Ask someone from the Northeast what they miss most about home and the common answer you will hear is undoubtedly, “Autumn”. I can attest to these feelings because I am still fairly new to Los Angeles. Only being here three years, I have come to love the weather each and every day, but there are those moments when a few raindrops fall and the crisp air begins to linger that a feeling of comfort settles over me. Southern California is the embodiment of Paradise with its weather, palm trees, oceans and more. It never dawned on me until recently that I could easily drive only a few hours and begin to discover a part of Southern California I never dreamed existed.
After 30 plus miles of winding roads we finally entered Julian, CA. A town of about 1,500, nestled in the hills of San Diego County, far away from the sun soaked beaches that exemplify the San Diego lifestyle. Our initial reaction upon entering was that of jubilation and fear of finding a parking spot. Apparently, Julian is not much of a secret these days but we also happened to visit during prime harvest season. Julian is best known for its abundance of apples but the variety grown is considered less sweet than most traditional types. Plenty of local bakeries and shops definitely take advantage of the crop by making some of the best pies and ciders that I have ever tasted.
Our determination to explore the wonderful world of apple-picking lead us through town and straight to Raven Hill Orchards. We joined many visitors on an apple hunt through the picturesque orchards but our apple-picking adventure was short lived since the season started over a month ago. Our next stop was J. Jenkins Winery and Tasting Room, for a wine tasting – which included their famous apple wine – which is a must. We tasted 4 wines from their vineyard including their apple port wine, Pommier, made with 150 proof Brandy. Never having experienced apple wine before, this was an absolute treat for my taste buds. Imagine drinking a liquefied candy apple that packs a punch of strong alcohol and that is what the apple port from J. Jenkins tastes like. Mel, who poured our flight, gave us a few suggestions on where to find the best treats that Julian has to offer.
Heading back into town with an arsenal of recommendations, we set our sights on Mom’s Pies but not without digesting the beautiful architecture that embodies this charming town. A western motif lines each and every street which is directly related to Julian’s history as a gold mining community. We could not ignore our hunger pains much longer and finally decided to sit down for a meal. With so much history of apples and ciders we knew our lunch was going to be a sweet one. We realized Mom’s Pies would be our first destination by seeing the overwhelming line of people that flowed out of the front door and down the street. Our dish was planned out before stepping into line but that decision grew much harder once we approached the majestic glass case of mouth-watering pies. The gorgeous display did not phase me as I stuck with my gut instinct and chose their famous apple dumpling; a buttery, flaky crust wrapped around a peeled and cored apple. Paired with their homemade cinnamon ice cream was a treat I won’t soon forget.
We still had a few suggestions from locals that we needed to cross off our list before we left Julian for good. First was to visit Julian Brewing Company and try their crisp and lightly hopped IPA which could rival that of the more well-known breweries that dot the San Diego landscape. Next, was to have dinner at Jeremy’s On The Hill and this suggestion was echoed by every other living resident in town. A family owned and operated restaurant, Jeremy’s is run by 25 year-old Chef, so aptly named, Jeremy. Jeremy uses only fresh, sustainable ingredients which capture the flavor profile in each dish. The food screams farm-fresh, California bistro but the decor begs to be updated. Jeremy told us it is a work in progress and he is adding his own style every day. Last, but certainly not least, and by far the greatest suggestion we have ever been given was to buy a pumpkin-apple pie from Julian Café and Bakery. If you’re a fan of both pies separately, just imagine them combined in a marriage of flavors.
Julian now holds a special place in our heart because of the unique character that the area embodies. Apple season is over but the holiday pies that are created in Julian are prime for picking. We suggest heading their now and stocking up for the holidays, but if a two hour trip is not in your itinerary just yet, you’re in luck-you can simply purchase great pies online from Julian Pie Company.
How to get to Julian, CA from the L.A. and Orange County areas: take 5 or 15 South to 76 East to 79, turn right to 78/79 (Santa Ysabel) turn left to Julian, OR take 5 or 15 South to 78 East to Julian.
Raven Hill Orchards: (Apple picking & café) 1284 Julian Orchards Dr Julian, CA 92036
J. Jenkins Winery & Tasting Room (Wine tasting + souvenir glass $6): 1255 Julian Orchards Drive Julian, CA 92036
Moms Pies: 2119 Main Street – Julian CA 92036
Julian Café & Bakery: 2122 Main Street, Julian, CA
Julian Pie Company: 2225 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036 (Order pies online: JulianPies.com)
Julian Brewing Company: 2315 Main Street, Julian, 92036
Jeremy’s on the Hill: 4354 Highway 78, Wynola, California (11/18 – Holiday Cooking Class w/Chef Jeremy)
- Julian: What to See, Do, and Eat With Kids (redtri.com)
- Plan ahead: Get your apple on (utsandiego.com)
- Apple Varieties and How to Use Them (ourlittlefamilyadventure.wordpress.com)