The Perfect 5 Hour Apple Picking Itinerary: For Adults

The time is ripe for apple picking, and there’s no better place to plan an East Coast orchard trip than New York State– the second largest apple producing state in the US! But with hundreds of apple orchards to choose from, each with its own personality, it’s hard to know where to start.

While a visit to one of New York’s orchards is great for all ages, if you are sans child you probably prefer to forego the frenzy of families and theme park style. Adults only trips typically calls for laid-back vibes, casual drinks, and plenty of food.

So whether you’re from upstate, downstate, or the Tri-State area, it’s time to grab your car keys and your apple-tite for adventure. Here is your perfect 5 hour apple picking itinerary– for adults!

Pennings Orchard

Approximately 1.5hrs north west of NYC is pick-your-own Pennings Farm and Orchard, not to be confused with Pennings Farm Cidery next door (run by the same family, better for those with kids or large groups). It’s $30 per bag (cash only) but will fill with enough apples to satisfy four persons, or several apple pies worth. The orchard trees here seem to go on endlessly with ample options to choose from. It’s quiet, picturesque, and even comes with a few friendly farm animals hanging around.

Plan to spend approximately an hour of time here.

BONUS: Love drive-in movies? The Warwick Drive-In is less than half a mile away!

Pennings Orchard
The Drowned Lands Brewery

All that apple picking at Pennings is bound to work up a thirst. Drive approximately 7miles north east to Drowned Lands Brewery, a pandemic born brewery that encourages visitors to slow down and stay awhile. The dog-and-family friendly location has food trucks on premise Friday through Sunday, which can be enjoyed inside the 15,000 square food modernized industrial-style building or outdoors on the patio/grass area with picnic tables, fire pits, and sweeping views.

Plan to spend 1.5-2 hours of time here.

BONUS: If you’re a fan of the unusual, be sure to drive around and explore the grounds of this former medium-security state prison site (prior to being a prison, the buildings date back to 1914 as a recovery facility and reform school).

Drowned Lands Brewery
The Helm

No day trip is complete without regional hospitality. Only a 15 minute drive south from Drowned Lands, and through the quaint town of Greenwood Lake, is The Helm. Craft beer, cocktails, and comfort food anchor this lakeside restaurant as a local favorite in Hudson Valley. #TakeTheHelm.

Plan to spent 2 hours of time here.

BONUS: Be sure to walk across the street to The Helm’s dock and take some photos with Greenwood Lake in the backdrop.

Screenshot of exterior courtesy of @The_Helm649 Instagram

If you have suggestions of places to explore in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or beyond be sure to tag me @NikkiOnTheDaily!

Visit Apples From New York or I Love NY websites to help round out your New York State visit this fall!

Bistro La Source and a History of French Cuisine

Dining out, or ordering in, has become second nature in modern day society. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2018 44% of all food spending was done away from home, with an annual average of $3,459, and Statista predicts online ordering will steadily increase at a rate of 4.3% through 2024. But do we actually appreciate the food that is served to us, or are we just picking items off a menu?

After reading William Sitwell’s,The Restaurant: A 2,000-Year History of Dining Out, I developed a hungering for French food. Aside from being in France over a decade ago, I don’t recall ever seeking out the cuisine, I merely stumbled into those sorts of restaurants by happenstance. But after several chapters describing France’s influence on modern day dining, I soon found myself Googling the top rated bistros in my area. Voila, Bistro La Source in Jersey City, 4.3 stars. Reservation for two confirmed.

Inspired by my recent page turner, I dined like a French woman. Then, once home, I dove into the history of what I tasted. In doing so, my experience became a journey of the palate. 

My first dish was the French onion soup au gratin. It was noticeably less salty than most I’ve had in the past and so delicious that I eventually picked up the bowl to drink the remaining broth. Apparently, I was drinking what most French households consider to be a hangover cure. Yes, French onion soup is the preferred meal after a night of excess drinking. But how did the soup originate? 

According to Culture Trip, there are two theories. The first, King Louis XV (who reigned 1715 – 1774) was hungry one afternoon but could only find onions, butter, and champagne in his kitchen. He then decided to mix them all together in a pot (I imagine today those ingredients would instead be placed in a drinking glass with onion as the garnish). The second theory is that the Duke of Lorraine was on his way to visit his daughter Queen Marie (King Louis XV’s wife) when he stopped into a hotel and tasted a soup by a chef named Nicolas Appert. The duke enjoyed Appert’s soup so much that he watched the chef prepare it, copied the recipe, and brought it to the King and Queen at the Palace of Versailles. No matter how you swallow it, both theories lead back to King Louis XV.

