The Takeout's Fantasy Food Draft: Best Apple Stuff

Welcome, dear readers, to The Takeout Draft, our recurring feature that combines our love of food, fantasy sports, and arguing on Slack.

Every week, we will select a topic of conversation from the food and drink world. Takeout writers will then field a team via the snake draft format. After three rounds, The Takeout commenteriat will vote on who they believe was victorious in that week's draft. At the end of 2020, the staffer with the most weekly victories will select a charity of his/her choice that The Takeout will make a donation toward.

The previous Takeout Draft: Best pumpkin spice items was a runaway victory for Aimee Levitt, even accounting for her final-round pick of cotton candy, which many readers found unappetizing.

This next autumnal draft is just as seasonal as the last, though perhaps not as divisive: Best apple stuff. No matter how you prepare them, apples just taste like familiarity and tradition. That means we're all bound to draft some solid teams, leaving victory tantalizingly up for grabs.

Competing in the Thunderdome this week are members of the Takeout staff: Aimee Levitt, Allison Robicelli, Marnie Shure, Lillian Stone, and Dennis Lee. The randomizer has selected a draft order:

How do you like them apples?

Allison: WOOHOO! I am pumped, ready to go, AND have a nice warm glass of my first pick in my hand as we speak. I am leading off the apple draft with Apple Cider.

Dennis: A classic!

Aimee: Warm or cold?

Allison: It's good hot or cold. People sleep on how great an ice cold glass of apple cider is

Lillian: See, I disagree! I have cold cider in my fridge right now and it just tastes like apple juice until you warm it up.

Allison: Here's some fun facts about apple cider: in early colonial times, apple cider and applejack were used as currency.

It's good for drinking, good for cooking with. You can dip a doughnut into a hot glass. You can shake cold cider into a cocktail. Braise a pork shoulder in cider.

Aimee: Or have it with crepes and pretend you're French.

Allison: Cider is the gift the apple gives us. It's its very soul, in liquid form.

Dennis: Are we talking about mulled cider or just pure apple cider?

Allison: Cider. Mulling is optional. It's like the difference between water and lemon water.

Aimee: When I worked at Starbucks, "cider" was apple juice with cinnamon syrup and warmed with the steam wand. It was still good, though

Lillian: I wish you had not told us that.

Dennis: It did occur to me that this is a rare juice that people enjoy warm. I can't think of many other hot juices.

Marnie: Lillian, that's a tough first pick to follow. What are you swiping first?

Lillian: Okay, party people. I'm starting with the superior baked good: the apple fritter.

It's got all the flavor of the apple cider donut, it's deep-fried, and it typically contains chunks of real apple. YOU CANNOT BEAT THAT, SORRY

Plus you can get them at Apple Holler, this apple farm in Wisconsin that is the very best place on Earth.

Aimee: Oh, Apple Holler is amazing!

Dennis: I've been there! That place rules

Lillian: It's so good! You can feed the goat with a little pulley treat system. And then get a fritter.

Dennis: Don't they have an apple barbecue sauce?

Lillian: They have all kinds of stuff. Sauces, spreads, baked goods. I wish they'd sponsor me. (Unethical, yeah)

Marnie: Taking the most fried item as your first pick is breathtakingly strategic

Aimee: Frying is the best way to deliver most food.

Lillian: This draft is a chess game, and I've just played the Fried Gambit.

Allison: There is absolutely nothing better than an apple fritter made at the orchard

Dennis: So far we have fried, and drinked.

Marnie: Oh and now it's my choice! I go with apple cider doughnut. Because, while Lillian is right that the fritter has real apple chunks, the doughnut has something else crucial: an outer coating of cinnamon sugar


Dennis: Is there actual apple cider in them? I can never tell.

Lillian: I do like crumblies, and apple cider doughnuts have lots of crumblies.

Marnie: A painted wooden sign that says APPLE CIDER DOUGHNUTS is enough to send the entire state of Massachusetts into a tizzy

Allison: For the best apple cider doughnuts you will ever taste, try my recipe.

Lillian: I was this close to making those last weekend.

Aimee: There's always next weekend.

Marnie: First pick, Aimee??

Aimee: Apple pie! I love all the things you all mentioned so far, but apple pie is my first true love.

Lillian: Do you use toppings?

Aimee: It depends. The Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook has a great recipe for a caramel apple pie. And Hoosier Mama has a great sour cream Dutch apple. But sometimes a nice, flaky two-crust pie is perfect.

