Apple season arrived early this year, delighting Gala groupies, Pink Lady lovers and Golden Delicious devotees alike. Some aficionados argue the crunchy fruit is best eaten raw, but when cooked, the apple is an incredibly versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. These local chefs’ creations show off the range and versatility of the fruit.
Art and Soul is serving an apple-themed treat with a French accent (pictured above). The “charlotte” originated as a way to use up old bread, with slices arranged around a fruit filling and then baked. But the restaurant’s apple charlotte ($8), which features chopped and cooked Gala apples and is served on a pool of creme anglaise, tastes anything but humble. That’s thanks to chef Wes Morton’s use of cinnamon raisin bread rather than the traditional white, and the butter and sugar that are brushed on each slice before baking. “It gets really caramel-y and buttery, crispy and sweet,” Morton says. Indeed, the flavors pull together to create a surprisingly elegant end to a meal.
Art and Soul, 415 New Jersey Ave. NW; 202-393-7777.
Apple-Smoked Pork Belly
Lincoln Restaurant is going all-out with apples this fall, offering several dishes that celebrate the fruit. The most inventive might be the apple-smoked pork belly ($12), an appetizer whose meat is marinated in pureed apples and then smoked using applewood and apples in the fire. The dish is served with a bourbon vanilla apple sauce and an apple-jalapeno slaw that makes each bite sweet, smoky, salty and spicy, all at once. Lincoln is also serving an apple and endive salad, three desserts starring apples and a spiked apple punch.
Lincoln Restaurant, 1110 Vermont Ave. NW; 202-386-9200.
Bar Pilar gives a warm, comforting nod to apple season with chef Justin Bittner’s Pennsylvania Dutch apple dumpling ($7). The dessert tastes immediately soothing, and that’s no accident. The original recipe comes straight from Bittner’s mom, who makes it regularly using apples from the family’s Pennsylvania farm. He’s tweaked the recipe considerably, but the basic gist is the same: a peeled and cored apple (Honeycrisp, in this case) wholly clad in pastry that’s baked and served with warm maple caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Bar Pilar, 1833 14th St. NW; 202-265-1751.
Sausage and Apple Pie
Mayfair & Pine is offering a twist on the old-fashioned Cornish pasty. The American gastropub has added to its bar menu a homemade sausage and apple pie ($6) that works as a hearty snack or a light supper. Italian pork sausage, sharp cheddar and Braeburn and Ginger Gold apples are sealed in a flaky pastry. “Using apples in a savory dish is a go-to way of doing something completely different,” says chef Emily Sprissler. “Apples are a game-changer.” That’s true in this case; the apples add a note of sweetness to an otherwise tangy and robust dish.
Mayfair & Pine, 2218 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-333-2090.
Pick Your Own
There’s nothing quite like a freshly plucked apple from a pick-your-own farm. Here are a few to visit:
Homestead Farms offers a range of apple varieties, plus pumpkin picking and hayrides. (15604 Sugarland Road, Poolesville, Md.; 301-977-3761)
On the cusp of the Shenandoah Mountains, Stribling Orchard has a number of apple varieties. (11587 Poverty Hollow Lane, Markham, Va.; 540-364-3040)
Baugher’s Orchards, Farm Market & Pick Your Own offers 90 acres of apples. (1015 Baugher Road, Westminster, Md.; 410-857-0111)