Front: French Onion soup / Left: Pate of duck liver + foie gras / Right: escargot / Back: Lobster bisque

Another popular dish (though, not so popular in NYC anymore) is foie gras, fattened duck or goose liver. Some may find it appalling to consume, both for taste and ethical reasons (a great detailed explanation from Series Eats in 2010). However, it’s interesting to know that, as the Wall Street Journal reports, foie gras has quite an in-depth history. Fattening geese dates back to the Egyptians in 2498-2345 BC. Centuries later, the Romans followed suit. Then, eventually, it became a part of Jewish culture. And when Jews migrated to Germany and France in 1100 so did their method of fattening geese. Like the Egyptians, Romans, and Jews before me, I spread the homemade pate of duck liver  and foie gras on my toast. It could have been a single meal in itself— if one ever chooses to fill up on pate alone— but instead made for a satisfying appetizer to share. 

If you’ve never had escargot before, but are curious to try it, the escargots de Bourgogne au pastis, shallot, garlic and parsley butter is a smooth, simple transition into the delectable world of snails at Bistro La Source. Grossed out at the idea? Don’t be. Humans have been savoring snails for nearly 30,000 years, according to Smithsonian Magazine

Beef short rib Bourguignon

Arriving at the main course, beef short rib Bourguignon is a classic French dish that was ideal for splitting between two. It swam in a palatable deep red wine sauce, alongside mushrooms, onions, carrots, and potatoes. It comes from Burgundy (Bourgogne in French), a region recognized for its wine and Charolais cattle, hence the mix of beef and wine. It turns out, Bourguignon was originally prepared for peasants back in the Middle Ages. At the time, the dish took two days to cook. It wasn’t until 1903 that chef Auguste Escoffier wrote down a recipe and brought it to the likes of city diners and thus creating the swifter recipe of today.

Concluding the meal was a Creme Brûlée. Interestingly enough, the modern day version of creme brûlée comes from NYC, although the first recipe with the name dates back to 1691 by chef Francois Massialot in Versailles. Saveur writes that Sirio Maccioni, owner of Le Cirque, came across creme catalana in Spain in the 1980s. He returned desiring a similar dish for his Le Cirque menu and that’s when pastry chef, Dieter Schorner, mixed the ingredients into the now recognizable fluted casserole and created a thinner sugar shell.

Sipping a Vieux Carre

In between mouthfuls I sipped on the spiked hot cider, strong enough to warm the insides on a cold night, followed by a drink I had never heard of before—a Vieux Carré. The Vieux Carré is another stateside creation from 1938 in New Orleans. Walter Bergeron was head bartender at the Carousel Bar when he mixed together rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, cognac, Bénédictine liqueur, bitters, topped it off with a Maraschino cherry, and thus invented the “French Quarter” drink.

My meal was enjoyed in a heated bubble in Jersey City, without the romanticized French backdrop, but for those two plus hours I traveled through a culinary history of the world. It might take a bit more time to understand the origins of various ethnic recipes, but I’m one restaurant closer to savoring like Sitwell.

Socially Distant Hiking Tips

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. The sun is shining and the temperature is in the upper 60s to mid 70s with a light breeze. After being cooped inside all week nature is calling. So, you lace up your hiking boots and prepare for a day trip to the great outdoors. But when you finally arrive you realize everyone else had the same idea. Lot after lot filled with cars, with dozens of additional vehicles lined up along the roadway. You were almost certain you could abide by social distancing rules at a state park then suddenly you feel defeated. What now? Do you turn around and head home? Before you arrive to find yourself in this circumstance, dreading a potentially wasted trip, here are five ways to navigate the situation before making that U-turn.


Arrive early. You know the saying ‘the early bird gets the worm’? Be the bird. Look up what time the park opens and aim to arrive within an hour of that time to avoid the crowds. It may seem like the simplest advice but many of us prefer our sleep over sensibility. In this case, by the time all those sleepyheads arrive around noon you’ll be finishing up your well-deserved, uninterrupted nature walk.