Lillian: I've always gotta top mine with ice cream. That may be immaturity on my part.

Aimee: No harm in that, either.

Dennis: Does anyone here do that cheese and pie thing?

Lillian: I've never tried!

Marnie: I want to try

Dennis: It tastes like cheese AND pie. Whoa.

Allison: Another friendly Takeout piece of apple pie guidance for you: Pi Day Pie!

Lillian: So far in the Draft, apple pie is probably the prettiest to look at. A nice lattice crust! Hoo boy.

Dennis: My round one pick is: Apple soda. I'm specifically talking about a type of Mexican apple soda. Have any of you had Manzanita del Sol or Sidral Mundet?

Manzanita del Sol comes in cans, Sidral Mundet comes in glass bottles.

Lillian: I never have, but that sounds awesome. Does it taste like a carbonated apple juice? Or more like a cider?

Aimee: Or sour apple candy???

Dennis: It tastes like carbonated apple juice! It's very, very, refreshing, it tastes like actual fruit.

Marnie: Nick Leggin recently experimented with it for his essay on root beer floats.

Aimee: Where do you find it?

Dennis: I've found both in the big supermarkets here! The Sidral Mundet (my preference) is in the small Latin food aisle next to the Mexican-recipe Coke that comes in glass bottles. Next to Jarritos as well.

Lillian: I'm excited about this. Gonna check at my local Jewel.

Dennis: There's going to be at least a few commenters who know exactly what I'm talking about and why this soda is so awesome. I don't drink much soda but this I make an exception for. It's comfort in a bottle!

Marnie: And an unexpected first-round pick!

Dennis: Second round pick: Hostess apple pies, not traditional pies, but those little ones that look like big empanadas

Marnie: A shrewd distinction

Aimee: The best thing you can ever get at a gas station!

Dennis: I didn't grow up with apple pie as a kid, but my parents would sometimes slip these into lunch. I guess they count as "fruit."

Lillian: Oh wow, I haven't had those in forever! Do you heat them up or just eat'em as they come?

Dennis: I've never heated them up!

Allison: Important to clarify: do you Chicago people have Drake's apple pies, which are two square pies in a pack? Or just the large half-moon ones?

Dennis: I've never seen Drake, so it's the half-moon ones that I'm referring to. Also, NEVER look at the nutrition information on those hand pies. There's a ton of saturated fat in them, which is probably why they're so good.

Lillian: Don't look at the nutrition information on ANY of these things!

Marnie: You can almost taste the lard

Lillian: We should drop Taste the Lard merch.

Dennis: It's 45% of your daily recommended fat intake for the day!

Aimee: Oh, well that's fine. Just eat vegetables for the rest of the day and you're good.

Dennis: I like the idea that this apple pie has like the same amount of fat as a double cheeseburger at McDonald's or something.

Marnie: But more seasonal

Aimee: My next pick is apple dumplings. I never had them until last year, and even though when I made them the crust fell off, they were still amazing.

Dennis: Like pierogi?

Aimee: It's a whole apple cored and stuffed with butter and spices and brown sugar and then wrapped in pastry dough and baked.

Dennis: You just blew my mind!

Aimee: The Joy of Cooking recipe is so, so good. I think it's one of the few recipes in there that goes all the way back to the beginning. It's a classic.

Lillian: Now, do you top THAT with ice cream?

Aimee: Naturally. And then you spoon the juices over it.

Allison: They make these at a place in Baltimore called Hoehn's, which is pretty much my favorite bakery in the entire world. Old German place.

Dennis: I've never seen one!

Allison: It's so simple, which is what makes it good. You can't fuss with it all that much. The apple itself does most of the heavy lifting, which I'm a big fan of. Apples are delicious and do not need to be drowned in sugar to be good.

Not that I have any problem drowning them in sugar, mind you. It's just nice to give an apple the chance to shine on its own is all

Aimee: But pastry dough never hurts.

Lillian: Taste The Lard!

Marnie: That shirt is going to do numbers

Dennis: I want an underwear version

Lillian: "Taste The Lard" across the butt of some sweatpants.

Marnie: Speaking of letting the apple speak for itself, my next pick is Affy Tapple. The undisputed king of taffy apples

Aimee: With nuts or without?

Marnie: With nuts! NEVER with M&Ms. Just the caramel and the peanuts. So perfect.

