Photo: Aaron Burden
There’s something so … instinctive about fall. The air turns, the leaves change, and the mind gravitates to the elemental, traditional and substantial. If summer is the time for all-out road-tripping glee, autumn is a time for journeys, if you will. This roster of harvest-time destinations finds the seasonal riches of small towns, back roads and even a city or two.
North of Iowa City, IA
Crisp hard cider and u-pick fruit fantasia on an age-old family spread.
Dinner: Drive 20 minutes north to Lincoln Wine Bar for wood-fired pizza from a custom oven, primo beer and wine.
MILK PAIL U-PICK FARM
Long Island, NY
For more than half a century, the Halsey family has tended apple and peach orchards. The store sells killer apple cider donuts–so you don’t have to make them.
Dinner: Estia’s Little Kitchen on the Sag Harbor Turnpike is a gem in the woods. Try the paella “monopot.”
DOUGLAS FARM U-PICK
Sauvie Island, Portland, OR
Peppers and tomatoes are the plucks of this fourth-generation farm. Sauvie, a bucolic river island just minutes from the city, is a farm-to-table vision.
Dinner: Rambunctious, fresh-as-a-daisy P’s & Q’s Market makes eating dinner in a grocery store seem not just a fun idea, but the obvious course.
This is a find (and a state of mind) more than a singular place: a brand making rare and wonderful ciders crafted from feral, long-abandoned orchards. Its website reads like a mystic punk ‘zine.
Dinner: El Molino Central, a big-hearted joint for enchiladas and tacos, on every shortlist for true masa.
Hartfield & Co.
Hartfield & Co. has some big-time bragging rights: the first distillery to actually produce bourbon in the drink’s namesake county in almost a century. Just 20 miles southwest, James E. Pepper in Lexington pays homage to a Kentucky character – James E. Pepper introduced friends named Roosevelt and Rockefeller to the Old-Fashioned. Continue westward to Frankfort’s Castle & Key Distillery, an architectural marvel originally founded in 1887.
Dinner: The Louisville Italian bar, Vetti, makes chicken parm seem glam.
SANTA FE FARMERS MARKET
Santa Fe, NM
The lore-laden New Mexico chile season begins in August [though we hear of a slow start this year] and rolls through fall. The Saturday market makes one of the richest and most nutritious wanders in the Southwest.
Dinner: At La Choza, get your enchiladas with green and red chile [a.k.a. “Christmas"].
WINE TOUR OF THE ROCKS DISTRICT
Outside Walla Walla, WA [but on the Oregon side of the state line]
One of America’s newest and most unusual designated wine-growing regions: a stretch of chunky, cobblestone-y soil packed with volcanic minerals, dotted with wineries and tasting rooms, with lonely roads that feel far out there even close to town.
Dinner: Passatempo Taverna hosts the coveted nightly pizza/Roman-style pasta party in downtown Walla Walla, one of the gosh-darned handsomest towns you’ll see.
NAPA VALLEY HARVEST SEASON
Grape-picking time sets off a valley-wide bustle: a bracing mixture of hardcore farm work, heady vintner’s sciences, feasting and revelry. Take some days [and nights] to roam.
Dinner: Yountville’s Ciccio is the revered local choice for pasta and a negroni.
NORTHEAST KINGDOM FOLIAGE AND FEASTING
On the shores of Lake Caspian, Highland Lodge is perched hillside in Greensboro, commanding staggering views wherever you look. Procure some of the state’s finest cheeses at nearby Jasper Hill Farm–or check the selection at mainstay country store Willey’s–and wash it down with much-lauded beers at Hill Farmstead Brewery.
Dinner: Craftsbury date-night gem Blackbird sets out sublime bistro-style fare and saucy cocktails.
Hudson Valley, NY
Bucolic brewery also crafts terroir-inspired vodka, gin, whiskey. [Hosts indie club-worthy shows too.
Dinner: Top Taste in Kingston [this Kingston, in New York] serves Jamaican delicacies inside jaunty lime-green shingles. Goat curry is the move.
HOOD RIVER FRUIT LOOP ROAD TRIP
Outside Portland and Hood River, OR
The rolling foothills of snow-capped Mount Hood nurture an orcharding culture dating to the 1850s. Among more than a dozen stops, u-pick apple favorite Kiyokawa writes new chapters of a stunning family story.
Dinner: Well, more like a pint, then dinner: pFriem, down by the Columbia’s banks in Hood River.
The dream cider tasting scenario in a big, beautiful lakeside barn. Many ciders; plan ahead.
Dinner: Head about an hour seaward to the river-oyster capital Damariscotta, where a half-dozen can be your first order at Bred in the Bone.
Since 1900, a local urban-farming touchstone, the place to stock the larder with fresh-from-the-field veggies and, in this season, piles of pumpkins.
Dinner: Behind the red door at Brasserie Porte Rouge: a lavish Frenchified spread.
DRIVING THE TUNNEL OF TREES
Narrow highway M-119 curves along a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan with fall colors ablaze overhead.
Dinner: At Farm Club in Traverse City, rural roads deliver folks to a chic, light-filled space, co-owned by farmers. Smart programs for beer, wine and bread. Wild yeast strain harvested on property.
WAITSFIELD FARMERS MARKET
The best farmer’s market in a state of farmer’s markets wraps up in October.
Cider stop: At Shacksbury Cider in Vergennes, sip slow-made, complex fermentations.Take home sought-after special-release bottles.