Sonoma Food, Wine & History Tour

Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures ~ Michael Broadbent

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As we ventured off to California for an Ironman, we thought it would be fun to schedule a wine tour. We’ve always wanted to ride the wine train along vineyards. After calling several wine tour companies, we were told the minimum age was 21, which posed a problem as our daughter is 17. We researched further and stumbled upon a Sonoma Food Tour that our daughter could enjoy as well.

IMG_0942First stop, the Depot Hotel, which is no longer a hotel, yet a fabulous, Italian IMG_0945restaurant. The owner of the restaurant was born in Little Italy and purchased the building in 1985. He and his wife have a cooking school and own three other restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. The tour began at the hotel located at 241 1st St W in Sonoma. The meeting point was on a cute bench located in front of the restaurant entrance. We sat outside in a shaded patio area with a beautiful pool and relaxing sounds of a fountain. The chef came out and presented two types of pizza, the Amatriciana and Amalfi- oh how I love anchovies. It was wonderful to sit poolside, sipping wine, eating pizza and getting to know others on the tour. Had we stayed in Sonoma, we would have booked a reservation at the Depot Hotel Restaurant for dinner.

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Guide describing the history of Depot Park

On our walk, we stopped in front of an old rail car at Depot Park Museum. Our guide shared historical facts as we stood in a shaded area with Sonoma breezes. The City of Sonoma owns the Old Northwestern Pacific Depot, pictured above. The historic train was destroyed by a fire in 1975, yet the Society held a fundraiser to rebuild the Depot which is now a museum free to the public. The land across from the rail car is Depot Park. There are three temporary exhibits each year at the Depot Park Museum.

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Who doesn’t love cheese? Our next stop on the walking tour was Vella Cheese which began in 1931. The visit included multiple samples of cheese such as Habanero, horseradish, rosemary jack, pesto jack, garlic jack and more. Vella cheeses are used as an ingredient, sprinkled on top of your favorite dish or served with crackers and wine. The cheeses are all natural, made with only 1% salt. The hard cheese that we purchased could be stored outside of the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Be sure to purchase some to take home! The habanero dry jack was our favorite! We grate it on top of salad.

Vella Cheese uses the finest quality ingredients to include herd breeding, feed, milking and transporting of the milk. The cheeses are quite unique in flavor, texture and variety. It was the perfect second stop on the tour, right after wine and pizza. Mia does a fantastic job of describing each cheese prior to the tasting. It was our first time attending a cheese tasting.

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Pepper tree

On our stroll over to the mission, we stopped and viewed some vineyards and took in the aroma of California Pepper trees. It was our first time seeing a pepper tree and until that point, we didn’t realize pepper grew on trees. The California Pepper tree naturalized in Southern California and they grow rapidly to about 40 feet tall and branches just as wide. The trees have a unique appearance, lacy because of the compound, pinnate leaves. The leaves, which grow up to 12 inches long, are what gives off the peppery aroma. An added benefit to taking part in a walking tour versus a train or trolley~ stopping along the way, discovering nature.

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IMG_0968Next stop, a California mission! My husband and I grew up in California, where touring missions was something every student did in elementary school along with writing an essay and building a model. Our daughter, who was not raised in California, has never been to a mission so this was a wonderful addition to the tour. After the Sonoma Food Tour came to and end, we returned to the mission to look inside.

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Barracks at Mission Sand Francisco Solano

Mission San Francisco Solano was the 21st and final mission built in California. Built after Mexico gained independence from Spain, as the Governor’s wish was to have a strong Mexican presence on the Pacific coast. The Mission had a short life of just eleven years but was successful even though it had lower productivity than older missions in California.

IMG_0984IMG_0973Ready for olive oil tasting at Figone’s? Our daughter had just returned from Italy and had been olive tasting in Lucca. This was the first time for my husband and I. Quite different from what we had expected. After all, olive oil tasting just doesn’t have the same intrigue of beer, wine, chocolate or cheese tasting. Surprisingly, they were very flavorful! Some tasting were that of salad dressing, while others were infused with herbs, great for fish or pasta. My favorites were the balsamic tastings! I had no clue that balsamic vinegar could be so sweet, made with strawberries, raspberries, chocolate, white peaches, pears, pomegranate, cinnamon, and figs. Some of Figone’s balsamics are sold to restaurants for making cocktails. Yum!

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Figone’s produces and sells specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Customers canIMG_0974 sign up to become a member of the “La Visione Club” and receive four shipments each year. Members will receive two 250ml club items of their choice upon joining. Items ship in March, June, September, and December. Choose one olive oil and one vinegar or two olive oils for $48. You may also choose two vinegars for $58. Take your time to browse around their gift shop and bring home small bottles of olive oil and balsamic as souvenirs or gifts.

