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Monthly Archives: October 2011

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by Mary White

Romantic Dinner for TwoA nice stay on the beach, candlelit dinners in the mountains, or breakfast cooked by someone else… Sound like an adventure or the second honeymoon you’ve always wanted? Romantic getaways are always a goal for couples, but the planning is often what keeps them from taking this much needed trip. Whether they don’t know where to begin, can’t pull themselves away from a busy schedule, or simply aren’t able to find a destination they agree upon, couples often hesitate when attempting to plan their getaway.  But by answering just a few questions, you and your significant other can be on your way to an easily planned and organized vacation that you’ll both enjoy.

The first hiccup in planning to overcome is to decide upon a destination.  Do you have activities in mind?  Will food play a role in your trip’s location?  Sit down with your beloved and agree upon a travel spot you both can enjoy. A compromise may be necessary here such as choosing a halfway point or shared spot of interest.  (And, if you truly can’t agree, take turns – whoever folds gets to pick the next trip!)

The most important part of planning a long weekend is choosing where to stay.  Because this is a romantic getaway and not just your run-of-the-mill family vacation, consideration to your romantic accommodations should be made. Just because you’ve chosen a charming town doesn’t mean your place of rest will be charming, private and comfortable. Research is an essential part to planning a successful and relaxing trip and, luckily, this special place might only be a few clicks away. There are many directories online for vacation home rentals and bed and breakfasts, which include romantic rooms, suites, cottages, and even private homes. Reviews are also posted that offer first-hand accounts of others’ stays in your chosen lodging.

Finally, you’ll want to plan activities for you and your sweetie. Perhaps you’re outdoors types who enjoy hiking and having an afternoon picnic. Or maybe your planned getaway is simply to, well, get away. Pack along some of your favorite movies and a bottle of champagne to help celebrate a relaxing weekend. Whatever your style, make sure the weekend is one that you and your loved one will be able to enjoy together.

The next time you think about taking a romantic vacation, don’t let the hassles or stress of planning get in the way of what should be an intimate holiday. Rather, do some simple research and then enjoy each other’s company.

Mary White is the Founder of BnBFinder.com, a leading bed & breakfast listing site and author of Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies.  Find more bed & breakfast stories at http://www.bnbfinder.com/blog/ or follow BnBFinder on Twitter @BnBFinder.

To many, Spain is the land of bull fights and flamenco. While these are definitely two major staples of Spanish culture, the country has so much more to offer. There’s the reveling nightlife in Madrid, majestic mountain hiking in Asturias, and the beautiful Mediterranean beaches of Barcelona and Valencia. Each region has a distinct and alluring culture to explore. Here are some great deals to help you do that!

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Granada Province

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Costa Del Sol

Located in Granada’s countryside, Villa Trastamara is surrounded by luscious olive groves. The local mountains are ideal for hiking and exploring while the private pool and barbecue are perfect for a relaxing outdoor meal.This Costa Del Sol Condo boasts stunning views of the Mediterranean and access to beautiful local beaches. The nearby chiringuito beach bars served delicious fresh seafood.  Day trips to Gibraltar and Malaga are a must.

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Mallorca

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Catalonia

This 200 year old traditional Mallorcan house offers wonderful mountain views from the stone paved terrace.  Located in the Deia village there many incredible restaurants and tapas bars to survey after a day at the beach.Masia Cal Pau Cruset is planted within a Catalonian vineyard and garden filled with almond and olive trees. A swimming pool and wellness center help you relax, and a chilled bottle of cava will be waiting upon your arrival!

by Traci Suppa

I’m one of those parents who thought Clark Griswold had the right idea for a family vacation. Drive cross-country with every expectation of adventure, and the willingness to drive four hours off course to see the world’s second largest ball of twine.

Sure, I want my daughter to experience her princess character breakfast at Walt Disney World. I hope to bring my son to the towns of Italy where his great-grandparents lived. But I also want them with me when I finally get the see that ball of twine. For the record, the world’s largest ball of twine is in Cawker, KS. There’s also one in Darwin, MN with the equally-impressive title of world’s largest twine ball rolled by one man.

Our Christmas Cards Last Year Looked Like This

“World’s largest” attractions are always on our “to-see” list, and my kids have become accustomed to standing in front of oversized bowling pins/garden gnomes/globes/boots while smiling for the camera. I highly recommend seeking out a quirky roadside attraction during your next trip. The resulting photos – so fun, so clever – may just appear on the cover of your next Christmas card. You can utilize RoadsideAmerica.com to find sites across the U.S.

