October 5, 2011

Apple Festival Boasts Psychedelic Desserts, Hot Cider

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Apples aren’t just apples. You don’t bring your granny to a party and tell everyone that she’s a just some random old lady. Much less would you bring Granny Smith to a party and call her simply an apple. Speaking of parties, the 29th Annual Downtown Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival was indeed one huge finger-licking extravaganza. It was the Mardi Gras of apples, and every size, shape and flavor came parading down the open-air runway of the Ithaca Commons.

One standout was the gloriously gooey Empire caramel apple from Playland Amusements, accessorized with a psychedelic hodgepodge of M&Ms, sprinkles, chocolate chips, peanuts and candy corn. Popped on a wooden stick and thickly coated with chocolate, the flamboyant treat was ready to bring a smile to any little child’s face. Who can resist a good sugar high, with apples as the best nutritional excuse for a bomb of candy-studded chocolate?

Bramsley’s Seedling apples from Eve’s Cidery came boiled down and steeped in their own voluptuous pectin, balanced by a touch of acidity. Bramsley’s Seedling is often known as the “culinary apple”, underscoring its versatility in various gastronomic preparations. In the Eve’s version, the piping hot lava of apples was firmly encased in a flaky puff pastry. The turnover was moist and seductively dainty, fit for a prime window display spot at a Parisian patisserie.

Cortland apples also made an appearance as a dumpling filling. In this interpretation by Mary Stoltzfus from Little Grey Bakery in Cortland, wholes were skinned, cored and stuffed with cinnamon — the favorite sister spice of any apple. A knife, fork and bowl were imperatives when digging into this rustic culinary treasure, due to the hot syrup cascading from within. The Cortland apple was soft and yielding, yet it managed to hold its elegant shape and to retain its sweet vinous flavor. The warm Cortland dumpling was crying for gelato, but with the unforgiving weather, I was dying for some hot cocoa.

Just in time, the warm and cozy aroma of hot apple cider — even better! — drifted to my nose. I grabbed a cupful, along with a fluffy yet chewy apple cider beignet made from a blend of McIntosh, Idared and Akane apples from Littletree Orchards in Newfield. Suddenly the drizzly day seemed a whole lot sweeter.

Beyond their refreshing deliciousness, each kind offers a unique flavor and purpose. Ever wondered what kind of apple once a day keeps the doctor away? Did the evil witch hand Snow White a fleshy Virginia Gold or a creamy Virginia Greening apple? What type of forbidden apple did Eve bite into in the Garden of Eden? Does it even matter? You bet.

Original Author: Brandon Ho