This past weekend, the Sun dining department’s writers ventured out to the 37th Annual Apple Harvest Festival to experience one of the most iconic food festivals Ithaca has to offer. We’ve recounted some of our most memorable moments and favorite delectable delights from the event, noting local favorites and treats from farmers far and wide.
As a newbie to Ithaca’s food scene, as well as a farmers’ market enthusiast, Apple Fest offered nothing short of a warm, promising welcome to the culture and community Ithaca boasts. The crowds who wandered the Commons, waited in the lines and enjoyed the fruity and savory flavors of the day showed me just how much Ithacans love their products and people. While the lively atmosphere would have sufficed to please, the crisp apples with their sticky sweet caramel, the fresh unprocessed cider and the mouthwatering caprese mac and cheese (a cheese-lover’s dream) I devoured left me feeling quite full and satisfied, to say the least. Further, I must note that the background music blaring through the Commons consisted of some of my favorite artists — for example Noah Kahan — whose music blended wonderfully with and bolstered the already cheerful ambiance. It takes more than just good eats to unite an entire community, and that’s what Apple Fest effortlessly accomplishes.
— Julia Lescht ’23
For $10 a serving, Silo’s “Gluten-“ous” to the Minimus” gourmet macaroni and cheese is no cheap treat. My friends, however, felt it was well worth the money, and couldn’t get enough of the melty, extra-sharp cheddar cheese and béchamel sauce which was paired with pickled onions and topped with a fried chicken leg. The crunch and acidity of the onions paired well with the creamy mac and cheese, and my friends devoured their portions just minutes after getting the perfect picture for the camera. I nabbed a couple bites off of them but didn’t purchase my own; my heart — and stomach — yearned only for my favorite fall delicacy: the apple cider doughnut. There’s something about biting into a warm cinnamon and apple doughnut that encapsulates the beginning of autumn so perfectly — the beginning of sweater season, golden-hued landscapes and cozy nights in with a steaming cup of tea.
— Katie Zhang ’21
Nestled among the standard line up of colorful carnival food trucks, offering a variety of fair favorites, and the umpteen amounts of hard cider and doughnut stands, I found a scrumptious surprise. The Tibetan Momo Bar, set up at the T-intersection of the main Commons plaza, was selling fried rice dishes, noodle platters and of course, momos. The Bar also has a restaurant located in Center Ithaca, where the third generation family provides Ithacans with traditional Tibetan cuisine. Momos, for those who are unfamiliar, are the Tibetan equivalent of a steamed dumpling filled with either a seasoned meat mix — typically chicken or beef — or a combination of chopped greens, carrots and potatoes. While traveling to Nepal this summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to incorporate these salty, savory pockets of goodness into my daily diet. The only difference I really noted between momos from Nepal and those from the Tibetan Momo Bar was the thickness of the wrapping. In Nepal, it was a very thin, almost see-through wrapping that was very tender, while the Momos Bar’s is a much thicker, gummier exterior, more reminiscent of a potsticker or heavy dumpling. Overall though, it was a very enjoyable experience on a beautiful and sunny day.
— Benjamin Velani ’22
Perhaps the most slept-on aspect of Applefest is the random food stalls. Tucked among the various places to cop apple cider, caramel apples, cinnamon apple donuts and a surprising amount of mac and cheese, you can find the truly hidden gems of the Ithaca food scene. Just as my boy Ben found his scrumptious surprise in the form of the Tibetan Momo Bar (that place absolutely slaps by the way), I found my own delicious deliverance in the form of a Trinidadian food stall selling chicken and roti. Food from Trinidad and Tobago is a unique combination of Indian, Chinese, Arab and African cuisines (which you can thank imperialism for). As an Indian-American, I can really relate to some of the dishes in West Indies cuisine, so I absolutely love Trinidadian food. Walking down the aisles of Applefest with a huge $14 plate of chicken curry and roti was a bit of a surreal experience, but I would definitely pick that over waiting in line for an hour for some mediocre mac and cheese (got ‘em). So next year while you’re at Applefest, keep your eye out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you might find.
— Murali Saravanan ’20
As mac and cheese flooded social media streams this weekend, let’s revert back to what AppleFest is truly about — crispy, local-grown, organic apples. Yes, although the mac and cheese is to die for, Ithacans can not miss out on the true gourmet of fresh caramel apples. As vendors used their ladles to scoop and pour hot caramel sauce on freshly sliced apples, my mouth watered automatically. Sprinkled with nuts and topped with whipped cream, you no longer have to struggle biting into the hard crust of a candy apple with this fresh translation. For a fellow sweet tooth, this delicacy was the perfect remedy to the prelim season blues.
— Sofia Siciliani ’22
The highlight of my AppleFest experience had nothing to do with apples. As I walked down the crowded street, the booth that caught my eye was filled with peanut butter. The Saratoga Peanut Butter Company table was piled high with different varieties of gourmet nut butter, from a seasonal sellout of pumpkin peanut butter to a nationally ranked chocolate peanut butter. The owner was handing out samples, so of course I tasted at least five of the flavors. Each flavor was distinct, smooth and rich. After having so many freebies, I felt obligated to buy a jar. I was stuck between the “Jack” and “Jill” flavors, both peanut-almond mixes with different dried fruits. Finally, I bought the Maple Peanut Butter (surprise!) because it seemed like a classic fall flavor. And it would go perfectly with an apple!
— Melanie Metz ’22
As a writer for the dining section, I normally dedicate my words to edible items. However, the most striking and memorable part of Ithaca’s annual AppleFest is the sense of community that surrounds the town center for the three-day weekend. Students and professors, old and young, along with the residents of the Ithaca community, all come out to celebrate the end of summer and the arrival of the fall season with an abundant apple harvest. Shoutout to Taste of Thai for providing quick and affordable hot food options ($8) for participants of the festival through an outdoor serving station. My personal favorite dish? A rich yellow curry spiced up with bold flavors of cumin and spicy ginger. Smoothed out with coconut milk, the sauce is an excellent vessel for the chunky potatoes, halved baby eggplant and cubes of tofu that are incorporated into the dish. Everything from the food cart is served over a bed of warm jasmine rice that blends directly with the curry, furthering the dishes palatability. I enjoyed this Southeast Asian dish on a nearby bench with a cup of cold apple cider ($4) whilst I watched the crowds come and go through the Commons. It’s quite the experience.
— Dominic Law ’22
One of my favorite things about this year’s Applefest was its ambiance. The live music, comfort food and street-market setup all contributed to a homey feel that brought the Ithaca community together for a special weekend.
— Jordan Roth ’23