Scots Festival and International Highland Games XXIII at The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California

The Scots Festival and International Highland Games XXIII held court at The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. A foggy morning laid upon the Long Beach Harbor setting the scene as in Scotland. Near the entrance a Scottish camp was set up with merry men and women reenacting Scottish life in the early 17th century.

In another section, the pipe bands from around the region gathered together to show their best like: Houseof Scotland Pipe Band from San Diego, Phoenix Pipe Band from Phoenix, AZ, and local Long Beach Pipe Band. They provided great constant background music for the festival from practice to marching procession.

A ton of shopping opportunities were available from kilts, accessories, baked goods, collectables, family history surnames, jewelry, and more. Wolf Den Ring Stamping, Blandford Imports, Mclaren’s, Utilikilts, The Welsh Baker were among the many purveyors. You could also hone your archery skills with Hi-Tech Archery or sign up for the darts competition.

In the center of the festival was the International Highland Games XXIII, where competitors display their disciplines of field athletics. A number of events were going on at the same time, stone put (similar to shot put), Scottish hammer throw, weight over the bar, and sheaf toss. It’s amazing the amount of strength and strategy that go into each discipline.

There was also a Wee Athletics area where children can learn about the games like caber toss, stone putting, and archery. Plus, they could have fun in the bounce house and just run off some energy before lunch.  

What is a Scot Festival without fine drinks? A tavern for beers and barrel room for whiskey and scotch tasting were available. The VIP Lounge also had a bar with good selection of beers and whiskeys.

Herding dog trials are a secondary event to the International Highland Games where border collies show the crowd their herding skills. It is amazing to watch how precise they can be and how seriously they take their job.

There were a lot of different choices for lunch. The author was on a mission to get some haggis. She tried it the last time and loved it. The Scottish Pie Shop is family owned and operated from Albuquerque, NM serving some of the finest Scottish fare.

Haggis & Mash is a spiced lamb and beef haggis with mash (mashed potatoes) topped with their secret recipe Guinness gravy, bacon fried cabbage and onions, and homemade shortbread cookies. If you love organ meats like liver, kidneys, and the like, you’ll love haggis. This particular haggis had a great texture and a very livery flavor. It was also served without the sheep’s stomach on the exterior which was a little different. This is the best tasting haggis ever! The mash was fluffy, but the gravy made it over the top delicious. It had a rich flavor from the Guinness and beef base. The bacon fried cabbage and onions were amazing! It works well with the haggis adding a crunch, salty, smoky flavor to the mix. The shortbread cookies tasted like homemade with buttery flavor and were just sweet enough. Rating 5/5

Steak Bridie (pronounced “Bride-ee”) Meal is a steak bridie made with slivers of USDA Choice Angus steak and sliced onions simmered in a savory beef Scottish sauce then is encased in a crust (like a hand pie). It is served with mash topped with their secret recipe Guinness gravy and bacon fried cabbage and onions. The crust was light and flaky, but a little dry. Maybe a touch of that secret gravy on top or served on the side for dipping would help. The seasoned steak was tender and juicy. The onions gave it a zingy sweetness. This meal paired well with a pint of New Castle. Rating: 4/5

The VIP Lounge was nice providing some shade as the sun broke through the morning fog and shone brightly. It was great to have tables to eat and grab some beer for leisurely lunch while listening to the pipe bands marching around the festival. It was a lovely ending to a wonderful day. Make plans to attend next year!

For more information:
Scots Festival and International Highland Games XXIII at The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Highway
Long Beach, CA 90802

Good Choice Sushi by the Sea offers an authentic sushi bar experience in Capistrano Beach, California

Michelle Endo’s parents are originally from Japan then lived in Hawaii for 4 years. After that they made their way to California and opened Good Sushi in Laguna Niguel 19 years ago. Recently, Michelle’s parents decided to retire and Michelle and her husband took over the business. Laguna Niguel now has a Hawaiian flair plus they decided to expand to a second location, Good Choice Sushi by the Sea, in October 2015. This location has a traditional Japanese sushi bar vibe. It’s so refreshing to have the staff speaking Japanese to each other, which is definitely part of the experience and atmosphere. The view is beautiful with the Pacific Ocean right across the street.

