Home » This 84-year-old Calif. institution is your delicious pit stop on the way to Big Sur

This 84-year-old Calif. institution is your delicious pit stop on the way to Big Sur

by Marjorie

It’s that point of 12 months when folks go wild for fruit-picking. They drive hours outdoors the town to fill buckets with berries in photogenic, tourist-friendly farms. Gizdich Ranch, the 84-year-old roadside establishment in Watsonville, is understood for its in style apple- and berry-picking seasons, drawing crowds from close to and much. However actually, it is best to go to Gizdich for one thing else: the do-it-yourself, overflowing-with-fresh-fruit pies.

After I first pulled into Gizdich Ranch on a current Saturday morning after the 1.5-hour drive from San Francisco, I couldn’t for the lifetime of me find the well-known pies. I drove all the best way to the top of the grime highway my GPS led me down, previous apple orchards and quaint-looking farmhouses, to a parking zone that seemed prefer it led to the you-pick space however undoubtedly not any pre-made desserts.

Distressed I’d should (god forbid) accept selecting the berries and baking the pie myself, I frantically tried to entry the farm’s web site for higher instructions — however alas, I had no cell reception. I lastly resorted to the old style approach of doing issues: I requested a neighbor sitting peacefully on their entrance porch for instructions.

Gizdich Ranch has been working in Watsonville, Calif., for 84 years.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

I drove again down the highway I’d come on, made the following left, and ultimately, it seemed like I used to be on the fitting path. A nostalgic-looking emblem of a cartoon farmer in overalls holding a pie greeted me adorably: this fashion, Gizdich Ranch Pie Store and Deli.

I parked within the gravel lot, then adopted the crowds in the direction of the country purple steel constructing helpfully marked “pie store” with an arrow. Eventually, pie time was nigh.

Croatian immigrant Vincent John Gizdich purchased the Watsonville ranch in 1937, and it has stayed within the household by way of a number of generations. It’s now run by his daughter-in-law Nita Gizdich and her two sons, Vince and Noah. Nita has lived in Watsonville her complete life and moved out to the ranch together with her late husband Vincent Gizdich Jr. in 1959.

The line for the Gizdich Ranch pie shop on a Saturday afternoon in Watsonville, Calif.

The road for the Gizdich Ranch pie store on a Saturday afternoon in Watsonville, Calif.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

Nita was the one who first began baking pies on the farm within the Eighties.

“I had a buddy up in San Francisco who had a pie store, and he or she used to come back have our olallieberries,” recalled Nita, referring to the tart blackberry hybrid their farm is understood for (they had been one of many first farms to develop the berry again in 1950). “She stated, ‘It’s best to begin a pie store,’ and I stated, ‘I don’t cook dinner. I don’t like cooking!’”

However the buddy satisfied her to learn to bake pies, and that’s the way it all started.

A slice of olallieberry pie and an apple dumpling from Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, Calif.

A slice of olallieberry pie and an apple dumpling from Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, Calif.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

She began out with simply two flavors, apple and olallieberry, which immediately are nonetheless the most well-liked flavors, however Gizdich Ranch now sells 17 totally different varieties, a few of that are seasonal, just like the strawberry rhubarb and the pumpkin. However regardless of the brand new flavors, the recipe hasn’t modified at everywhere in the years.

“It’s an old-time recipe, it’s not a recipe you discover in a e book,” Nita stated. “The crust is my mom and my mother-in-law’s crust, an old style crust, a crust you don’t discover on pies immediately. And we do not put lots of sugar within the pies as a result of … we wish you to style the fruit.”

There’s additionally extra than simply pie on the menu. Attempt their apple dumpling, a decadent ball of pastry full of apple pie filling and drowning in caramel sauce, or their apple slush, a refreshingly icy drink for a sizzling August day.

Gizdich Ranch has been operating in Watsonville, California for 84 years.

Gizdich Ranch has been working in Watsonville, California for 84 years.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

Nita is not baking the pies herself. As an alternative, she entrusts that activity to a workers of 17, whereas she spends her time working the ranch’s vintage store. However Gizdich Ranch’s desserts are nonetheless beloved by locals and out-of-towners alike. Individuals are prepared to drive miles for them.

“And I imply miles,” stated Nita. “They arrive from Fresno, the Yosemite space, they arrive a great distance … and lots of occasions they’ll purchase three or 4 pies.”

However what precisely retains them coming again?

Gizdich Ranch has been operating in Watsonville, Calif., for 84 years.

Gizdich Ranch has been working in Watsonville, Calif., for 84 years.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

“It’s the flavour. … After they get the pie and lower into it, it’s all fruit, there’s no room so as to add any extra fruit to the pie,” stated Nita. “And that’s what they like. A heavy pie.”


As a Bay Space resident who has paid upward of $30 for a pie, Gizdich Ranch’s costs are additionally enticingly low. You may nab an entire pie for a mere $14. Sufficient pie to final you every week for the worth of a single San Francisco cocktail? That’s a no brainer.

However should you go to Gizdich Ranch, don’t miss the possibility to (additionally) order a single slice of pie a la mode to take pleasure in of their charming barn-side picnic space, with lengthy wood tables shaded by timber and an enormous purple tractor for kids to climb on. You may even make a meal out of it with one of many ranch’s deli sandwiches should you’re so inclined.

A slice of strawberry rhubarb pie from Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, Calif.

A slice of strawberry rhubarb pie from Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, Calif.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

Traces into the pie store will be lengthy, however there’s a number of memorabilia inside to maintain you occupied whilst you wait, from a classic range that appears about 84 years outdated to framed glowing opinions of Nita’s pies. When you’re nervous about driving for hours solely to find your most popular pie taste is gone by the point you arrive, Nita recommends calling forward — however in my expertise displaying up within the early afternoon, it was straightforward sufficient to acquire precisely the flavour I wished with out reserving one (strawberry rhubarb, for the report).

As soon as the extra urgent issues (pie) are attended to, it’s price taking a second to wander by way of the expansive present store within the large purple barn subsequent to the pie store. There, you’ll discover jars of jam, flats of strawberries surrounded by bales of hay and jugs of contemporary apple juice — on my go to, I noticed a pair lugging no less than 5 gallons of the stuff again to their automobile, so you realize it must be good.

And should you’re up for an even bigger enterprise, go decide some strawberries, too. However should you favor to skip the handbook labor and beeline straight for that superb pie, I received’t blame you.

Extra California Journey Tales



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