This museum was an unexpected treat

The thrill of reaching these sites can be short-lived, so we try to find attractions with a little more to offer. The world’s largest bowling pin, for example, sits in front of Splitsville Luxury Lanes in Tampa, FL. We enjoyed a fun family evening of bowling and a lane-side dinner. After we gawked at the immensity of the world’s largest rotating globe in Yarmouth, ME, we headed ten minutes north to shop the outlets in Freeport. After my kids climbed through the world’s largest kid – “Eddie,” the 45-foot exhibit inside the EdVenture children’s museum of Columbia, SC – we spent several more hours enjoying the facility.

Should you prefer more educational vacation experiences, well, I’m there with you. Travel is the best education. But as I can attest from my own childhood being dragged through archaeological ruins the world over, you have to make the experience accessible in order for it to be remembered. Part of the reason we went to see the world’s largest light bulb in Edison, NJ was the opportunity to visit the adjoining museum in the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park.

We spent an hour poring over exhibits of early light bulbs and other inventions with a helpful tour guide, who even let us listen one of Edison’s original phonographs. The bonus was posing my son under the 14-foot light bulb, which sits on top of the 117-foot Memorial Tower. I love that it looks like he’s just had a bright idea!

A-HA!

It’s a precarious balance; giving kids the trips they want, while still getting to see what you want. Success is when your itinerary entertains everyone!

Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the world’s largest, longest, or tallest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.

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by Julie Byrd

There’s some chance that if you go at it alone when you’re booking a vacation property you might hit the jackpot—great space, easy setup with the owners, smooth payment process, and dream getaway. But when those things don’t work out—the property is not as it’s advertised, the owners don’t answer emails, your security deposit disappears into the ether—it can be a nightmare.

Going through rental professionals secures your vacation peace of mind on multiple levels you might not consider them when you’re planning your trip, but that prove to be essential when you’ve arrived (and the keys don’t fit the door). Rental professionals provide pre-trip planning, flexibility in site selection, a wealth of information on the best activities and most interesting things to see while you’re vacationing, and the assistance to prevent (or fix) trip disasters in the making.

Let’s look at the ways rental professionals help your trip be your dream holiday:

  • Diversity of properties

Need a secluded romantic getaway for just you two? Have to have a separate casita for the kids? Can’t relax unless there’s a pool table in the game room? Agencies have listings galore and they know their details down to how many spoons are in the silverware drawer. Ask and you shall receive.

  • Your Best Interests Served

Agency pros truly want you to be happy with your holiday. Booking agents will have real conversations with you about what you are looking for on your trip, and suggest options that you might never consider. You select the property that best reflects YOUR interests, and all of your choices will be paramount.

  • Customer Service

If the gardeners are normally scheduled to come to your villa on Sunday morning, but you love to sleep late, no problem. We’ll make an adjustment for you. Did you forget to tell us that you had to do some emergency gift shopping the day you arrive? No trouble: give us a call from your property, and we’ll hook you up. The lines are open.

  • Payment Options (and Extra Costs Banished)

You’ll have the opportunity to set up a payment schedule that fits your pocket. And you’ll never see hidden charges pop up–we spell all the figures out in advance of your trip.

  • Relocation Potential

Should the property be not what’s advertised, or should some integral property facility fail while you’re there, we’ll quickly assess the situation and whisk you away to an equally nice venue if necessary.

  • Flexibility

If something comes up and you can’t make your trip, we’ll do everything we can to reschedule the excursion for the time that’s right for you.

  • Travel Insurance and Legal issues

We will set you up with a travel insurance plan that will cover any needed contingencies, and take all the worries away regarding unforeseen incidents. We also provide you with information on legal matters (and customs) common to the country you’re visiting.

  • Area Experts

Yes, you can look at some travel guide and get the usual “You must visit this hopping bar,” or “This restaurant’s not to be missed.” But those are so often the canned “best-of” entries you see in every guidebook. Our agents have been to the properties, spent time in the surrounding cities, know EXACTLY which restaurant or bar has the best appetizers. (Hey, it’s a hard job, but …) We can tell you, from experience, not only what’s the best, but what’s the most interesting, out of the way, odd or unusual. You won’t get that out of a book.

Sure, you could always go commando in booking your own rentals, but why go through the bother and still have to face so many unknowns? Stack the deck in your favor: roll with the pros, settle back in your hammock and relax. It’s a sure thing.