If you feel adventurous, go with omakase. It allows the chef to put his creativity to work to make a menu just for you. Here is an example of what you might see:

Sushi Roll made with soy paper and cucumber on the outside with surimi (imitation crab) and salmon on the inside, and topped with tobiko. The ponzu in it creates a nice balance of acidity and adds a refreshing flavor to the sushi. If you looking to cut carbs, this roll does not contain any rice. It is like a refreshing seafood salad rolled up into a sushi roll.  Rating: 4.5/5

Here’s some items on the menu that you might like to try:

Poke ($11) is made with tuna and salmon served atop greens and topped with tobiko, onions, and avocado with some fried won ton chips. The author is very picky about poke, being from Hawaii and growing up on authentic traditional style poke. This poke is one of the closest to authentic poke in Orange County. It has the deep rich color from the shoyu with just the right amount of sesame oil and onions. Avocado is not necessary but it just wouldn’t be California without it. It is also a good portion for the price to share or to be part of your meal. Rating: 4.3/5

Big Eye Tuna Nigiri Sushi ($6) is one of the best tuna for sushi. With its beautiful deep red color, it lovingly hugs the rice. The bite is luxuriously smooth and just melts in your mouth. Rating: 4.5/5

Japanese Red Snapper Nigiri Sushi ($6) is not one that comes to mind when ordering sushi, but it will definitely be on your mind once you taste it. It has a soft, almost velvety texture. The chili pepper dollop adds a spicy kick. Rating: 4.3/5

King Crab Nigiri Sushi ($9.50) is just amazing! The sweet buttery flavor of the king crab works perfectly with just a hint of wasabi. No shoyu necessary for this one. Rating: 5/5

Ama Ebi Nigiri Sushi ($7) is one of the best sashimi/sushi around. Unlike sea shrimp, which is normally cooked, ama ebi is served raw. The texture is similar to raw lobster with an unexpectedly sweet flavor. The head and sometimes the shell are fried and served later. They are like chips with a shrimp flavor. Or it might come omakase-style in a bowl of miso soup. The miso (mustard or head fat) from the shrimp works well with the soybean miso soup. Rating: 5/5

Salmon Nigiri Sushi ($4) has the perfect orange color with white fat stripes. It has a silky texture and a sweet flavor that just melts in your mouth like butter. Rating: 4.8/5

Oyster Shooter ($6) contains a freshly shucked oyster, quail egg, and spicy ponzu. The ponzu adds just the right amount of acidity. The oyster is slightly briny yet creamy and sweet. The quail egg adds a nice richness. Rating: 4.8/5

Whole Spanish Mackerel Sashimi ($18) is beautifully presented. A telltale sign that the fish is fresh is the crystal clear eyes. The mackerel is meaty with a soft bite but the flavor is very mild. If combined with a little bit of seaweed, it gives it just the right amount of salt balance to push the sweet flavor of the fish forward. The seaweed also adds a crunchy texture to the bite. After you finish your sashimi, the head and bones will be fried for a crunchy treat. Rating: 5/5

Matsuri Roll ($16) has tempura corn tossed in Japanese chili powder and eel sauce on the outside and sautéed garlic, butter shrimp, avocado, cucumber, spicy mayo, and wrapped in soy paper on the inside. This is definitely a first to see corn on sushi, but it works. The corn adds a sweet creaminess while the spicy mayo stokes the fire for just the right amount of heat. There is a lot going on in the dish with flavors from sweet, spicy, and garlicky along with crunchy and soft textures. Rating: 4.5/5

Takoyaki ($5) are three octopus fritters with a crispy exterior and a creamy, custardy interior. It is beautifully presented with takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayo. The best part is finding the tako (octopus) inside. The takoyaki has just the right amount of salty flavor to balance with the sweet takoyaki sauce. It is one of the most ingenious street foods around! Rating: 5/5

If you are looking for an authentic sushi bar experience with friendly service and an amazing view, make a reservation at Good Choice by the Sea.

