Saturday, October 17, 2009

Picking and Choosing

I've had an urge to visit an apple orchard for a couple weeks now. Back in Michigan, Kristen (my sister) and I would occasionally find ourselves both home and bored on a Saturday or Sunday morning in the fall. When this happened, we would get in Kristen's truck and drive over to Plymouth Orchard for fresh cider and homemade cinnamon-sugar doughnuts.

Fall recently hit New England with a vengeance, and with cool weather and colorful leaves comes a craving for crisp apples, fresh cider, and of course, the ubiquitous cinnamon-sugar doughnut. The problem? I had no idea where any apple orchards were located around here. So I turned to Google and quickly located Holmberg Orchards in nearby Ledyard. This morning, Noe and I bundled up in our sweaters and jackets and headed out.

We pulled up first to the market in front of the orchard and went in to poke around. I was immediately disappointed to find out they did NOT have my doughnuts. However, we saw plenty of apple crisp, pies, and other assorted pastries, and the whole thing smelled overwhelmingly of fresh apples. We decided to drive up to the orchard itself and hit the market on the way out.

When we got to the top of the winding drive, we discovered some pleasant surprises. In addition to apples, you could pick and buy pears (yum!) and pumpkins as well.

Noe searches for the perfect pumpkin

I found mine!

There was also what appeared to be a small barn with a sign reading "Tasting Room". We entered, thinking maybe we would be tasting cider. We quickly found that Holmberg Orchards produces several fruit wines and hard ciders and all were available for tasting.

I don't normally go for fruit wines, but Holmberg's seemed to be at the high end of this genre. While their peach wine was too sweet for my liking, I was very impressed by the Pearfection, a light, dry pear wine that I thought would be perfect to sip by itself or perhaps while nibbling a milder cheese. The Three Sheets apple wine, aged in oak barrels, had an almost Chardonnay-like quality with a bit of apple-y crispness. Both of the hard sparkling ciders had a crisp, fresh quality that I appreciated.

When we wandered back into the market on our way out, we were immediately greeted by the smell of fresh-baked bread. A woman was stacking a shelf with baguettes that were still warm. Even Noe, who is NOT a baguette fan (he calls it "bad-gette") was somewhat intoxicated by the yummy, yeasty smell.

In addition to produce from the orchards, the market carried a nice selection of local and specialty products. We saw wines from many Connecticut wineries (including Jonathan Edwards, where I can occasionally be found moonlighting in the tasting room), cheeses, fresh meats stuffed, marinated, or otherwise prepared for cooking, and a good selection of oils, vinegars, and condiments.

By the time we left, we had loaded up the car with two giant pumpkins, a whole bunch of apples and pears, a jug of cider, a bottle of the pear wine, some steaks stuffed with Gorgonzola and mushrooms, two bags of Deep River Snacks potato chips (these are seriously the best chips in the world!), one of the fresh baguettes, and a few more items I can't recall at the moment. Overall, a successful trip.

However, if someone can point me in the direction of an apple orchard where I can get that cinnamon-sugar (or apple cider) doughnut, I'd be very grateful.


Kristen said...

You should bring some of that hard cider home for your sis for Christmas . . .

Amy W. said...

If I can figure out a way to get it home on the plane I will. I didn't know you liked hard cider!