The last time I saw Mara was back in June when the Traveling Pans took on Chicago neighborhoods. As if that weren’t long enough, the last time Mara and I had a proper multiple location, multiple city foodie date was way back in April 2009. Clearly, we were way overdue, and this weekend we set out to change that from A to Z: Apples to Yumz.
The biggest difference between 2009 and 2011? This year, we had our husbands in tow!
Bobby and I set off for the suburbs late Saturday morning. We met Mara and Adam at their house and then made our way to Woodstock Country Orchards for an apple picking bonanza.
The orchard was small and less commercialized, which was perfect for our double date. We passed a few others along the way that had hay rides, pumpkin patches and plenty of fun for kids. They were packed with families and seemed like great places to go in the future (and no, that does not mean I am suggesting something, haha). For now, the four of us were very happy with the quiet rows of apple trees…and Radio Flyer wagons!
We set out with our peck-sized bags and began walking among rows of this weekend’s ripest pickings: Jonathan, Melrose, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Empire.
It was an absolutely perfect fall day, and the trees were gorgeous. So lush and colorful!
Unfortunately, the orchard was fresh out of the beloved honeycrisp apples, but we still had a great time finding the best ones on the trees, and trying out each of the above varieties as we went.
Bobby was a big fan of the Melrose, which are supposed to be great for long-term storage.
Good thing, too, because a peck of apples is close to 11 pounds! We have a lot of eating and baking to do.
I have a feeling that apple pies, muffins and cupcakes (cough, Mara, cough) may be involved.
Once we had our fill of apple-y goodness, we made our way to Duke’s Alehouse & Kitchen.
This place was awesome! Their food is predominately local and sustainable, which would certainly make Mama Bender happy. 😉 Both the menu and website have information about the farmers who supply their produce, meat and more. Not to mention the fact that the items on the menu are creative and intriguing. Case in point: the soup of the day was butternut squash served with mini pancakes and maple syrup, while one of the sandwich specials, the “Barron Burger,” was bison topped with a grilled bison hot dog, American cheese and peanut butter on a pretzel bun. Can you imagine?
The four of us started out by splitting a large flatbread pizza. It was called the Chorizo and Goat Cheese, and was served with fire-roasted tomatillo salsa and grilled peppers.
Oh my, this was incredible! The chorizo had a slightly spicy kick to it, and the goat cheese was all around fantastic, both creamy and full of flavor. The pizza was made with a whole wheat crust, and we quickly devoured all the pieces!
For my entrée, I chose the Slagel Farms BBQ Pork Shoulder Sandwich, which was topped with their house-smoked cheddar cheese and served on a toasted pretzel roll with sweet potato fries.
I had half of the sandwich and saved the other half to enjoy again later. The BBQ flavor was the perfect balance of smoky and sweet. The fries, on the other hand, were impossible not to demolish all at once. So salty, so delicious, so craving them again as I write this post. 😉
Once our bellies were satisfied with the savory, it was time to embrace the sweet. Mara directed us to Yumz, a self-serve gourmet frozen yogurt shop.
There were a plethora of flavor options – peanut butter, red velvet, cookies and cream, peppermint. You name it! We sampled a few of the options while perusing the instructions on the wall.
Ultimately, Mara and I both decided to go with the strawberry and cake batter twist. Yes, the combination was as fantastic as it sounds! I topped mine with real strawberries, brownie and cheesecake bites. Did I mention we were in the mood for something sweet?
Bobby and I shared and both agreed that it was one of the best fro yo places we’ve visited to date. He liked it because it had less of the tart yogurt feel of a Red Mango or Yogen Früz, though I argue that’s the best part about each of those locations. 😉 Either way, we both thought this was another hit and wonderful recommendation from Mara, the best foodie date tour guide I know. Also, I may or may not have wanted to
steal find out where their decor was from.
Aren’t those chairs awesome?! Their lighting was super eclectic, too. (Photo courtesy of Mara.)
We had such a great time on our double date! It was by far the best way to spend a fall afternoon!
Unfortunately, my Wildcats did not have quite as successful of a Saturday with their heartbreaking last-minute loss to Illinois. Hopefully the Packers can end the football weekend on a high note.
What has been the highlight of your weekend?