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
Good Choice Sushi By The Sea
34700 Pacific Coast Highway Suite 106
Capistrano Beach, CA 92624-1349

Good Choice Sushi by the Sea Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Johnsonville Sausage: A sausage with a legacy + recipes

It all started in 1945, when Ralph F. and Alice Stayer opened a butcher shop and named it after their hometown, Johnsonville, Wisconsin. The delicious in-house sausage that they made came from an old family recipe that can be traced back to 19th century Austria. This sausage became known as the sausage with “BIG TASTE” and the rest is history. In the 1950s, Johnsonville expanded into nearby communities. In the 1970s, trucks began delivering Johnsonville Sausage to stores throughout Wisconsin. In the mid-1980s, with a direct sales force, sales increased 20-fold from the 1970s and Johnsonville was available in 47 states. Today, Johnsonville is the most popular brand of sausage in the United States and also available in 40 additional countries. The Johnsonville family has grown to approximately 1,500 employees and is still privately owned.

Johnsonville’s Original Bratwurst is the original “thrill for the grill” that started an American fun food revolution. It’s made with premium cuts of pork with a perfect blend of spices. A recipe to try with the Original Brats is PhillyBrats. It has all the flavor of a cheesesteak along with the succulent Johnsonville Original Brats. Depending on your preference of cheesesteak, you can substitute provolone cheese for the Cheez Wiz® (Pat’s vs. Geno’s). While sautéing, you might also want to add ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp garlic powder, and ¼ tsp pepper to bring forward more sweetness from the peppers. This recipe is simple and perfect for any cooking level. The sandwiches have a great sweet and savory flavor. The sausage gives it a hearty taste without being overly salty. Product Rating: 4.5/5; Recipe Rating: 3.75/5

Johnsonville’s Hot Italian Sausage is all natural with no artificial ingredients and minimally processed. It adds the perfect flavor to any recipe. A recipe to try is Toasty Sausage Egg Sandwich. If you’re not into spicy, you can use the Mild Italian Sausage instead. Here are a few substitutions you can do make a twist on this recipe: You can always use store bought pesto, but you can quickly make your own (recipe below). Instead of adding the fried egg, why not incorporate it into the bread as a “toad in the hole”. Instead of Texas toast, use King’s Hawaiian® Sandwich Bread for a little bit of sweetness. The Hot Italian Sausage is a coarse grind but stays juicy with a nice ratio of fat to meat. It is spicy but not uncomfortably hot. All of the elements of the sandwich work well together and are great for any meal – breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It has umami – savory, sweet, spicy, creamy, and herbaceous flavor. Product Rating: 4.5/5; Recipe Rating: 4.5/5

Basil Arugula Pesto by OC Food Diva


  • 1 cup washed and packed fresh arugula
  • ¼ cup washed and packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 garlic cloves


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, food processor, or NutriBullet® and blend until smooth.
  2. Add salt to taste, if needed.
  3. Let it rest at room temperature until ready to serve. Refrigerate leftovers.

Johnsonville’s Beddar with Cheddar Smoked Sausage is made with premium cuts of pork and chunks of cheddar cheese. The author came up with a recipe, Beddar with Cheddar Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes (see recipe below). It’s a hearty dish that can be eaten as meal on its own or as a side. It is creamy and very cheesy. The sausage adds a nice smoky flavor and lends itself well to the cheese and potatoes. Product Rating: 4.5/5; Recipe Rating: 4.5/5

Beddar with Cheddar Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes by OC Food Diva


  • 1 pkg. (5.2 oz.) Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 lbs. red potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 pkg. (28 oz. each) Johnsonville Beddar with Cheddar Smoked Sausage
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar/jack cheese blend
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Optional: 1 large brown onion, thinly sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease 13” x 9” baking dish with cooking spray or butter.
  3. Thinly slice potatoes using a mandolin and set aside.
  4. Slice sausage into ¼” thick coins and set aside.
  5. Cream Boursin cheese and sour cream together. Add chicken broth and mix until well blended.
  6. Layer potatoes, sausage, ½ cup shredded cheese, ⅓ cup peas, and ⅓ of cheese/sour cream mixture. Repeat for two more layers. (Optional thinly sliced onion can be added to these layers.)
  7. For the top, layer last of potatoes and ½ cup shredded cheese.
  8. Bake for 1½ hours or until heated through and potatoes are tender.

With the variety of Johnsonville products available, your meal ideas are endless!

For more information:

Article was sponsored by Johnsonville. Opinions and ratings are of the author.

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box Recipe Series: Quinoa Cranberry Pudding Parfait

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.