Harvest and Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.

the biggest apple

4 Comments

I’ll begin at the very end.

“Where you headed, ma’am?” He asks as he effortlessly weaves the cab up and down the busy streets of Brooklyn. “Indianapolis,” I reply, staring out the window. They call it “the concrete jungle,” and on this particularly gray, windy Wednesday morning in late September, it was living up to its name quite well. I watch the city fade into the background as we work our way toward Jersey.  A perfect view – a favorite view. Although I much preferred the view just two days prior, as I made my way into the city, not out of it  …  the one where the city gets closer with every passing second and you can feel its energy without even trying. I love that about New York. It is one powerful, beautiful, crazy, overwhelming, treasure of a city and it’s always captivated me, ever since my parents first took me to visit when I was 18 years old.

We’re on the bridge now and it’s like watching an old movie reel scrolling by in split-second glimpses, perfectly framed by the bridge’s rails and beams. The ubiquitous sounds of the horns and traffic and roaring world outside the cab’s windows contribute the soundtrack to our ride.

The latest edition of Saveur magazine is peeking out of my carry-on bag and I feel a mixture of both happiness and sadness; happy that I was able to be a part of such a wonderfully memorable two days at the Saveur Blog Awards and sadness that it all came and went too quickly, as all good things tend to do. Now that it’s over, I can see it more clearly – really appreciate the time I spent in the city – the who, what, when, where, and whys of it all …

 

Who. Saveur Magazine, as I’ve waxed pathetically about in previous posts, is an all-time favorite food read for me and has provided me with the ultimate fodder for fueling a lifelong love of all things culinary. What can I say? I’m a true fan. Oh, and it’s pronounced Sah-v-oor if you’re wondering (I was).

What. The annual blog awards. I have to remind myself that this isn’t necessarily a huge to deal to everyone on the planet, but when you’re totally wrapped up in what it is that you do, and you throw so much of yourself at it for so long, it’s a big deal to you. To me. Yes, it was a big deal to me.

When. I think these awards came at a particularly poignant time for me. As a full-time mom with a husband who has an incredibly demanding, time-consuming career, parenthood is so very much at the forefront of my life right now – my every waking moment is calibrated toward it in one way or another. So, a getaway that was truly about me and something that I love was just amazing – surreal almost. I’ve learned that by maintaining this world of food and stories and photos, I am able to be a better mother to my kids because I’ve tended to myself in an important way; a way that I’m not sure I even knew I needed before I set out on this blogging journey of mine, to use a cliched expression. It definitely feels like a journey though, I can tell you that much. Getting to hang out with a bunch of other people who do what I do and like what I like felt really good. The timing was so, so right.

Where. My favorite place. The city that never gets old, never disappoints, never fails to excite and inspire. The city that never sleeps. I still love you, New York.

Why. I was there because I’d worked hard at something that I really loved and some people happened to have liked it. And that felt pretty good.

How. The funny thing was, by the time the awards rolled around on the last night, it seemed like most people had almost forgotten that they were even a thing – that they were even going to take place at all. I found myself standing in awe on the rooftop deck of the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on the night of the awards, staring out at what has to be one of the most incredible views anywhere in New York. I will never forget that. It’s the kind of view that makes you feel simultaneously on top of the world and painfully, insignificantly small all at the same time. They passed tray after tray of delicious small bites and I mingled with the wonderful new friends I’d made over the course of the past two days and tried my best to soak it up and appreciate it, every little bit of it.

 

I’m almost positive my cabbie just caught me smiling. Our eyes meet in the rear-view and he’s caught me red-handed, basking in my reverie. He smiles. I smile. He turns on the radio. We both laugh. It is, and I kid you not, Alicia Keys belting out, ”  … this place will inspire you … make you feel brand new …  there’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York … New York … New York.”

{Tuesday late afternoon} 

Hello, East Harlem. It’s been a while. We’ve booked it all the way uptown and I can’t help but laugh as I pass by the street to my old grad school apartment. 119th Street. If I turn left right now I’d walk right by it … that seems like such a long time ago. It’s so strange to be standing next to such a familiar place but to be, somehow, in an entirely different world.

My fellow bloggers and I make our way to P.S./M.S. 7, the Manhattan Demonstration School for the Edible Schoolyard nonprofit program. I sit in the school’s courtyard, listening to teachers and passionate workers explain what they do to help the city’s youth make connections between environment, health and food. It’s impossible not to be inspired. I watch as the children file past us on their way to the basketball courts for after-school activities. The courts are all lined with chain-link fences and high-rise buildings, the buildings of East Harlem. It’s like a scene from a movie, this place, Mostly because it looks so vastly different from my own school setting growing up in Kentucky. I can’t help but want to learn more …

{Tuesday midday}

I am not going to pinch myself now, because I’m in public and that’s weird. But I want to. I am sitting in the test kitchen for Saveur Magazine, enjoying a great meal and getting the chance to get to know some fellow bloggers whose work I’ve enjoyed for years. Aleksandra, of Three Little Halves, is sitting to my right and I’m so happy that I get to call her my friend now. Next to her is Julian, of Historias del Ciervo. If you even have the slightest interest in cake, you should follow his blog. He creates some of the most magical confections I’ve ever seen and I’ve already promised him that I plan to travel to Medellin, Columbia someday so he can teach me his tricks. My sweet new friend Regan of Up Close and Tasty sits across from me and we share a moment that has now become expected at this blog event, the moment when you realize that you know the person not by their appearance but rather, by their work. We both smile and I already look forward to getting to know her more. And this just brushes the surface. I could go on and on about the other people here in this room …

I polish off the last of my short ribs and linger over the remaining sip of Cab Franc from our wine tasting and I realize something. It is, without question, the people here who are going to make the event. Not the awards or the activities or the glitz and glam of it all – it’s the people that are going to make this experience unforgettable.

