Baseball, A Spa, Apple Picking and Butternut Squash-Apple Soup!

We had a perfect weekend. Close friends, Belgian beer, great food, the Yoshitomo Nara exhibit, post-season Yankee baseball, a Korean spa visit and apple picking. It was he best (35th) birthday my husband has ever had. 
We started our day with brunch at Park Avenue Autumn. Yes, it's a super pricey place to eat breakfast, and it seemed like the whole Duke lacrosse team was brunching with us, but the food was fantastic (and this was a big birthday celebration, after all). The bread plate was delicious-- glazed banana, pumpkin, pistachio, spiced sugar donut, to name a few. I had pumpkin soup (perfection) and the wild mushroom breakfast risotto with a fried egg. My husband had scallops with lemongrass curry and the Branzino. It was certainly a step above yogurt and granola! 
Then we walked a few blocks to the Asia Society where Nara was on display. We are both big fans and were happy to see the exhibit.
For dinner, we went to Daniel. The meal began with an awesome white Cosmopolitan, (chilled to perfection with a ball of ice that had an orchid in its center) and a Mai Thai (with a twist). Hello! Bottoms up.  
In case you want all the details: I began my meal with the Jerusalem Artichoke Veloutรฉ with chanterelle custard, walnut bread tuile and fall root vegetable confit -- in a word, wow. It was delicious. My husband really liked the Duo of  Frog's Legs, as well as his main course, which was a flaxseed crusted Millbrook venison loin (which the waiter told us has a "short seasonal window.") It came with quince marmalade, butternut squash purรฉe, glazed chayote and Grand Veneur sauce. Ridiculous (in a good way)! My main was a 'purse of pasta' with gorgonzola, wilted spinach, tomato coulis and about 10 other herbs and ingredients that I can't name-- but it was scrumptious. Of course we were also eating one delicious roll after the other--- roasted garlic, classic french and olive.
Wondering about the desserts? Well, they were some of the best I've ever had--- we got a chocolate molten cake and the chocolate and peanut ganache. Oh heavens! The waiter also brought out a special birthday plate (candle included): sake poached pluot with an almond biscuit, vanilla plum gelรฉe and concord grape sorbet. 
As if that were not enough, there were fresh baked Madelines, petits fours, and chocolates (we had Grand Marnier and Pralines). It was fantastic. I get the hype. I wish I could cook like this at home-- but that would require a skill level that far surpasses my own and a lot (a lot) of time. I also kind of wished that I had been wearing maternity pants with an elastic band instead of a more form fitting dress...if you know what I mean?! 
After dinner we took the subway up to Yankee Stadium... and watched the Yankees clobber the Twins. It was a great game. 
We celebrated the final day of the three day weekend by going to Masker Farms for a picnic and apple picking...

We could not have asked for a better day. The weather was perfect. And the apples were ripe for the picking. I really liked the Cortlands, MacIntosh and Empires. My favorites, though, were the super tart Granny Smiths (aka 'Greenings').  
So here we are, on a lovely Tuesday morning...with a whole lot of apples. It's a little bit chilly, so apple soup it will be! 

Notice the jump (!) Now that's some lift...
This soup is so delicious and super-seasonal. I used MacIntosh apples straight from the tree and locally grown butternut squash. Since there are only two main ingredients, it's important to go with the best ones you can find. There is no cream, no stock-- just pure fall flavor...oh, and a few tablespoons of curry to "kick it up a notch!" 

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (Courtesy of Ina Garten)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large)
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry powder 
  • 5 pounds butternut squash (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet apples, such as MacIntosh (4 apples)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups good apple cider or juice

Preparation

Warm the butter, olive oil, onions, and curry powder in a large stockpot uncovered over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.
Peel the squash, cut in half, and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into chunks. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Cut into chunks.
Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Process the soup through a blender/food processor, or puree it with an immersion blender (which is the easiest thing to do and minimizes things to clean). 
Add the apple cider (I added 1 1/2 cups) or juice so that the soup the consistency you like; it should be slightly sweet and quite thick. Check the salt and pepper and serve hot.
I served this with a few slices of toasted french baguette.