Julie Byrd is the director of sales at Earth, Sea, and Sky Vacations, ranked the #1 villa rental agent in Mexico by Conde Nast Traveler.

I wasn’t raised in a particularly Italian household, as far as New York-based Italian-American families go. There were no heavy Sopranos-esque accents, no Sunday dinners that started at noon, no nonna with an apron wielding a spaghetti spoon. My father is of Italian-American origin, and while we were raised on my German-Irish mother’s incredible renditions of lasagna, I don’t identify that closely with those who spent weekends in September canning tomato sauce with aunts and cousins.

The first time I ventured onto Arthur Avenue was almost accidental: I accompanied a friend – an Italophile so American he could trace his ancestry to the Mayflower – to the covered market so that he could pick up what he claimed was the best prosciutto in the city. Until this point, I had never strongly identified with my Italian background; trips to Rome and Florence, while beautiful, never gave me the strange feeling of “coming home” that walking into the boisterous market and pushing our way back to Mike’s Deli did. The smells and sounds seemed to come from a different part of my childhood, a piece I didn’t remember clearly, but a piece that existed all the same.

My pure-blooded Italian-American father had spent so much time and effort to be in Manhattan that he never thought the next generation would demand what he had left behind, but demand I did. I started spending hours wandering around the Bronx, listening in on conversations between old men in café chairs, selecting the best of meats and cheeses from Mike’s, and wondering what it would have been like to have been raised here instead of on the Upper East Side. My father wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, but he was nothing less than pleased when, one Christmas, alongside traditional pies and cakes, I presented a dish of traditional struffoli.

I had never tried the honey-drowned cookies before, merely admired them in the windows of bakeries on Arthur Avenue as November turned to December, but one taste, and my father was propelled back in time, to the childhood that I didn’t have. He remembers his sisters’ struffoli, covered in tiny rainbow sprinkles. He remembers the boisterous accents, the long Sunday afternoons spent with cousins, aunts and uncles. As for me… I just remember Arthur Avenue.

Recipe: Struffoli

Summary: Bite-Sized Italian Deserts

Ingredients

  • 2 – 2/12 cups flour
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup nonpareil rainbow sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Sift together 2 cups flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center.
  2. Whisk eggs together with lemon zest and pour into the well. Fold the eggs into the flour mixture, then turn out onto a floured surface, adding more flour until you can just knead the dough into a ball. Cover the ball of dough with a damp kitchen towel.
  3. Prepare a pan or plate for the finished fried dough balls, covering it with paper towel. Heat the vegetable oil in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Wait 5-10 minutes for the oil to heat, then pinch off a tiny bit of dough. If it sizzles and slowly rises to the top of the oil, it’s hot enough.
  4. While the oil heats, cut the dough in eighths. Roll the eighths into long ropes, about 1/2 inches thick. Cut each of the ropes into small, equal pieces and roll them into small balls, a bit larger than a grape but smaller than a golf ball.
  5. Cook the dough in batches, making sure not to overcrowd your pan. Fry until golden, about 2 minutes, and then drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer drained struffoli into a large bowl.
  6. While the last batch of struffoli are frying, slowly heat the honey. Pour over struffoli and toss well to coat.
  7. To serve, grease a large serving dish with butter or cooking spray, and pile the struffoli into a Christmas tree shape. Cover with sprinkles.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

by Joe Johnson

Since the reform of the Eastern bloc in the late eighties and early nineties, the area has seen a steady increase in tourism. Attracted by the beautiful architecture, unique culture and low prices, holiday makers began to flock to cities like Prague and Bratislava some time ago. While such destinations are still popular, the Baltic states, that is, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are currently experiencing massive popularity, attracting a wide variety of tourists from stag weekenders to elderly couples in search of an alternative to the obligatory annual excursion to Spain or Greece.

Of course these chilly northern European countries will never be able to replace the big Mediterranean destinations as two-week summertime shoe-ins but they do provide a welcome alternative to sun-beds and Sangria, if only for a couple of days. So what’s the best choice to ease you into eastern European culture? Estonia is perhaps the most ‘western’ of the Baltic states, with it’s party reputation and wide variety of eateries catering for all tastes, making it a good shout for your first Eastern European city break.