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IMG_0990La Casa Restaurant & Bar of Sonoma~ IMG_0999

Where to begin? We have traveled to Spain on more than one occasion as well as Mexico. Love, love Mexican cuisine! The dish served on the tour, Avocado Relleno, was deliciously unique with a surprisingly, healthy but bold, spicy flavor. I took the picture in hopes of recreating it. The dish is made with a whole avocado cut in half, topped with black beans, queso fresco and green chili. Served with salsa Fresca and chili pasilla sauce. The chips and salsa were fabulous and how could you go wrong when margaritas are served?

La Casa Restaurant is family owned, opened in 1967 and has turned into a Sonoma landmark. La Casa has a vivacious atmosphere, set in wine country and is popular amongst locals and visitors.

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Final stop, saving the best for last, Wine Country Chocolates!! I didn’t take any pictures of the inside, probably because I was too preoccupied with sampling ganache in the chocolate tasting room. Enjoy tastings of raspberry and apricot ganache and several different types of chocolate ranging from milk to dark increasing in the percentage of cacao. You can even join their Truffle Club and have delectables sent to your door! Sign me up. It was a perfect ending to a great day!

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The Depot Hotel Restaurant Sonoma

$$ Saving Tips~ With each blog post that I write, there are always $$ saving tips included. The tour guide brings along a small bottled water (8 oz.) for each guest. If you feel that you want more water, I would recommend bringing along your own bottle. We definitely needed water during the cheese sampling as some cheese were hot. It was also a warm day in July. I recommend bringing along a small bag to put items purchased in. There are gift shops at the cheese company as well as the olive oil and chocolatier shops. You cannot beat the value for the price of $89! Most of the wine trains we looked at were well over $100 plus you have to pay at each winery for the sampling. This tour included all the food, drinks and samples plus historical information over a 3 hour period. Be sure to tip your guide! Mia is fantastic and even emailed us a some photos of our family from the tour.

Reserve your tour at https://www.sonomafoodtour.com/

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South Lake Tahoe for the whole fam!!!

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Heavenly Ski Resort

South Lake Tahoe is the most populous city in El Dorado County, California which is located in the Sierra Nevadas. The population in South Lake Tahoe was 21,403 in 2010. The California-Nevada state line which is on the east end of the city, is geared towards tourism, with shops, restaurants, hotels, and Heavenly Mountain Resort. The Nevada casinos are located just across the state line in Stateline, Nevada. Lake Tahoe Boulevard runs about 5 miles west-southwest along U.S. Route 50. The western end of town is mainly residential. As its name suggests, South Lake Tahoe is located on the southern shore, right next to the Nevada border and the town of Stateline, Nevada. Tahoe is a great place to visit year round!!

Harvey's

Harvey’s

Climate: South Lake Tahoe has a beautiful, snowy highland climate with winters that are quite cold, especially at night, and summers that feature warm to hot days and cool to cold nights with very low humidity. Summertime is the dry season with July averaging only 0.31 inches of rain. In December’s the average is 3.81 inches. Tahoe averages two days per year that reach 90 °F  or higher, most commonly occurring in July and August. Every month of the year Tahoe has at least two days with a low temperatures of 32 °F or lower.The climate is either classified as a Warm Summer Mediterranean climate or a Continental Mediterranean climate. The all-time record high is 99 °F which was set on July 22, 1988, and the all-time record low is −29 °F set on December 9, 1972, and on February 7, 1989.

Don’t forget to stop by Harvey’s Hotel and Casino. “Elevate Your Adventure at Harveys Lake Tahoe, the very first casino hotel built on the South Shore. Opening in 1944, Harveys has a rich tradition of hospitality that you’ll discover around every corner with chic, modern décor in our 740 Lake Tahoe hotel rooms and suites, and in the service provided by our dedicated team. Walking distance to Heavenly, Harveys gives you easy access to all the four-season  thrills that Lake Tahoe has to offer.” Harvey’s website

Near Heavenly Ski Resort

Near Heavenly Ski Resort

We decided to take a family trip to South Lake Tahoe for Thanksgiving. In November, you never know if you will be trapped in snow or have

