Touring the Sriracha Factory of Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale

If you have been to a Chinese food restaurant, then you have no doubt seen/experienced the spicy goodness that is Sriracha. The iconic plastic bottle with the rooster on the front and the green top is one of the most popular condiments in the USA, and it is produced right here in Southern California. I got a chance to take the tour of the facility, and you can read all about it below.

Details

  • Free – Book here, but it books up pretty far in advance
  • Location: 4800 Azusa Canyon Rd, Irwindale, CA 91706

Getting There

The Huy Fong Factory is located right off the 10 Freeway. It is in an industrial area as the building itself is over 650,000 square feet. There is plenty of parking for visitors so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to park.

Video

Here is a video I made of the tour.

The Tour

I arrived about 10 minutes early for my tour and was ushered into a large room where they had a movie playing with the history of the company. Here are a few things I learned:

  • Huy Fong is the name of the ship that brought the owner over from Vietnam, so he named his company after it since it brought him to a new life.
  • They use 100 million pounds of chili in a season, and it comes from only one farm.
  • They have been in business for 36 years and just sell to wholesalers, not end users. The company hasn’t added a new customer for 11 years since they are kept at full demand.

This room also had a lot of pictures from the way Sriracha has connected with popular culture over the years.

There is a cartoon from The Oatmeal and even a photo of Sriracha floating in zero gravity on the international space station.

After hanging out in here, the tour began with hair nets and jumping on a golf cart with the license plate “hot one.” The golf cart took us around to the back of the factory and we started the 25 minutes of walking through the world of sriracha.

During the chili crushing season (fall) there is a ton more going on then there was when I went, so keep any eye out for those open houses.

The tour takes you around the factory and you still see the process, but it is mostly focused on the bottling aspect.

Our guide brought a microphone, but the factory is loud that it is pretty hard to hear. This didn’t take away from the fun though as it is a well laid out tour that takes you to the main aspects of the line.

The best part is the bottling area where you see the small bottles that are expanded to their normal size and then filled.

From here the bottles are stamped and the iconic green top is added.

Next, they get put into a box and then the boxes get stacked and wrapped to prepare for shipment.

The processing line can produce up to 10,000 bottles an hour per lane and there are 9 lanes.

We then loaded back into the golf cart and were driven through the holding area where there are tens of thousands of blue buckets filled with the crushed chilis just waiting to be turned into Sriracha.

One of the things I learned is that there are many makers of Sriracha, but Huy Fong Foods are most recognized. The name is not trademarked but the rooster and the green cap of the bottle are. When you have a Sriracha burger at a restaurant it is most likely not Huy Fong Foods Sriracha unless you see one of their trademarks.

The Gift Shop

After the tour ends you will make your way to the gift shop where you are given a free small bottle of Sriracha. You can also purchase gifts from the wide range of shirts, pillows and other funky stuff they have.

The gift shop is sold at cost, so they do not make a profit on anything here and because of that the prices are really great. I got a shirt for $10 which was impressive.

All in all, I am happy that I finally got a chance to visit this fun Southern California spot. It is hard to beat a free tour where you get bottle of Sriracha at the end and I suggest you add this spot to your list of places to visit in California.

Artist Palette & Artist Drive in Death Valley National Park

The Artist’s Drive in Death Valley National Park is one of the more unique things you can do in the area. The drive takes you through canyons and past mountains, many of which are covered in loads of fantastic colors. It’s crazy that Death Valley has so many things that are completely unique in the park like Badwater, Devil’s Golf Course, Artist Palette and the Racetrack. Here is all the information on this the drive and Artist’s Palette, which is the main stop.

Details

  • Drive is 9 miles one way
  • Hike is a half mile or so depending on how much you want to explore

Getting There

Artist’s Drive is located off Badwater Road, North of Devil’s Golf Course and South of Furnace Creek. The start of the drive is clearly marked, and it will take you about 45 minutes depending on how much you stop and how fast people are driving in front of you. Artist Palette is about 5 miles from the start.

The Drive

The drive is pretty impressive the entire way with lots of large mountains that loom in front of you. The road is curvy, and vehicles longer than 25 feet are not allowed to go on it. The drive also has a lot of dips so it can be a pretty fun if you like that kind of thing.

