Eating My Way Through Town – The Quest For Apple Cider Donuts and Other Autumn Treats
By: Chris Darkes - October 28, 2015
Category : Places
A few weeks ago, I returned home to celebrate a wedding in Decorah, Iowa. One of the best parts of growing up in the midwest is you get to experience both the urban and the rural. The traffic and the tractors. You don’t really have to drive too far to do it, either.
It had been the first time I spent more than an hour in Iowa, and honestly I was really happy I did. The scenery, especially in the fall, is breathtaking. It has a Wisconsin-esque serenity to it, but with more sweeping views in my opinion. The wedding itself was held outside; a palette of fall colors marking the backdrop. The reception was held in a renovated barn complete with eloquent lighting, hardwood floors, and an area to shoot the breeze with family and friends. Decorative oak barrels were scattered throughout, serving as placeholders for drinks.
After heading back to my girlfriend’s parents house, we decided it’d be in our best interest to visit one of the best kept secrets in Illinois. Union Dairy in Freeport, Illinois. Since they close for a few months right after Halloween, we hit it at the perfect time. Because the temperature was still in the low 70’s, it felt like a nice summer night.
Imagine with me for a second you took Doc Brown’s DeLorean back to the 1950’s, where men and women in soda jerk outfits are greeting you, as they’re preparing your order right in front of you. You’re sitting on candy apple red stools while classic hits from the era are playing in the background. That’s more or less the feeling you get when you walk through the doors to this ice cream parlor.
The place looks fairly unassuming from the outside, but once you’re inside its a whole different ball game.
Inside — you sit around an island-style table. The soda jerk takes your order, where it’s promptly made-to-order counterside.
If you’re even remotely near the area, I urge you to go. Bonus points for the history buffs, as there’s a statue honoring a Lincoln-Douglas debate that took place in town right outside of the ice cream parlor.
Because the trip was so short, we knew we could only squeeze one more thing in. A few months ago, my girlfriend and I had been discussing apple cider doughnuts. She had been hyping them up for a while, and I wanted to try one, so we decided on getting our hands on one (or 6). The hunt was on. It was a non-negotiable.
We ended up going to the Edward’s Apple Orchard in Winnebego, Illinois. I’ve wanted to go to an apple orchard for years, but hadn’t since I was about 7. I really had no desire up until a few years ago. It’s funny, the things you take for granted as a kid, you slowly begin to miss once they’re not at your fingertips.
The place is a little slice of Americana. You have a petting zoo, freshly spun caramel apples, and tractors. While we were interested in exploring the grounds, our focus was on the mission. Find those apple cider doughnuts. But first, we stopped at the petting zoo.
After that we check out the apple orchards, but didn’t pick any. Next, we made our way into the barn. They had a huge selection of jams, jellies, and salsa. I would love to come back for the salsa.
It was hard to think about anything else though, as the entire building had the smell of apple cider doughnuts permeating throughout. As we made our way to where they were baking fresh batches of doughnuts, we saw something that looked equally appetizing. The taffy apples.
There had been a decent line of salivating people, waiting for their doughnuts. The anticipation was evident, and I really can’t stress enough how excited I was to try them myself.
After purchasing a bag of doughnuts and 2 apple cider slushies (I’ve never had to pluralize that, but I plan to) we decided they would be perfect to enjoy outside.
Like I mentioned earlier, the weather was almost impossibly nice for this time of year. Low 70’s in late October? Thanks global warming for working with my schedule!
As we finished our snacks, we hopped on the tractor to snap a few photos. Those I will not be posting for the sake of time (and embarrassment). As we made our way off the grounds, I realized the street name was a reminder thatShoe Factory Road is never too far away. Until next time…