Fall is when we start focusing on food, but once the harvest is done, the good eating has just begun — and these regional trails let travelers connect the dots to deliciousness. From refrigerator staples to a Canadian dessert you’ve never heard of, here are some of the greatest tasting trails in North America right now.
Wayne County Apple Trail, Finger Lakes — New York
Apples from Mason Farms (Photo: Mason Farms)
This year, the Finger Lakes will host the 17th Annual Wayne County Apple Tasting Tour. Every October, a half-dozen apple farmers coordinate the event, which also includes a petting zoo, a corn maze, and all sorts of sweet treats. It’s a gorgeous season for the region, and apples are somewhat symbolic because of the good ol’ apple bobbing days … even though that’s not such a hot party game nowadays.
Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail—New York
A delicious-looking strawberry pie (Photo: Strawberry Fields)
As a destination, the Finger Lakes region is famous for its sweet wines, but for a multiseason taste experience that’s appropriate for all ages, Cayuga County has a sweet co-op of about 20 small businesses. Sweet Treat Trail participants include maple-sugar houses, bakeries, orchards, and creameries, with each place keeping its own seasons and hours. For example, Owen Orchards is open daily August through March, while Standing Stone Honey Bee Products is open “only by chance.” Map your route online, set appointments as necessary, or just pick up a map at the Office of Tourism or any stop on the trail.
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Hot Brown Hop — Kentucky
The Hot Brown sandwich (Photo: Brown Hotel)
The signature sandwich of Louisville is the Hot Brown — an open-faced hot sandwich made with turkey, tomato, bacon, Mornay sauce, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, broiled till bubbling. It originated at the Brown Hotel in the 1920s, but many area restaurants have created their own version over the decades. Recently, the Louisville tourism office decided to create a culinary trail map-pointing each restaurant … with a name that you just can’t forget. The point is not so much to eat every sandwich but instead to understand the history of the sandwich and find a version you prefer.
Hoosier Pie Trail — Indiana
The Hoosier Pie (Photo: Indiana Foodways Alliance/Facebook)
Classically known as the Sugar Cream Pie, Hoosier Pie is so ubiquitous in Indiana that it was named the Official State Pie in 2009. The filling is exactly what the name says, and not much more is added in classic recipes except maybe nutmeg, vanilla extract, and cinnamon, if you’re feeling fancy. It’s a dieter’s Kryptonite — rich with heavy cream, using flour and eggs as a binder. If this is all sounding just a little too decadent, Indiana Foodways Alliance, the promoters of the trail, promise that bakers in the Hoosier state are skilled at baking all kinds of pie: berry, coconut, apple, and of course pumpkin in season.
Nanaimo Bar Trail — British Columbia
The Nanaimo Bar Cake (Photo: Tourism Nanaimo / Elephant Room Creative)
Speaking of obscure regional desserts, Canada has its own version of a signature sweet treat trail around the Nanaimo Bar — a no-bake three-layered dessert. Everyone does their own version, with various fillings, although it’s a standard to pour melted chocolate over as a final element. The Nanaimo Bar Trail is in Nanaimo, British Columbia, where the dessert was invented. Three dozen participating businesses serve every variation, from deep-fried to maple bacon-topped to a gluten-free version to a Nanaimo Ice Cream Sandwich.
Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail — New Mexico
Preparing the famous green chile cheeseburger (Photo: New Mexico Tourism)
This is possibly the easiest way to map out a Southwest road-trip route. New Mexico’s Green Chile Cheeseburger trail will take you on a tour of the state’s funkiest dives, throwback diners, and one-stoplight towns. Or, for a tamer experience, you can stick with standbys in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. No surprise — Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri have gone before you in many cases, but there’s still plenty of room to discover the perfect smoky-savory greasy burger in a booth that’s looked the same since the 1950s.
Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail — Arizona
Beaver Street Brewery on the Grand Canyon Ale tour. (Photo: Beaver Street Brewery)
Also in the Southwest, this self-guided trail is a great way to discover Flagstaff’s hipster culinary and craft beer scene. Breweries in Sedona and Williams have been added, but the majority of breweries are within a one-mile walkable zone in Flagstaff. Purchase a “passport” for $5.95 and get significant discounts at each of the 10 participating breweries.
The Wisconsin Cheese Tour — Wisconsin
Wisconsin is THE place to go on a cheese tour. (Photo: Travel Wisconsin)
While there are cheese trails all over the land, we’d be amiss to start anywhere but Wisconsin. Here, the product is so legendary and the itineraries so precisely laid out that it’s well-nigh impossible to stray. There are multiday driving itineraries in every region of the state, as well as easy-to-navigate city itineraries in Madison and downtown Milwaukee. Meet master cheese makers, visit family farms, or take a cheese-making course. Pair up cheese and chocolate or cheese and wine — it’s cheese every which way you like it.
Beer Cheese Trail — Kentucky
Mmmmm, beer cheese. (Photo: Kentucky Tourism)
You’ve done beer trails, cheese trails, and cheeseburger trails, and now you’re wondering, “What’s next?” Well, road-tripping culinary explorer, how about the Beer Cheese Trail in central Kentucky? Eight restaurants in Winchester (declared the “birthplace of beer cheese” in June 2014) serve signature beer cheese every way they can manage, including plain logs of it. Launched only a year ago, this is a good deal smaller than the Hot Brown Hop or the Bourbon Trail, but Kentucky certainly knows how to create experiences around regional F&B signatures, so expect it to grow.
Maple Trails — multiple locations
Vermont Maple Syrup (Photo: Vermont Maple Syrup/Facebook)
Here’s something to look forward to for 2015. Maple sugar production happens year-round at larger facilities, but the “season” happens twice — fall and spring. Regions with high maple sugar production often organize a collective “open house” offering where many small seasonal sugar houses invite people to come and sample. Vermont’s Open House weekend is just two days in March, but many houses are open regular hours. Also consider Maple Madness in Ohio and Maple Weekend in New York State.
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