As you weave around turns, you will see fantastic views down into Death Valley west of you, and even the parts without the colors are impressive.

Artist Palette 

After about 5 miles of driving, you will reach the most impressive part of the drive which is Artist Palette.

This is where all of the colors come through in the mountain, and it is crazy to see them all collect right in this one specific canyon.

The colors are produced by the oxidation of the metals and elements found in the ground here, and it produces everything from purple and blue to even a slight green.

There is a small parking lot that will let you get out and walk down to where the colors start.

I love exploring this part on foot as it is even more impressive up close. You can walk around and climb the small hills or just look over it from the parking lot.

After you get back to your car, you will be leaving the most impressive parts of the drive for 4 miles of weaving and canyons before getting back to the main road.

This is one of those places that I have been to many times and keep going back to each time I visit the park. It is incredibly impressive to see it up close, and I highly recommend you make the drive. Read more about Death Valley here and let me know what you think in the comments.

Snoopy’s Home Ice Skating Rink & Warm Puppy Cafe in Santa Rosa

Also known as the Redwood Empire Ice Rink, Snoopy’s Home Ice has become a go-to spot for all Peanuts fans. Located in the heart of the Peanut’s Complex in Santa Rosa, this ice rink has a great history that is still living on to the day. The arena, opened in 1969 by Charles M. Schulz, has been a fun spot for families for over a half century, here is all the information so you can check it out yourself.

Details

  • Cost: $9.50 + $3.50 for skate rental (Dec 2016)
  • Location: 1667 W Steele Ln, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Getting There

Heading North on Highway 101 you will get off on Steele Ln/Guerneville Rd. Head left then keep right to stay on Steele Ln. The museum and ice rink are about a quarter of a mile down on the right. There is a bunch of parking available in the attached lots.

The Exterior

Upon arriving, be sure to browse the outside first. In the cement around the exterior are famous signatures of athletes, actors, and musicians, with a Charles M. Schulz signature and drawing prominently displayed in the front.

There are also a few sculptures out here as well from the sculpture program and a Snoopy-shaped plant.

The Ice Rink

Heading inside you will be greeted by the skating check in, where you can pay your fee and grab your skates. It feels old in the ice rink but in a cool vintage way.

Next, you can hit the ice and skate to your heart’s content. The rink is much bigger than I anticipated it being and it can hold a lot of people.

When you finish skating, be sure to head into the Warm Puppy Cafe.

Warm Puppy Cafe

The cafe is home to some fun Peanut’s inspired dishes, such as the Beagle Burger and Rice Krispy treats in the shape of Peanuts characters.

Also, be sure to see the table by the window, which is where Charles M. Schulz sat every day to work on the strip and to have breakfast. It is now permanently reserved for him.

Lastly, visit the museum and the gift shop before leaving the complex as they are both close by. All in all, Snoopy’s Home Ice is a great place for the whole family while in Santa Rosa. Be sure to check it out if you are in the area and let me know what you think in the comments.

New Date Set for Public Meeting on Preferred Alternative Site Design for Kings Beach State Recreation Area

The California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the California Tahoe Conservancy (Conservancy) are holding a public meeting to solicit comments on an effort to upgrade recreational facilities at Kings Beach State Recreation Area (Kings Beach SRA). The original date, scheduled for Wednesday, January 18, 2017, has been rescheduled to February 2, 2017. Some of the proposed enhancements would be made to the pier, playground, restrooms, picnic areas, boat ramp and parking area. The effort reflects an approach by DPR and the Conservancy to renovate Kings Beach SRA over the next 20 or more years.



View the official news release here.
Posted in Uncategorized

New Date Set for Public Meeting on Preferred Alternative Site Design for Kings Beach State Recreation Area

The California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the California Tahoe Conservancy (Conservancy) are holding a public meeting to solicit comments on an effort to upgrade recreational facilities at Kings Beach State Recreation Area (Kings Beach SRA). The original date, scheduled for Wednesday, January 18, 2017, has been rescheduled to February 2, 2017. Some of the proposed enhancements would be made to the pier, playground, restrooms, picnic areas, boat ramp and parking area. The effort reflects an approach by DPR and the Conservancy to renovate Kings Beach SRA over the next 20 or more years.



