Though the unseasonably-warm 90-degree days might indicate otherwise, Fall in New York’s Finger Lakes region has begun! We look forward to this season every year not just for the colorful foliage and traditionally moderate temperatures, but also for seasonal foods and time-honored harvest traditions that take their rightful place in the spotlight. Here are our top 5 favorite food-centric fall activities:
Finger Lakes Cider Week
Hard cider has a venerable history in the United States: from 1650 to 1880 it was our craft beverage of choice and was consumed nearly daily. Unfortunately, Prohibition laws targeted orchards growing cider apples and many were abandoned or destroyed. Decades later, cider is finally making a comeback as support for craft beverages and local orchards increases. Finger Lakes Cider Week is a celebration of the hard cider revival and features public events from cider pairing dinners to orchard tours to symposiums with our local cidermakers! Visit www.ciderweekflx.com for the full schedule of events.
When: September 29th to October 8th, 2017
Where: Over 50 locations from Ithaca to Rochester
Price: Some events are free to attend, others require advance purchase.
Apple Harvest Festivals
All of the best Ithaca festivals are born out of locals looking for a way to share something they love with others and this is certainly true for the ever-popular Annual Downtown Apple Harvest Festival! In 1982 a number of local apple-growers sought a venue where they could showcase the delicious (and impressive) variety of apples grown on the surrounding hills. Their collective efforts produced the first Apple Harvest Festival which has now grown into a three-day street festival which fills the Commons and surrounding streets with farmers, food vendors, craft vendors, community organizations, and performance groups. We like to plan to eat breakfast and lunch at the festival so we can eat our way through even more of the seasonally-thrilling options. Visit www.downtownithaca.com for the full schedule of events.
When: September 29th to October 1st, 2017
Where: Downtown Ithaca: The Commons and surrounding streets
Price: Free to attend
But wait… there’s more! The town of Brooktondale – just 15 minutes outside of Ithaca – also hosts an Annual Apple Festival so whether you missed Ithaca’s or you’re hungry for more you can be sure to get in the spirit of the season. Visit https://brooktondalecc.org/ for details.
When: October 21st, 2017; 10am – 3pm
Where: Brooktondale Community Center
Price: Free to attend
Apple-Picking and Cider Sipping
While we can all swing by the grocery store (or the Apple Harvest Festival) to get our apple fix, there is some particular magic of going straight to the source. Apple-picking is a family-friendly activity, so many of us have been wandering the orchards since we weren’t even tall enough to reach the branches. But even if this would be your first season, don’t let that deter you! It’s a great excuse to spend time in the crisp fall weather – and support a local orchard while you’re at it. Many u-pick orchards also sell fresh apple cider and hot apple cider donuts, and if you’ve never enjoyed those donuts fresh I urge you to head out to the orchards for that reason alone! We’ve an abundance of options nearby; here are just a few:
Indian Creek Farm: “Ithaca’s Orchard Playground” offering u-pick fruits and veggies and crop alerts so you know what’s available before you head out on their forty acres of fields.
Open daily 8am until ½ hour before dusk, July through November. https://indiancreekithaca.com/
Littletree Orchard: They supply apples to many local food vendors, so here you can go straight to the source!
Open for picking daily 10am – 4pm through October 9th; open for wagon rides, walking trails, and apple products weekends 10am – 4pm through October 31st. http://www.littletree-orchards.com/
Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill: No apple picking here – however you will get to witness an old-fashioned cider press make sweet apple cider and then sip the freshly pressed cider while browsing homemade pies, donuts, and more. Open 9am – 8pm through early November; cider pressing every Saturday and Sunday and sometimes on weekdays. https://www.hollenbeckscidermill.com/
The Ithaca Farmer’s Market is nationally-renowned and is therefore an attraction for tourists and locals year-round. However, fall is one of our favorite times to visit because the harvest is so abundant and the crowds are smaller! The Ithaca Farmer’s Market runs four days a week across three different locations in the fall and you’ll find both farmer’s stands to fill your grocery bag and prepared food to fill your stomach. Every visit to the market is inspiring – we often like to let the available produce dictate our meal. As much as eating locally is important, eating seasonally is also very valuable. Visit www.ithacamarket.com for market details.
When (and Where): Tuesday 9am – 2pm (DeWitt Park); Wednesday 4pm – 7pm (East Hill); Saturday 9am – 3pm (Steamboat Landing); Sunday 10am – 3pm (Steamboat Landing)
Learn A New Skill
For kids and college students fall means that summer vacation is over and school is back in session. For those of us who’ve left schooling behind, we might not think twice about the start of the school year. But just because we’re not toting around backpacks full of textbooks doesn’t mean we have to leave all learning behind. Coltivare is the 17,000 square foot Culinary Center of TC3’s Farm-to-Bistro program, and they use their immaculate facilities to offer classes to members of the public in addition to the students enrolled in the program. Half-day public classes include Wine and Food Pairing, Basic Knife Skills, and Basic Cake Making and Decorating, among others. Visit https://coltivareithaca.com/events/upcoming-events/ to peruse upcoming classes and www.tompkinscortland.edu/biz to enroll.
When: September through December, as scheduled
Where: Coltivare Culinary Center
Price: $79.00 – $155.00; varies by course.