Forget Christmas; Apple Blossom season is truly the most wonderful time of the year.
The pride of my hometown of Winchester, Virginia, the festival takes place during the first weekend in May and is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. There are parades—two of them!—showcasing, with the exception of Dan Aykroyd a few years back, B- and C-list celebrities. This year’s Grand Marshal? Erik Estrada. (Take a look at my friend Drew’s terrific shot.) I’m not sure that guy makes any list these days, but come on. We’re talking about cheesy, campy perfection, and it doesn’t stop there.
There is a queen, almost always related to someone famous. She’s crowned, amidst her court, in an elaborate ceremony on Apple Blossom Friday. There is more pink and green clothing than I’ve ever seen in one place at one time. Even the Shriners make an appearance, and it’s awesome.
But let us not get sidetracked. Most pertinent to our purposes here, there is food and drink.
On Friday, I had three different kinds of barbecued ribs and several pints of home-brewed beer, and that was just the warm-up for the main event. Saturday’s smorgasbord of deliciousness included Virginia ham and pulled-pork sandwiches; nugget remnants from the ubiquitous Chik-Fil-A party platter; half of a gyro; a communally shared sampler plate of carnival specialties, including chicken, sausage, beef (my favorite), and just the tiniest bit of salad; awesome homemade guacamole and a killer watermelon-and-lime (also pink and green!) sangria; and, to top it all off, a fresh-off-the-griddle funnel cake.
When listed like that, it seems excessive; it was anything but.
My contribution to the feeding frenzy was this little crowd-pleasing number: bacon-wrapped jalapeño thingies. Easy on the wallet and a cinch to make, this take on the deep-fried jalapeño popper has been a staple of my repertoire for the past year or two. I brought a batch to my friend’s party on Saturday, and they were hoovered up before I knew it.
Take my advice and make twice as many as you think you’ll need; these babies always go quickly.
Jalapeños, as many as you want
Cream cheese, as much as you think you’ll need
A package or two of bacon, meat sliced crosswise into thirds
1. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, remove stems, and deseed. (I like to make some of ’em spicy as a surprise, so I leave a few seeds in those.)
2. Fill pepper cavity with cream cheese, wrap with 1/3 piece of bacon, and secure with a toothpick. Repeat until all are finished.
3. Preheat oven to 375°. Set a rack in an edged baking sheet, and arrange peppers on top in a single layer. Bake 20-30 minutes, until bacon is crispy. Serve hot or at room temperature; they’re great either way.