The Sequoias

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*501 Portola Rd * Portola Valley CA 94028 *  (650) 851-1501 * http://thesequoiaspv.org/

Words of warning; this is not a bakery. This is not a restaurant. It is a metaphorically named retirement home with lovely grounds and people – shoot I’d move in  – and a business logo of trees that can push 3000 years of age what are they really saying with this choice of icon again?

Living 3000 years is out of reach for us, but scoring pie at The Sequoias is easy. All you have to do is lose a parent, be in daily telephone or personal contact with the other, have meetings in person and by phone with social workers, caretakers, lawyers, financial planners, tour a couple retirement homes, have retirement home meetings,  have real estate agent meetings, sort out things for the remaining parent to keep,  sort them out multiple times because they’re getting dementia, empty a 2500 square foot house that’s been lived in for 42 years, empty 6 storage units, discover The World’s Most Ironic Object, curse hoarders,  praise professional movers, get the parent moved – sort of, they do tend to run about – start jollying back and forth with furniture, your back, and your truck,  and prepare the house for sale. Then fork over six digits and you have….PIE. What could be simpler.

Okay The Sequoias Pie was pure luck. But what timing! The day mom moved we decided to….celebrate?…by dragging ourselves to dinner in the main hall. What was for dessert? Pie!! Also by pure luck we were invited to share a table with the lady on the food board – hooooeee she gets it done – and an eagle-eyed woman who is a parent of a high school classmate of mine, which felt both cool and very awkward at the same time.

I delightfully couldn’t believe they were serving pie for my mom’s first night, and chalked it up to a sign from the gods. The effort of reaching that point and then stumbling into a mini high school reunion complete with pie slathered me in a surreal glaze. “Where am I?” I thought. ” What am I? Where does this pie come from?” Then I realized I’d slipped into a Gauguin painting:

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I’d prefer Tahiti

Mom and I both had a slice of strawberry raspberry and offered more fine slices ’round the table. In-charge-of-food-lady admitted that some pie was made on premises and some was bought off-site. Frankly that pie could have the taste and texture of lemon worms and I would have cared less. Hooray for pie! Cap off the evening!

Now a shoutout; all elderly caretakers are badasses, and should be paid like badasses too. If you take care of my mother –  I LOVE YOU. Here is a portrait of an anonymous Sequoias employee, posing in front of one of the six storage units:

Sequoias

 

The Angel is waving an alluded-to-treasure: the World’s Most Ironic Object. This gem was unearthed whilst spelunking through the storage units, 4 bedroom house, attic, 3 garage storage rooms, and 600 sq. foot office/library with kitchen and bath.  Zero words were sarcastically added to enhance the emotive effect. Direct photo trace:

HolyGrail

WHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYY

I feel like I found the One True Ring.

After all that hullabaloo – not to mention 8 tons of dust and many spiders EEK – living to a desiccated 3000 years might be easier than earning pie at the Sequoias. I’ll still choose the latter..so long as there’s pie at the end!

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Surfing and Strolling at The Sequoias

SURFING: Um. Over the hill? I went couch surfing while taking care of a family situation nearby. Each couch surf location is geared for the individual so you’re on your own for this one.

STROLLING: Windy Hill Preserve is RIGHT THERE! So is Wunderlich Park which is lovely. Watch for horse poo.

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Hotel Chancletas

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*Nicaragua* 555-8868-5036 * www.chancletasbeachresort.com

We’ve come full circle and are starting another post with blood. I associate Hotel Chancletas with blood, not because they serve it, but because the first surfers  I saw on the first day of the first trip were dripping the red stuff out their noses. Possibly dripping blood internally too, though I didn’t hear about broken ribs until the victims returned from the doctor’s.

Hotel Chancletas is a gorgeous, smoldering beach resort with a laid-back vibe and a wave that will violently assault you any chance it gets. Why a thunderous death cylinder breaking in one foot of water is so popular is beyond me, but yeah full confession I went there too. The exposure to blood, violence, and copious hours feeling too hot to move inspired revenge fantasies. Specifically, certain individuals both public and private. Even more specifically, volcanos; being within eyeshot of a couple it was pleasant to imagine shoving a particular  doodoohead into the flames of hell… but something about that scenario didn’t feel right. And not from the moral standpoint.  Sipping a rum coconut didn’t solve this philosophical conundrum, but eating pie did.

But I had to ‘discover’ the pie. After having my clothes literally ripped off by the shore break – EVERY time I paddled out mind you – I pretended nobody saw my ta-tas and hunched over a homemade meal cooked by long time locals. Delicious! However I didn’t consider pie because it simply wasn’t on the desert menu…

…Until after I fell out of a hammock. That’s right. Everyone at Chancletas hurts themselves on the warrior wave except me who breaks skin on lounge furniture. Sober. After staunching the blood flow I was magically able to interpret the menu board, and declared empanadas to be pie – because they ARE, dammit.

