October 1, 2007

Apple Fever Hits the Ithaca Community

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“Never again!” said Jesse Simons grad, after participating in the 25th Annual Apple Harvest Festival’s apple pie eating contest. Simons ate eight slices of pie in two minutes, making him the winner of his round. However, he won’t be giving up apple pie all that soon.
“I think I’m eating more tomorrow actually, someone’s making me pie in celebration,” Simons said.
The Apple Harvest Festival began in 1983 and was first managed by Jean Demming, then Com­mons Coordinator. The festival, which ran from Friday to yesterday, took over the downtown Commons area with an array of food, music, dancing and, of course, apples.
“We have every kind of apple thing you could ever think of,” said Katie Clapp, events coordinator for the Ithaca Downtown Partnership.
Clapp has organized the festival for the past four years, bringing a Ferris wheel, a large handmade crafts fair and more food vendors to the event every fall.
This year’s list of vendors included The Cornell Society of Horticulture (SoHo), which offered several varieties of apples for sampling. One such variety was the Jonamac, introduced by Cornell researchers several years ago.
“One of our really popular apples lately is the Honeycrisp,” said Chad Miller grad, president of SoHo. “We had them here yesterday and today, but they sold out. It’s actually bred at the University of Minnesota. It’s sweet, kind of crispy and juicy all at once.”
The apple festival is SoHo’s main fundraiser, which helps support new computer labs and software for the graduate student horticulture program.
Traditionally, one of the most popular items available at the festival is apple cider. Since last year, though, it has been illegal for farmers to sell un-pasteurized cider due to a possible risk of E. coli contamination.
“It’s kind of ridiculous; the chance of getting E. coli is so small that it just seems like it’s a punishment to small farmers who can’t afford pasteurizers,” said Claire Stoscheck of Eve’s Cidery. “We really believe that people should have the choice, and people prefer un-pasteurized.”
A loophole in this law allows Eve’s Cidery to sell a version of pressed apple and pear juice, made mostly of apples, that tastes like the real thing.
“This stuff tastes like real cider; you just can’t call it cider, you call it juice,” she said.
Eve’s Cidery also offered three kinds of hard cider at the apple festival — Bittersweet, Peach-Apple and Essence of Apple. According to Stoscheck, before prohibition, hard cider was the alcoholic beverage of choice in this country.
“I think it’s making a comeback. It’s becoming popular in New York City; we sell in Union Square and also to many high-end restaurants,” Stoscheck said. “It’s something people feel is an authentic drink from New York State.”
Many local Ithaca restaurants were among the numerous vendors lining The Commons, including Taste of Thai, Sangam Restaurant, Lao Village and Queen of Tarts, which served up bubbling flatbread pizzas for festival goers.
“It’s a one-of a kind,” said Leslie Muhlhahn, “The Queen” of Queen of Tarts, of her mobile wood fire oven.
Known affectionately as “The Beast” to those who cook with it, the oven was custom made for Muhlhahn’s restaurant by a company in California called Fornobravo.
“People always come up and go, “Oh my god, this is just like Italy!” It’s such a nice compliment. I don’t know if they have them mobile there, but I know this is a standard way to cook in Italy.”
Members of the Cornell community wandered down to The Commons throughout the weekend to see what the festival had to offer.
“It’s a great collaboration for the community,” said Lauren Goldberg ’09.
She and Lauren Isaacson ’09 found out about the Apple Festival through other members of their sorority.
“It’s just something different to do,” Isaacson said.
Jason Benway ’08, enjoyed a plate of funnel cake with his family.
“My parents are here this weekend, so we wanted to check it out. The food is all delicious.”
The 25th Annual Apple Harvest Festival was sponsored by Tompkins Trust Company and The Ithaca Times. Parts of Cayuga Street were closed over the weekend as rides and attractions set up on the edge of The Commons and on the road.