Craving apples and apple pie? Take a day trip to Julian, California

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“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.”

Well, I called up a friend of mine to see if she would be interested in taking a day trip with me to Julian, California. It’s some three hours south of Los Angeles and some 40 miles north of San Diego. After 5 minutes of listening to her banter about her beauty sleep, I explained to her that the last weekend of summer happens to be the start of the Apple Harvest season in Julian, California. Funny, I knew it was a “Yes”, when she replied, “You want me to get up at what time in the morning?”

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We arrived the old gold mining town of Julian in about two and a half hours. I was lucky that I didn’t get caught speeding! The California landscape is beautiful along Highway 78 to Julian. Rays of sunshine poured in as the billows of fog dissipated from the valley and hilltops. Watching the weather pattern reminded me that Autumn was just right around the corner. The valley’s plateau reminded me of Sonoma, California; lots of endless landscapes of grass and cattle. The rocky hilltops looked a lot like the scenery when you drive through the Angeles Crest Highway (California 2) to the town of Wrightwood. However, it was hard for me to imagine how apples could grow in the middle of this place. Seriously, the place looks like a desert. Oddly, a handful of apple orchards could be found around the town of Julian. I saw a few along the road. Before the road trip, my own Internet searches on the city of Julian all point out that the town of Julian became known for their Apple Harvest season and their infamous Apple Pies when the  out of gold during the mid to late 1800’s. California gold to the California Apple. From the point of view of a Foodie, good food can be a cool destination to visit.

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The Julian Pie Company was the first place on my list of places to visit when we arrived. Why? To eat  a slice of fresh, hot apple pie for breakfast. Yes….for breakfast!  Think of it this way, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. When you travel with a Foodie, you eat Apple pie for breakfast. The first bite was a piece of the Apple Peach Pie Crumble pictured above. The crumble topping was sugary and crunchy, which added a nice texture to the soft, gooey apples slices.  The peaches added a natural sweetness that is better than any pie that I’ve had before. So good!

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It was nice to finally visit The Julian Pie Companyfor the first time. I fell in love with their pies a couple of years ago when one of my employees brought them to work one day. I was hooked when I found out that fresh pies could be ordered online and shipped to any destination. An overnight mail order, fresh apple pie? Hell, yeah! At the time, it was perfect timing that I heard about mail delivered pies, because I forgot to call my own sister on her birthday. So, a whole Apple Mountain Berry Pie was delivered to her a couple days later with a dent in my wallet of $40 to have it delivered. The day she received the pie was priceless. My sis text messaged me for hours and sent photos from her cell phone to show me how much she loved her birthday present. My sister’s happiness on her birthday is why I have a sweet spot for The Julian Pie Company.

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Walking around the town of Julian was pretty cool. It’s a small place, yet it’s rich with California history. My friend and I headed to the Julian Pioneer Museum, where we talked to the local docent about the history of Julian.  What I liked about this particular museum was looking at the old worldly possessions that the local residents owned such as their clothing, cookware, and housewares. However, I was more intrigued with the unusual collection of gold mining tools used to search for gold and the photography of the men searching for gold. It was hilarious to see that just about anything can be used to dig for gold. From the museum, we continued our self-walking tour of the town. It was easy to find the historical plaques around town. Each plaque describes the building and the local residents who used to live in it or owned the location as a business storefront.

Another good portion of our morning was rummaging through the antique shops. There is plenty of good antique shopping in Julian. I found that if you walk through the back of a general store, you’ll find more antique shops hidden in the back.  A really cute shop that I enjoyed was the Julian Cider Mill, where they sell plethora of their own local food items like honey, jams, and preserves. They also press their own Apple cider on the premises.  There are plenty of tasting samples at the Julian Cider Mill to try before making your final purchases at the register.

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By 12:00PM the streets were cluttered with crowds of tourists. The 90 degree sunny weather didn’t stop anyone from visiting Julian for the last day of summer.  My friend and I walked inside Witch Creek Winery for a 5 for $5 wine tasting; a white wine, three red wines, and a dessert wine. Witch Creek Winery is actually located in the more populous city of Carlsbad, but it was nice to find a tasting room in Julian. Unlike most boutique wineries that specializes in one particular grape varietal, Witch Creek Winery has a wide variety of wines with grapes from Italy, Napa/Sonoma areas, and Baja California. The scope of single vineyard grapes from all over the place is absolutely insane, but don’t let it fool you. The wine are truly good and most are award winning. We were told that they have a very talented, yet young Wine Maker. That’s cool, because this Dude know how to make wine. I love the 2009 Petite Sirah. I found it jammy with blackberry and spice notes, a few hints of suede, and a dirty cigarette ashtray finish. I think it would be a nice wine to  pair with chocolate truffles or a big ass slice of a decadent chocolate cake. What’s even more cool is that the wines are extremely affordable; between $20 – $26 a bottle.

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The lunch options in Julian are basically diner food. In town, there are only handful of restaurants to choose from and the menu items are the basic American diner thoroughfare. My friend and I dined at The Julian Grille for a quick bite to eat. Pictured above is the Muenster Bacon Cheeseburger.

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Before leaving Julian, my friend and I visited Apple Lane Orchard. This orchard is about a 15 minute walk from downtown Julian. What I like about this orchard is the opportunity to pick apples straight from the trees. $10 will get you a bin to fill all the apples that you picked. It’s pretty neat to walk around the orchard finding the perfect apple. Pick an apple, wipe off some of the dust and taste it. If it’s something you like, take more of it. A whole bin will make a few the hot apple pies, some apple tarts, and perhaps the apple sauce. Apple Lane Orchard sells fresh, no preservative, organic apple juice that they make on the premises. They usually sell direct to grocers, but they sell direct to the public at their orchard.  I personally like fresh apple juice. It’s thicker and has a heavier flavor. Fresh organic is definitely better tasting. I left with a half gallon of apple juice and a quart size to drink on the road.

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The day trip to the town of Julian was a quite enjoyable. I was happy to have spent my last day of summer in the tiny town of Julian to celebrate the start of the apple harvest season. Eating pie for breakfast, antique shopping, wine tasting, and visiting an apple orchard was memorable. This day trip was a perfect escape from the Los Angeles area for a Foodie adventure.