Marlene and I had to pick up our quarterly wine club bottles from Agua Dulce Winery in the Sierra Pelona Valley in northern Los Angeles County (about an hour from our house). On the way, we decided to stop in the northeast San Fernando Valley at #100 on LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold’s Top 101 Restaurants, Rocio’s Mole de los Dioses (mole of the gods/goddesses).
I started off with a refreshing agua de nopal con piña (fruit drink with cactus and pineapple). We shared the mole sampler; I also had a cactus salad and Marlene had a chicken dish with mole poblano.
The moles were delicious, probably the best I’ve ever had. The “mole de los dioses,” made with huitlacoche, an edible fungus that grows on corn and is also called “corn truffle,” had a smooth creaminess; the mole manchamanteles was smoky, almost like a Mexican barbecue sauce; and the mole de nopal was creamy up front and hot at the end.
After lunch, we headed over the Newhall Pass into the Santa Clarita Valley and exited California Highway 14 at Placerita Canyon Road to visit the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.
The center, maintained by LA County Parks & Recreation, is the home of a famous tree: the Oak of the Golden Dream.
Leon Worden’s article at Santa Clarita TV’s history website tells the story: according to legend, in 1842, Francisco Lopez was herding cattle on his niece’s ranch when took a nap under an oak tree. As he slept, he dreamed that he was swimming in a pool of gold. After his siesta, Don Francisco found some wild onions, and, after he dug the onions up, he noticed that some particles of gold in the dirt around the onion roots. Sure enough, Placerita Canyon was the site of the first gold strike in California, six years before the famous strike in Northern California.
Next, we headed to the Vasquez Rocks, not far from the winery. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, you’ve seen this iconic landform.
Apparently, not far from the rocks are Native American petroglyphs. Looks like we’ll have to go back and hike that trail!
We ended up at the winery around 3:30. It was getting late, so we only stayed long enough to pick up our wine before heading for home.