Avila Valley Barn – San Luis Obispo, CA

Central Coast, Food Adventures

Our trip up to the Central Coast earlier this month was pretty haphazardly planned. In fact, we had booked our hotel room only an hour before we hopped in the car! But Martin was excited to discover things to do along the way (it’s about the journey, after all) and he was especially looking forward to fruit picking. U Pick is the term for farms that open to the public and allow patrons to pick their own fruit which they can later purchase by the pound. Some farms even let you enjoy the fruit in the field or orchard, the absolute freshest you can get! The best one we had found was the Avila Valley Barn in Avila Beach, a small city in San Luis Obispo County.

Avila Valley Barn - The General Store

Avila Valley Barn – The General Store

Situated immediately off the coast-hugging, scenic 101, the first thing you see when you turn off Avila Beach Drive is a quaint series of buildings that house the general store, a roasted corn stand, and an ice cream shop. Gather just in front of the general store and wait for the tractor to pull up. There is only one and it arrives to pick up new visitors every hour or so. We had arrived around 4 and managed to catch the very last tractor ride of the day!

The Tractor

The Tractor

The complimentary tractor ride took us back to the orchards, giving us a tour of the property that was deceptively expansive. Hang on tight because your seat is really just a wooden flatbed covered in hay, and there are quite a few bumps along the way (haha – like my rhyme?).

Field of Corn

Field of Corn

First we passed by the seemingly endless field of corn. Our fellow passengers made jokes referencing Children of the Corn. The farm has a cute little stand that sells sweet roasted corn, either whole cobs or sliced off the cob for your dining convenience. I wish we had tried one – they must be wonderfully fresh!

Sunflower Fields Forever

Sunflower Fields Forever

Aside from the cornfield, pumpkin patch, berry patch, and rows and rows of apple and peach trees, the farm also had a mini labyrinth of tall, gorgeous sunflowers. I wanted to run through them and frolic like a carefree bunny.

The Orchard

The Orchard

Finally, we arrived at the orchard. We were a bit too early for apple picking, but with autumn approaching, they should be ripe for the picking. According to their website, there are 10 varieties of apples all ready in September! But for us, beautiful blush-pink yellow peaches awaited.

Don't pick the green ones!

Don’t pick the green ones!

Our friendly tractor driver announced just one rule – don’t pick the green ones. Other than that, we were welcome to eat as many peaches as we wanted during our time in the orchard, and they provided cardboard boxes for us to take some back to purchase at $1.50 a pound. Martin and I were excited to get going.

Up Close and Personal

Up Close and Personal

The peaches looked amazing. Stunning gradients of reddish pink to golden yellow with delicate fuzz, I could not wait to sample one right off the tree. Warmed by the sun and perfectly ripe, these yellow peaches were sweet and tart.

Teeny tiny peach!

Teeny tiny peach!

It was cool being able to pick them from the trees because we had never seen peaches so small (but fully ripened and ready). Super cute and great for snacking. They also made unique souvenirs for our friends back home since they look like miniature versions of the standard sized peach.

The best ones are at the top of the tree

The best ones are at the top of the tree

I grabbed the easy to pick ones within reach that were not already devoured by birds. Martin, however, enjoyed the challenge almost more than eating the actual peaches! He reached up on his tippy toes to get these beauties. He gently bent branches to pick the ones he had his sights set on. Nothing could deter him. It was awesome.

Our Peaches

Our Peaches

We ended up filling a shallow box of the freshest peaches I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. We were one of the last people to make it back to the tractor (luckily they didn’t leave us behind!) and before long, we were on our way to the main shop.

Honey Display

Honey Display

The general store at Avila Valley Barn sells a huge variety of local products – honey, apple cider, baked goods, farm fresh vegetables, flowers, jams, dried fruit, chips, and more. The jams are pretty darn good and come in teeny tiny jars for gifting (and more “normal” sized jars for regular consumption). The apricot was my favorite.

Why hello, Mr. Rooster!

Why hello, Mr. Rooster!

After we browsed their wares, we went to pay for our picked peaches. But I’ll admit – I was startled by the surprise visitor while we were standing in line: a crowing rooster! We saw a man come out with slices of bread, as if leaving an offering for the Mighty Rooster; I think it crows to demand food just like our cats do.

Painted Signs

Painted Signs

We’re sad that summer is coming to an end, but with fall coming up, we hope to make a return visit to pick apples and perhaps bring home a handpicked pumpkin for Halloween. If you’re looking for a U Pick farm in the SLO County area, we definitely recommend swinging by Avila Valley Barn for a tractor ride adventure!

