Another fall has arrived with its soon-to-be normal range of triple-digit temperatures, hearkening us back up to the ‘Hill, Apple Hill that is. Apple Hill is in the first fledgling stages of harvest mode, popping the heat-soaked apples off the trees and pumping out cold, sweet cider instead of the warm, mulled variety. Nevertheless, the crowds are bound to be overflowing this weekend and the apple themed desserts, pies, breads, jams, trinkets, colostomies, and hardware will overflow from the folksy establishments in the folksy land of folksy Apple Hill.
It occurs to me, as it does every year at this time, that some of you may never have been to Apple Hill. Hmmm. I see. Ok… Well then… What the f*$% are you waiting for!?! Someone to spoon feed you ‘Hill info like a mother shoveling thin apple puree in the drooling mouth of an overfed infant? If that’s what it will take, then I’m game.
Here we go: Who’s a big boy? Who? Who? Who wants some applesauce in his little pouty apple barn? Hmmmm? Nevermind, I can’t keep that up.
This year, I’ve added a few new stops on the Sac Rag Official recommended Apple Hill stops. Take a peek, and feel free to add any recos you might have.
Denver Dan’s- Denver Dan (whose real name is Delaware Dale) and his coven of ladies put together an impressive line of homemade sauces, glazes, jams, jellies, and fluids for sale in their attractive and folksy Quonset hut. Their caramel apples are top notch as are their apple cookies which are about the size of a large child’s head. Double D also offers U-pick apple picking, but with all the purveyors on the Hill that go through the effort of picking the apples for you, I find it hard to justify the customer labor.
Larsen Apple Barn- Maybe it’s the fact the Larsen Apple Barn is located on Larsen Drive, or that the Apple Hill Growers Assoc offices are located at the Larsen estate, or that Larsen Pioneer Farm Museum across from the Larsen Bake Shop displays a local family history going back over 150 years, but even the idle visitor figures out pretty quickly that the Larsen family is the closest thing to apple royalty in the small town of Camino. Well worth dropping by for the fabulous apples, the quaint museum display, and the giant water wheel, Larsen Apple Barn is not exactly a must-see, but it is a glimpse into more than just trinkets and pony rides.
Rainbow Orchards- TWO WORDS: APPLE CIDER DOUGHNUTS. Freshly made, piping hot, covered with sugar, crisp yet chewy, these doughriffic bites of heaven are the main attraction in the cavernous barn that makes up the whole of Rainbow Orchards’s commercial enterprise. They sometimes have bluegrass music in the orchard, which is a nice offering, and you’re likely to find a beautiful selection of decorative pumpkins in a kaleidoscope of shades (including blue) but really, we’re all just going there for the doughnuts. Did I mention the doughnuts? And yes, I still refuse to spell it “donuts.” Caution: Mill View Farms produces and sells a similar apple cider doughnut, but be warned, this is an inferior product and not worth your doughnut calories. The proprietor is very sweet though, bless her heart.
Kids Inc.- Despite its name, which invokes thoughts of a day care center, Kids Inc. is, in fact, the finest purveyor of pies on the ‘Hill. Their pienormous offerings, baked or unbaked, are just p(i)erfect: flaky crust, sweet tart filling, and first degree aromas that bring the whole neighborhood to your house as they waft from the oven.
This is not a “to-go” establishment only though. Try their “walking pies,” a single serving baseball shaped pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of their trademarked “cider sauce.” And just in case you couldn’t guess, it’s a great place to take the kids.
Boa Vista Orchards- Open year round, Boa Vista is a great market with everything that you never knew could be jellied, pickled or turned into a hot sauce. The selection of apples and other seasonal fruits is immense. Favorites in the jarred department include the homemade apple butter and the sour cherry preserves. It’s a fun spot to browse in and an easy spot to get to when you want to pick up all your foodstuffs in one stop. If you’re just going by Apple Hill and you only have time to stop at one joint, this will probably be it.
Warning: No matter how hungry you are, do not eat at the grill there. They serve hamburgers, hotdogs and few other lunch items. None of them are good, or even decent. The burgers are the consistency of terra cotta roof tiles and the hot dogs are cooked to resemble a prison guard’s nightstick. There are so many other places on the ‘Hill that serve better food, it’s a sin to waste your meal here.
High Hill Ranch- A great place to stop if you have a bus load of children with you. The stocked fishing pond, craft fair, cider press, and various straw stuffed effigies will delight the kids to no end. If you, however, have no children with you, then this is probably a spot you’ll want to avoid, the lines are long, the parking treacherous, and the apple products not tops on anyone’s list. Oh, except the cider, the cider is pretty damn yummy. I prefer the unpasteurized, but if you’re pregnant or nursing, I’d advise against it.
Jack Russell Brewing Co.- A Northern California favorite for years (now with new owners), Jack Russell Brewing Co. serves up some fine brews in the English tradition. Their outdoor lawn area is a beautiful place to knock back a pint (weather permitting), and the interior taproom manages to intermingle the charm of our beloved corner of the world with that of the English country pub. This year’s favorites were the cask ESB and the Blackberry Monastery Ale. If you have the time, sit down and play a complimentary board game while the day passes you by. I proclaim that it was Col. Mustard in the billiard room with the noose. (Warning, despite its moniker, dogs are no longer allowed to roam freely on JR’s expansive lawn due to insurance concerns.)
Bumgarner Wines- Flip-top bottles, wine and cider on tap, and a laid back attitude more akin to a friendly saloon than a top-notch winery, Bumgarner Wines is a microscopic gem tucked away amongst the apple trees. Their hard cider is the best on the ‘Hill, dryer than a dryer sheet laid out in the sun in August in Phoenix.
Boeger Winery- In my head, I imagine a potential mascot for Boeger to be some cross between Bacchus and Yosemite Sam. With class, grace, and Western irreverence, Boeger manages to produce some of my favorite wines at criminally low prices. You’ll be soothed by the luscious gardens, calmed by the twittering birds, and buzzed from the heavy pours they give for tastes. I really, really love this place.
So, that’s a quick roundup. Let us know if you have any other favorites. And since you’ve read this far down, enjoy this video.