As American as Apple Pie

15 10 2008

This weekend I found myself in the area of Ramona while on a Men’s Retreat at the Oakbridge Camp, which is a beautiful place.  A tradition some of us have while there is to go to Julian on our free time and get some pie.  Fall is the perfect time of year to get pie since it’s apple season, and the Julian Pie Company really knows how to put those apples to work!

I bet you can guess where the Julian Pie Company started…  Yep, right there in Julian, but they’ve become so popular for their delicious pies that they have another store in Santa Ysabel (literally right down the road), and they even ship their pies to SoCal grocery stores.  When we go to Albertson’s they usually have a table right up front loaded down with Julian Pies.  So obviously, you can try the pie in the comfort of your own home, but if you’re looking for a fun, romantic, or adventurous Saturday or Sunday activity, we recommend taking the drive up to Julian and making a day of it since it’s a scenic one-hour drive from San Diego.

As you walk up to the Julian Pie Company, you might catch the scent of different kinds of pies baking in the oven, or you might catch the scent of the BBQ place nearby.  Either way, your nose is in for a treat!  The store itself is fairly small, with most of the property dedicated to the deck and patio seating; we’d suggest going around to the back for quiet, shaded, garden-like seating.  When you enter the front doors, the first thing you’ll see is the big glass-windowed pie display.  Go ahead and take a few minutes to pry yourself off the glass after trying to decide which type of pie you want.  To give you a head-start, check out the brief list of pies below.  For most of the pies you have the option to order by the slice, or whole, and you can even get some varieties unbaked so that you can just pop it in the oven and let the scent fill up your home.

To make a day of it, try the BBQ place nearby, or one of the other restaurants, or just bring a picnic.  You might also want to visit one of the nearby wineries, Orfila has a tasting room a couple miles down the road, or just continue NW on Main Street and follow the signs for a more local winery.  There are also plenty of B&B’s there, and Main Street is just a fun place to take a stroll and browse the shops.  If you’re into hiking, there’s lots of trails in the area, so stop by the Julian Pie Company to refuel after your adventure.

So here’s a quick rundown of some of their pies:

Organic Apple; Natural Apple; Apple Mountain Berry; Peach Apple; Pecan; Dutch Apple; Boysenberry Apple; Strawberry Rhubarb; Cherry.

They also have Roast Beef and Chicken Pot Pies.

Seasonally they have:

Pumpkin; Chocolate Chip Pecan; Pumpkin Apple Crumb (tried it, it’s great!); Mincemeat.

Our favorite pie they make is the Caramel Apple Dutch.  It’s apple with caramel mixed in, crumb topping, with extra caramel sauce on top.

If you like toppings, try one of these:

Cinnamon Ice Cream; Vanilla Ice Cream; Sharp Cheddar Cheese (so good melted over apple pie); Fresh Whipped Cream; Cinnamon Sauce; Warm Caramel.

They also offer other tasty treats like Apple Nut Bread, Cinnamon Rolls, Wunderbars (double chocolate over beanut butter crunch), Cider Doughnuts, and more.  If you like your pie with coffee or tea, they can meet your needs, but also try their fresh-squeezed Cider.

So plan a day trip, or stay for a vacation, just don’t miss out on the Julian Pie Company while you’re in Julian.

Here’s the quick rundown:

Hours:  9 AM-5 PM, 7 days.

Decor:  Think modern rustic poineer.  There’s an olde-tyme feel to it, but more as a rememberance than an intentional style.

Address:  2225 Main St., Julian CA 92036, or 21976 Hwy. 79, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070, or click here to find a store near you that sells Julian Pies.

Phone:  760-765-2449, and yes, you can call ahead.

Web:  www.JulianPie.com

Cost:  $2.95-$3.95/slice, 12.95-14.95/whole.  The average cost of things you might buy in Julian is more than it should be, but if you’re planning a day trip, we’d recommend saving up some cash and really enjoying yourself while there because it’s just fun!

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Tractor Room

27 09 2008

San Diegans have lots of places they can choose to have breakfast, but most people who like to go out for breakfast will know Hash House.  Oddly enough, most people who know Hash House don’t know The Tractor Room, which is a shame for them, but great for those who do know, because we don’t have to wait in the Hash House line!

This morning, Matt and Melissa (Laura’s sister) called and invited us to join them for breakfast at the Tractor Room, and I’m so glad they did.  We quickly threw on some clothes and they picked us up on the way there.