Chicken, beef, and veggie curry! The Pie Eating Heathen went for beef, and I went for veggie curry. Again, and again, and traveled with a to-go empanada survival pack for the long journey home.

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Schlepping giant empanadas instead of boards from the beach.

I’ve now been to Hotel Chancletas twice, and thanks to blood and empanadas have had three lightbulb moments. …WOO! Three thoughts in two trips, overachieving.

1) Empanadas ARE pie.

2) The physics of how shore break can rip off my top and untie my surf shorts is unknown to me, but fascinating.

3) And lo’ the great philosophical question was revealed  unto me in a Flavor Flash  whilst curry dotted my chin. The Truth; there are some people who you dearly wish to huck into a volcano. Don’t. Assuming said individual is abhorrent enough, the volcano will reject the sacrifice. Do not disrespect the fire gods! Gift beautiful empanadas instead.

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Volcano rejects the sacrifice. 

 

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Surfing and Strolling near Hotel Chancletas

SURFING: The Mayan Fist is straight out front. It’s located on a very long beach, so there’s a choice where you want your ass handed to you.

STROLLING: Up and down the beach, looking for a spot that won’t hand you your ass.  ( Oh but it will. ) There’s also a guided volcano hike up Cosiguina, which is AMAZING.

Palo Alto Creamery

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566 Emerson St. * Palo Alto CA 94301 * 650-323-3131 * www.paloaltocreamery.com

  Stating the obvious here, when visiting family who are batshit crazy challenging, it’s a wise idea to have the closest pie stop mapped out. Being a dim bulb, it took many years and a dental cleaning before I  took advantage of the pie situation at Palo Alto Creamery. I also had trouble finding it, which is not the fault of me being an idiot but because Palo Alto has changed SO very much I recognized nothing and was walking up and down streets, confused. Hone your map reading skills and with patience and good walking shoes you should be okay.

The reward for wandering about is stepping into the time warp that is Palo Alto Creamery. This joint is a good ol’ fashioned DINER that – duh – serves meals, and also has a gigantic selection of baked goodies and PIE. Apple, Cherry, Blueberry, Banana Cream, Key Lime, Lemon Cream Cheese, Chocolate Pecan, plus seasonal pies; Peach, Strawberry Rhubarb, Mixed Berry, and Pumpkin. Phew I’m hyperventilating! They also featured a most mysterious ‘Whoopie Pie’ which looks like a giant oreo, sounds like adult fun, and could be something to wear on a really hot date. Next time.

Immediately after a nearby dental appointment , I made a beeline for the Creamery neighborhood. It was crucial I choose pies to inflict maximum damage on my gleaming chompers right away.  Thus I waltzed out with two GINORMOUS slices of apple and blueberry. Everything about their pies is huge. The apple looked so poofy it could have doubled as a hot air balloon, and the blueberry was a …a…it’s indescribable really, but it was a BLOCK of blueberries. I’ve never seen so many blueberries in one dish in my life.

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Blueberry Pie a la the Smile Factory

Being thorough, I’m happy to announce that Palo Alto Creamery’s pies are suitable with Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack. There’s so much fruit you can overtop your daily vitamin C needs, and if you want to turn your entire mouth blue – or shoot, everything you’re wearing blue if you’re exuberant,  the blueberry pie is primo.

In addition to pie, Palo Alto  has another secret gem of a Smile Factory. Every time I visit I sneak out and walk by one particular artist’s house, and stare. It’s another ‘old school’ home ( rare! ) and the front yard is BONKERS with small animal and people statues, bottle trees, mosaics, FUN STUFF. Each visit I see something different, and it’s always changing. Hence on this page we’ve got goofy pictures of somebody else’s nifty art.  Rain or shine, this place is magic and I’d like to meet the owner and give her a hug. And some pie.

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Smears on painfully overwrought art courtesy of west swell closeouts @ Home Break

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Surfing and Strolling near Palo Alto Creamery

Surfing: I think people mainly do ‘net surfing here.

Strolling: Getting turned around trying to find Palo Alto Creamery is one stroll. There’s also Baylands and, frankly, wandering around looking at people’s gardens is really enjoyable. But my favorite stroll by far is swinging by the artists’s house mentioned above. This hike is a loop starting anywhere you wish, but the apex is always the same magic place. For privacy’s sake I won’t give the address – yeah so WHY did I mention it in the first place, right?!! ( “What an asshole”, you think .) If you’re really super interested and are not remotely creepy, message me and I’ll share hints.

 

Tin Shack Bakery

TinShackBakeryAkeakamai Loop * Pahoa HI 96778 * 808-965-9659 * www.tinshackbakery.com

 Tin Shack Bakery blew my mind.

