Monday, August 4

16 Days Of Vacation

Day 15: Casa de Fruta, CA

Every native Californian has their favorite fruit stand. Although they are not as prevalent as they once were, there must be hundreds around the state. If you've ever traveled interstate 5 between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, chances are you've been to one of the best and most enduring:
Casa de Fruta.

This landmark in the Pacheco valley started out as a family orchard 100 years ago. Around the end of World War II, the owners opened up a fruit stand. Later they added a coffee shop, a store, and it hasn't stopped growing since. Now you can eat at Casa de Restaurant, fuel up at Casa de Gas, sleep at Casa de Motel, even take the kiddies for a little train ride at Casa de Choo Choo. Seriously, I'm not making any of this up. It's cornball and campy, and it hasn't lost that charm in the 40 years I've been going there.

Most everyone from the San Jose area has spent some time here. There are picnic areas, a pond, playground, an animal farm complete with 2nd or 3rd generation buffalo, a great antique merry-go-round (I'm a sucker for these), an RV park, and souvenirs. Oh, yeah, just as s sideline, they sell fruit. This is a fun way to kill an hour or two, or to spend the day with family. I loved going there as a kid. I remember it had the biggest slide I'd ever seen. On the winding highway was a billboard with a rotating coffee cup, an advertisement for the World Famous Cup Flipper. I saw him only once. He would bring you a cup upside down on a saucer, flip it in the air, catch it on the saucer and pour your coffee from two feet above. Now THAT is the kind of tourist trap entertainment ya just can't get no more. Unfortunately, the Cup Flipper retired some years ago.

True to its legacy, the fruit "stand" specializes in all sorts of fresh produce. I've not lived in my native state for 12 years now, and I always yearn for California treats every spring and autumn. Black walnuts, almonds, pistachios, dried apricots, dried prunes, Bing and Queen Anne cherries, oranges, artichokes, avocadoes, strawberries, plums, pears, olives of every description, and more more more. I especially crave the (really) world famous garlic, huge fragrant bulbs with purple-pink striped papery skin, clustered in foot long braids. You can buy all of these anywhere now, of course, but it's not the same. You cannot say you've eaten any of them until you've had them fresh from the California heartland. Casa de Fruta has now expanded to mall stores, mail order, and internet sales, but it ain't the same without rolling golden hills, ducks, auto exhaust, and the Cup Flipper.

Sigh. Now I'm homesick.

Teasers on this trip: Renaissance Faire, Henry Coe State Park, Pinnacles National Monument, Gilroy Garlic Festival

1 comment:

rennratt said...

Now THIS is my kind of place!

Farmer's Market meets semi-tourist trap.