Your Unofficial Apple Hill Guide: New, Updated, Now With More Apple Flavor

It’s that time of year again when the leaves start turning, the kids go back to school and the Eats household celebrates anotherNo, the other kind of apple. birthday.  In what is becoming an annual tradition, the Mrs. and I played hooky and headed up the hill midweek to sup full of apple flavored delights.  In the process, we found some new delights, and wound up finding out a few new things about our old favorites.  Follow me, won’t you, as we trip the apple fantastic to find the best of the ‘Hill for 2007.

Rainbow Orchards– There are few reason to hang around Rainbow Orchards other than to consume the finest doughnuts you will ever have, apple cider doughnuts, that is.  Freshly made, piping hot, covered with sugar, and crisp yet chewy, these doughriffic bites of heaven are the main attraction in the cavernous barn that makes up the whole of Rainbow Orchards commercial enterprise.  They sometimes have bluegrass music in the orchard, which is a nice offering, and the Mrs. and I found 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 perfect– flaky crust, sweet tart filling, and first degree aromasYes, these kind of apples. that will bring the whole neighborhood to your house as it warms in 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.

Grandpa’s Cellars– You may remember this joint from your childhood, but only if your childhood included shackles, court dates, and restraining orders. Ok, I kid.  Despite the name,  which makes the place sound like an apple house of horrors, “Grandpa’s Cellars” knows how to dish up some fine baked goods–turnovers, cheese pies, pastries of all kinds.  Grandpa manages to keep the place rolling along with a pretty relaxed vibe and pretty fair prices.  If the weather is a little dicey though, be warned, the only seating is outside.   This year’s discovery was the iced spiced cider, which, on a warmish fall day, is the tits!

Jack Russell Brewing Co.– A Northern California favorite for years, 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.

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.

8 thoughts on “Your Unofficial Apple Hill Guide: New, Updated, Now With More Apple Flavor”

  1. There is a little clump of wineries just off of HWY-50 as you enter Apple Hill that I highly recommend. Out of the four at this location, three are excellent, and have been winning plenty of regional awards.


    I don’t think any of them make a wine that is not stellar (har har!), but I particularly recommend the Ursa Petite Sirah and the selection of Auriga Zinfandels, both of which have a grip of medals and ribbons.


  2. Great ideas! Question – is early December way too late for visiting Apple Hill? I’ve only gone in early fall, but have company coming at that time and it’d be a great place to take them. What’s the December scene at Apple Hill?


  3. the scene is a little different up there post thanksgiving. Not every place is open, and there’s a shift from harvest trinkets to Christmas trinkets.


  4. I love this time of year! I highly recommend purchasing a few jars of the mysteriously gooey and delicious cider sauce at Kids Inc. Pour it all over a holiday ham and you will thank me later.
    I would also add Abel’s Apple Acres. They have lots of bottled products and many different flavors of fudge (try the pumpkin) and the food is pretty decent too.
    I will have to try the doughnuts at Rainbow Orchards… We usually get ours at High Hill all covered in walnuts and glaze. Yum!!


  5. Echo the Rainbow Orchards love!

    The only thing is that I wish they would offer their doughnuts with powdered cinnamon sugar. They only use regular granulated sugar, and that can be a bit over-sweet (still great, though!)

    One thing that Mrs. RJ and I sometimes do is mix some powdered sugar with ground cinnamon and take it with us in a shaker. We order the doughnuts plain and dust them with our mix as soon as we get them in our hands. Mmmmm….dem’s good, good eats!

    I would also recommend one of Rainbow’s corn dogs if they are preparing them; it’s a bit spendy at $2.50 but miles beyond what you get at DQ or HDoaS (including a real beef frank). The only place locally that serves up a better corn dog (IMO) is, believe it or not, Denio’s Farmers Market in Roseville.

    Also, we were at Boa Vista Orchards just last weekend, and we actually liked their burgers. In fact, we were very impressed with ours; they beat out the burgers we had at Willie’s the night before, both in taste and freshness. It’s not often that anyone can beat Willie’s at their game! The wait was a bit long, but there were loads of people there.


  6. xmas time is fun up there. They have some tree farms that operate there as well. Have family and friends up there. Special place. Awesome pies and preserves. I’m a fool for a fresh candy apple, and they have some of the best up there.


  7. Love those doughnuts. But I also highly recommend Denver Dan’s apple crisp sundae. They put a chewy think wafer cookie down into the bowl while warm so it takes the shape of the bowl. Then the apple crisp, a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, and topped with a hot apple sauce. Yum! But it takes two of us to finish one off!


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