Eat, Drink, Savor: Casa de Fruta offers homemade sauces, jellies and ice cream

The family business has many options for gift ideas and home cooking inspiration.

If someone could give you a big tour of the fruit house complex on Highway 156 is managing partner Suzan Slater, who was practically born in the fruit stand that her father Eugene and brothers George and Joseph opened in 1943.

“The story goes that a week after my mom gave birth to me, they kept me in the back room of the gift shop while they worked,” she said. “So, in a real sense, I’ve been here my whole life.”

Casa de Fruta, which is located in Santa Clara County, is the ultimate in roadside attractions, receiving over 2 million visitors a year, but unlike most roadside attractions, It doesn’t exist to sell overpriced knick-knacks and tourist trap items that you’ll throw away once you get home. This is not to say that Casa de Fruta isn’t geared towards tourists, which is obvious from the brightly painted carousel, the miniature train that runs through the complex and back to the station, and the flock of peacocks that roam the park. parking lot. occasionally displaying its regal feathers.

But Casa de Fruta also sells an old-fashioned atmosphere and quality products, albeit greatly expanded from the early days. There is an emphasis on local produce from their own and neighboring farms, carrying fresh and dried fruits of all kinds and bins full of sweets and nuts.

“We’re bringing in a lot of fruit from other sources in this area,” Slater said. “We definitely grew all fruit early on, with orchards full of apricots, prunes, apples, pears, plums and walnuts. But over the years, we have needed to bring in more items from other growers to meet the demands of the community.”

Casa de Fruta has four different culinary specialties: the restaurant, the fruit shop, the Casa de Dulces and the Casa de Vino.

The restaurant is a typical roadside truck stop diner with comfort food and great cake, but it can also serve prime rib, New York steaks, and, during Thanksgiving and Christmas, full-fledged dinners. turkey with all the fixings. And you can’t dine without a slice of their exceptional pastries, available in 14 seasonal offerings.

Slater said the on-site bakery can produce up to 300 a day during the holidays, with Marionberry being the most popular, outside of the seasonal demand for pumpkin.

“We started with just one home recipe,” Slater said, “and put together our best ingredients for the different varieties. We had a grill building and we changed it to a bakery. We ask ourselves, ‘What can we do with these ovens?’ and the obvious answer was pies.”

The fruit stand and Casa del Vino are gift-giving havens, with tables laden with preserves, syrups, jellies, sauces, and steak sauces. There are walls dedicated to hot sauces, pickles and olives. And Slater is always looking for more.

“My daughter did a report on North Dakota and she needed to bring something from there for class,” she said. “The state fruit is the chokecherry, and I thought, ‘Well, we’ll find them somewhere, wherever we need to go.’ So I searched online and found it, and now it’s on the stand for us to sell. There are a lot of things here that people will find here that they won’t find anywhere else.”

Casa de Fruta Roasted Garlic Sauce – A Rich and complex sauce, diced tomatoes, garlic, jalapeño and green peppers, and a dash of lime combine with strong notes of roasted garlic. The overall impression is one of absolute freshness: the tomatoes still have their fresh acidity, and the garlic tastes like it came out of the oven. This versatile condiment complements anything you want to pair it with, from French fries to a grilled chicken and cheese plate. It can also be used in a salad instead of a dressing and is delicious right out of the jar. Casa de Fruta also makes a Vidalia Peach Onion Dip that I can’t wait to try.

Pomegranate Jelly Casa de Fruta California – The folks at Casa de Fruta love pomegranates, as can be seen in a product line that includes pomegranate juice, pomegranate wine, pomegranate rotten champagne, pomegranate ice cream, and this pomegranate jelly. “This is the work of Joe Zanger,” Slater said. “He makes the wine, so when he made the pomegranate wine, he was very popular, so he decided to bring the juice first, and everything else followed.” The aroma is floral and musty, and the sweet and sour taste melts away on your taste buds instead of jumping. I don’t use jellies much, but this would work great as a glaze on ham or pork loin.

Casa de Fruta Vidalia Onion Steak Sauce – This rich, ketchup-based sauce has enough molasses to make it a barbecue sauce, but it’s smoother and more subtle than that. Finely chopped Vidalia onions give it a crunchy texture, and seasonings, including mustard seed, tamarind, and turmeric, provide warmth in the back of your throat. Slater described it as “robust” and it’s certainly perfect for steaks. It would be great on a burger, drizzled over baked potatoes, or spread on scrambled eggs. This was my favorite of all I’ve tried, which made me want to try some of the other half dozen steak sauces they produce, including Merlot and Cabernet based versions.

House of Choo Choo Cherry Chunks – A dark purple ice cream made by Marianne’s of Santa Cruz and available only at Casa de Fruta. The cherry flavored ice cream is enhanced with big chunks of chewy dried cherries that pair nicely with slightly bitter dark chocolate chips. They also have delicious seasonal pumpkin ice cream.

Fresh Apricot Pie – Casa de Sweets is across from the fruit stand, and as the name suggests, it is a sugar-filled wonderland, selling everything from homemade candies to chocolate-dipped fruit, candy apples, and these wonderful empanadas. This is a classic recipe just like my grandmother used to make: buttery puff pastry, hearty apricot Blenheim filling, and a dusting of sugar topping. Irresistible.

BenitoLink thanks our subscribers, Hollister Super and Windmill Market for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Taste series and provide our readers with the stories that matter to them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reports about the creative and inspired people behind the delicious food and beverages made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.

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