A feast fit for a Queen!

The 49th Annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire and Artisans Market returned its rein over the Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area in Irwindale last weekend and will continue its pillage Saturdays and Sundays through May 22.

From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., faire-goers, many dressed in period costumes, are transported to the magically recreated Royal shipyard city of Port Deptford during the reign of Elizabeth I and immersed into the music, language, culture and entertainment of the time.

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This is one of my favorite times of the year to let the imagination roam free while taking in some history, even centuries later.

Take in one of the many wonderful shows in the various stages throughout the shire, barter with the vendors for one of their handcrafted treasures, practice your knife throwing or canon ball launch, or just chat up a conversation with the hundreds of performers and characters including Her Majesty herself, pirate Sir Francis Drake and playwright William Shakespeare.

Along with the many adult-rated entertainment, the young ones can also take in the games, rides, crafts, story time and more in the Kid’s Kingdom.

If you really want to get delved in the era but didn’t come fully prepared, don’t fuss as costume rental and purchase opportunities abound in the Faire’s Marketplace, as well as more than 100 artisans offering Renaissance and contemporary jewelry, home dcor and original artwork.

Or be a glutton like me and just come for the food and libations. Food vendors offer something for everyone, whether you have a small or large appetite or crave something sweet. A novelty food item is the roasted turkey leg. This iconic meat is huge for first-timers, but beware, if you don’t have a big appetite for turkey or at least someone to share with, this monster leg will end up eating you.

After my share of Faire visits, I have some favorite stops. The first bar is popular for those needing their favorite ale, Port or my favorite, mead or honey wine, with a haste. But those prepared know to just keep walking to the next bar stop and the wait is almost half as long.

Once you’re appetite is worked up, I like to take on a “Steak-on-a-Stake”, which is pretty much grilled beef chunks on a wooden skewer. Simple but tasty. I’m almost certain curly cheese fries were not common in the Renaissance era but in my circle, this is a must side when dining at the faire – cheese devours these warm and crispy ringlets of potatoes.

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My new favorite must-have at faire is the tri-tip sandwich with chili. Now don’t be fooled like many, this is not chili like at Wienerschnitzel or spicy chili, this is a hearty serving of simmered kidney beans, tomatoes, onions and spices, all to complement the generous offering of tri-tip beef slices on a roll. A fork is accompanied with this dish because trying to eat this sandwich without making a mess is an impossible mission, even with two hands.

As I said, there is something for everyone. Vegetarian entrees and desserts are available.
My teen cousin was a little wary of the fish and chips and quail offerings so opted for a slice of Renaissance pepperoni pizza instead. Kids!

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And on those warm spring days, cool down at the shire with a fruit ice. Flavored shaved ice is frozen into its shell – mango, pineapple, coconut – just a few flavors offered. I treated myself to a coconut ice during my visit and love the fresh flavor with coconut pieces.

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For a fun tour, adults can purchase $25 tickets to an exclusive and riotous Pub Crawl offered each day of the faire. The crawl features cold spirits, lusty wenches, bawdy songs, drinking games and a guided tour of the shire. The ticket includes one beverage of your choice at each of the five pubs visited in the shire.

Tickets for faire are $25 for adults and $15 for children aged 5-12. Children under age 5 are free. Adult season passes for $130 and a child’s season pass for $65 are available. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at www.renfair.com.
The Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area is at 15501 Arrow Highway in Irwindale. A vehicle entry fee of $10 is charged by Los Angeles County. For more information, visit www.renfair.com.

Dumpling 10053 in El Monte

If obvious and simple business names had contests, I’m certain Dumpling 10053 restaurant in El Monte would be in the top 10.

This Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant sits in a small corner off of Valley Boulevard. Address: 10053; food served: dumplings.

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I stopped in to this little restaurant one chilly evening, looking to pick up a warm, comforting dinner. Good dumplings can be comforting. There was only a couple diners seated for a dinner out, but I wasn’t alone in ordering out, as a few other customers came in after me to pick up their phone orders.

I perused the menu and, thinking more with my growling stomach than with my eyes or wallet, I went for an order of green onion pancakes ($3.75), two orders of pan-fried pork dumplings ($5.95 each order), one order of beef steamed dumplings ($6.50) and a side of vegetable fried rice ($5.50).

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Okay, so the vegetable fried rice wasn’t so much a side than a whole meal on its own. Though it looked tasty with vegetables and plenty of egg, it seemed to lack the “fried” in fried rice and needed a little salt.

The green onion pancakes were greasier than other places I’ve tried. Not bad but nothing spectacular either. The dumplings were big compared to other dumpling places I’ve been to, but that may have affected how they were cooked or their flavor.

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The beef steamed dumplings had a big piece of juicy beef inside but the dough was bland. The pan-fried pork dumplings also had a good size portion of tasty pork inside and though the dough flavor is enhanced when they are pan-fried, it was just okay. 

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I can’t say I won’t come back to Dumpling 10053, there prices were decent, good and quick service and good portions. But they’re will definitely be some Sriracha (rooster) sauce around.

Dumpling 10053 is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

They are located at 10053 Valley Blvd., Ste. 2 in El Monte. For to-go orders, call (626) 350-0188.