Sugarpine Lodge

Sugarpine Lodge

gorgeous sunny days for hiking. We had the best of both worlds since it had snowed prior to arriving. There was snow on the ground but we weren’t driving in snow and experienced some great sunny, hiking days. Lake Tahoe is easily accessible from several airports. We drove from the Bay Area in California but you can fly into Sacramento International Airport or Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Lake Tahoe is located off of Hwy 50 and about a 2 hour drive from the Sacramento area, about 1 hour from Reno or about 4 hours from the Bay Area. There are several hotels and timeshare properties in the Lake Tahoe area. Coming from Kauai, we really wanted the foresty feel. We opted to stay in a cabin with family for the holidays. We chose to stay at Sugarpine Lodge which was the perfect spot!!!! Sugarpine Lodge is located just a block from Heavenly Ski Resort and about a 5 minute drive from several casinos. It is located in South lake Tahoe, right near the state line. There is a Safeway grocery store conveniently located up the street. If you are a skier than you will love Sugarpine Lodge because you can indulge in the hot tub or lay around while the wood burning stove is going after a long day of skiing. In addition, the Heavenly Ski Resort shuttle stops right in front of Sugarpine Lodge. We always stay in hotels so Sugarpine Lodge was a great alternative offering a cozy, cabin feel. To find out more information about Sugarpine Lodge go to http://www.vrbo.com/69253.

Hot Tub Time at Sugarpine

Hot Tub Time at Sugarpine

Heavenly Mountain Resort is a ski resort located on the California-Nevada border in South Lake Tahoe. It has 97 runs and 30 lifts that are spread between California and Nevada and four base facilities. The resort has 4,800 acres within its permit area, with approximately 33% currently developed for skiing, boasting the highest elevation of the Lake Tahoe area resorts with a peak elevation of 10,067 ft and a peak lift-service elevation of 10,040 ft.

Heavenly has an average of 360 inches of snow annually, and one of America’s largest snow making systems.  Heavenly’s ski season usually runs from mid November to mid April.

Hiking Powerline Trail

Hiking Powerline Trail

Fun for kids

There are many hiking trails near Sugarpine Lodge.

The Rock

The Rock

We decided to hike just up the road on Powerline Trail which lead to a giant rock formation where we could take pictures at sunset. Powerline Trail is rated “easy” for the level of difficulty. It’s an easy hike with wonderful views. You can go as far as you like and then turn around and come back. Keep in mind that Powerline Trail is shared with bikes.

It was a great, free activity for all ages!! The kids had fun picking up sticks and rocks along the way, while the adults were admiring the beautiful luxury cabins along the cliff. We did happen to spot bear tracks on our hike, so be aware of bears. Fortunately, we did not actually see any bears during our stay in Tahoe.

Next stop, Emerald Bay!!! In 1969, Emerald Bay was designated a National Natural Landmark for its brilliant panorama of mountain-building processes and glacier carved granite. The natural beauty, geology and history of this unique island make it one of the highlights of any visit to the Lake Tahoe area.

Emerald Bay Lookout

Emerald Bay Lookout

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay State Park includes 2 campgrounds: Boat-In Camp and Eagle Point Campground (closed until 2015).

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay

The scenic Rubicon foot trail wraps around Emerald Bay, with trailheads at Eagle Point campground, Vikingsholm, and DL Bliss State Park.

Emerald Bay lookout offers great photo ops and there is railing throughout which is great for kids. Parking is free but a little challenging as it is a very popular lookout spot. We ended up parking on the side of the street. The restrooms are quite nauseating I must warn you. Bring your own toilet paper!!!

Off to sled

Off to sled

Since it didn’t snow while we were in Tahoe, we brought sleds (thank you grandma & grandpa) to Emerald Bay and found some great hills.

Sledding

Sledding

Warning, there are trees at the bottom of the hills. Bring snow/ski clothes, hats and gloves for the kids to avoid a huge raspberry from hard ice which our son encountered. It is a great way to have fun in the snow and it’s free!! The kids were quite happy that we were able to locate snow. They each took turns flying down the hills on sleds.

Off to Eagle Falls Trail, Lake Tahoe!!! Eagle Falls Trail Lake Tahoe is located off Highway 89 and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in California. Eagle Falls is a popular hike due to its beautiful cascading waterfalls, lush green scenery, trees and it is short. Eagle Falls is a great option for those who may not want to spend hours on a long or strenuous hike, but still want to see Tahoe’s magnificent terrain. The trail is approximately two miles round trip and can be completed in about 30 minutes depending on the hiker. Dogs are permitted on the trail so visitors can bring their dog on their outdoor hike. We even passed one couple who had fishing poles in their backpacks. Not sure exactly where they were going to fish, but there must be fishing.

Eagle Falls Trail

Eagle Falls Trail

Alongside one of the most blue pristine lakes in California, hikers on Eagle Falls will see the delightful sights of cascading waterfalls, lush green mountain scenery and tall pine trees. Eagle Falls Trail is open year round and offers hikers an unforgettable outdoor experience filled with breathtaking views.

