Autumn is just around the corner, and with the changing leaves and breezy weather comes an abundance of yummy activities and eateries that celebrate the season. Austin Buben '14 names his favorites.
While growing up in Phoenix, I would only romanticize about fall while flipping through my October editions of Bon Appetit Magazine whilst sitting by the pool, catching some sun and sipping on horchata. My first fall here in Ithaca exhibited just what I longed for in those shiny editorials. I remember sampling my first Concord grape at the Ithaca Farmers Market, biting into my first Cortland apple fresh off the tree and realizing that you could, in fact, cook with maple syrup. Needless to say, these things weren’t so common in the tundra of Arizona.
As much as my favorite fall things may be cliché to most native northeasterners, the southwestern boy in me still gets excited around this time of year. I invite you to share in my excitement, check out these five foodie things to do, and to have the finest of food and beverage experiences this fall.
The 30th Annual Ithaca Applefest
An autumn necessity, this free annual event is held in the Commons and branches out (pun intended) into the surrounding streets downtown. Wait in (or cut) the mile-long line at this year’s fest, taking place September 28 to September 30 for apple cider donuts, caramel apples and delicious cider. Don’t forget to take home your five-pound bag of assorted apples: I recommend Cortland for its crisp, tart flesh and Mutsu if you get that sudden urge to bake a pie. Besides apples, Applefest features over a dozen unique food vendors offering cuisines from Indian to Thai, Italian to Laotian. The fest will take place noon to 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Eat Maple Cotton Candy at The Ithaca Farmers Market
It’s true, I have a new love: maple cotton candy. Imagine all the deliciousness of New York maple spun into thin little melt-in-your-mouth threads. Maple vendor Schoolyard Sugarbush has mastered its creation and also offers a variety of bottled syrup, maple cream (which you can spread like butter) as well as candies. While you’re at the market be sure to check out what the other vendors have to offer. I recommend heading in early to grab all of the most beautiful produce before the hungover college kids and stroller-toting moms flood the place.
Have A Picnic At Buttermilk Falls
While the Grand Canyon back home may be a bit more breathtaking, Buttermilk Falls is the perfect spot for that quintessential fall picnic, thanks to its hiking possibilities and its abundance of changing leaves. Pack some cider, some crusty bread and cheese (from the Farmers Market, of course) and head out to the park between dusk and dawn with some dear friends or that special someone. For a picnic, I like to keep it local with some fall snacks from the Farmers Market: I personally recommend Autumn’s Gold Cider from Eve’s Cidery, paired with Across the Pond Raw Cow’s Milk Cheese from Keeley’s Cheese.
Eat Out During Finger Lakes Restaurant Week
For the second time this year, from October 22 to October 29, Finger Lakes chefs will be challenged to create two-course a la carte lunch menus as well as three-course prix fixe dinner menus inspired by the bounty of fall in late October. The menus comprise of 100 percent local food from over 50 farms and wine from three sponsoring wineries (with more in the works). Each menu for lunch will cost in the $15-$50 range with a good amount of the participating restaurants also including beverage service. Local wineries will also be getting in on the action, holding tastings and tours throughout the week. For more information check out www.restaurantweekfingerlakes.com.
Go Apple (and Pumpkin) Picking
Although the most cliché of my suggestions, apple picking is a fall must. Nothing compares to walking throughout an orchard on a brisk morning with warm (possibly spiked?) cider in hand while taking in the spice aromas. My favorite local place for picking is Littletree Orchards in Newfield, NY, which is about a 15-minute scenic drive from Collegetown. Not only does Littletree offer apples in every desirable form (cider, donuts, butter and plenty you can pick), they also offer fresh cut flowers (mums are back!), Asian pears (which have the flavor somewhere between an apple and a pear), and pickable pumpkins. Littletree is open weekends only from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the season will run until about November 15.