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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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.

 

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:

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( 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.

MONTARA CAFE & BAKERY

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1410 Main St. * Montara CA 94037 * 650-728-1188

  Looking not unlike a fairy-tale-of-the-not-scary-kind cottage, Montara Cafe & Bakery   serves breakfast, lunch, pastries, and PIE, oh my! I barged past their winsome outdoor patio,  stared at their pie menu, and woe unto me, turns out you have to order pie in advance! Well shoot, if the pies are made to order you know they’re fresh and baked JUST FOR YOU.

 A sympathetic employee suggested a cupcake as they had just been made. Best suggestion ever. These cupcakes look like exotic flowers and are rather scrumptious,  thus via scientific deduction their pies must be the bees knees too. Hmmmm…Thanksgiving pre-order anyone?

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Redvelvetius Cupcakia

 Another employee joined the transaction and all agreed we hadn’t the foggiest idea what was inside Montara Cafe & Bakery’s red velvet cupcake. Not stopping there, comedian employee #2 suggested a ‘cupcake autopsy’. Before you can blurt ‘Jiminy Cricket!’ those two had a cupcake on a slab and tools of the trade ready to slice and dice.

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Not for the faint of heart

 I walked out the door giggling to myself  feeling forever grateful that the phrase ‘cupcake autopsy’ is now a vital part of my lexicon. This newfound knowledge is a tip of the iceberg leading to additional questions: When do cupcakes die? When they’re finished baking? WHILE they bake? When they’re eaten? Do cupcakes even DIE, for gods’ sake? Do they have frosted sugary souls? If cupcakes have souls, doesn’t that obviously mean PIE has soul too?? And if we eat pastries with souls, what, heaven forbid, does that make US?!!

I leave you to ponder the mystery.

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Surfing and Strolling near Montara Cafe & Bakery

Surfing: Nobody Surfs the North End is fairly close by. And when I say nobody surfs the north end, I mean not even THIS person, ( ya’ll have to scroll to ‘Bodysurfer’ and read her shark story. )  It’s a wee bit vibey.

Strolling: You can get a fantastic view of Nobody Surfs the North End, as well as everywhere else, on Montara Mountain. Masochistic bikers slog up this hill and will pass you no matter how fast you imagine you’re walking. This is impressive. They deserve pie.

SWEET ALEXIS

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2085 10th St * Los Osos, CA * www.sweetalexis.com * 805-528-8956

PEANUT FREE, EGG FREE, TREE NUT, DAIRY FREE BAKERY!!!

I LOVE this bakery! Co-owner Michele opened up her closed bakery when she busted me peeping in her window. She then answered a bunch of questions and played along while I snapped loopy pictures. ( See, Michele, I didn’t use the goofiest one! ) There was no pie on hand so I ran off with a bunch of vegan cookies that were FREAKING FABULOUS. How fabulous?  Michele told me they had just received their first huge order; FORTY THOUSAND COOKIES.

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Michele beset by 40000 happy cookies

Sweet Alexis is named after Michele’s daughter and co-owner  Alexis, who was born with severe allergies. I had no idea they were life-threatening –  Michele humbly downplayed that detail – until I read their harrowing story HERE .

Nothing like nearly dying to perfect the art of allergy-free baking! Growing up, Alexis couldn’t enjoy the cookies and cakes she saw other kids eating, so she and her mom created a bakery to serve the needs of other similarly afflicted folks. What I adore about this is, while there are options for allergy-friendly, healthy eating ( albeit not always simple to pull off ), the options for allergy-friendly, celebratory treats are scarce. What, people with food allergies can’t have FUN too?! No cookies at school parties? Birthday cakes? Wedding cakes? COME ON!!

Enter Sweet Alexis Bakery.  They create cookies, cupcakes, breads, and cakes. There are several ways to order, including online! Everybody wins!

HERE’S HOW TO ORDER:

  • At their WEBSITE ( duh! )
  • At AMAZON
  • At their bakery, 2085 10th St., Los Osos CA
  • At Teaberry Frozen Yogurt Cafe: 847 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo, CA
  • call 805-528-8956 

On another allergy note, most of Sweet Alexis’ goods contain wheat and soy. Since it’s not all, if need be ask for which ones. Other FAQs are HERE.

And I ripped off the following from their website, this might appease some allergy worries:

“All Sweet Alexis Bakery products are produced in a dedicated commercial kitchen on dedicated commercial equipment – peanut free, egg free, tree nut, dairy free.

• WE ARE SCHOOL APPROVED. The Sweet Alexis Bakery is a licensed manufacturer and we are 100% nut free. All products are sealed, labeled and contain all the ingredient and allergen information. The very best part, our products are fresh baked, contain no preservatives and are so delicious no one will know they are allergen friendly. EVERYONE LOVES OUR COOKIES!”

I do love their cookies! In 5 seconds I’m clicking away from here and ordering Lemon Sugar, Ginger, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip.  As a dairy-challenged lass this bakery is the motherlode. Whoopee!