View the official news release here.
Posted in Uncategorized

Solvang Attractions: Where to Eat, Stay & Explore in this Danish Town

California really does have everything, in the same state that has the tallest mountain in the US, Hollywood and some of the oldest living trees in the world also sits the strange and awesome fully Danish town known as Solvang. Only a short distance off Highway 101, Solvang is a fantastic place to visit and a great spot for a weekend getaway, here is my list of things you must explore, eat and stay at while there.

Eat

Aebleskiver (Pancake Puffs)

When I come to Solvang, it is usually for the sweets and pastries. One of my favorites is the aebleskivers that you can find around town. These Danish desserts are almost like a donut hole mixed with a pancake. They are light and airy, and when you put some powdered sugar and raspberry sauce on top, they are pretty spectacular. Don’t leave the city without trying them.

Mortenson’s Danish Bakery

Pretty much everything at Mortensen’s is good, and it is my go-to spot for pastries. They make it all fresh and people come from miles around to sample the delicacies. My personal favorite is the Danish Waffle, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the Danishes or puff pastries.

Bit O’ Denmark

Bit O’ Denmark is one of Solvang’s most popular restaurants, and it packs a lot of Danish charm. The meal is generally a traditional smorgasbord of all you can eat Danish fare. It can be pricey, but it is an excellent way to try traditional dishes.

Attractions

The Shoe Shop

One of the most well-known stores in Solvang is the shoe shop with the giant wooden shoe sitting outside. I have seen people put their kids in the shoe for pictures and do pretty much every other type of pose you could imagine.  If you are looking to buy shoes, they have a wide assortment as well with all of the brands you would expect.

Hans Christian Anderson Museum

This small museum located on the second floor of a fantastic bookstore. It is a great place to come and see the history of one of the most famous Danish authors.

There is a bronze statue of the author near the museum as well.

The Windmill

There are four windmills in the city and they are one of the most photographed spots. The windmills are what give the town that classic Danish charm and you want to make sure you see a few. The main one is on Alisal Road.

The Mini Horse Farm

Who doesn’t like mini horses? Only 5 minutes out of town, this farm has lots of mini horses just doing their thing in the field. They are fun animals, and I loved my stop here.

Sunny Fields Park

Sunny Fields Park is one of the best public playgrounds I have ever seen. Located right outside of the city, this playground has loads of stuff for the little ones to play on and enjoy. I imagine it would be a fantastic find for the traveling family to explore.

Ostrich Farm

Ostriches-next-to-bite-sign

Every since I stumbled upon this five years ago I make it a point to stop whenever I am in the area; this farm has loads of ostriches, and you can feed them for $5. You should do this at least once as the ostriches are a total blast to feed and see in their habitat. Read more about it here.

Mission Santa Ines

Another great spot in Solvang is one of the historic California Missions. While not as large as many of the others like Santa Barbara and San Juan Capistrano, this is still a beautiful place with lots of history and stunning gardens. Read more about it here.

Anderson’s Pea Soup

Anderson Pea Soup 12

Anderson’s Pea Soup is also off the exit for Solvang and is worth a stop if you like pea soup or like trying new things. It is touted as a “world famous pea soup” so it is worth a stop on your drive if you want to sample it.

Christmas in Solvang

Solvang Christmas 8

Lastly, if you are looking for a time to visit, I would consider Christmas time as all of the shops are usually decorated and set up with Christmas trees out front and the town square sometimes transforms into an ice rink. I love just walking the streets at night

Stay

My favorite is the quaint little Wine Valley Inn. This spot has the charm you would expect in Solvang, its walking distance from the downtown area and it has a great continental breakfast. You can see more hotels here.

So there is my list of places to visit in Solvang, one thing is for certain, though, it is worth a stop at least once. Let me know your favorite spots in the comments.

Hiking La Tuna Canyon Trail

Hiking the La Tuna Canyon Trail

La Tuna Canyon Trail is a little gem on the northwest side of the Verdugo Mountains. The trailhead is officially in Sunland, and easy to reach from both the 210 and 5 freeways on – what else – La Tuna Canyon Road.

