Category: Tourism

On The Road: Agritourism — discover the history of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

By Tim Viall, Special to The Record
Posted May 13, 2019

Residents of San Joaquin County live in, arguably, the most productive agricultural region in the world. But, as cities expand, farming and food production is pushed further each year into the countryside; many residents seldom think where that food on the table comes from, much less how it is harvested and produced.

To understand the agricultural underpinnings of our county, make your first stop the San Joaquin Historical Museum at Micke Grove Park south of Lodi. The museum story begins with an expanded Native Peoples Gallery, offering insight into the Native Americans who have been living in what is now San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years.

The museum traces the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, all with rich cultures and lifestyles. Native peoples here put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California. Videos bring to life the intricacies of traditional basket making, acorn preparation, deer hunting and native life.

An interactive circular display allows visitors to listen to recorded messages. In one recording, Glen Villa Jr. (Northern Miwok/Plains Miwok) tells about the First People and a traditional creation narrative. Another recording shares a traditional Yokuts story, told by Sylvia Ross (Chukchansi Yokuts), a third of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and county were named.

These exhibits work well with the other exhibits in the Erickson Building, and visitors can go in chronological order from the Native peoples who first inhabited the area, to an exhibit on the early trappers and the founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Continue on to an exhibition on the early American settlers, then on to exhibits on the Gold Rush, a hands-on children’s gallery, and the adjacent Weber Gallery.

The Innovators of Agriculture exhibit features the development of intensive, irrigated agriculture in the county beginning around 1900. Six crops are the focus: dry beans, asparagus, cherries, walnuts, canning tomatoes and truck farming (growing of fruits and veggies, trucked to local markets). If you want insight into why our county is so ag-centric, start at this museum wonder! The museum is kid-friendly, with lots of “hands-on” options, and scores of huge tractors, harvesters and vintage farming equipment to wow even young visitors.

Expand your agri-history tour with a visit to the California Agricultural Museum in Woodland, north of Sacramento and just off Interstate 5. Gene Muhlenkamp, a docent since 1996, took two hours to show my friends and I through much of the museum. Its collection stems from that of the Heidrick Brothers, farmers who built a substantial farming empire west of Woodland beginning in the 1930s. Inventive, they often concocted their own machinery to solve farming challenges and began an extensive collection of vintage and noteworthy agri-machinery.

The museum offers a unique collection of tractors, artifacts and interactive exhibits telling the history of California agriculture. Implements date back to the Gold Rush era and follow California’s evolution from horse-drawn ag machinery to steam-driven and then on to fuel-powered machines. Wander the collection of wheeled and track-type harvesters, tractors, combines, trucks and photo galleries. You’ll even find a Ford Model T roadster converted to a farm tractor.

Museum items with a Stockton connection include an old Samson Sieve-Grip tractor, built in Stockton in the early 1900s, several huge Holt tracked-vehicles, built for the U.S. military in World War I to haul artillery pieces and take the place of horses, killed all too often in action. The huge Holt tractor, armored for wartime, has a number of dents in its armor from bullet strikes.

A monster-sized Best steamer seems almost too large to be true, dwarfing my friends who joined for the tour. A giant Holt harvester (made in Stockton), all of wood and timber with iron fittings, was once hauled through fields with a team of two dozen horses and mules, before steam power would replace the horses.

A display of vintage John Deere tractors, meticulously renovated, lines one long wall; down the center of the museum march a line of a dozen Caterpillar tractors, used both on the farm and in the construction industry. A midsized Fordson tractor, nicknamed the “Snow Devil,” is equipped with spiral-ribbed pontoons, used to navigate deep snows of Donner Pass to haul five tons of mail during winter’s harsh storms.

Museumgoers with kids will find a special play area designed to hearken back to simpler times when child’s play required imagination. Kids can play corn hole, and enjoy the carousel and pedal tractors. A team of docents will tour you through the 45,000-square-foot museum gallery, noting that each tractor, wagon or harvester all have their unique stories.

For more information: The California Agriculture Museum, 1958 Hays Lane, Woodland, (530) 666-9700, http://Californiaagmuseum.org, open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum, in Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi, http://sanjoaquinhistory.org, (209) 953-3460, open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

 

New Visalia museum planned for downtown historic district

Visalia was founded 167 years ago and is the oldest community in the San Joaquin Valley.

It’s surprising to some that the city doesn’t have a museum dedicated to its rich history. There is, of course, a museum at Mooney Grove Park but the focus at the museum is the Tulare County history and farm labor.

