When our friend Sally Ruggles, proprietor of Books on the Common in Ridgefield, Connecticut, revealed to us that as a teenager she had been Apple Queen of Michigan, we were impressed. But we had no idea what a high level of royalty we knew until we spent some time in Michigan’s northwest farmland, where orchards line the country roads.
The best place we know to appreciate Northern Michigan’s superb apple crop is the apple room at Friske Orchards. When you open the door of this room within the farm stand – a room filled with baskets and bags full of a dozen different varieties of apple – you may get dizzy from the smell. There is an apple intensity in the air that, while unfermented, is positively intoxicating. You can buy them by the bushel or single apples for eating out of hand. Or if, like us, your tastes run towards more creative things to do with fruit, you can step over to the bakery area and get yourself a piece of caramel apple pie a la mode to eat at one of Friske’s tables. Or a warm apple dumpling. Or a piece of apple cake.
All these items are available to eat by the piece here or to take home. Those who hanker for a meal before their dessert can sit down at a table in Friske’s Orchard Café, where the menu includes cold-cut sandwiches and such local specialties as an apple brat with kraut and apple relish, a cherry brat served with cherry-flavored barbecue sauce, and chicken salad made with dried cherries. Salads are made with fresh fruit; and the beverage list includes a twelve-ounce glass of apple cider.