Culture

Tallinn has a distinctly old world feel, the city centre is dominated by medieval buildings, towering spires and large pedestrianized areas, for those that are interested, there’s reams of history surrounding the city to trawl through. The best way to experience this history is by taking a free tour operated by students. No shoddy affair, the student tour guides are charismatic and speak near-perfect English.

If you’re quick, then you can capitalise on plenty of other free events, shows and exhibitions being held all over the city to mark 2011 being Tallinn’s year as European Capital of Culture. If you are still wondering whether Tallinn would cut it as a intellectually fulfilling sight-seeing destination, that designation should go some way to answering your question.

People

Now, eastern Europeans do have somewhat of a reputation for being less than welcoming, this is a quality I’ve experienced when visiting former communist states such as Bulgaria but I can’t say the say the same of Estonia, or at least Tallinn. There’s a palpable sense here that the locals really want the tourists be there, they welcome them rather than simply tolerating them.

This friendly atmosphere is evident in the way the city is geared towards Western tastes, quaint Medieval buildings are fronted by cafes serving pizzas and Budweiser, while the bars seem keen to please alcoholic British tourists with rock bottom prices and scantily clad barmaids. Thankfully, the pandering to tourists does not reach sickening levels, and Tallinn retains enough intrinsic charm to be able to lose yourself in the folklore of its twisting, cobbled streets.

Food

I’ve always been slightly dubious about Scandinavian food ever since I had a bad experience with the Sweedish meatballs in Ikea (I’ll save that for another post). Their apparent penchant for smelly fish and whale blubber burgers doesn’t really resonate with me, but in Tallinn, I was pleasantly surprised.

Delicacies like Elk soup, Elk pie and fried cheese balls all graced my table at one point or another, and none of them are as vile as they sound. This part of Europe doesn’t have the same attitude to food as the Mediterranean countries, but you can still find great tasting local dishes if you look hard enough, just be prepared to enjoy everything with a side dish of cabbage.

Tallin was certainly pleasantly surprising, I’d even go as far to say it was an enchanting place to spend a weekend. It offers an easy route into Baltic culture for those new to Eastern Europe and there is no shortage of things to do, even if those things are trying to decipher the menus in the cafes. If you’re using cash as an excuse not to go to Tallin, then I’m afraid you don’t have a leg to stand on, it is without a doubt one of the cheapest places I’ve ever visited, and the thrifty among you could probably get away with spending less than £200 in total over a weekend. You can’t say fairer than that.

Joe is a travel blogger specialising in Eastern European destinations. His next trip abroad will be when he takes his Sardinia holidays.

The moment you step off the plane in Amsterdam, you can imagine little elves hanging up signs that say “Welcome to the most picturesque city in the world!”  You buy a train ticket from the friendly lady at the information booth, and look out the window at the lovely countryside.  Soon you’re leaving the station, being offered a myriad of ways to get to your hotel: bikes! boat! taxi!

With only one weekend to soak everything in, you decide to walk.  The city is small, and you want to see every canal and twisted cobblestone street.  You walk past the noisy hostels and coffeeshops where the young, boisterous traveling types hang out, and jump out of the way of annoyed locals as you learn that pedestrians better stay out of the bike lanes.  You walk past little kiosks serving small fried fish, and look down at the many tour boats moving slowly through the canals.

After finding your hotel and settling in a bit, you’re ready for some food.  Wanting to escape the rowdiness of the Red Light District and busy squares, you walk North into the lovely Jordaan neighborhood.  It’s a beautiful, sunny day, but dark clouds quickly move in and it suddenly begins pouring.  Seeking shelter, you run into a cozy restaurant called De Vliegende Schotel (The Flying Saucer), and warm up with a cup of tea and some vegetarian quiche and quinoa salad.

Feeling sleepy and satisfied, you decide to hop on an hour-long canal tour in a long, skinny boat.  You sit at one of the many tables on the vessel, and look out the window at the rainy city from below the sidewalks.  You hear the history of each neighborhood in about 3 different languages before the boat drops you off right in front of the Anne Frank House.  The line is long (about an hour long unless you reserve tickets online), but the sun has come back out, so you decide to wait.  The museum is full of pictures and models, and perfectly preserved from after the raid.

You decide to take a long walk down to Vondelpark, where beautiful flowers are planted along the pathways and there are tall trees to sit under and enjoy the grass.  You people watch for a while, and grab a coffee at the park cafe.  Though it’s still light out, it’s getting late and you’re tired from traveling.  You take a bike taxi back to your hotel and fall asleep to the sound of boats splashing in the canal.