Eagle Falls

Eagle Falls

Looking down the falls was a little bit scary as there isn’t a railing or a path. You hike right down to the ledge of the falls. I would not recommend this overlook for kids and be sure to have on good boots that won’t slip. It was icy when we walked down, making it even more unsafe. If you decide to walk to the falls, be sure to take pics!!!

Now for the place that will take all of your money and the kids will never want to leave…..Heavenly Village!!!!

Heavenly Village

Heavenly Village

Ice Skating

Ice Skating

Heavenly Village is a great place to spend some time at, although very expensive.

Bungee Trampoline

Bungee Trampoline

The Village includes shopping, ice skating, 8-plex movie theater, mini golf in the summer, a gondola ride, and a bungee trampoline all surrounded by the Marriott’s Timber Lodge. The Village is picturesque including an ice fountain and holiday music throughout. Stop off at the Starbucks and grab a hot chocolate or apple cider while shopping around. The boys rode the gondola and loved it! Warning, the parking is in 15 minute increments and it adds up quickly! You cannot park in the grocery store parking lot across from the Village unless you are willing to be towed. There are signs posted everywhere about parking for customers only. They will mark your tires if you park in the grocery store parking lot to gauge what time you parked there. During the holidays Heavenly Village has events called Heavenly Holidays. Be sure to check out their website for a calendar of events. Heavenly Village has it all! You can go wine tasting, take old-fashioned pictures, attend ski school or stop off for a day at the spa. Ice skating is $15 for kids ages 12 and under and $20 for over age 12. Once you purchase a wristband, you can come and go all day until 8 p.m. The bungee trampoline is $12 for a 6 minute session. Thebungee has an attendant working at each jump to assist with jumping, flips, and adjusting the harness. Our son was not a fan of the harness but the other kids enjoyed it.

Ice Fountain at Heavenly Village

Ice Fountain at Heavenly Village

Base Camp Pizza

Base Camp Pizza

Check out Base Camp Pizza for casual, family-style dining, serving gourmet pizza, salads, and pasts. Choose from the traditional or unique combinations created by the Chef with incredibly fresh ingredients.

If you are looking for a timeshare, the Marriott’s Timber Lodge is located in the heart of the South Shore within Heavenly Village.

Marriott's Timber Lodge

Marriott’s Timber Lodge

It is situated at the base of the world-renowned Heavenly gondola and considered one of the top resorts in South Lake Tahoe. This luxury resort offers spacious one, two, or three-bedroom villas with fully equipped kitchens, TVs with DVD players, washer/dryers and private balconies. The guest rooms include mini-refrigerators, microwaves, king-size beds and sleeper sofas.

Heavenly Village

Heavenly Village

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

Birthday Celebrations at Disneyland

Party on Main St

Party on Main St

Birthday Sticker

Birthday Sticker

Every child dreams of visiting Disneyland ~

After all, It’s Where Dreams Come True. So why not step it up a notch and have your birthday party on Main Street at the Plaza Inn??? For our son’s 5th birthday we decided to take him to Disneyland and party it up on Main Street. Upon arriving at the resort, tell a Disney associate as you pass through the gates about your special day and receive a Happy Birthday sticker.

Pat E Cake

Pat E Cake

Stop by City Hall on Main Street at Disneyland or Guest Services at Disney California Adventure Park to pick up a special birthday button to wear. Receive special greetings all day long while wearing the birthday button and/or sticker!!!!

The party will be hosted by Mr. Patrick Edward Cake (AKA Pat E Cake).

Two Disney characters will be sure to join the party. The celebration includes a Mickey-shaped cake with frosting and candy decorations, a party hat, punch in a special Happy Birthday cup and Mickey Mouse Plate.

Mickey Cake Decorating

Mickey Cake Decorating

Mickey Cake

Mickey Cake

Celebrate your special day at the most magical place on Earth!!!!!! Birthday Parties on Main Street are not currently available at the resort at this time, but there are new ways to celebrate in Disney style. The Mickey Mouse shaped cake is still available!!

Cake Time!!!!

Cake, cake cake. Kids and adults love to celebrate their special day with an amazing, decorative cake!!  Disneyland offers an array of custom cakes which can be delivered to any full-service Disneyland theme park restaurant. So go for it~ surprised your loved one on their special day with the delivery of a custom Disney cake. Rest at ease and let Disney handle the planning. Contact a Disney Vacation Specialist at (714) 781-3463 (DINE) for more information.

Choose the cake~

There are three types of cakes to choose from ~ Mickey or Minnie Mouse-shaped cake, Disney Princess Cake or Disney Signature Cake. Custom design the cake for that special person in mind by choosing from a variety of cake, filling, frosting options and a personalized message.