( Sorta ) BONUS:  Michele’s initial sketch appears more smiley and accurate than the inked final. In the name of my ego, here it is:

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Ode to a thought process

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Surfing and Strolling near SWEET ALEXIS

SURFING:  I peeked around a bunch of corners and over hills and left with the impression that when surfing around here, one wishes people would leave, or one wishes people would show up. I experienced the latter when I trudged to a vast, empty beach we’ll call Intuitions. It wasn’t working, it was teeny, it was messy, and…well, in my state of surfless delusions, it was paddle-able. It also felt sharky. I shuffled my feet waiting around for a while, kinda sorta hoping someone else would show up. So we could spread the odds, you see. No one did, so I berated my wimpy self back to the Mighty Steed. A week later a shark chomped a surfer’s board at another local beach break. ‘Intuitions’ it is!

STROLLING/KAYAKING: Among other options, Montaña de Oro State Park can double as a hike / surf spot spy center, depending which way one chooses to sneak. I also fell in love with kayaking when I borrowed one and toodled around self-named ‘Elephant Bay.’ As in, never mind the defunct  Morro Bay Power Plant looming over the precious estuary, just look at those birds!

CHILE PIES BAKING CO.

 chilepies

601 Baker St. * San Francisco CA  94117 * 415-614-9411 AND 16290 Main St. * Guerneville CA 95446 * 707-666-9411

www.chilepiesbakingco.com

It took several days before I realized that Chile Pie’s logo is NOT a wheel. This is understandable because my SPECIAL GUESTS this time ’round – Robert & William – are my bestest friends in the universe,  I love hanging out with them so much I’m constantly inviting myself to their house. Therefore I’m kind of  a…okay,  I AM The Third Wheel.

 I don’t consider being a Third Wheel an insult, because think about it, three legged structures are pretty stable. Would you want to sit on a two-legged stool!? Exactly.

 Besides, Chile Pie Baking Company has such a huge pie selection, it took a team of three to sample it, and a fourth to complete the eating process.  No kidding! Pies vary by season, and narrowing down the selection in the moment felt like minor torture. Check out their whopping menu HERE. Chocolate pumpkin?! Pear cranberry?! Frito pies?? What is this place?!

Attempting to dent this huge selection, one rainy Friday I hijacked Robert and William to Chile’s San Francisco panhandle location.  (Oh hail, appropriately named address.) Whereupon arrival I finally understood that I had rorschach tested myself on their logo;  ‘Chile’s Wheel’ is a PIE CRUST.  Well then.   Psychoanalyze THAT. Thus enlightened, we snagged a medley of take-out goodies: two chicken chile pot pies, two green chile apple pies, chicken hand pie, chocolate malted pie, and vegan apple chai pie.

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Only one pie here plus the black shadow

  Oh my goodness. These pies are FANTASTIC. We ate in shocked silence which is a rarity for this trio of sarcastic chatterboxes.  My ‘contribution’, the vegan apple chai pie, defies description, and I’m still wondering if it’s the hand of god that chopped the apples so evenly and perfected the chai cinnamon spice. Everything got inhaled, barring a chicken chile and chile apple which I brought home to share with The Pie Eating Heathen.

 Then disaster! The chile apple pie features a cheddar cheese crust, which sounds amazing but I can’t digest dairy. Wait, what?! Who makes a blog about pie but can’t freaking digest dairy products? Yup, that casein is a doozy. Let’s just say I have a ‘system’,  but that said I can never, goshallmighty ever, eat cow’s milk cheese.

 This setback deterred me for .3 seconds until I grabbed a fork and, er, reshaped the interior of the chile apple slice. I warned the  Pie Eating Heathen, but having access to the entire chicken pot pie mellowed any potential protests regarding pie restructuring. His pies disappeared quickly too!

 We vowed to return to Chile’s and eat more pie. And YOU should vow, besides eating more pie, to check out Robert’s cartoon work. He’s an underground legend, and hilarious.

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Unlike me, Robert draws excellent backgrounds

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 SURFING and STROLLING near CHILI PIES BAKING CO. 

[ Pie tastes better when you’re hungry ]

DEVIL’S TEETH

devilsteeth

3876 Noriega St. * San Francisco CA 94122 * www.devilsteethbakingcompany.com

 Did you know that Great White Sharks ‘spy hop’? You know, spy hop; when a marine creature lifts its head out of its watery kingdom and into your airy one to get a good look around for snacking and social possibilities. Ask me how I know this.

When you share eye contact with a Great White, believe me, you need pie and you need it THAT INSTANT. Fortunately for us all, the appropriately named Devil’s Teeth Baking Company sits only two blocks from the domain of curious apex predators.

This beloved local hub serves up tons of fresh baked goodies which disappear quickly. Portions are generous and quite suited for the many customers who have just busted their arses trying to surf ever-loving Home Break. Pie types are baked according to season – so far I’ve horned strawberry and pecan, and inhaled apple pie on multiple occasions. The apples in that pie are totally phenom. Spiced and baked just so, bits of apple are bursting at the seam. YUM.

Of course Devil’s Teeth bakes more than pie! I’ve nommed ginger cookies, lemon bars, carrot cake, and keep staring at their massive cinnamon rolls. Check out their menu for more temptations. They also display a jar of free homemade dog treats, so when I treat myself, Hooligan gets treated too!

I didn’t manage to chase down successful owner Hilary for a portrait, so here is Hoolie chasing flying apple pie ( and chasing customers away, it would seem ) in front of the joint. In truth there is usually a horde sitting outside, but since crowd scenes make cartoonists break into a cold sweat we’ll make do with one large dog:

hooliedevilteeth

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SURFING and STROLLING near DEVIL’S TEETH

[ Pie tastes better when you’re hungry ]