The next morning you enjoy a wonderful complimentary Dutch breakfast at your hotel, complete with tea, white bread, and chocolate sprinkles.  You decide to check out the Red Light District in the early afternoon to avoid crowds and general debauchery, and walk through the pretty streets until you find the XXX signs.  Nearby, you explore the Old Church, Amsterdam’s oldest parish church consecrated in 1306.

Wanting to get a bit outside of the city, you decide to take a 4-hour Dutch villages and countryside Bike Tour.  From Amsterdam, the guide takes you through historic towns and along beautiful waterways.  You stop for lunch with the group, and enjoy the quaint, quiet surroundings.  By the time you get back, you’re worn out from all that cycling.  You make your way to the Van Gough museum, where it’s less crowded the later you go.  As you experience the beautiful paintings, you listen to the pleasant live music coming from downstairs.  After you’ve visited all the floors, you make your way to the band and enjoy a glass of wine with the other listeners.

For your last meal, you sit alongside a canal and eat in the open air at nice restaurant with delicious food and strong beer on tap.  The sun sets late, and you enjoy your last evening in Amsterdam, hardly dreading the easy train ride back to the airport you’ll have to take in the morning.

The beauty of the vacation rental experience is that there is a home appropriate for every occasion. Out of the millions of houses available for rent, each home (all unique in character, size, and location) encompasses the necessities needed to transform a standard accommodation experience into an ideal getaway for all to enjoy. Check out these ideas for group getaways below and begin planning your next trip:

  • Commemorate special events in the comforts of home.
    Celebrate monumental birthday, anniversaries, or accomplishments with friends and family. With access to your own kitchen and with sleeping space for everyone, a vacation rental is an obvious choice. Simply select a home that caters to your celebratory needs and enjoy!
  • Attend popular festivals and sporting events without paying inflated hotel rates.
    Get tickets to the Super Bowl, a World Cup soccer play-off game, or to an event at the Olympics without having to worry about breaking the bank. Staying in a rental property allows you to save money by cooking dinner at home, and sharing your accommodtions with the whole group can help offset the cost of expensive tickets. Now you can put the extra cash saved towards premiere seating.
  • Reunite the family in a place that everyone will enjoy.
    Staying in a home with multiple amenities and additional space makes it easier than ever to cater to each family member’s needs. Now Uncle Joey can play golf in the morning, Aunt Karen can relax poolside, the kids can enjoy the beach volleyball court, and Grandpa Joe can barbeque some of his famous teriyaki wings – all at the same time!
  • Enjoy an elegant wedding weekend with friends and family.
    Imagine a wedding ceremony in a luxurious country cabin, in a vibrant garden, or in front of a classic stone fireplace with snow-tipped mountains. Design the wedding of your dreams without the hassle of hiring a limo to transport the newlyweds and the bridal party to the reception.
  • Take advantage of seasonal events.
    Round up your college friends and catch a football game over alumni weekend, get a group together in Napa Valley, California to partake in a winery tour, or visit New England during the Fall to take in the foliage and go apple picking with the extended family. When planning a getaway with friends and family, the space and amenities of a vacation rental home can easily accommodate the group, no matter where you decide to adventure.

When vacationing with a group, the space, amenities, and privacy of a home guarantee a more pleasant stay every time you travel. Not only will you likely pay less and get more, but the diversity of each home available to rent will also allow you to cater to the needs of the group – whether you are attending a wedding, planning a family reunion, or escaping with your best friends on a well-deserved weekend away.

Vanessa is a Senior Owner Services Specialist at FlipKey. She enjoys traveling, reading, learning, and competitive sports. Comments and ideas about blog posts are always welcome!


I’m the first to admit… I’m not a huge fan of London.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s an amazing city, with endless cultural and historical sights to visit, an amazing pub culture, and the added bonus of being an English-speaking city in Europe. But for me, London is too big: I arrive, and before I’ve seen half of what I wanted to see, it’s time to go. My long weekends there from Paris used to be overwhelming, until I decided to stop trying to see the whole city: now, I pick a neighborhood and wander, and I start to understand why London – like Paris and New York – is just another series of small towns masquerading as a big city.

My best friend from Paris moved to London a year after we graduated university, and I immediately started planning several weekends a year there; with the just-over-an-hour long EuroStar ride, it seemed silly not to. It was she who first introduced me to Brick Lane: her apartment was located in this “Little India” of sorts, where the language spoken around us as we walked was, more often than not, not English, and the scents that permeated the air weren’t of fried fish and ale, but cumin, turmeric and coriander.