Trail Details
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 1,126 ft
Dogs: Yes
When to go: Year-round
The Verdugo Mountains are easily accessible and provide great 360-degree views of LA and the Valley, plus a front-seat view of the San Gabriel range. This four mile out-and-back gives you a shady climb through old oaks and sycamore trees with options to add adventure or extend the hike.

There are no permit or parking fees. Just find a place to pull up and park. The trail begins on the south side of La Tuna Canyon Road, 1.2 miles west of the 210 freeway. Look for the big, brown Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy sign marking the start of the trail.

 

Trailhead to the La Tuna Canyon Trail

The trail meanders back and forth, zig-zagging through several canyons as it slowly and steadily climbs. This side of the Verdugo Mountains faces north, so it gets much more shade than the Vital Link Trail. On a January morning, it was cool and the hills were turning green from the winter rains.

Oak trees on La Tuna Canyon trail

After a mile and a half of meandering and gentle gains, the trail climbs out of the shade, into the sun, and the vertical gains come more steadily.

The last mile to the top the trail climbs 600 feet. Once you reach the “top” of this this trail, you’re granted a restful lounge chair with the name “Chuck” carved into the back. You get a great view of the 210 snaking it’s way through the mountains and the taller San Gabriel range just beyond.

Sit and rest at the top of the trail

Here the trail hooks up with the Verdugo Motorway – a fire road the weaves closely along the crest of the Verdugo Mountains, ultimately connecting with both the Vital Link Trail and the Beaudry Motorway Loop. If you’re looking to extend your hike, you can follow this road in either direction, but be sure to save energy and water for the return trip.

After a rest break at “Chuck,” we headed back down the La Tuna Canyon Trail, but on our return we followed the steep single-track down the ridge. It begins innocently enough.

This short cuts about 1/2 a mile off the return

The last section of this “short-cut” adds an element of adventure, requiring hand-over-foot scrambling. Trekking poles, hiking shoes with good grip and a willingness to get a little dirty come in handy on the steep, rutted descent. We shaved about half a mile returning this route, but had to take it slowly.

It gets much steeper still

La Tuna Canyon Trail Map & Elevation Profile

Download

La Tuna Canyon Trail Tips and Resources

La Tuna Canyon Weather Forecast

Today Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
It is forcast to be Clear at 7:00 PM PST on January 16, 2017
Clear
64°/41°
It is forcast to be Clear at 7:00 PM PST on January 17, 2017
Clear
65°/44°
It is forcast to be Mostly Cloudy at 7:00 PM PST on January 18, 2017
Mostly Cloudy
60°/49°
It is forcast to be Partly Cloudy at 7:00 PM PST on January 19, 2017
Partly Cloudy
60°/48°

Originally hiked on January 16, 2016.

The post Hiking La Tuna Canyon Trail appeared first on SoCal Hiker.

24 Hours in Anaheim Itinerary: Where to Eat, Drink & Explore in the City

Globally known as the home of Disneyland, Anaheim welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to this landlocked Orange County town. I love Disneyland as much as the next person, but you need more than 24 hours if you want to explore that excellent theme park. This guide is designed to show you the lesser known gems in and around Anaheim and provide an itinerary that helps you to spend a fabulous 24 hours in the city. Here is all the information. Disclosure: This trip was sponsored by VisitAnaheim.com but I created the itinerary and chose what I wanted to visit.

Video

Itinerary – Day 1

12 PM – K1 Speed

One of my favorite things to do in the city is to head over to K1 Speed and spend some time on the go-kart track. These go karts go fast, and it is an awesome way to get the blood pumping. I recommend bringing a friend though as it is more fun when you have someone you know to race. Getting here between 11 AM and noon on a weekday usually means you will have only a few other people racing with you, making it a total blast.

Lunch Option 1: Oyster Bar and ARTIC

After racing, head over to ARTIC, which is the hip new train station in Anaheim and go to the Oyster Bar inside of it for lunch. This restaurant is completely open on the second floor, and it has a great view to enjoy while eating. I recommend the oysters here of course, but you can also get the famous clam chowder fries or the bacon wrapped shrimp.