Celebrations while staying at the Disneyland Resort

Birthday Dining

Birthday Dining

Mickey & Minnie

Mickey & Minnie

The Disneyland Resort offers special birthday celebrations which include an individual party cake to be delivered for room service or while you are dining at their full-service restaurants. The birthday boy or girl may choose from a Disney Princess Jewelry Box or Disney Pirate Treasure Chest individual-sized party cake. Regardless of which theme you choose, your little one will receive a special surprise along with the cake! Still want more celebration??? Have your hotel room decorated exclusively by Disney for your special day.

Disney Resort also offers a themed gift basket which may be delivered directly to the hotel room of the birthday boy or girl. This is a great option if you know someone who is going to Disneyland for his/her birthday but you will not be with them. Just call up a vacation specialist and have the basket delivered to the room!

You can never go wrong with a Disney Gift Card to say “Happy Birthday!” Disney gift cards can be used at the Disneyland Resort for merchandise, meals, park tickets and special experiences.

Digimax A50 / KENOX Q2

Disneyland offers special arrangements for graduation night, weddings and picnics

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

Apple Hill, Camino, CA

Apple Hill Pumpkin Patch

Apple Hill Pumpkin Patch

Apple Cider samples at Boa Vista Orchards

Fall season is synonymous with apple pie, chili, cider, pine trees and cool temps.

Pumpkin Time

Pumpkin Time

Growing up in California we would head to Camino each year in October to experience Apple Hill. Apple Hill is much more than just apples, they have bake shops, ciders, pies, fishing, berry picking, pumpkin patches, trolleys, hay rides, train rides, wineries, and Christmas trees all in the beautiful pine tree setting. Our kids absolutely loved it, as growing up in Hawaii really doesn’t have any of those things. The only apple pie you will find here is at Costco over the holidays.

Apple Cider

Apple Cider at Boa Vista Orchards

Apple Hill is located in the western Sierra Foothills in El Dorado County,

Apple Hill

Apple Hill

about an hour drive from Sacramento. It is the perfect place to spend the entire day. Apple Hill is located in Camino, California off of US-50 past Placerville if you are coming from Sacramento. You will see several Apple Hill exit signs: the Schnell School Exit 48, Carson Road Exit, Camino Exit, Cedar Grove Exit 54, and Pollock Pines Exit 57. The orchards are pretty easy to find as each participating farm has a big, red apple on the sign. When you arrive at Apple Hill, grab a map!!! There are 48 growers and 7 Christmas Tree farms. The map will indicate the activities and shops offered at each farm.

Bavarian Hills Orchard

Bavarian Hills Orchard

Each orchard is numbered and the map will indicate how to get to each one. Obviously you can expect that there will be apples at apple hill but do you know about all the apples that you will find there? Visitors can enjoy picking their own apples from the tree or from a convenient container. Among the variety of apples available are golden delicious, granny smith, pippen, pink lady, rome beauty, fuji, gala and mutsu just to name a few.

Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples

We stopped off at Bavarian Hills Orchard #11- where they had great bratwurst. It was a small orchard with not a whole lot to do but each orchard is unique and offers different things. My daughter purchase a black and white sketch of a cougar that she still has in a binder. Apple Hill is a driving excursion. You can drive from orchard to orchard, park and walk around. There is a trolley that will take you around to the various orchards. Apple Hill is open on weekends year round, but most famous for the Fall and Winter season’s October Festivities, Christmas Tree cutting, and pumpkin patches. Some orchards do not open until Labor Day weekend.

Caramel Apple time

Caramel Apple time

Next stop- caramel apples!!! Many of the orchards have an enormous selection of  caramel apples. One farm that we stopped at even had a machine to slice each apple so that the kids could all share.

Apple Hill

Got our beanies!

My favorite was caramel apple pie which was an apple dipped in caramel, then half dipped in cheesecake and rolled in graham cracker crumbs. They even had apples with gummy worms on them. Sky is the limit for caramel, chocolate and candied apples at Apple Hill!!!

When we first arrived to Apple Hill, we were much colder than we had DSC05340planned for. It was breezy and with all of the pine trees, it seemed as though we were never in the sun! Fortunately, there are all kinds of crafts for sale so the first stop was to buy the kids beanies. I can honestly say- they never took them off!! I would recommend bringing extra change of clothes and jackets. We just had zip up sweatshirts and that really wasn’t warm enough.

Headed over to High Hill Ranch for some eats!! High Hill Ranch was the largest farm we went to that day. The restaurant was appealing because it was inside and we were cold. They had hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, wraps, nachos, veggie options, chili dogs, but the thing I remember the most- the smell of their hot pies. You can order pie by the slice but I must warn you-  choosing just one is impossible!

