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A smart guide to apple picking (and eating)

Apple picking in Warwick, New York,

Fall is here, and tree branches in orchards across the state are already sagging from the weight of crisp, fresh Cortlands, McIntoshes, and Galas. That means hordes of New Yorkers are readying their Zip Cars for trips north for apple-picking. Westchester, the obvious choice, is often over-run, over-picked, and prices are super high (nearly $30 a half bushel!), thus quickly destroying the fantasy. So we’d like to steer you to a better bucolic setting for your bounty—Warwick, New York—an apple-picking mecca with country charm just across the Hudson River, and less than 50 miles from the George Washington Bridge.

Applewood Orchards and Winery is secluded and oozing with country charm (instead of Manhattanities)

My favorite orchard, hands down, is Applewood Orchards and Winery (82 Four Corners Road, Warwick, New York, 10990; 845-986-1684; It’s nicely secluded and a bit hard to get to (the website provides directions). But while the rest of the clueless Manhattanites sit in traffic waiting to get into Maskers, Ochs, and Pennings, you’ll be filling up your bag with delicious McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Empire, Honey Crisp apples (for just $22 a half bushel), or sipping the homemade wine (which is arguably not that great, but I think the charm makes up for it) and sitting in a garden listening to local musicians.

The Bellvale Creamery: Fresh, delicious, though not healthy treats and a spectacular valley view

Once your arms are sore from toting apples, head to The Iron Forge Inn (38 Iron Forge Road, Warwick, New York, 10990; 845-986-3411) a family-owned restaurant that serves seasonal fare using local ingredients. Consider pulling over at the Bellvale Farms Creamery (385 Route 17A, Warwick, New York, 10990: 845-988-1818). There’s nothing healthy about it, but the ice cream churned in-house using milk from cows only a mile away is something to be experienced at least once. And, from its location at the top of Mount Peter, you can look out over the entire Warwick Valley, which will be a canvas of colorful foliage within the next couple of weeks.

What to do with the 10 pounds of apples you bring home? Try these two easy, creative and healthy-ish recipes from stars in the food blogosphere:

Couscous with apples and almonds makes the perfect fall dish. Photo credit: food52

Sweet Apple Couscous, from food52

Apple Pie in a Glass, from How Sweet It Is

Final tip: If you’re immediately inspired to head upstate, wait! This Sunday is the annual Applefest, and while it sounds enticing, overpriced pies and mediocre entertainment are not worth the miles of stopped cars and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds you’ll have to navigate to experience it. Please do yourself a favor and go Saturday or next weekend. —Lisa Elaine Held