Visalia Heritage Inc. may have an answer.

Property owners Ernie and Liss Crotty may convert an 1883-built home in the historic district of the city into a public museum for Visalia.

President of Visalia Heritage and local architect Michael Kreps says the home the Crotty’s own at 617 N. Encina Ave., a Queen Anne-style Victorian, has been well preserved and “is in very good shape.”

This week, after several months of meetings, Ernie Crotty says they will meet with city planning staff for the first time to gauge what hurdles they may expect if the idea moves forward.

Since then, Crotty has made it his life’s work to restore the home.

Now over 70, Ernie says he wonders about the home’s future and has talked to friends about the idea of doing something like what preservationists have accomplished with the old Fox Theater through community effort.

“I did not want to think about someone coming along buying it and turning it into an Airbnb or something,” he said.

Crotty says he would love to simply donate the home for a museum but say he wants to move nearby and that will cost money.

“My general idea I have talked about is to donate about half the value and the furnishings and hope with a group effort, we can raise the funds and come up with enough interest to move forward,” he said.

He wants to open the home to the public and offer tours.

“It was originally the Stevens house (A Visalia merchant before the turn of the century) and it is one of the oldest in Visalia,” Kreps said.

The house had the town’s first gas generator to light up the place before there was electricity.

Visalia Heritage and the Crottys already have a collection of items that could be put on display and with word spreading about such a museum dedicated to Visalia history, there would be plenty more.

Well-known Visalia historian Terry Ommen is on board with the project as well.

The museum would be located in the heart of the 50 home historic district just north of Downtown Visalia, a few blocks north of Fox Theater. The Visalia Chamber of Commerce offers a self-guided walking tour of the district with descriptions of 29 homes in the area.

The district was established in 1979.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2019/03/12/new-visalia-museum-planned-downtown-historic-district/3139887002/?utm_source=visaliatimesdelta-Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_briefing&utm_term=list_article_thumb

A new rooftop bar is headed to a historic downtown Fresno building. Here’s what you need to know

Quail State bar has signed a lease to open in both indoor and outdoor spaces on the third-floor rooftop of the Pacific Southwest Building on Fulton Street. Photographed from Mariposa Street, Quail State will be on the east side of the historic building, facing the Radisson Hotel Conference Center on Van Ness Avenue.
Quail State bar has signed a lease to open in both indoor and outdoor spaces on the third-floor rooftop of the Pacific Southwest Building on Fulton Street. Photographed from Mariposa Street, Quail State will be on the east side of the historic building, facing the Radisson Hotel Conference Center on Van Ness Avenue.BETHANY CLOUGH BCLOUGH@FRESNOBEE.COM

Fresno’s first Black Bear Diner is opening soon — and the restaurant is hiring

BY BETHANY CLOUGH

DECEMBER 20, 2018 01:03 PM

Black Bear Diner is taking over the former Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery space on West Shaw Avenue. It is slated to open in February or March of 2019. 

The first Black Bear Diner in Fresno is one step closer to opening.

The owner of the restaurant said Thursday that the location at 3602 W. Shaw Ave. is scheduled to open in February. She has not set an exact date.

The restaurants are hugely popular among diners in the central San Joaquin Valley, who have long wanted to open one in Fresno.

The Fresno Black Bear is owned by Amy Rose, who revealed new details about the restaurant Thursday.

It is taking over the 7,108-square-foot former Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery near West Shaw and Marty avenues. It will seat 226 people.

The diner will have a meeting room with Wi-Fi available for large groups.

Black Bear Diner will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The location will employ 92 people and has hired some workers, but is looking for more. Available positions include cooks and prep cooks and experienced servers, hosts and bussers. 

Interested applicants can apply online at Indeed.com. Positions range from minimum wage to $16 an hour, according to the website.

This will be Black Bear’s seventh restaurant in the area owned by the Rose family, including Bob Rose, who owns locations in Visalia, Madera, Tulare, Porterville, Hanford and Los Banos. The family had been planning to build a location in Clovis, but decided to open the restaurant in Fresno instead.

The brand has 119 diners in 12 states.

https://www.fresnobee.com/living/food-drink/bethany-clough/article223368015.html


An organic eatery went in where? New restaurant brings healthful food to ag heartland

Updated November 07, 2018 06:36 PM

Large tax incentive seals the deal for new hotel, conference center in Oakhurst

BY WILLIAM RAMIREZ

‘Upscale’ hotel and conference center could be coming to Oakhurst

The Madera County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote next month on a $20 million project that would bring an upscale hotel and conference center to Oakhurst.