{Tuesday morning}

I am now standing face to face with a pig. A hog, more specifically – the whole hog, in fact. This is a first for me and I think to myself, Is this okay? Am I going to like this? I see a breading station and a pan sauce being expertly prepared to my left and I watch with amazement as the head butcher from Fleischer’s Meats shows us what’s what on this animal. It was education. It was enlightening. It was respect. It was important. Yes, I think to myself. This is okay. It’s not yet 10:30 in the morning and I’ve already watched a master butcher break down an entire hog and demonstrate how to best prepare each part. I, along with several other new blogger friends of mine, genuinely delight in sampling this incredibly thoughtful, considerately sourced meal of pork … pork five ways, in fact. I’ve truly never had a food experience like it. 

{Monday}

“Oh wow! That’s a big city over there!” The women sitting in the plane next to me gawk in wonder as they stare at New York out the windows, not even realizing that they are in The Big Apple. We’ve flown into Newark, NJ and, not ever having been to either place, they understandably don’t realize exactly where they are on this layover stop of theirs. I can’t help but smile at this. “It’s New York!” I say, pointing out the window. “You can see the Statue of Liberty just over there …”

“Where you headed? Do you have the address, ma’am?” I nod to my cab driver, Sam. “The William Vale Hotel. It’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn,” I say, typing it into his GPS. I can see the city coming into view outside the car’s windows now, and I realize that I much prefer the ground-level view of the city to the one from the air. I like the slowly building anticipation of it. It’s been years since I was last in New York, I think, and I’m so, so glad to be back. And for the most amazing reason this time, no less.

I exit the cab and pay the kind driver, who has told me everything I could ever hope to know about the best Lebanese food in the area, and I stare straight up into the sky, using my hand to shield my eyes from the sun overhead. My hotel stands tall and proud above everything else in the neighborhood and I can feel my excitement over the next two days begin to grow as I near the entrance.

“Checking in, ma’am?” Yes. Yes I most certainly am.

The view from my hotel balcony takes my breath away. A view so unreal that it may only be bested by the one from the very top of the hotel that I will get the following night, although I don’t realize this just yet. I’m just enjoying what I see now. It is quite literally, everything. It is sky, it is water, it is bridges, it is tunnels, it is cars and people and yelling and bars and green spaces and … New York. I could see all of it in that moment and if I didn’t do another thing on this trip I honestly think I’d still call it a success.

And to think this was just the beginning.

 

 

 

RECIPE

To get the how-to for the mini Apple-Lemon Rosettes that I’ve got pictured above, you can find my recipe over at Eyeswoon as well as an interview I recently did for them. These tarts look much more involved than they really are, I can promise you that. They honestly couldn’t be easier – literally easier than pie. I used some incredibly beautiful Mountain Rose apples from Oregon and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so smitten with a single ingredient. They are truly special and if you’d like to get your hands on some next Fall, be sure to visit Mikuni Wild Harvest in October (or sign up for the newsletter) and snag yourself a bunch. And as for the larger Puff Pastry Apple Rose Tarts, they’re easy as well so I say if you can’t decide which version to make, just go with both! The flavors are very simple and sweet and make the best companions for a drizzle of salted caramel, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

Puff Pastry Apple Rose Tarts

*adapted from Epicurious

 

Makes 4 small tarts.

 

DIRECTIONS

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed per package instructions

2 green apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

10 teaspoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Salted caramel sauce, for topping

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

 

INSTRUCTIONS

 

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place one oven rack in the top third of the oven and and one rack in the bottom third of the oven.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry sheet to a thin 18 x 14-inch rectangle. Using a small plate as your guide and a sharp knife, cut out four 7-inch circles. Transfer 2 rounds to each sheet of parchment, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to a day.

Overlap the slices from half an apple on each pastry circle, leaving 1/4-inch plain border on each. Sprinkle each apple with 2-1/4 teaspoons of sugar, and then drizzle each with 2-1/4 teaspoons butter. Bake your tarts until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are tender, about 25 minutes.

After the tarts have cooled slightly, dust each one with confectioner’s sugar and then drizzle them with salted caramel sauce, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream.

 

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Author: Harvest & Honey

Lauren McDuffie is a freelance food and travel writer, photographer, stylist, cookbook author, and award-winning food blogger. She lives in Indianapolis, IN with her husband, Lucas, and two children.

4 thoughts on “the biggest apple

  1. I know I have said this before, but I will say it again! You are amazing! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Thank you, thank you for sharing your amazing experience. It felt like I was in the cab with you and dodging juice from the hog on the front row. Beautifully done, as usual.
    I’m going to make the Apple Rose Tarts for some special occasion. I’m not sure when, but I will make them.

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