Pies

Pies

Pie, Pie, Pie!!! High Hill Ranch offers the following pies:

Sour Cream Apple Pie This pie is similar to  the Sour Cream Apple Pie except that sour

High Hill Ranch

High Hill Ranch

cream is blended in with  apples, cinnamon and sugar. Available baked fresh frozen and  baked.   This pie has walnuts in the topping.

Sour Cream Apple Berry Pie  A  wonderful delight you can enjoy for any special occasion or family  holiday meal. You can eat this pie cold at room temp. This pie has  walnuts in the topping . Available baked fresh frozen and baked.

Dutch Apple Pie This pie is covered with a streusel  topping. Apple filling is cooked up with a special blend of cinnamon and sugar. Available fresh baked or frozen baked.

 Caramel Apple Pie This pie is made with our Homemade High  Hill Ranch Caramel. This pie has a crumb topping with pecans in the  topping. Available fresh baked or frozen baked.

Sugarless  Apple Pie Our sugarless apple pie has no sweeteners added to it. Just tasty naturally sweet. Available fresh  baked, or unbaked frozen. Our apple juice is one of the flavors used in  this pie.

Pie Dough Balls If you like to make your own pies, we can  supply the crust. Comes in a bag of two balls, one for the upper crust  and one for the lower crust. Best kept frozen.

Berry Pies Our berry Pies are made with  fresh  Marion  berries. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you have quite a treat.  Available baked, unbaked or unbaked fresh frozen.

Apple berry Pies Available baked, unbaked or unbaked fresh frozen.

My favorite thing about pies at Apple Hill is that you can order a slide hot to eat there and then take home an entire pie frozen, plop it in your

Fudge Factory Farm

Fudge Factory Farm

freezer and eat it later. We bought several pies.

Don’t miss the Cider Mill!!!!

The Cider Mill, also known as an apple press, at High Hill Ranch was started in 1960.  “We take pride in our Apple Juice. Our Apple Juice is made fresh and it is unpasteurized . We use the apples right off the trees which are hand picked. It takes about 10 pounds of apples to make one gallon of juice. We use about 4 bins of mixed apples which weigh about 900 lbs per bin. 700 gallons of Apple Juice is made many times through out the season it takes about 3 hours to make that many gallons.”

Find out more information about High Hill Ranch at http://www.highhillranch1.net/

The Fudge Factory is a family owned farm, like many of the farms at Apple Hill.  They offer customers over 75 different flavors of fudge, fresh baked cookies, homemade hot fudge and caramel sundaes, fresh peanut brittle, English toffee, a wide variety of chocolates, and over 15 brittle, English toffee, a wide variety of chocolates, and over 15 different kinds of candy coated apples.

High Hill Ranch

High Hill Ranch

$$ saving tips: Bring warm clothes and change of clothes and then you won’t end up purchasing clothing items like we did. Purchase a caramel apple and have it sliced there by the machine and everyone can share it rather than purchasing for each child and then throwing it away. There are free samples all throughout apple hill. We even had a sample of cider beer! The cider beer is very sweet – different than I expected. Apple Hill is a great place for kids to run around, pick up pumpkins, plop on a stack of hay, play in the pond- there is so much to do that doesn’t cost money. The food was pretty reasonable and you must try a slice of pie. Purchase a pie to bring home, it is much cheaper than eating slice after slice. Although when the pie is hot, it’s difficult to walk away. Check out the activities and map on line and plan your day in advance. Memories to last a lifetime.

http://www.applehill.com/

San Francisco, California

Seals Pier 39 (2)

Pier 39, San Francisco

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Fisherman’s Wharf Sign

I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA not far from San Francisco. I really do love going back to the

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Bay Area to visit Pier 39 in the city. This time I was able to take my daughter with me so she could experience all the touristy things I did when I was growing up. Last October we visited the Pier and I forget how cold it can be. Maybe it’s living in Hawaii the past ten years that makes adjusting to the chill of San Francisco that more difficult. We were all bundled up and still freezing on the ferry- burrrrr!!!! Many tourists visit San Francisco every day just to see the sea lions. There is actually a story about how the sea lions began on Pier 39 Marina.

After the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco in October 1989, a few California sea lions began hanging around the PIER 39 K-Dock . Then in 1990 they began arriving in groups to the K-Dock, which frustrated the Marina tenants. The Staff at the Marina consulted The Marine Mammal Center to come up with an alternate solution for the sea lions home. After going back and forth on the issue, it was decided that the sea lions stay in their new home- the K-Dock. PIER 39 Marina is an ideal living situation for the sea lions due to the supply of food from the Bay and an environment which protects them from predators. As of November 2009, there are 1702 sea lions at Pier 39’s K Dock. The number will continue to rise and fall with the seasons but they will always have a home there.