Component Coffee Lab brings big city flair, community values to Downtown Visalia

University researchers say coffee can help people achieve better scores on math tests, if they do this with it. Buzz60

Jonathon Anderson and Greg Amend had one mission opening Component Coffee Lab in Downtown Visalia: “To pour the best cup of coffee in town.”

The jury is still out on whether the business partners have succeeded, but if their consistently full parking lot and seating area — a behemoth 1,500 square foot industrial space on 513 E. Center St. (just off of Santa Fe Street) — is any indication, the Visalia natives are doing something right. (Component also has an entrance from Main Street through its patio.)

Amend and Anderson bring over a decade of combined coffee experience to Visalia. Anderson spent years as a Starbucks barista, while Amend won accolades as one of Fresno’s leading coffee luminaries with his Slow Train roasting operation.

They’re joined by fellow co-owners Miguel and Mikayla Reyes, who started Quesadilla Gorilla, another fixture of downtown dining.

Together, the four are serving specialty coffee and eats the likes of which Visalia has not yet seen, with an inviting atmosphere to match.

The shop’s signature drink, for instance, is an espresso tonic: Topo Chico topped with a lightly roasted Peruvian espresso shot. It’s a bold but simple concoction that’s particularly refreshing on a sweltering summer day.

Component have all the traditional bases covered, too, with Americanos, sweet lattes, fresh drip coffee, and an assortment of teas.

“We source high quality beans from sustainably operated farms, who are paying their workers above-average wages, throughout Central and South America,” Amend said.

This concept applies to all of Component’s ingredients. Their eggs and fruit come from the farmers market, for example, and their milk is delivered fresh from Tulare’s Top O’ The Morn Farms.

Amend’s roasting expertise is matched by the establishment’s cutting edge espresso machine, the Slayer 17. This Seattle-built beauty allows Component baristas unprecedented control over critical brewing variables such as extraction, pressure, time, and weight.

Geekery aside, the result is a smooth cup of joe that even those who don’t identify as coffee snobs will appreciate, for prices comparable to big chains like Starbucks.

Prior to Component’s late-June grand opening at the Center Street location, Anderson and Amend could be seen carting their fancy Slayer 17 espresso machine around the Downtown Visalia Farmers Market, serving drinks to curious shoppers.

“We wanted to build hype and give people in the community a chance to see what we were all about,” Anderson said .

The gambit paid off.

Amend and Anderson were unprepared for the success Component’s physical location saw right out of the gate. They attribute their success to their “focus on executing one idea very well.”

This single-minded devotion applies to the kitchen, as well. Miguel and Mikayla translate their monomania from quesadillas to donuts with predictably delicious results.

“We had a layover in Portland last year, so we chanced a visit to Voodoo Donuts, and they were amazing,” Miguel said. “We realized Visalia had no place like it.”

In February, the couple returned to Portland for what sounds like a dream vacation: A donut tour of the city. Upon returning, however, they went to work in the kitchen to perfect a variety of eclectic and classic flavors.

Miguel can arrive as early as 4 a.m. on busier days to prepare an assortment of donuts, including current favorites strawberry and raspberry mint.

Beginning in September, Component will offer a seasonal donut menu that changes with each month. Patrons can look forward to a PB&J donut with house-made plum jam — just in time for the back-to-school crowd.

Component also offers a weekend brunch menu from 8 a.m.to 11 a.m. featuring staples  with a unique twist.

The Reyes’ take on a breakfast burrito, for example, features sunny-side up eggs instead of scrambled and a chipotle sour cream. Their Nashville-inflected fried chicken and waffles, meanwhile, comes served in a waffle cone with maple whiskey syrup drizzled on top.

The four co-owners met through attending Radiant Church just next door to Component. Though they barely knew each other at the time, Anderson had attended the Reyes’ wedding five years ago. The party favors? Amend’s coffee beans.

This week, the Reyeses celebrate both the birth of a new child and a successful second Downtown Visalia venture.

“It’s all come full circle,” Miguel said. “We couldn’t be happier.”

Anderson hopes Component can be a hub for the community, similar to the role the church has played in his own life. He envisions people of all faiths — or none — united around a great cup of coffee.

It’s a vision that seems fully realized only two months out from Component’s launch: snuggling couples and frazzled students share tables with Kaweah Hospital employees and retired schoolteachers; oil paintings from staff and community members line the interior walls; music from a personal record collection fills the room.

