Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pie Town, CA

Well, I’m back in the U.S. for the holidays. I flew into San Diego a week ago, and return to Vietnam tomorrow morning. I’m jetlagging like crazy, which explains why I was up at 3 a.m. downloading these photos and smacking out this blog entry. Either that, or the ridiculous schedule I’m keeping means that I’m sick.

Yesterday my family headed out to Julian, California, otherwise known as “Pie Town,” for lunch, pie, and what I hoped would be my first taste of camel milk. (I visited Pie Town before, so I knew about the camel dairies already.)

Our first stop was the Oasis Camel Dairy, which was nothing if not a nod to this blog and the sometimes exotic food choices I like to make. Unfortunately, the dairy was closed, so I didn’t get to try any camel milk or, my god, camel milk chocolate. Even so, I did get up close and much too personal with one particularly vile camel. 

I guess all camels are vile when it comes down to it (no offense to all you camel lovers out there), but two days after Christmas you might think it would behave a bit more civilized and act friendlier. (Spirit of the holidays, Mrs. Camel?) What’s what the chuffing cheeks full of frothy spit, the saliva-gargling and bellowing, the stink-eye-on-the-tourists while urinating on its tail and hind legs? Who wants to drink milk and eat milk chocolate produced from a nasty, disgusting beast like that? Well, me…had the dairy been open.

Despite its vileness, it was one handsome animal. All the more so when it rolled onto its back under a tree in the distance, stuck its legs straight up in the air, and mucked about in the dirt.

If giant flightless birds are more your thing, you’re in luck.

Along the highway to Julian there are also ostrich and emu farms, and highway stands that sell their eggs (empty ones) along with lots of colorful local produce.

It only takes about an hour to reach Julian from San Diego, and as you can see from the photos above, it's an interesting trip. Although we missed Julian Apple Days by a few weeks, the atmosphere remained very Christmas-like and festive, and the weather in southern California had finally sunnied-up enough that we could walk around the town comfortably.

Julian gained its fame originally in 1870 during gold rush times, and its popularity continues today for its old hotels, apple orchards, working gold mines, spring flowers, seasonal festivals, crafts and art stores, and of course pies.

Our first stop in Julian was the Miner’s Diner, on the corner of Washington and Main streets. 

The Miner’s Diner is an old-style breakfast and lunch restaurant, famous as much for its malted milkshakes as for its eclectic interior and old collectibles displayed virtually everywhere.

The busy counter, with its old soda fountain, is also worth noting. When it's not too crowded, it's fun to get up close and watch them make their milkshakes here.

The menu is nothing to brag about, but then again, it's nothing to sneeze at either. It offers standard diner fare, and at reasonable prices. The five of us ended up ordering two chili cheese-dogs, a veggie burger, a turkey burger, and the miner's burger (your standard burger with a different name). I went with the most heart-clogging choice: the chili cheese-dog. (I like to think this was a nod to my Cincinnati roots: Gold Star Chili and Skyline Chili.) It was pleasurably messy to eat, but a bit weak on flavor. I say spice up the chili more, Miner's Diner!

We were all pretty full after that, especially my dad and brother, who ordered gigantic malted milkshakes with their meals, and while I could have squeezed down a piece of pie at this point, I made do for now making love-eyes at pies in windows.

There are all kinds of interesting crafts shops here, too, with the main themes appearing to be nature, the old west, and California in general. We ended up walking to a place called The Birdwatcher, which sells all kinds of interesting bird-related merchandise, from bird seed to handcrafted birdfeeders, birding books to bird ornaments, bird art to bird flags...on and on.

I was still the only one ready for pie, and one of only three people in our group whose eyes weren't glazed over with that kind of gray, regretful look of over-satedness, so we piled into our car again and drove off about 10 miles to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Along the way are some great views, along with numerous lakes and interesting barns.

One place we stopped off at was an overlook of the Salton Sea. It's not really a sea, but a low-lying salt lake on the San Andreas Fault. On a clear day, one's view is rather spectacular.

Like I said, between Julian and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park are various lakes and ponds.

We didn't stay long at Cuyamaca Rancho, mostly because we realized that our time was short, and Pie Town closed early. So after a quick look around here, we were off again, this time to buy pie to bring back home.

We were in such a hurry for pie we nearly ran over these newlyweds taking a carriage ride through town.

The first place we went to had just closed for the day, so we rushed to a different pie shop -- The Julian Pie Company -- which we knew from a previous visit, and found it very busy, with a line going out through the door.

There's all kinds of seating here, too -- front, back, inside -- so when there's no place to sit, that means there are probably more than 50 people eating pie here all at once.

The Julian Pie Company has a wide selection of pies, some of which are baked on the spot and sold whole or in slices, other which are assembled and then sold for you to bake in your own home.

We were getting antsy waiting to buy pie. The couple in front of us bought ten pies to take home, which nearly cleaned the place out. By the time we got to the counter there were no baked pies left, though we did get a frozen unbaked Dutch apple crumb to take home with us.

We also decided to load up on the spot with slices of warm cherry pie and hot apple cider. The cherry pie was heavenly on the first bite -- okay, and also on the second and third -- but after that it became too rich for me, and there was a slight, salty aftertaste to it that I didn't much care for. But I ate the whole thing anyway. That's just the kind of human disposal I've come to be.

By the time we'd finished it was a bit after 5 p.m., and already the sun had gone down and Pie Town was winking on its lights. This is a great little trip to make if you're in San Diego and have some time free. Weekends are busy but the crowds are fun. Weekdays, I'd imagine, you'd have the town more or less to yourself.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


  1. Wow , it`s an AMERICA ------------!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hanoilife: Well, it's California...but yes, that's America, too! :D Happy Oshogatsu, M!

  3. snortysnortyfoofooJanuary 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Obviously you're into bestiality, and that's OK, but I can't help but notice how handsome some of the people are in Pietown, especially in the Miners Diner.

  4. Snortysnortyfoofoo: Hey, no worries. I like camels and fat (or even prematurely gray) people equally! Spread the love, man...