This literally named cafe/bakery is a – overused term alert ( but true ) – local hub in picturesque ‘ downtown ‘ Pahoa, Hawaii. Yup, it’s that Pahoa, the town that almost got wiped off the map by a lava flow. Goddess Pele spared the township, just barely, for reasons of her own but I like to think that she didn’t want to take out Tin Shack.

By now you realize two things; one: I only give good pie reviews, and two: I eat a fantastic amount of pie. When I say that Tin Shack’s vegan pies are THE MOST INCREDIBLE VEGAN PIES ANYWHERE, you know that this opinion is based on empirical evidence and can be construed as FACT.

The Shack first gifted unto me chocolate tangerine tahini pie. This pie was ridiculous. I took one nibble and immediately afterwards friend Robert and I ran around Volcano National Park, taking hero photos…..OF THE PIE. 

The chocolate tangerine tahini pie disappeared in a fit of gastrointestinal rapture, so I returned to Tin Shack two days later. Lo, vegan key lime pie and Tin Shack’s pie baker were in the house. Said baker did not want her name used, I think because she can vegan bake any kind of pie, including the humble variety. I’m naming her the Vegan Pie Goddess because, hot damn, those vegan pies are epically yummy and creative. Plus I want to talk her up because I’m such  a fan of this gal:

VeganPieGoddess

Bow before greatness

Maybe Pele spared Pahoa because she did not want to disturb a vegan pie diety. Mahalo, Pele, Tin Shack, and Vegan Pie Goddess!

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Surfing and Strolling near Tin Shack Bakery

Surfing: in lieu of naming places, I’m naming books instead:

Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku, by David Davis

Eddie Would Go: The Life and Times of a Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Coleman

Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing,  also by Stuart Coleman

Strolling: for god’s sake, just step outside.

 

Marie Shannon Confections

MarieShannon'sSign

27 S. Chestnut Street / Ventura CA 93001 / 805-667-8043 / www.marieshannonconfections.com

 I literally do not remember finding this bakery. The logical reason is likely because my visit to Marie Shannon came at the end of two days of chalking at the Ventura Arts Festival. But I like to think that as I was stumbling around Ventura’s downtown, I happened upon this bakery by Chance.

 Star baker/business owner Shannon Wright was not in her lair when I dropped by, but I talked to her lovely manager, named…drum roll…Chance. My eyes lit up as my beloved cat, found abandoned in a park while walking Hooligan, is also named Chance. And that’s how we find ourselves with a portrait of Chance sporting a tattoo of my cat:

MarieShannonChance

  Chance – the person – talked me around the baked goods while I made the serious decisions. Pie was short in supply, but there were cookies to be had and a-HA! Teeny tiny blueberry tarts. I snatched up a tart and returned to my lodging, stumbling upon another Chance:

Octotart

Yeah maybe Octopus Tart isn’t your thing, but I’d been chalking a ten foot cephalopod for days and here in my mini porch was this Octo-Deco who was, incredibly, the exact size for Marie Shannon Confection’s most wee blueberry tart. Note his look of bliss.

Shoutout to Chance and Marie Shannon’s for assuaging this chalker’s pastry craving and helping creating one darn cute cephalotart!

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Surfing and Strolling near Marie Shannon Confections

Surfing: Just about anywhere on this dang coast looks like a surf spot.  I scoped out one spot I’ll call Sleazy Street for seeming like a cross between a family friendly playground and a debauched beach party that went on years too long. In the end I paddled out at Happy Chalkies, so named because literally all I had to do was cross the street from my site at the Arts Festival. Happy Chalkies can also be called Truancies, because to get a wave – on a Monday mind you – I’d basically have to get into a knife fight with children. “DOESN’T ANYBODY GO TO SCHOOL ANYMORE?!” Bemoaned an older ( my age) local paddling by. We shared frustrated nods and I took off on a closeout.

Strolling: So sue me I did nothing.  The walking I did was up and down Main Street looking for pie, and up and down the harbor. Highly recommend both, by the way.

Malama Market

MalamaMarket

15-2664 Pahoa Village Rd. / Pahoa HI / 96778

 The plan here wasn’t to frequent the baked good aisle of chain grocery stores, however, due to an epic clusterfark of traffic planning, if you are lucky enough to reach Malama Market without a fender bender, any kind of celebratory pie sounds like a fine idea.

Malama Market is a regular ol’ grocery store situated in the ‘ugly’ ( yeah sure ) section of Pahoa, Hawaii. What sets it apart is the risk to life and limb trying to reach it. Some genius government planners, in an effort to improve the safety of reaching said mini mall, got bored and increased the traffic accidents near Malama by FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT. Maybe they were paid off by auto body shops. In any case what used to be a simple intersection or two of ho-hum ninety degree angles and straight lines now resembles urban planning by a hedgehog on acid.

