Sometime in the last ten years my father joined the microbrew craze. He’s tried brewing his own beer, he and my mom go to breweries whenever they can and they even have a whole fridge at their house just for beer. So when my grandmother chose Firestone Walker Brewing Co. over Andersen’s Pea Soup as the starting point for our Christmas trip together, no one complained.
After parking the two motorhomes at the Flying Flags RV park, we headed down the road to their Buellton Tap Room where we sat at the bar tasting porters and stouts poured from the ice-cold glycol taps.
Then we moved to a table where we ordered two flatbreads and a salad to share. (We ate light because we were all saving room for dinner!) We all really enjoyed the Walkers BBQ pizza and the Fresh and Local Flatbread, but it may have been the mustard that stole the show. “What is it I like so much about this mustard?” My mother remarked. Then, reading the label, “Oh. There’s beer in it. I like everything better with beer in it!”
They have a self-service station for bowls of pretzel sticks and mustard. My grandmother looked pleased as we left, with a jar of in her hands.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in town, sampling chocolates at Ingeborg’s and pastries at Mortensen’s and admiring how sweet the town looked, all dressed up for the holidays. We watched a man painting the window at Birkholm’s Bakery and chatted about Christmas trees with a lively shopkeeper at Solvang Antiques (whose dramatic trees are worth popping in to take a look at).
At Vin Hus, I hoped to find the Best Cracker in the World, a Danish rye cracker made by Johannes Dam & Son. My friend Linda, who lived in Copenhagen for many years, introduced me to them years ago and whenever I travel back to Scandinavia, I make sure to bring a box home. Unfortunately, Vin Hus didn’t have them – but should you hanker for something Danish, they did had a lot of it.
We sat sampling wines as we waited for the magical hour when the Christmas tree lighting would take place. The town square began filling up with families and old folks and a few out-of-towners like us. A rag-tag group of singers from the high school tried a few tunes. Then the band, in which the average age was 60 (we learned this from the conductor’s wife who was seated next to us), played carols just ever slightly off-key while dozens of children took to a makeshift dance floor and danced the night away. It couldn’t have felt more like Christmas.