Back to Hash House for a moment.  For those who don’t know, it’s a cool place, far too small for the volume of business, but they have these delicious, gigantic meals, and some really creative and tasty drinks to finish the deal.  The Tractor Room was their response to the sheer volume of customers, and is located literally across the street.  It’s about the same size, and parking is always an issue in Hillcrest, but the atmosphere is a little different, and the menu, while boasting the exact same dishes they serve across the street, is a little smaller; which is good because it’s easier to choose between 5 things you really want than 15 things.  Don’t worry, the exact number of menu items is not represented here!

So here’s the rundown of our order:

Nathanael had the Nutmeg French Toast.  It’s served with caramelized apples and pecans, a big dollop of butter, syrup on the side, some strawberries, and of course, a side of their delicious, thick-sliced bacon.  The french toast was thick, richly spiced, and tasted great with or without syrup.  The side of bacon could hardly be called a side since there were 4 really big pieces, cooked to perfection; not too crispy, not too floppy, but that mysterious balance of just right!

Laura had the special, Venison Hash.  This one really impressed us!  The venison was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and gently seasoned so that the taste of the meat was brought out nicely.  The “hash” is the specialty of both Hash House (hence the name) and the Tractor Room, and basically it means they cook up a flavorful jumble of seasoned potato wedges, tomatoes, cheese, herbs, and in this case, venison.  The cheese for this one was mozzarella.  The hash is served with a side of eggs to order, any way but poached, and a massive piece of cornbread.  The cornbread is so big that it’s served on its own skillet, and whatever recipe they use, it’s the right one!  Lightly sweetened, made with real corn, not too dry, and it tastes good with either their house-made strawberry jam, or some eggs or venison.  Don’t miss out on this cornbread!

Matt had the Chocolate-Banana Flapjack.  Yes, the order only comes with one flapjack, but I have never seen a bigger flapjack in my life.  I have no idea how they flip this thing, because 2 pancake flippers wouldn’t be able to handle it!  The flapjack was very fluffy, despite its size, and the chocolate and bananas were in there in chunks.  The bananas looked like they’d been peeled whole, sliced in half from top to bottom, and set directly on the cooking batter.  Again, this came with a side of syrup, but it tasted so good plain that the syrup isn’t really necessary.  We also found that it tastes good with a piece of strawberry mixed into a bite.

Melissa had the Buffalo Quesadilla.  This quesadilla came out looking like a mini tee-pee on the plate, but don’t get too hung up on the word “mini.”  Slow-cooked buffalo meat, aged cheddar, eggs and herbs all folded into a thick flour tortilla, sitting on a pile of seasoned potato wedges, and the final result?  A deliciously unique taste that we’d get again in a heartbeat!  The buffalo was slightly like a slow-cooked London Broil, but definitely a different overall flavor.  The waiter recommended it, and so do we!

The one part of the meal that wasn’t quite up to the high quality as the rest was the coffee.  It tasted a little burned, and whether that was the roast or just being left of the warmer too long, I don’t know.  Some cream and sugar fixed that pretty easily, though.

Now, imagine 4 adults sitting at a booth in a restaurant with all that food in front of them, each dish on its own cast-iron skillet.  We strategically ordered different things because we all wanted to try multiple dishes on the menu, but it’s hard to pass around that much food, so when we all were ready to try another dish, we picked up our silverware and swapped seats!  Simple.  The waiter totally understood.

As for the price of all that food, it’s not too bad actually.  Meals there run around $16, some more, some less, and we took home enough food to have lunch, dinner, and probably even another breakfast!  Yes, they are VERY generous with their portions.  So if you’re going with a date, and you don’t mind sharing, there’s enough in one dish for both of you to eat your delicious fill, and probably bring home the leftovers.  If you’re going in a group, definitely plan on leftovers, even if some of you share.

Some random info about the Tractor Room:

Hours:  Click here.

Happy hour:  Monday-Friday 5:30-6:30 PM, $3.00 appetizer menu, wine and cocktail specials.

Decor:  If you know a restaurant called Roam on the Range, you know the decor.  If not, imagine a place with exposed beams overhead with an antler chandelier hanging down; cowhide barstools and booth pillows; dark leather seats and cushions; there’s also patio seating with big umbrellas for sunny days, and area heaters for those frigid San Diego winters *note the sarcasm*.  There’s a jackalope mounted on one wall, a stuffed pheasant, and other such animals on the walls.  This place feels a lot like a western saloon, but tastefully so, and not overdone.

Address:  3687 5th Ave., San Diego, CA 92103.

Phone:  619-543-1007

Web:  thetractorroom.com

Unlike Hash House, The Tractor Room does take reservations, even for their Sunday brunch.

We really like this place, and it’s affordable even without a coupon, so if you’re looking for a great breakfast place, or lunch or dinner, try The Tractor Room!