Saturday morning we made our annual first-weekend-in-October trip to Oak Glen. It wasn't so much a vintage-style outing as an antique-style outing. Being a city girl, you’d think I’d be used to city pumpkin patches. Nice plots of concrete with bits of hay strewn about and a bounce house. Nothing says Halloween more than asphalt and porta-potties! Needless to say, I’ve always been less than thrilled, so as soon as I found out about Oak Glen when Little Man was just a babe, I high-tailed it out there and we’ve been going ever since.
Oak Glen is a small community nestled in the foothills near Yucaipa. Known for its apple orchards, trolling through Oak Glen you’ll pass farm after farm touting their orchards, berries, apple pies, and apple cider. We always go to the same place, year after year – Riley’s Farm. Riley’s Farm is a little different in that they approach their operation with a bit of living history. One side of the farm has more of an old west feel. The other has a Colonial America feel. And all of the folks that work there dress up in the attire of either era. 55 acres of the farm are open to the public and they have everything from u-pick fruit (with a calendar on their website so you can see what is ripe), dining, shopping, and special evening living history dining events, such as Sleepy Hollow, the Harvest Feast, Christmas in the Colonies, that sort of thing.
I went with giant sun hat in tow with the intention of picking apples (for my annual apple pie orgy) and our Halloween pumpkins, but even though the calendar said there were apples available, the pickings were slim and the crowds that were there were scavenging every tree around. So, no apples for us this year. Must remember next time I need to make two trips to Riley’s – one in September for apples and the October trip for pumpkins. Yes, I could just buy apples in the store, but they have winesaps and I love winesaps for apple pies. Can’t find them in the store.
So we settled for our pumpkins, fresh off the vine – three Rouge Vif D'Etamps (they look like Cinderella pumpkins). They have a few different varieties, including white pumpkins, so you can take your pick. However, I think they need to pay more attention to how their pumpkins are grown. While we didn’t have many problems with our Cinderella pumpkins, many of the other kinds of pumpkins had been left growing on their sides, so almost all were flattened and pale on one side. I know nothing about growing pumpkins, but I’d think you could, as they were growing, make sure they are growing on their “butt”, so to speak, and not on their side. You’d yield more usable pumpkins, I’d think. Of course, I have no idea if that would weaken the stem or not - just me and my city girl notions. And here's a tip for picking fresh pumpkins - bring work gloves. Some of the pumpkins have a bristly stem that makes picking them off the vine uncomfortable.
By the time we had finished, we were starving, so we headed to the Colonial side to the Hawk’s Head Publick House for lunch. It is served in a reproduction Colonial building, with rustic furnishings and pewter tankards. The wait was long, but my God was it worth it. I wasn’t expecting much, as in prior years I had had the barbecue they serve at the Packing Shed. There the food is o.k., but because they are serving crowds, and I like chicken, well, it is hard doing chicken for a crowd. But I was knocked out by the food at the Hawk’s Head. It is smaller with table service, not a grub fest where you line up at the grill and stand there with your plate. First they start you with fresh baked bread (a generous portion too, not a skimpy one-slice-per-person serving). As I was parched, I asked for a hard cider. They brought a huge bottle of Julian cider, which was easily two tankards full. Yum! I had the chicken pot pie, and it was creamy with huge chunks of chicken breast, vegetables, gravy, and a buttery crust. Even the side dish of green beans was scrumptious. Hubby was equally happy with his bratwurst sandwich. All of our dishes were served with a side of homemade apple sauce (it’s chunky and cinnamony-good.) As we were gorging on our food, we were serenaded with a small band playing early period music.
And our server, Miss Angela, served everything with a smile and a brave attempt at Colonial English. Hubby Dearest and I said we would definitely make our way back here and I hope I don’t have to wait another year to do it.
And there you have it – our Colonial culinary adventures/picking frenzy. See ya next year, Riley’s.