Take the drive. More often than not, the general public prefers the easiest option which generally means whatever is right in front of them. The first two, three, heck even six lots might be full, but the further you drive into the park the better your odds are for avoiding crowds.

Visit AllTrails, a go-to for trail enthusiasts with suggestions on which nature walk is best suited for you. It’s detailed guide tells you everything you need to know– distance, approximate time, route type, elevation gain, photos, and even public reviews. It’s an ideal source for planning ahead or even on the spot when your original plan falls through. Keep in mind, the less reviewed destinations are also the most likely to provide a spacious environment.

Google it. While AllTrails finds tailor-made trails for hikers based on park or trail name, Google maps is a great resource for those who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for. By simply mapping out a radius, Google will disclose the nearest parks. It’s sort of like getting lost in the right direction.

Bring a mask. Being surrounded by nature won’t always guarantee the social distancing you might need. Our new reality is that most parks even have signs stating a six feet mandate. If you’re truly stuck with either lace up or go home, at least be prepared the way you would anywhere else. Some nature is better than none at all.




Fernweh On Earth Day

I woke up today with an ache in my chest. It’s a pain I’ve felt before, one I’ve come to know all too well. The German’s call it ‘fernweh’, and while there’s no English translation equivalence for it, it can be loosely defined as distant sickness. Unlike wanderlust, another German word literally translated as a desire to wander, fernweh can cause actual discomfort out of the desire to travel to undiscovered places.

Considering my constant affliction with wanderlust, I’ve been fairly good at keeping my conceptual travel plans at bay during a global pandemic. The old me would comb through travel websites, marking up an ever growing Adventure List. But, amid COVID-19 I’ve only skimmed through a single book — realizing at that moment I could check off the cover photo as ‘places I’ve been.’ All things considered, I’ve done an excellent job at ridding travel temptation during this quaran-time. Albeit, I’m unsure if it’s self-preservation or actual self control.

Banff National Park, Lake Louise


But this morning fernweh washed over me like a tidal wave, my gut instinct drowning in moments of what could be. My mind drifted to the mountains and I saw the big Montana sky. I heard the neighing of a horse I longed to ride through the valley and felt the wind blow through my hair as the dirt kicked up behind. Fernweh grew, pinching my arms and legs. It eventually gripped my emotions, the way a good kiss lingers even after lips have left– happy at the memory, saddened by its disappearance. Was it possible to miss a place I had never been, to feel so completely lost for something I had yet to experience? The emotion is anything but foreign and yet I somehow forgot all about it.

In an attempt to ease my fernweh, I began scrolling through images of past adventures. I may not be physically capable of boarding a flight right now but in the meantime I could at least travel down memory lane. I recalled a drive I took through Jackson, Wyoming in summer of 2017. My friend gave me the keys to his truck and I drove for two hours in a single direction, to the point cell reception and GPS were out of reach. Locals yelled at me for driving irresponsibly down side streets (it was a very big truck, turns were impossible, and I had no idea how to work it). Eventually, I got to a dirt road and drove to the end. I parked the truck, got out with no one in sight, phone completely out of service, and started to follow the sounds of the river. I kept walking down a narrow path that was created by the few wanderers before me. It was beautiful, and very representative of my personality– always the pathway less traveled, giving my mother a metaphorical heart attack with each anecdote. 

Somewhere in two hours outside of Jackson


Suddenly, it dawned on me that today is Earth Day, established in 1970 as a way to spread environmental awareness. April 22, 2020 marks its 50th anniversary, a milestone date that is observed on a global scale with over 190 countries engaged and 1 billion individuals mobilized in action. Heightened by the novel coronavirus, this year’s message includes contrasting before-and-after images and statistics. NASA stating the Himalaya’s are being seen for the first time in decades in parts of India, sights of jellyfish swimming through Venice’s clean canals devoid of gondolas, and the World Economic Forum reporting a decrease in global pollution. The American Museum of Natural History posted a video . It points to a population increase from 3.7 billion to 7.8 billion in only 50 years, and the detrimental effects on planetary health, including its toll on wildlife. Now with countries enforcing quarantining humanity is beginning to see the Earth, and all of its inhabitants, a lot clearer.

It’s as though my soul knew this, literally awakening with an empathetic understanding that the world would never be the same; a world currently on pause that I may not recognize in a post-pandemic era. Could my fernweh be a universal ‘om’ of sorts? A calling for travelers bound to their homes who yearn for a plane ticket? Or is it all just coincidence?

