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On the Town with Jason Downs

| Entertainment | November 7, 2019

Greetings, fellow Santa Claritans, and welcome to a column that’s all about having fun around town. We’re fortunate enough to live in one of the great entertainment meccas of the world, and every now and then traveling is a good idea to remind us of just how lucky we are to live here.

Here’s what I got up to this week: a trip back East to see the beautiful autumn leaves of New York.

For those of us who grew up on the East Coast, there’s a myth passed down through the generations that there are no seasons in California. This wives’ tale is similar to the belief of many Americans that New York State is comprised entirely of skyscrapers. But ever since my family and I moved to Valencia over five years ago, we’ve been delighted to learn that in fact the opposite is true, for both New York and California. Yes, the seasons are more subtle and mild here, but they are most definitely present. So, my column this week is for anyone who longs for a more extreme (and momentary) taste of crispy cold afternoons, the smell of billowing chimneys and the promise of snow on the brisk breeze, and the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your insulated boots. If that’s you, fellow Californian friends, then please read on!

The excuse for our excursion was a nephew on my wife’s side turning 13. We were all invited to celebrate his bar mitzvah with my wife’s family in Buffalo. The added bonus was a mini vacation during the peak of leaf season and a classic Eastern Halloween. Spoiler alert: It was cold, gray and rainy almost the entire time. But hey, for us native New Yorkers only staying a few days, the novelty of it all was just what we needed. Rather like babysitting your sister’s kids — love ‘em to death and then love ‘em even more when you send them back home to mommy and daddy.

A rainy day in Buffalo! My son took this from the back seat of the car.

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After we landed in Buffalo, the first thing on our bucket list was a visit to the Cider Mill my wife frequented as a child outside the city. We loaded up on apple cinnamon donuts, maple sugar candy, crispy orchard apples and of course, a big jug of fresh cider. Then it was off to the Original Pancake House, where we indulged in a dish called a Dutch baby (photo at right). And you thought Buffalo only invented hot wings?

A Dutch Baby is a pastry-like pancake bowl with lemon curd and strawberry.

Another childhood favorite of my wife’s was an old mill alongside a gushing waterfall that’s been converted into the cutest and yummiest chocolatier you’ve ever seen. The thin windows did nothing to keep out the bite, but it didn’t matter. As the confections were being made right in front of us, we tried our best to choose from all the many delights. The place was called Sweet Jenny’s, and let me tell you, she lived up to her name. The homemade ice cream — and yes, we had to indulge despite the nip in the air — was out of this world. The chocolate-covered Oreos, raspberry truffles and (my wife’s all-time favorite) orange-flavored dark chocolate tasted better than any confection I’d ever put in my mouth. Why? Was it really all that different? Or was it just the magic of the moment, the old mill and the smiling faces behind the counter? The alchemy of it all was delicious!

As the sun began to sink and it seemed the rain would not relent, the kids reluctantly put on their Halloween costumes. The plan was to walk around my wife’s old neighborhood and continue to soak up the nostalgia, but because of the weather, there were very few trick-or-treaters on the street. You see? We so rarely need to consider the weather in Santa Clarita that I highly recommend the occasional (short) trip to the Eastern Seaboard during the cold and rainy season to put things in perspective!

So, there it is for this week, friends. Always feel free to let me know what you like doing around town so I can check it out and write it up. (reachjasondowns@santaclaritagazette.com)

Until next time, bon voyage, break a leg, and bon appétit!

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