Saturday morning I woke up to discover that Chicago had decided to turn fully into fall overnight. The air was crisp with a slightly stronger -than-gentle breeze, the skies sunny and temperatures cool after weeks of coinciding rain and prolonged musty heat. As a native New Englander, I believe I’m actually allowed to declare autumn my favorite season without being labeled ridiculously basic (and, for the record, I think pumpkin spice lattes are disgusting). While the flat Midwest topography simply can’t compare to the glorious, colorful hills in Connecticut, and the weather turned too soon for there to be any properly beautiful foliage, you bet I was going to jump on the first opportunity to fulfill my fall needs.
Arguably the highlight of Saturday was being able to comfortably wear the turtleneck sweaters I’d been sweating through since mid-September, when I refused to continue wearing summer gear. To be honest, I lost most of the day when I accidentally took a nap that lasted the span of an entire afternoon. However, I still had time to enjoy a cozy brunch at my favorite neighborhood haunt, Meli Cafe, paint my nails my a nearly-black dark shade of purple that is finally season-appropriate, go to the gym and make a wonderfully warming white chicken chili dinner before losing my boyfriend to the Cubs playoff game and indulging in some girly TV in his absence.
Sunday was a mandatory day trip to an orchard for apple picking. Despite spending 22 years in New England, I didn’t actually have any tangible memories of apple picking. So we decided to rent a zip car with a couple friend from school and double date our way out into the far reaches of the Western Chicago suburbs. After delving into the Google gods, I had determined Jonamac Orchard as the ideal location for our fall festivities. We’d be able to partake in apple picking and snap those desirable Instagram shots, but 15 minutes is really the longest you can actually swat lady bugs off rotten apples in your search for the perfect fruit before you have far too many for consumption and have grown rather bored. So after plucking the ten necessary fellows to fulfill the apple crumble recipe I’d already planned to use, we moved our way to the best this fall fantasy land had to offer: booze, barbecue and baked goods.
Feeling as though we really deserved a drink after all of our hard work, we were each elated by the $5 tasting offered, which, when combined with our respective partners, meant we were able to taste all ten items on sale: including a bevy of wines and a few ciders. A fair while later, and all of us much poorer from our subsequent apple-infused alcohol purchases (two apple wines, one apple Champagne equivalent and one cider for us), we dropped off our wares in the steamy car trunk and returned to fill our bellies with barbecue goodness in the form of pulled pork nachos. Even as a hater of cheese, I eagerly devoured them. After some lazing in the toasty sun, far too much talk of economics and listening to the live bluegrass band, we tacked ourselves onto the end of a New York-worthy long line for apple cider donuts. Which happened to be located right next to a stand of fresh fudge in over a dozen flavors. The gluttons in us won, and we were soon hunkered over a tight picnic table with amaretto and maple fudge, plus the donuts – a move we later regretted when leaving the orchard and passing by a vendor selling apple cider slushies.
Once back home, I immediately set to work on that healthy apple crumble, knowing that if I pushed it off to the week it would never happen. While the creation thankfully turned out delicious, after an hour and a half at the kitchen counter and countless curse words thrown out in that time span, I can safely say that I still despise baking. And that one should never, ever spiralize apples. Domestic goddess, I am not. Thankfully, the tasty treat and a freshly chilled bottle of apple wine were ready to consume right in time for the nightmare of a presidential debate.