Gravenstein Apple Fair: An Old-Time Country Festival

August 3, 2017

Gravenstein Apple Fair

Where can you spend the day walking under ancient oaks following your nose from food booth to food booth (featuring frying apple fritters or slices of four-inch high apple pie), taking in terrific acoustic music, and experiencing the sights and sounds of a turn-of-the-century barnyard? At the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair, of course!

Sonoma County's summertime jewel takes place in Sebastopol's Ragle Ranch Park this weekend, August 12 and 13. 2017's event is the 105th Gravenstein Apple Fair, which showcases the best in arts, crafts, food, wines and beers, games, entertainment, and farm life activities.

Pick Your Own Apples in the North Bay!

July 25, 2017

Apple Picking

Late summer marks the start of apple season, and plenty of the tasty and popular fruits can be found in the North Bay, especially in the area around Sebastopol in western Sonoma County. Sebastopol is the de facto apple capital of the Bay Area, and it's justifiably famous for its Gravenstein apples, a variety that you won't find grown commerically anywhere else. While it's fun to eat and cook with apples, it's even more fun (and educational) to head out into an orchard and pick them yourselves!

If you're not lucky enough to have an apple tree growing in your backyard, then head up to one of the local apple farms that offers a u-pick experience. It's a fun family outing, and prices and quality are usually bettter than you'll find in the supermarket. There's nothing quite like an afternoon on the farm, too.

U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms in Sebastopol

November 30, 2016

Garlock Tree Farm in SebastopolGarlock Tree Farm in Sebastopol

It's time to think about getting that must-have of the holiday season—the Christmas tree. There are those practical people who merely unpack the artificial tree from its storage boxes, and assemble it in the living room, pre-wired, perfectly shaped and sized, and flame-resistant. Then there are those of us who have to have the real deal, despite any inconvenience.

For the hopeless holiday romantics among us, nothing beats the experience of going to a honest-to-goodness genuine Christmas tree farm, getting our hands dirty, and cutting a tree down ourselves. Of course it's a great family photo op and it's usually a lot of fun, too. Those annual trips to the Christmas tree farm remain some of my fondest childhood memories, and now it's a tradition with my own family

There aren't any Christmas tree farms in Marin County anymore (the last one—in Olema—closed down years ago), so to get the real Christmas tree farm experience you have to head north to rural Sonoma County. Most tree farms are clustered around Sebastopol and Petaluma, with a few near Sonoma and Santa Rosa.

Ice Cream Rules at Screamin' Mimi's in Sebastopol

August 20, 2013

Screamin' Mimi's Ice CreamI've had several people tell me how great Screamin' Mimi's Ice Cream in Sebastopol is, so when we were in the area picking apples a couple weeks ago, I knew we just had to stop by and give it a try. Right on the corner of Sebastopol and Petaluma Avenues in downtown Sebastopol, Screamin' Mimi's has been scooping out servings of homemade ice cream since 1995.

Screamin' Mimi's offers a rotating selection of over 300 different flavors, depending on what's in season. Old standbys like chocolate, pistachio, and vanilla share space on the "Today's Flavors" chalkboard with more unusual offerings including lavendar, caramel apple, and ginger. There's also a selection of sorbets in case you're in the mood for something non-dairy. Ice cream is made from natural local ingredients wherever possible.

Ice cream here is sold by weight, and is dished up in a variety of different kinds of cones (try the amazing house-made waffle cone) and the super fun double cone that was my son's favorite (see picture). They also offer sundaes, shakes, floats, and coffee drinks. Service is friendly and efficient and the atmosphere is colorful and relaxed and encourages lingering over your ice cream cones. The ice cream, needless to say, was absolutely fantastic. I had the pistachio and I have to say that it was the best ice cream I've ever had.

The Pie's the Thing at Mom's Apple Pie in Sebastopol

September 5, 2011

Mom's Apple PieWhen we're travelling around the Bay Area, we always keep on the lookout for family-friendy (and budget-friendly) places to grab a bite to eat. We find ourselves in the west Sonoma County town of Sebastopol every fall and winter for apple picking, pumpkins, and Christmas trees, and one of our go-to places for a quick lunch or snack is Mom's Apple Pie, located on the north side of town at 4550 Gravenstein Highway North.

To be honest, the lunch part is just an excuse to go to Mom's and chow down on what she's famous for—homemade apple pies. As you might have figured out by its name, Mom's is all about the pie. Fresh baked, handmade apple pie takes center stage here. I think it's probably the best I've ever had, anywhere, and if you visit Mom's at the right time of year (August through November only) you can get apple pie that's made with Sebastopol's own Gravenstein apples. To make things even better, the Gravenstein apples come from the trees growing right behind the shop. The rest of the year the pies are made with Granny Smiths—but the Gravenstein pies are a special treat.

Pick Your Own Organic Apples at Gabriel Farm

September 4, 2011

Picking apples at Gabriel Farm in GratonStarting in 2012, you need to be a member of Gabriel Farm's CSA to participate in apple picking at the farm. You can sign up for a membership at the farm; the share consists of a case of six half-gallon bottles of the farm's Asian pear juice ($35). Non-members can still visit the farm store.

Late summer and early fall are apple season, and plenty of the tasty fruits can be found north of Marin in western Sonoma County, particularly in the area around Sebastopol, which is famous for its apples. Early every September, we head up there for a visit to Gabriel Farm, a family-run, certified organic farm on fourteen acres in the Graton area on the north side of Sebastopol. Gabriel Farm is especially fun to visit at this time of year because you can head out into the orchard and pick your own apples!

Gabriel Farm is open for apple picking on weekends from late August or early September through October from 11 am to 4 pm. (They're open this Monday, Labor Day, too.) Keep in mind they close at 4, so if you want to spend some time picking apples on the farm, count on arriving no later than 3:30 pm. Gabriel Farm also offers weekday visits and school group or group tours by appointment; call them at (707) 829-0617 to make arrangements.

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