebody is selling rolling ice cream?  Join the line!

It looked like they were making crepes.  The ice cream batter was spread evenly on a flat pan.  It cooled and frozen very quickly, and then they scrape and rolling the ice cream from one end towards the other. 

It tasted no difference from regular ice cream.  But it was really fun to watch the whole making process.

The next morning, we drove to Fung’s kitchen for dim sum. 

The restaurant was spacious and clean.

Pu erh tea

Dim sum is served in a traditional style here.  Food carts loaded with all kinds of snacks and dishes come and go.  You can stop the waiter or waitress any time if you’d like something from their food carts.

Shrimp noodles were great.  The silky fine texture made it one of my favorites.

Beef tendon was very tender and seasoned in traditional Cantonese way. 

I added a couple teaspoons of chili oil sauce to spice it up.

Tofu skin rolls were ok

Shrimp dumplings sucked.  The dumpling wrap was really thick and sticky.  The shrimp filling felt out when we tried to pick it up with chopsticks.

Chicken feet with black beans sauce were good. 

Egg tarts were good too.  They would have been better if served hot right out of oven.

The layers were very light and flaky.

These were one of their signature dishes: salted egg yolk custard buns

He found it ok but I didn’t like it. 

First of all, they are cold. A lot of Chinese snacks need to be served hot to remain their taste and flavor.  Salted egg yolk custard buns definitely should be served immediately right out of oven.  Second, the filling taste greasy and lack of flavors. 

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After dim sum, we went shopping.  And then we went back to Dun Huang Plaza for desserts. O(∩_∩)O~

I ordered taro flavor shave ice.  It was not as creamy the matcha shaved ice as I had before.

You can pick up to four toppings.

 

And then we went back to Gong Cha for tea.

Two cups of bubble black milk tea on ice was a must for a 90F muggy day!  We asked for only half syrup this time so they tasted a lot better!

We drove to airport after the milk tea.  The amazing weekend getaway trip was over.  But I know I will be back soon!  O(∩_∩)O~

American Harvest Livonia, MI

I learned about American Harvest from a friend.  I was immediately attracted by the desserts she posted.  So I made a reservation online.  They only open on Thursdays and Fridays. 

 We arrived a few minutes prior our reservation time, and waited at the entrance with other guests. 

A display of trophies and media coverage of their school and restauran 

Love the details

My husband ordered merlot and I ordered Michigan local beers.  Both were very good. 

I wasn’t sure what went wrong.  South American and Latin American cuisine were listed for that Friday I reserved.  But they served Asian cuisine instead. 

As a Chinese, I wasn’t that into the Asian food served here.  To be honest, they just looked like Asian food, but the taste and flavor were definitely far away from authentic ones.  

Tuna was ok.  Beef was way too tough and chewy for fork and knife.  The rib was too dry.  Spring roll is ok. 

Not of fan of the Kong pao chicken

Teriyaki chicken was too lean and dry.

The scallops and shrimps, on the hand, were tender, juicy and very tasty. 

They were so good and I got some more O(∩_∩)O~

Salmon was very good too.  It was so tender that it could melt in your mouth.  

Not a fan of Vietnam pho either.  My husband thought it was ok.  So was the Pad Thai.

Dessert bar!  

The fruit tarts were outstanding!  The tarts were crispy and crunch, topped with fruits.

Macaron was ok.

Apple mousse was very pretty and tasty too!

I couldn’t tell what was the filling inside but it was good too. 

Chocolate mousse stood out in this plate. 

It had intense chocolate flavor, light and airy texture, and a beautiful presentation.  

What we love American Harvest are their awesome atmosphere, great service and nice staff, and all the fabulous desserts!