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Check out Avila Valley Barn: avilavalleybarn.com

560 Avila Beach Dr
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

See their Yelp reviews here!

Wear closed-toe shoes and be prepared to be poked by hay. Also – say hello to the llamas!

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Peach Crisp and Tenerelli Orchards

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Quick, before summer ends! Run out and pick up some of the yummiest peaches you can find! Got ’em? Good.

Summer peaches!

It’s become part of our weekend routine now to swing by the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market on Sundays. Summer, my friends, is peach season and boy, do they look and taste great. We always stop by the same stall to get our peaches — the Tenerelli family farm. They grow dozens and dozens of varieties of peaches, most of which I’d never even heard of, and each week is always a pleasant surprise. They stole our hearts when we first tried their snow bright peaches — super sweet white peaches that are best served when they are extra ripe and are so soft that they bruise when you look at them. Amazing. I had never tasted a peach that tasted quite so… peachy. We returned week after week to try their other varieties – snow angel peaches (also white, more crunchy, and oh so sweet), glacier peaches (whites, crunchy, a bit more tart), and most recently, their O’ Henries, a yellow peach that truly captures the balance of sweetness and tartness that comes to mind when you think of the iconic peach. Just today we also tried their Ryan Sun yellow peaches, or as they affectionately refer to it – the ugly fuzzy ones.

Ryan Suns (aka “the ugly fuzzies”)

We brought some O’ Henries home and while I love eating peaches just the way they are, I wanted to turn these into a crisp. A crumble. You know, I honestly don’t know the difference between those terms. Usually they refer to hot-out-of-the-oven baked fruit topped with crumbly streusel-like topping and (if I’m lucky) served a la mode, so that’s good enough for me. A quick Google search tells me that a crisp is simply the British name for a crumble. So I guess this could be called a peach crumble, but because I love British accents and want to speak with one someday, let’s call it a crisp. (By the way, in case you’re wondering where the “cobbler” figures in, it’s basically a crumble/crisp with bits of dough instead of streusel as the topping, making it more similar to a peach pie.)

Voila – peach crisp!

Ingredients:

Peach Mixture

6 peaches, white or yellow or both (I used 2 whites and 4 yellows)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Crumble Topping

1/2 cup butter (1 stick – frozen or very cold)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup oats (1 minute quick oats for oatmeal is fine)

Prepped peaches

The first step is to prep the peaches. They need to be peeled, pitted, and sliced, and if your knife skills need work (like mine), this may take a while. I waited until after I finished slicing all the peaches before preheating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the peach slices in the baking dish, add the vanilla and cinnamon, and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.

Lotsa butter!

Next, prepare the crumble. Most recipes will tell you that you need to “cut” the butter into the flour mixture until the butter breaks up into smaller-than-pea-sized bits. Doing this by hand would take a lot of work, even with a pastry cutter. Instead, I used my trusty little food processor. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Slice the butter into thick pats, about 1/4 to a 1/2 inch thick, and throw them into the processor bowl too.

Crumbly goodness!

Pulse until the texture looks crumb-like. Add the oats and pulse just once or twice to mix. I tried making this crumble topping with butter straight from the refrigerator and it turned out sticky and doughy; it doesn’t brown quite the same way, so I’d recommend using frozen butter if you can.

Ready for the oven!

Top your peaches with an even layer of the crumble mixture. I used an 8″ x 8″ baking dish and sprinkled all of my crumble, which yielded a really thick crusty layer. I liked it, but if it’s not your thing, you can either use just enough to cover all the peaches (anywhere from half to 3/4 of the recipe) or use a 9″ x 12″ baking dish keeping in mind that this would spread the peaches out in a thinner layer as well.

Bubbly browned crumble topping

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the peach juices start to bubble and the topping gets roasty-toasty. Serve hot or cold, with ice cream or without. It keeps in the refrigerator for a few days (if it doesn’t get completely devoured first!) and reheats well in the microwave for a minute or two.

Beautiful O’ Henry peach from the Tenerelli Orchards

Whether or not you decide to try this recipe, I hope you’ll still run out to your farmer’s market (or grocery store – we don’t judge) and grab some peaches before summer ends. There’s nothing quite like enjoying fruit at the peak of the season. And if you’re local, we recommend swinging by the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market! It’s so quaint and there’s a certain comfort in seeing the same vendors and farmers setting up shop every week. Not to mention how fun it is to discover new fruits and vegetables as they start to come into season. Enjoy!