“I don’t just come for the coffee,” said Danny Sciacqua, a recently retired Porterville College professor and Component regular.”I’m here for the atmosphere, the ambiance and the staff, who are all polite and fun to talk with”

“But the delicious donut holes and pour over don’t hurt, either.”

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/life/food/2018/08/29/component-coffee-lab-brings-big-city-flare-downtown-visalia/1114176002/

Burger boom hits Visalia, Tulare

In America, the hamburger is king.

In Tulare County, that has never been more true.

New burger joints have been popping up across Visalia and Tulare — and these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill burgers either.

Restaurants have been turning the burger on its side and residents are up for the change.

Here are some new places to grab a quick burger around town.

Burgerim

New spot Burgerim, located in the Kohl’s shopping center, has 11 different patty options and dozens of ways to customize your burger.

The menu includes several types of beef, turkey, salmon, chicken and lamb patties. For those who don’t eat meat, the restaurant also offers veggie and falafel burgers.

Rose Oganesyan, who owns the Visalia location, said she fell in love with the restaurant when she first tried it in Los Angeles.

Her favorite? The garlic aioli fries.

The made-to-order, 3-ounce burgers are bigger than a slider but smaller than what American tastebuds are used to.

Perfect for those concerned with portion control, Oganesyan said.

The store also offers family and party boxes for larger families or events and beer and wine.

Don’t want to wait in line? Soon, the Visalia restaurant will also offer Uber Eats delivery services.

Other than burgers, customer favorites include the milkshakes and chicken wings, Oganesyan said.

“Customers say they like the atmosphere,” she said. “Everyone says they like it because it’s something different in Visalia.”

The store is one of only 40 open in the United States. The chain restaurant was started in Israel about seven years ago and made its way to America in 2015, Oganesyan said.

More than 270 locations are in the works across the country, including just a few miles down the road in Tulare.

Oganesyan is currently working to open a Burgerim next to Bravo Farms at the Tulare Outlets.

For those who are overwhelmed with the menu, Oganesyan said to just ask for help.

“The first time may be a challenge, but we will try to help you and offer suggestions,” she added. “We’re new to town, just give us a chance.”

Wimpy’s to land in Visalia

Wimpy’s Hamburger, one of Tulare’s most beloved eateries, has set its eyes on downtown Visalia.

The burger joint will take over the former Gumbo Express on Court Street.

The restaurant’s owners plan to refurbish the location and expect to serve Visalians their tasty fries and burgers by next year, co-owner Willy Espinoza said.

Opening the location in Visalia will bring an additional choice for those who frequent the vibrant downtown scene and will fill the void Checkers left when it closed, Espinoza said.

“We have always liked downtown Visalia,” he said. “It’s a place where there are a lot of people walking around. There’s nothing like this in the area.”

With the downtown Visalia location, Wimpy’s Hamburger will have three locations. A location in Dinuba opened in December.

More meat in downtown

Well-known developer JR Shannon is leasing a former antique store at 531 E. Main to a local burger maker. Kingsburg’s Stacked Bar and Grill will be offering their “humungous” burgers here this summer after the 5,500 square-foot building is remodeled.

The restaurant will be open for lunch, dinner and late night snacks.

More: Rumor has it Visalia is booming with new restaurants

Todd Asajian and Noah Murguia, the owners of Stacked just celebrated their 1 year anniversary at their downtown Kingsburg location. Asajian also owns and operates multiple Deli Delicious stores in Visalia and Kingsburg.

Like its neighbor, BarrelHouse Brewing, Stacked will feature a backyard patio.

“This is the third new venture I am doing along East Main since the new brewery district was formed” said Shannon.

Burger of options in Tulare

Tulare burger connoisseurs will have plenty of options to grub on in the next few months.

Two new burger joints will be opening their doors to Tulare residents: The Habit Burger and Wayback Burger

Construction is well underway for The Habit Burger located on Prosperity Avenue.

The burger restaurant, which also has a location in Visalia, took over the spot that long-housed fast food restaurant Long John Silvers.

Not too far from The Habit Burger, construction crews are also hard at work to open Wayback Burger along Tulare Avenue near Tulare Union High School.

City officials foresee the burger joint being a hot spot for students.

“I think it’s a lot better to have a hamburger restaurant so close to the high school,” said Jeff Killion, Tulare planning commission chairman. “I am glad to see that change.”

Tulare Associate Planner Steven Sopp said Wayback Burger will only take about half of the current 5,300 square-foot empty building.

Also, Wayback Burger can be a place millennials consider their third spot, what’s described in marketing as the place to go after home and work.

