Each autumn, the tree branches at Ricker Hill Orchards begin to bow under the weight of a new generation of McIntosh apples, as they have for more than 200 years. Since 1803, the same family has cultivated the orchards, which today nurture several varieties of apples, pears, and peaches. Along with produce aisles along the East Coast, the fruit fills the baskets at Wallingford’s Fruit House, where shoppers just may save them from another fate: the bakery. There, raspberries, peaches, and blueberries tuck into pies or turnovers and hand-rolled crusts envelop apples to become fresh dumplings. The store also bakes fruitless sweets such as donuts and cookies and bottles fresh cider for pouring over a coach’s head after he wards off all the crows from the field.
In the fall, visitors can explore the orchards and pick apples themselves, hunting down such varieties as Cortland and Red Delicious. Wallingford's Fruit House’s backyard lets youngsters lose themselves in a variety of ways, from the corn maze to the petting-zoo animals’ thought-provoking lectures about delicious grass.
Maurice André had always been one for a show. He insisted on wearing stark white gloves to carve Chateaubriand for his regular patrons during the decadent New Year’s Eve feasts he held at his namesake restaurant. The Paris native had always loved hosting parties, and in 1975 he bought a 200-year-old clapboard house with ample space to stock his wine cellar and serve the traditional French fare he had grown up chewing.
Today, the rustic space still resonates with Maurice’s jovial spirit and passion for fine dining–artwork covers the walls and linens cover tables and the occasional face during post-meal rounds of peek-a-boo. Though Corey Sumner–the current chef–exercises his culinary creativity with dishes such as the Cajun-spiced Scallops New Orleans, he pays homage to Maurice’s vision with plates of authentically prepared duck and fish.
Ruby Slippers Cafe and Bakery's cooks prepare homestyle American cuisine with a focus on Maine ingredients. They serve hearty breakfasts until 3:00 p.m., pairing tender cuts of steak with local eggs and topping buttermilk pancakes with local maple syrup and fruit. Pork shoulder slow-roasts for 24 hours before the meat is shredded and sandwiched between brioche buns, and fresh haddock or deep-sea scallops bake to flaky perfection. Patrons can also nibble housemade chocolate truffles and sip local wines and beers.
Lost Valley Ski Area founder Otto Wallingford was known for creating innovative solutions to everyday problems. Winter came around each year and left him with nothing to do on the family orchard, so he turned the surrounding area into a ski center in 1961. With that problem solved, Wallingford moved on to tackle a few other issues. He put together the state's first snowmaking system, introduced the locals to night skiing, and developed a powder maker by towing a cylindrical steel grate behind his tractor.
Skiers and snowboarders can reap the benefits of Wallingford’s efforts at Lost Valley Ski Area, which encompasses 15 trails and a terrain park. The ski area also hosts lessons and a shop offering gear tuneups and yeti decoys.
Belly dancers in traditional Arabic dress dance gracefully through the middle of the dining room to the sounds of violins, drums, and strummed ouds. Amid exposed-brick walls and the soft light cascading in from high ceilings, Naral’s transports diners to another world of rich spices, elegance, and warmth. The menu serves as a tour guide, inviting culinary explorers to indulge in roasted quail or lamb and grilled fish in tomato sauce accompanied by fragrant basmati rice. A selection of beer, wine, and signature cocktails can be paired with the fine fare, dancing, live music, and Saturday-evening karaoke.
Over the tops of the apple trees, clouds gather in the distance above the hazy, rolling mountains. Thirteen types of apples thrive here, and have for nearly a century. Row upon row of golden delicious, macintosh, and honeycrisp apples blossom and grow throughout the summer, before droves of folks come to pluck the ripe fruit from the heavy branches. In the summertime, strawberries and peaches multiply beneath the sun, and in the fall, the staff bottle pressed, unpasteurized cider to toast hands faced with the mission of finding the perfect pumpkin that will hopefully transform into a carriage this time.