Lunch Option 2: Pour Vida Latin Flavor and Ink & Bean Coffee

If oysters aren’t your thing, head over to Pour Vida Latin Flavor and grab some upscale and unique tacos. The food here is awesome with five seafood, five meat, and four vegetable tacos to choose from. Plus they have a “tacos are cheaper than therapy sign” which is a lot of fun to photograph.

Following tacos, walk around the downtown area and head over to Ink & Bean for coffee. After grabbing a coffee, take a few minutes to continue exploring the fun shops.

The Bruery Terraux

The Bruery is a local beer producer in Orange County that is one of my favorite California craft breweries. The Terraux location in Anaheim is where they produce all of their sours. These beers are very much an acquired taste and they are not for everyone. I for one love them though and if you haven’t tried them before, head over and check it out to see what your personal palette thinks. I can at least guarantee it will be a pretty unique experience.

ARTIC for Sunset

If you didn’t go to ARTIC for lunch, or even if you did, be sure to head over after the sun goes down. This spot is so cool when it gets dark as the train station is lit up in a rainbow of colors and it’s a fun place for photography. You don’t need too much time here, but I recommend you add it to your list.

Dinner Option 1: Anaheim Packing House

The Packing House is Anaheim’s hip food court / eating establishment. The old railroad building has a big open layout with lots of unique food and drink spots. You should plan to walk around first before making your decision as there are a bunch of good things to choose from and it is always hard to pick.

Dinner Option 2: Medieval Times

Outside of Anaheim in the town of Buena Park, Medieval Times is an excellent dinner theater experience that has been going for decades. It is a jousting performance where you sit in a designated color section and cheer on the knight that matches that color. The show includes a full meal that you eat with your hands, like they would have done it in the Medieval era. I have been a couple of times and each time I find more to enjoy about it. It is a little pricey, but it is a fun experience. Read all about Medieval Times here.

M and M Donuts

After the show or dinner, consider heading over to M & M Donuts, which is a local favorite in Anaheim. This donut shop usually has a line at around 9 PM as that is when the new blueberry donuts start coming out. I have waited over 30 minutes for a warm blueberry donut here, and I always feel like it is worth it. The warm blueberry donut will have a nice crunch to it and if you order a dozen they often give it to you in a pizza box.

Day 2

Breakfast – Anepelo

On the outskirts of Anaheim, there is a place called Anepelo that has been making fantastic chilaquiles for decades. I go out of my way for it as it is one of the best versions of this dish I have ever had. The dish is even plated so that it looks like a work of art. The sauce spilling over the dish appears spicy but is very light with a great flavor. An egg is added to the top with guacamole, sour cream and salsa to round out the dish. It’s a great but heavy way to start your morning.

Museums

With kids? – Discovery Museum

If you have kids with you, then your next stop needs to be the Discovery Museum. The place is a playground full of incredible attractions for the little ones to explore and to interact with. Even as an adult it is a lot of fun, so I imagine for a kid it would be a mind-blowing experience. Be sure to go outside and walk through the inside of a dinosaur, and climb into the middle of the big black cube to explore a rocket.

Without Kids? – Bowers Museum

If you are here without kids, then head over to Bower’s Museum. This small museum has a lot of great exhibits, many that focus on California’s history. It is well laid out, and the exhibits themselves are engaging and very informative. I recommend spending about an hour walking the grounds and the exhibits.

Lunch – Mama Cozza’s

Mama Cozza’s is a traditional Italian spot that has been here for half a century. It was made famous by an appearance on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2010. Walking in you will immediately realize it is a small mom and pops place with lots of locals diving into the large portions of pasta.  I recommend the combo which has three types of pasta covered in sauce.

After lunch, your 24 hours in Anaheim is complete. However; if you are looking for more to do, I would recommend seeing if the Angels or the Ducks are in town. It is a lot of fun to get out to either a baseball or hockey game and Anaheim has both. Also, you can go over to GardenWalk or Downtown Disney if you are looking to do some shopping while you are here.

Let me know if I left anything out in the comments or if you have any recommendations for places I should explore next time I am in the city.