MalamaMap

For the love of god

My dear friend Robert and I took a risk and popped into Malama Market for taco shells and cheese.  Upon parking in front of the store sans damage we were sweating bullets. Keep in mind the first week upon moving to town, Robert and William were in a car smash in the very same location, so arriving unscathed is a big deal. Damage-free, en route to the taco shells we passed by….PIE.

Giddy with relief, of course we nabbed dessert. Returning to Robert’s home in one ( technically two ) piece,  I admit I was skeptical as the peach pie resembled peach smash more than anything else. Maybe EVERYTHING gets smashed on the way to this place.

Was I in for a surprise. You see, every restaurant in Pahoa, be it a finer dining establishment or a tin shack, is delicious. Malama Market peach pie smash was no exception. Robert and I took first bites and blurted out, ” Hey, this is really good!”

HibiscusSmash

Like Malama’s pie, real hibiscus  is insanely more delectable in person than as a smash sketch

I don’t think the deliciousness of that pie was a result of our post-adrenaline rush. It genuinely tasted great.  Malama Market, I salute you!

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Surfing and Strolling near Malama Market

Surfing: in lieu of naming places, I’m naming books instead:

Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku, by David Davis

Eddie Would Go: The Life and Times of a Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Coleman

Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing,  also by Stuart Coleman

Strolling: for god’s sake, just step outside.

BONUS WORDS: ‘Smash’, ‘ Delectable’, ‘ Auto Insurance’.

 

 

 

 

Shampa’s Pies

Shampa's

1625 Palmetto Ave * Pacifica CA 94044 * 415-412-3592 * www.shampaspies.com

 

It was the balloons that finally enlightened me.

 Shampa’s Pies’ storefront is located a measly half mile from my work place, which I was oblivious to until I stopped by the pet food store next door – for the umpteenth time mind you – and sensed something different. What could it beeee…..ah! There were balloons festooning the parking lot entrance. In grey foggy Pacifica, colorful balloons stand out like a Lite Brite in a closet. And THESE balloons had a message; PIE. Plenty of it.

Thus began my never ending taste testing of Shampa’s Pies. I’m sorry to say I can’t list every kind I’ve tried because I’ve eaten so many of their hand pies I’ve, er, lost count. Confession; I’m an extra sucker for hand pies because each one is a single serving dessert, you grab one and covet it alllllll  to yourself. To maintain karma, buy a batch of wee pies and divvy out to loved ones, though this tactic can fail, keep reading.

The latest Shampa’s hand pies purchase I do recall; nectarine blueberry and peach cobbler. I bought three to share, and did give away one, but too much time went by before I located lucky pie gifteee #2 and, well, you know. These things happen.

 Shampa’s Pies itself is the business of Pastry Chef Haruwn Wesley, who named Shampa’s after his mother-in-law, Sheridan. Haruwn is also a wicked surfer, he specializes in boogie board. I’ve tried boogie boarding myself and can assure you that nothing is more exhausting, nor hunger inducing, than paddling out to Home Break on an itty bit o’ foam that moves 127 times slower than the waves barreling towards your head. To boogie Home Break at size is mental and physical aerobic torture, so respecting that as well as his baking skills, here is Haruwn the surfing baker in The Hero Shot:

Shampa'sHero (2)

( Full disclosure; this pic is photo referenced via Joe McNally of National Geographic. I hope he got pie too. )

 

 Shampa’s Pies are available for order, and can be picked up at Farmer’s Markets as well as their storefront, being guided by balloons to find them is not required. Simply look HERE.

Thanks for the pies, Shampa’s!

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Surfing and Strolling near Shampa’s Pies

SURFING: Why yes. This isn’t called ‘Pacifica’ for nothing. Wave quality is dependent on tides and number of boards aimed at your head. The best way to maintain sanity is to give into the Force and find a group who will ‘party wave’ everything, thus fun will be reborn. Some choice spots are: A) You are Part of the Problem, where on good days you can actually walk from board to board without touching the water. B) Pebbles Shoved Down My Wetsuit, need I say more. C) Chum Comes from the Sky, not a place you’d want to surf alone and the shore pound is nasty.

HOT TIP #1: You Are Part of the Problem also has a theft problem. My friend’s longboard was ripped off right under her nose while she was changing at dusk. Boo!!

HOT TIP #2: I gargle generously with mouthwash after surfing here. The water can be…itchy.

STROLLING: So much! Look at all those hills with trails! You’ve got McNee Ranch, Sweeney Ridge, Mori Point…Seriously, you can see routes from the highway, so go knock yourself out exploring. Don’t explore the poison oak though! It is EVERYWHERE.