This past weekend was the one I eagerly anticipate all year long... our annual trip to the apple orchard.
This year was actually somewhat disappointing. There were easily 5 x's as many people as when we went last year. I'm not sure if it's because we went a week earlier than usual, the fact that everyone is doing "stay-cations" now, or that a bunch of people wised up and realized that they can get about 30 lbs of apples for the same price they would pay for less than half that many at a grocery store. And that all those apples make lovely applesauce, apple butter, apple bread and apple pies of their own. Whatever the reason, it was frustrating to wade through that crowd and try to enjoy ourselves. But, we managed anyway.
They make the best homemade donuts at the orchard... great with a warm cup of cider. But, after waiting in a line 20 people deep for almost half an hour without moving an inch, I gave up. The kids didn't mind the wait, though. They were busy rolling around in the hay.
We managed to find some lovely pumpkins. They always have such gorgeous heirloom varieties. I just wish the large crowds hadn't forced us to park nearly 3/4 of a mile from the orchard, so that I could have brought more of these beauties home. As it was, I could barely carry everything back to the truck. But, lugging these chubby gourds back was well worth it.
For me, one of the best parts of the trip is always on the way home... our stop at Flat Rock Village Bakery just a couple of miles down the winding lane from the orchards. Oh, it is delicious! They have their own brick wood-fired oven, where they fire handmade pizzas from the freshest ingedients. We enjoyed sharing a margherita pizza with fresh tomatoes and basil. They also offer a variety of sandwiches, organic juices and fresh-baked loaves of artisan bread for you to take home. I've never bought any of the bread, but this year I couldn't resist the 3 cheese with basil loaf.
To be quite honest, I wasn't entirely sure that I hadn't wasted $6 on this loaf of bread. I thought it impossible for myself to devour the whole loaf, and my little ones aren't big starch eaters. I toasted a couple of slices for dinner that night... pretty yummy. Then yesterday, I had a delicious revelation... I could make sandwiches out of it. But, this bread... it is deserving of something more than just processed lunch meat. Once or twice a month, I make one of these chickens for dinner. WIth Bryan gone, it is entirely too much food for the kids and myself to eat in one sitting. So, I shred the left-over chicken and snack on it for a few days afterward. It just so happens that I made one a couple of days ago, and had some left over. With some fresh spinach leaves, a little spicy brown mustard, some mayo and a slice of pepper jack cheese... heaven between 2 toasted slices of 3 cheese basil bread.
Have you ever eaten something that was so delicious, it nearly brought tears to your eyes? You probably think that sounds silly. But, trust me... there are a few meals out there in this earth that can evoke such feelings. The first time I ever experienced it was earlier this year when my great-uncle took me to lunch at Magnolia's in Charleston, SC. There, I had a bacon, lettuce, lump crab meat and fried green tomato sandwich with homemade sweet potato fries. I had never put something so amazing in my mouth... but, that's a stoary for another time. I had certainly never made something so awe-inspiring in my own kitchen... until this sandwich.
It's a good thing that bakery is over 4 hours from my house. Otherwise, it might well be responsible for adding about 100 extra punds to my figure. But, trust me... if you ever find yourself in the Asheville area, a side-trip to Flat Rock is worth the extra time in the car. Then, you can have one of these delicious artisan loaves of your very own.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have about 5 dozen apples calling my name... waiting to be turned into something warm, sticky, sweet and homemade.