Most of the Brick Lane population is Bengali. You’ll find Bengali restaurants, sweet shops, and an incredible supermarket called Taj Stores (112 Brick Lane). I like to poke around in the extensive variety of spices, dals and flours, imagining all the possibilities in the kitchen.

While the food is predominantly Bengali in Brick Lane, the availability of produce and ingredients indigenous to most Indian cuisines is extensive, so select what looks interesting to you and start experimenting in the kitchen. To start, try a simple Vegetable Curry. From there, the possibilities are endless!

Recipe: Vegetable Curry

Summary: Vegetarian Curry – London Style

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried chana dal (2 15-oz. cans of chickpeas can be substituted)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 spring onions, tough green tops discarded, white part minced and light green thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 hot green chili pepper, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 carrots, sliced in rounds

Instructions

  1. Soak the chana dal overnight in cold water, covering the chana by at least two inches. In the morning, rinse the chana dal and cook it in unsalted water for about an hour, until tender.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the white parts of the spring onion and the salt. Cook, stirring continuously, until slightly colored and softened. Add the garlic, chili pepper and spices. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste and fry for 1 minute. Fill the tomato paste can with water and deglaze the pan with it, stirring to pull up all of the browned bits.
  4. Add the carrots to the pot, reduce heat to low and cover. Stir occasionally, adding water if necessary to keep the curry from sticking. After about 10 minutes, add the chana to the pot and stir. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 more minutes. Serve with basmati rice and reserved spring onion tops as a garnish.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Emily Monaco is native New Yorker, living and writing in Paris since 2007. She loves discovering new places and, of course, their local cuisines! Read about her adventures in food and travel at tomatokumato.com or follow her on Twitter at @emiglia

Here in the Northeast, it’s fall harvest time! Those of us in the city are itching to breathe some of that crisp country air and reap the bounty of the season. Get ready to choose a weekend, round up your friends or family members, find a car (sometimes the hardest part of an escape from New York City), and go pick some apples or pumpkins. Here’s your guide to doing it sustainably, so your delicious, non-urban experience is all the more pure.

Apples

If you’re concerned about the chemicals used to grow apples, you should be. It’s not all that easy to grow fruit in the Northeast, so most farms use pesticides, herbicides and other substances. Even the most eco-friendly farms must use some chemicals for their apples to survive the climate; this means that, rather than looking for strictly organic operations, you’ll usually be looking for “low-spray” and “sustainably grown” alternatives.

A 90-minute drive north, near Fishkill, NY, you’ll find Fishkill Farms. Its pick-your-own apple orchard is home to low-spray varieties, and has been certified by the Eco Apple program. Fishkill Farms is so gung-ho about sustainability that it has gone all out to meet organic standards; its official organic certification is on the way.

About two hours from the city, Mr. Apples in High Falls, NY, offers minimally sprayed apples, with no herbicides used in the soil. This orchard offers fun features like a mystery apple variety (that sprung up all on its own) and historic educational displays. The pick-your-own bounty also includes pears and pumpkins.

Nearby, in Stone Ridge, NY, the Stone Ridge Orchard has also been certified by Eco Apple. Besides picking your own apples, you can stop by the farm stand for pumpkins, melons, cider, baked goods and more.

For something a little different, look into leasing a tree from Little Dog Orchard in Clintondale, NY (less than two hours from Manhattan). The orchard recently decided to forgo all pesticides, herbicides and fungicides—so the surface of the apples might not look pretty, but you’ll know you’re not ingesting anything you don’t want to. With the lease-a-tree program, you invest in a specific tree and choose a time to go harvest the bushels of fruit.

 


Pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t as much of a health concern as apples since the skin is so thick and you don’t eat it anyway. But if you care about the environmental impact of what you buy, you’ll want to go for organically grown pumpkins this Halloween.

One place to pick them yourself is Organics Today, an organic farm in East Islip on Long Island—about an hour’s drive from Manhattan. Besides the pumpkin patch, you can enjoy seasonal delights like hay rides, apple cider, cider doughnuts and pumpkin pie, every day until Halloween.

Mr. Apples (mentioned above) also offers pick-your-own pumpkins and other kid-friendly activities.

So hurry up and get out of here, before the pickings get too slim!

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.