While it never took staying home to elicit a desire to book a flight, or a road trip, it does produce a newfound outlook of the world around me. So, today I celebrate Earth Day in my papasan chair, admittedly searching the internet for places to add to that Adventure List– Montana, Iguazu Falls, Antarctica, the Azores, Lake Tahoe, etc.. Each destination a natural wonder that will afford a greater sense of appreciation, and growth, when social distancing is over.

Going Big At Big SNOW

There are a few things New Jersey is known for — its diners, “The Sopranos,” Bruce Springsteen, and MetLife Stadium, to start. But, now the Garden State has fresh new bragging rights with the first indoor real-snow ski and snowboard park in North America.

Big SNOW, which is operated by Snow Operating, the same team behind Mountain Creek Resort, is located inside the American Dream mall, East Rutherford’s latest attraction in the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The year-round winter wonderland impresses with specs before even stepping inside the controlled 28ºF interior: four skiable acres across 180,000 square feet, making 4.4 tons of snow per hour at an average snow depth of two feet, with a 16-story vertical drop at 1000 ft long and 200 ft wide.



Hitting the slopes may not be what comes to mind once getting off the often-times gridlock of I-95, but here slope grades vary up to 26 percent at the steepest point, marking a moderate run or a difficult Blue, with two moving carpet lifts and a fixed-grip quad chair-lift.

“Our involvement with Big SNOW stems from an idea we’ve long had about bringing the mountain to the people. The idea of making skiing and snowboarding accessible for the masses by providing the opportunity to get on snow right where people live is game changing,” said Hugh Reynolds, vice president of marketing and sales at Snow Operating.

This idea was 10 years in the making, and Big SNOW had its first chair-lift on December 5, welcoming Olympic medalists Kelly Clark, Lindsey Vonn, and Red Gerard.

As you walk through the doors of Big SNOW, you’ll pass the retail shop before arriving at the check-in counter. Here, sign up for any two-hour time slot and receive a wearable wristband ticket, which includes any rentals you may need — jackets, pants, boots, gloves, and equipment. Then, enter one of three gondola welcoming areas where you’ll meet Big, the friendly yeti mascot of the mountain, and watch a brief welcoming video.


Continue on and it’s just like a real ski area, with secure lockers that are activated using your wristband. Entering the park itself is a little trippy, like a massively oversized ice-skating rink you can throw snowballs in. In one direction, there’s terrain and in another, faux pine trees line the walls between windows that overlook the arena, the aesthetic of a real-life snow globe. The ski chalet décor, once finished, will host a complete dining area, in addition to the already completed hot chocolate and pretzel station.

Opening weekend alone saw visitation in the thousands, with half being novice or beginning skiers and snowboarders. Reynolds said,

“The current U.S. ski data tells us about 50 percent of first-timers choose not to take a lesson,” which is why Big SNOW offers “a self-guided lesson experience that incorporates specific stations, signage, and videos to assist guests who want to go at it on their own.”

Instructors are available for more hands-on assistance if needed — a complimentary service.

All of this is done through a Terrain Based Learning method with specific shaped snow features to aid in the learning process. Kacper Polus, one of the ski instructors on site with 10 years of coaching experience, guides beginners through TBL before assisting them down the steeper slope, skiing backwards as he holds on.

With only 500 people allowed inside at a time, projected visits are 500,000 per year. Big SNOW’s main allure is that it’s only a 20-minute drive from NYC, but it also benefits in feeling very much like any other mountain within a two-hour drive of the city. Without the effects of outside elements, making every day a snow day, the snow actually feels mildly fluffier than other snow-making systems, making it less icy and therein less frightening for beginners. Their snowmaking process replicates nature’s; water from units in the ceiling freezes into snow as it falls. The radiant cooling system below ensures powdery consistency and any melt is recirculated into the water supply to reduce the environmental impact.

Right now, hard-hitting skiers and snowboarders are heading to the real thing, but come the warmer months, Big SNOW will be the only place to get those runs in.

Big SNOW is open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM. Packages start at $49.99; private lessons and group rates are available. Big SNOW American Dream is located at 1 American Dream Way in East Rutherford, NJ.


This article first appeared in the December 17 issue of The Independent Newspaper.