“Kids have money to spend. If they want to patronize the downtown businesses, it’s good for business,” he said. “This is going to be an upscale meeting place. It is going to be a different type of atmosphere.”

According to its website, Wayback Burger was founded in 1991 in Newark, DE. Currently, the hamburger chain has 142 locations in 28 states, including restaurants in Firebaugh and Tracy in the Central Valley.

Wayback Burger also has locations in Argentina, Malaysia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Hometown favorites

While trying new things is great, sometimes a good old-fashioned burger from your favorite hometown hangout is all you need.

Here are some of Tulare County’s best burger places, according to readers.

  • Woodlake Drive Inn, Woodlake
  • In-N-Out, Visalia
  • Mama K’s Diner, Visalia
  • Buns and Torts, Visalia
  • Rainbow Drive-In, Farmersville
  • Docs Drive-In, Visalia
  • Buzz’s Drive Inn, Goshen
  • Juicy Burger, Porterville
  • Sno-White Drive-In, Tulare
  • Pita Kabob, Visalia
  • Good Times Cafe, Visalia
  • Martha’s Mexican Food, Orosi.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/entertainment/dining/2018/08/30/burger-boom-hits-visalia-tulare/882303002/

Tulare Meat Locker earns top prize at national competition

Calley Cederlof,

Aug. 1, 2018

For the second year in a row, Danny Mendes, owner of Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage Co., took home several wins at the American Association of Meat Processors’ American Cured Meat Championships, held in Kansas City.

Except this go around, he came home with even more “hardware” to showcase at his Tulare shop.

Mendes won awards for five different meat products, one of which earned grand champion: his hot link sausage.

The sausage, which he recently dubbed the “Kansas City Red Hot” is the shop’s newest item on the menu. The sausage beat out 15 other competitors for the top spot, including a Kansas City local.

He is the first to win in the category, which was introduced this year, he said.

“I’m pretty proud of that,” Mendes said of the win. “Here I come from California and come out with grand champion.”

Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker owner, took home top honors in several categories during the American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City. His crew has been working on the selections for months.
Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker owner, took home top honors in several categories during the American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City. His crew has been working on the selections for months. (Photo: Eric Woomer/ Visalia Times-Delta,)

The hot-link is a regional item known mostly in Oklahoma and Texas, said Jon Frohling, past American Association of Meat Processors president.

“For a California boy to go down there and win that — it’s a big deal,” Frohling said. “Especially when you’re not eating it every day.”

Other awards earned by Mendes include reserve grand champions for his bone in ham and braunschweiger — a German liver sausage. His boneless ham won champion and his country dry cured bacon was crowned reserve champion.

Mendes said he is excited about the wins.

“It’s been great, especially in with the bone-in ham (category),” Mendes said. “That’s one that I’ve really been wanting to master.”

In total, Mendes brought 22 products to the event, which flew with him on the plane packed in ice.

This is only his second year at the competition. Last year, he earned grand champion for his smoked bratwurst sausage and reserve grand champion for his andouille sausage.

At the competition, products are judged on a 1,000-point scoring system. Judges score based on several factors including internal and external appearance, color, aroma and flavor — the most important of all, Frohling said.

“If you win at that show, you’ve got a great product,” he added.

Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage is one of only two shops in California to take home awards at this year’s event and is the smallest shop competing.

When he arrived home on Sunday, he was celebrated with family, friends and customers. It was also extra special, it was his birthday.

Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker owner, took home top honors in several categories during the American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City. His crew has been working on the selections for months.
Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker owner, took home top honors in several categories during the American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City. His crew has been working on the selections for months. (Photo: Eric Woomer/ Visalia Times-Delta,)

“My kids had signs that said, ‘welcome home Daddy,’ and we met up with family the next day,” Mendes said. “I got a lot of calls and texts. It was a warm welcoming for sure.”

Mendes also posted the news on Facebook, where customers and friends flooded him with congratulations messages.

“Not surprised because your meats are amazing and deserving of every one of these awards,” wrote Steven Jorgens.

Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage Co. offers custom butchering of livestock and fresh meat that isn’t sliced until ordered. Sausages, snack sticks, hams, tri-tip and linguica are also available.

In February, Mendes also took home 11 awards at the California Association of Meat Processors convention.

He’s already planning ahead to next summer when the national compeition will be held in Alabama.

For more information, call 688-2047 or visit the shop at 1531 E. Bardsley Ave. in Tulare.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2018/08/01/tulare-meat-locker-takes-home-top-prize-national-competition/872651002/