Lefty's

Lefty’s

Lefty’s- The Left Hand Store

My daughter is left handed and was absolutely thrilled to see that there is a store at Pier 39 for leftys!! She literally went through every item saying, “Oh my gosh I need this”. You can find all kinds of gear at Lefty’s San Francisco – The Left Hand Store.

Left handed notebook

Left handed notebook

They have pencils, pens, scissors, notebooks, binders, coffee mugs, can openers and just about everything you could want designed just for the lefty’s in our world. The store even sells left-handed guitars and has the names of all of the famous lefty’s on the wall- mainly artists, inventors and musicians. It is a great store for gifts- since we all know someone who is left handed.

Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for all of their seafood restaurants which have views of Alcatraz, Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped off at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant which is on Pier 43, just a short walk down from Pier 39.

Franciscan Crab Restaurant

Franciscan Crab Restaurant

They offer seafood favorites such as Dungeness Crab, Crispy Crab cakes, Seafood Antipasto, fresh oysters, and steamed mussels. The Franciscan Crab Restaurant has freshly made  burrata (Italian cheese) and salumi (Italian cured meats). My daughter, who is not a big fan of seafood, ordered alfredo pasta and loved it, while I ordered a crab sandwich which was on fresh baked, crunchy bread. The Franciscan was originally built in the 50’s but has recently been remodeled. There are pictures of all of the famous people who have eaten there as you walk in. No matter where you sit, you can see the San Francisco skyline.

Dryer's Ice Cream

Dryer’s Ice Cream

When walking around the Pier don’t forget to grab an ice cream at Dryers!! Even though it was freezing that day, we still had to grab our ice cream in a waffle cone. We pretty much ate our way through the Pier. You will have to choose as there is also The Candy Baron, Chocolate Heaven, The Cup and Cake Café and The Fudge House!!! That is just to name a few of the sweet treats.

Wipeout Bar & Grill

Wipeout Bar & Grill

And of course, she had to pose in front of the Wipeout To Go window!! We actually did not eat there but it was a very cute place with long lines for pick up. It smelled great! Wipeout Bar & Grill is a California Surf-themed restaurant which includes indoor and outdoor dining and a variety of food from seafood to burgers.

San Francisco Carousel

San Francisco Carousel

Just catching a ride on the San Francisco Carousel at the Pier. This carousel was handcrafted in Italy and hand-painted with famous San Francisco landmarks which include the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Chinatown, Lombard Street, Alcatraz and the California sea lions. The carousel has 1,800 twinkling LED lights, 32 animals to ride and spinning tubs!!! While riding around the carousel, you can see the famous Pier 39 promenade.

Boudin

Boudin

I love Boudin Bakery Cafe!!!! The smell alone will literally draw you in- just follow your nose and it will lead you to the hot, sourdough bread baked daily. Stop in for clam chowder, chili or the soup of the day in a sourdough bread bowl or fresh sandwiches and salads. It’s just not the same to buy a loaf of sourdough at the airport on your way home. They had a lot of great gifts in their gift store such as: pancake and waffle mixes, spices, sauces, syrups, and more. Check it out.

 

Red and White Fleet

Red and White Fleet

Off to Alcatraz on the Red and White Fleet!!!! My daughter had read about Alcatraz but had not seen it up close. Due to time constraints we were unable to take the Alcatraz walking tour but we did take the Red and White Fleet around the island.

Red and White Fleet

Red and White Fleet

The historic Red and White Fleet is the first fleet adventure in San Francisco. The Red and White Fleet is the only tour boat to offer a head set in multiple languages. The family owned business started out offering bay cruises from Pier 43½.

We took a Bridge to Bridge tour which included views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, the Ferry Building, Transamerica Pyramid, Palace of Fine Arts and around notorious Alcatraz Island. It is so relaxing to sit there and listen to the tour while being able to take pictures. It is very windy and can be cold if you choose to sit on the outer deck. The boat tours are easy to just hop on as they depart up to 17 times daily from Fisherman’s Wharf. The Red and White Fleet offers a lunch tour at 12:30 where you can bring your own boxed lunch on board or a 5:45 p.m. sailing which offers a bar.

Golden Gate Bridge View

Golden Gate Bridge View

View of Alcatraz

View of Alcatraz

To find out more about pricing visit http://www.redandwhite.com/

SF Flower mart

SF Flower mart

Going to the City for a special event? Try stopping off at the San Francisco Flower Mart!! Martha Stewart named it “the best flower market in the country”. The flower market is open to the public Monday-Saturday from 10am-3pm.

