Fall in Chicagoland is marked by many distinctive things. The changing of leaves is one, as is the cooler temperature, and the obligatory pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks.
In more recent years (since college to be honest) it's not officially fall until I go apple picking. There's something about grabbing fresh apples right off the tree, taking a bite, and then throwing the core on the ground just knowing that some squirrel will eat it later.
There's also something about sharing the apple picking experience with good friends that makes it all the more special. The last two years, I've gone apple picking with Lizz and Skylar. This year though, I managed to scratch my cornea when I was supposed to go with Lizz and Skylar. Conveniently, Jenn and I had been trying to plan a foodie date, and when she asked about apple picking, the timing was just too perfect.
The plan was set: apple picking, lunch at a favorite bar/grill, frozen yogurt, then coffee if we had any room left.
It quickly turned into a double date when Bobby and Adam both wanted to join us…the more the merrier!
We hit the road up to Woodstock Country Orchard a mere 30 miles away. After a Starbucks stop, construction, a traffic jam, and a variety of country roads, we finally arrived at the orchard. So many orchards are about everything but the actual apple picking. Woodstock Country Orchard has TONS of trees, free parking, and an amazing variety of apples over the course of the season.
Many of these photos are courtesy of Jenn, as I forgot to put the battery back in my camera before we left! I took a bunch on my iPhone, but Jenn got a ton more!
I loved that this orchard was relaxed, quiet, and beautiful without the throngs of screaming children that normally accompany apple orchards in fall. I can tolerate one kid (Skylar) but that's about it…
(cool filter there, huh?)
I loved all the Radio Flyer wagons that were available for picking, tired pickers, and purses. I sent this picture to my mom and she called it "Wagonhenge"!
We ended up picking a nice variety of apples and sampling one of each before we committed to putting them in our peck-sized bags (Pecks are half a bushel). We got tart Jonathans, sweet red delicious, a few tart golden delicious, and a few Empire apples which are good for baking. I'm already plotting… stay tuned!
Eleven pounds of apples (and half a dozen apple cider donuts later…)
It was SO SUNNY!! Thanks for the photos Jenn!
We hit the road again, and 20 minutes later we were at the door of one of my very favorite local restaurants, Duke's Alehouse & Kitchen. I've been to Duke's a handful of times, and even blogged about it once, In the time since that first post, Duke's has expanded their locavore standpoint and expanded the number of local farms they use. I'm still in love with their food, and even more so after this last visit with Jenn, Bobby, and Adam.
We started with a goat cheese and chorizo flatbread on whole wheat crust. The goat cheese came from a farm just outside Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the chorizo was made from local pork as well. It had the perfect mix of spicy sausage, creamy goat cheese, and crispy thin crust.
For my lunch, I opted for the "Vegan Killer" burger (sorry MamaPea!) It was a local grassfed beef patty topped with organic local barbecue pork and house-smoked cheddar cheese. I promptly removed the amazing-looking LaBriola pretzel bun and dove in.
And there were locally grown brussels sprouts, roasted in garlic-infused oil, as a substitute side instead of fries.
The food was fantastic, but the company was even better. The conversation flowed easily, and we were all full of fun stories from college and beyond.
We left Duke's feeling as though we needed a wheelbarrow to push us out, but we somehow found room to head to the newest addition to the frozen yogurt craze, Yumz.
Yumz is a self-serve yogurt place where customers are charged by the weight of their fro-yo creation. After tasting a few of the flavors (peanut butter, peach, plain, strawberry, red velvet cake, cake batter… and a few others I can't remember) I opted for no-sugar added strawberry and cake batter. I topped the whole thing with fresh raspberries and a couple cheesecake bites (ok, 6) and chowed down. We noted that the yogurt was less tart than Red Mango or YogenFrüz, and much more ice-cream-like. I was one happy camper.
We opted to take a rain check on the coffee since none of us had any room left for any more edibles. We drove home in the lovely fall sunshine and said many, many times that we have to "do this again soon". This time, I mean it! There's no excuse for the lack of hanging out that Jenn and I do. The last time we saw each other? Yeah, that was June. Not ok! So we're already planning our next outing… What should we do?
Its been so beautiful outside here the last few days, so we've been enjoying it the best way we know how… and taking the dogs with us! Thanks for all the well-wishes about Raven. She had a rough night a few nights ago, but is now doing just fine and seems to have un-aged about 3 years. She wouldn't sit still for the camera, but I got these few of Maddux:
And with that cuteness, I'm off to make a dinner you won't see until tomorrow. Wish me luck! It's something new!