bakery

Best of Apple Hill 2015. Best Pie. Apple Pantry Farm (Camino, CA)

Apple Pie in Apple Hill

Apple Hill, the apple growing region just outside of Sacramento boasts over 50 farms growing local apples and offering visitors experiences of all types. Located just off Highway 50 on the way to South Lake Tahoe, Apple Hill is the perfect diversion for tourists and locals. Most apple farms in the area serve up homemade style apple pies during peak apple season. We asked around and tried our share of pies and found our favorite this apple season.

Apple Pantry Farm is in it’s 12th season and has been providing a quaint picturesque stop to guests to try their homemade style pies served up with creamy vanilla ice cream. The farm is located on Hidden Valley Road a country road off the beaten trail and tourists thin out here and the pace immediately slows down. During our visit on a Friday during peak season, tourists were arriving by busload at the more crowded farms and this one we had the whole place to ourselves for part of our visit. (more…)

Harris Tree Farm (Pollock Pines, CA)

Blackberry season is here in the Bay Area and Sacramento. I have been on the search for a farm to go blackberry picking since we moved to the area years ago. Following a lead from a local tourism professional I called the owners of Harris Tree Farm. We ventured up to the farm this weekend and picked over two pounds of sustainably farmed blackberries in the quietest farm we have ever been.

If you aren’t familiar with Pollock Pines, it’s just up Highway 50 after Apple Hill on the way to South Lake Tahoe. The farm is only a quick detour about a five minute drive from the exit. It’s a quaint foothills town with towering trees and apple orchards as far as you can see. Look for the signs for Harris Tree Farm and turn into the driveway. There is gravel lot parking and the farm is usually not too crowded this time of the year. Once out of the car make your way to the barn with the large apple on the door and once inside you get instructions and equipment for berry picking. The family that owns and operates this farm couldn’t be any nicer or more full of information. Ask questions. They are area experts and taught us so much about their farm and the area.

I chatted with one of the owners of the farm that told me blackberry season is just starting in this part of the state and should run through September and maybe longer depending on conditions. Blackberries at Harris Tree Farm are farmed sustainably. This means the owners only use organic fertilizer and use sustainable growing practices.

When we visited the farm around lunch time on a Saturday we were the only guests. Unlike some of the more touristy farms this one retains it’s family friendly approach and we were able to just relax and run free since no one else was around. The landscape is so impressive the place instantly transports visitors to a different time. The blackberry growing area is surrounded by trees and rustic buildings that make for a real farm experience.

Blackberry picking is open Friday-Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm through the growing season. School groups and field trips can easily be arranged for other days by calling the farm main office. Individuals and groups are encouraged to bring picnic lunches and lunch tables are available under the apple trees. Homemade baked pies are also available for purchase. Bring cash.

Harris Tree Farm is located at 2640 Blair Road Pollock Pines, CA 95726

Local Favorite. Andrae’s Bakery (Amador City, CA)

When we first moved to this area we had a child who would only nap in the car. I drove. Around our town. Around and around. I learned the best drives. Drives that were relaxing. Drives that were not relaxing. Drives that took exactly the amount of time he needed to nap. Drives that were to short. Drives that were too long. I drove and drove some more.

During these drives I found some amazingly gorgeous places and some hidden out of the way businesses that I can’t get enough of.

One area that is a nice weekend drive away is Amador City. From our house it’s about a 30 minute drive. Most people know Amador County as our local wine region and big bold zinfandels. A place steeped in Gold Rush history and out of the way antique stores. Amador City is all that and more. It’s a quaint picturesque town that held onto it’s history and has local businesses that make people like us make the trip out to visit.

At the end of the old Gold Rush era main street is a farm house style building. Andrae’s Bakery. We have been visiting this bakery for about four years and it’s one of those favorites that just doesn’t change. It’s perfectly amazing every time we go.

The bakery has a full coffee menu along with pastries, cakes breads and other specialities. There is a deli case full of sandwiches and salads. Shelves of local wines and beer. Jars of delicacies you won’t find anywhere else and a collection of cookbooks that makes me want to install a wall of shelves in my house just so I could collect them all.

There are plentiful tables out front and back and all the way around the side and even on a busy weekend morning you can score a seat. Locals line the front of Andrae’s along with cyclists and tourists. Occasionally a wine taster strolls through. It’s amazing to see the diversity of the patrons at this bakery and listen to conversations and stories pausing to take it all in.

I rarely find a place like this that just makes me slow down. Listen to what is happening around me. A place with a friendly family atmosphere that is genuine and honest. A place where when you arrive you instantly have that vacation vibe that makes you forget about everything that happened before you entered.

Our family favorites are the ham and Swiss croissants. They are made with locally sourced ingredients, German butter and applewood smoked ham. We pair them with the iced mochas that are so thick and syrupy you won’t believe you could drink them all. Our tots can’t get enough of the cookies and we like to demolish their leftovers. There are pre-made sandwiches in the refrigerator case and sandwich and lunch kits can be pre-ordered by calling ahead. Perfect for wine tasting trips.

Andrae’s Bakery can be found at 14141 Old Highway 49, Amador City, CA. There are restrooms on site and parking along the front of the bakery or in a gravel parking area behind the bakery.

January. Tot Friendly Ingredient Procurement.

Amid flu season and the holiday hangover I have to admit that our family hasn’t been motivated to do much of anything. January for us is Daddy getting back into the routine of work.  Benjamin getting back into the routine of school and Harper and I figuring out what to do with ourselves each day without our guys around.  By the time the weekends come laundry has piled, our refrigerator is bare and we scramble around just preparing for the upcoming week.  The cold days and early darkness in January adds to our general lack of enthusiasm to get out of our house.

This January I didn’t have any real resolutions to stick with so I decided to set a personal goal of cooking from scratch more and visiting our local farmer’s markets any chance I get.  Since our town doesn’t have a winter farmer’s market we pile into the car and hit my favorite Sacramento market the “Under the Freeway” market at 8th and W Streets in the State Parking lot Downtown.  The drive is around 20 minutes and its worth the trip.  The market is open every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  There is easy parking lot parking next to the market if you arrive early and beat the crowds.  This is the largest market in the area and has many booths both organic and conventional. My January shopping list has included eggs, oranges, chili peppers, kale, lettuce, snap peas, celery and more. There are port-a-potties available for potty trained tots and parents. There are also ATM’s and community organized booths distributing flyers and information.

Harper and I also made a resolution together to try some of the locally owned family food markets, bakeries and restaurants in our surrounding area.  So far we have made trips to Draper Farms in San Anselmo, CA in Marin County, The San Anselmo Coffee Roastery in San Anselmo, CA in Marin County, Pushkin’s Bakery in Sacramento and Temple Coffee Roasters in Sacramento.  Look for reviews in the coming days.

Without regular farm trips we are all lost and looking for our next adventure.  If we can avoid the tot winter germ pool we hope to make tracks sooner than later.  For now we are loving our apricot jam we canned last summer and making use of our frozen produce we squirreled away for winter.