 

SF Flower Mart

SF Flower Mart

The flower mart contains over 50 vendors who sell cut flowers, greens, foliage plants, blooming plants, silk product and all floral supplies. Walking through the flower mart is an experience in itself. We were overwhelmed with the aromas and colors of the flowers. It’s a great experience, even if you aren’t planning an event. I highly recommend visiting the San Francisco Flower Mart!!!

http://sfflowermart.com/

$$ saving tips: Parking in San Francisco is very expensive. Many of the parking garages charge by the hour. When exploring the Pier the last thing you want to do is monitor your time. Look at taking public transportation into the City or car pool with others to split the cost of parking. If you are not familiar with driving in SF, there are a lot of one way streets and most of the parallel parking fills up very early in the morning. If you choose to drive to the City yourself (Good Luck), there is a website that tells you about the best parking in the area at http://sanfrancisco.bestparking.com/. The Pier really doesn’t have a season, there are constantly tourists there and events happening. Most of the restaurants on the wharf are very expensive – so try eating there for lunch rather than dinner. The lunch menus are often more affordable. The Franciscan does bring complementary sourdough bread to the table. There are a lot of things at the Pier to do for free!! Walk around and window shop, take pictures, visit the sea lions and see the landmarks. We were lucky as the Blue Angels were performing the day we were there. The Red and White Fleet offers a complimentary Ghirardelli Specialty Ice Cream Sundae with every full price adult or youth ticket for the California Sunset Cruise. “The World Famous Specialty Sundae” features two scoops of vanilla ice cream overflowing with freshly homemade hot fudge, whipped cream, chopped almonds, and a cherry. The sundae is a $9.50 savings!

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Jack London Square, Oakland, California

Jack London Square

Kincaid’s at Jack London Square

Along the pier

Along the pier

While in the Bay Area, you must make a stop at Jack London Square in Oakland, CA.

Boats docked at Jack London

Boats docked at Jack London

I happened to be there in May on a gorgeous day, as I walked the pier and watched the boats sail by. There is a parking garage right at the square which is convenient to park in . All of the restaurants are on the pier and most of them have a view. While many of the places are pricey, we were able to find items on the dinner menu at Kincaid’s Bay House Restaurant for under $25.00, which is a great deal. Items under $25.00 include: Seafood Louis Salad, Seared Peppercorn New York Steak (petite), Char Broiled Chophouse Burger, Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Braised Short Rib, Smoked Chicken Penne, Rigatoni Bolognese, Fresh Herb Stuffed Chicken, and Roasted Chicken Dijon. All of their soups and salads are under $9.00 with the exception of the Seafood Louis.

Il Pescatore

Il Pescatore

When you first sit down, an herb crusted loaf of fresh, hot bread is brought to the table. As you eat the bread, more comes out! You really could order a salad there and just fill up on a glass of wine and their complimentary bread.

In the center of Jack London Square is the Jack London Market, a six-story building with ocean view on every floor. The first two floors will be a daily farmer’s market overflowing with the area’s best fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, coffee, baked goods, cheese and prepared foods.  The Market will also be a great place for lunch with a glass of wine, culinary shopping, events and education. The open date has not yet been announced.

Jack London is most famous for being an author of The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea Wolf. He was one of the first Americans to make a living from writing books.

The waterfront is known as Jack London Square because this is where Jack spent time as a boy where the ideas for the oyster pirate and sailor inspired stories like The Sea-Wolf came from. There is a life sized bronze stature of Jack London standing watch over the waterfront at the foot of Broadway. This bronze sculpture was created by the artist Cedric Wentworth.

Some of the fine restaurants at Jack London Square are:

• Bocanova
• Forge
• Hahn’s Hibachi
• Haven
• Il Pescatore Ristorante
• Kincaid’s Bay House
• Lungomare
• Scott’s Seafood Restaurant
• Yoshi’s Oakland

$$ saving tips: Many of the restaurants at Jack London Square are pricey. Be sure to preview the menus in advance if you don’t want to pay $50 per person for the meal alone. Since the restaurants are ocean front, it is a typical high priced menu. However, you don’t want to miss out on the experience of eating their amazing bread as the boats sail by. The first couple of places we went to had wait times of over 2 hours and then we stumbled upon Kindcaid’s thinking it would be way too expensive. Surprisingly, they have a very diverse menu and price range.  I ordered the Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Braised Short Rib which was so large I could have split it with someone. The rib was an entire boneless, rib served with a generous portion of ravioli. I highly recommend that dish.