Lillian: What is this?! It's a caramel apple?

Marnie: Yes! The classic brand

Allison: Yeah, I have no idea what these are either

Marnie: Made in the Chicago area

Allison: I have SERIOUS FEELINGS about caramel apples that cannot be contained in this draft.

Marnie: I only like Affy Tapples. No other caramel apple is good. They're smaller, they have a sensible amount of caramel, and the apple is always so tasty

Lillian: I'm a Happy Apple devotee, I must just be immune to other kinds.

Dennis: Marnie, do you eat them off the stick? I have a phobia of losing my teeth and I can't eat them that way.

Marnie: I do eat them off the stick! I wouldn't do it with any brand but this one, though, because these are softer.

Lillian: My permanent retainer prohibits me from that kind of recklessness.

Dennis: There's that episode of Arrested Development where Gob loses his tooth on a candy apple and it's hilarious, but hard for me to deal with

Lillian: Probably would make it hard to Taste the Lard.

Marnie: Candy Apples are different than caramel apples, though—that's a candy shell rather than a sheath of soft caramel

Aimee: Candy apples are much prettier, but caramel apples taste better.

Allison: I find them too difficult to eat. Apple slices dipped in caramel, I support. Big ass apples on a stick are bullshit.

If you bite into a fat-ass apple covered in caramel your cheeks get sticky, and then your hair sticks to your face, and then you'll get scarf fuzz stuck to your lip and it's all so so terrible

Marnie: That's the crucial difference: Affy Tapples are small

Dennis: Can I confess something? Don't judge me, but the last time I had an Affy Tapple I took it off the stick, sliced it up, and ate it that way. This is my burden.

Allison: This is how I would eat it if I ever encounter one of these so-called Affy Tapples

Dennis: I'm free.

Aimee: This is so beautiful!

Lillian: Okay, I'd like to have a little fun, which is why for my next pick I'm going with Green Apple Jolly Ranchers.



Aimee: The best Jolly Ranchers for sure!

Lillian: I like to suck them down until they're sharp like a little knife.

They're probably the best artificial sour apple product on the scene. And they keep their flavor until the end, where some sour apple products lean too far into the sour and just taste like nothing.

Allison: God, I can't even remember the last time I had a sour apple Jolly Rancher

Lillian: It is intense! I'm a sucker for anything sour, but it needs to honor the core flavor of the candy. And I think these do a fabulous job.

Dennis: Have you all ever had Hi-Chew? There's an apple version!

Lillian: Dennis I LOVE Hi-Chew. My sister is a weenie for sour stuff, and she's the one who got me turned onto Hi-Chew. That is a really nice apple option as well, and the texture is a little more forgiving if you don't want to form your own Mouth Shiv.

Dennis: Hi-Chew if you're listening please sponsor my Hi-Chew lifestyle

Lillian: Dennis gets a Hi-Chew sponsorship, I get sponsored by Big Lard

Marnie: I wasn't expecting candy to enter the mix. This draft is the best

Lillian: A lot of people think of those nasty caramel apple lollipops when they think of apple candy!

Aimee: I like those

Dennis: Step off

Lillian: We're in a fight, we're all in a fight

Aimee: Dukes up, Stone.

Marnie: Allison, your final two picks are up! Stop this madness!

Allison: Okay! With my second pick, I'm taking apple butter, and not just because we happen to have a recipe for it!

Marnie: I thought you might take apple butter! You took pumpkin butter last time.

Lillian: Aaaaah that was gonna be my last pick! I love apple butter!

Allison: Good apple butter has the ability to turn ANYTHING into "apple-flavored so-and-so"

Lillian: This little town near my hometown hosts an annual Apple Butter Makin' Days, and you can walk around and see people making it in these big vats.

Allison: You can smear it on toast. You can serve it with pork chops. You can whip it into frosting and spread it on a cake. You can put it on ham sandwiches.

You could mix it with yogurt, or even with pudding. Is there any sort of apple problem The Takeout can't solve? Probably not.

Lillian: Apple butter is another one that's great cold or warm!

Marnie: I admit I'm not the biggest fan, but you can't argue its versatility

Allison: You can eat it on its own, but it really shines as an ingredient. You can use it as a base for glazes or dressings, smear it on roast chicken, or use it to gussy up a rotisserie bird. It makes boring-ass supermarket dinners instantly festive!

Dennis: I bet it's a good secret ingredient for gravy on pork chops

Lillian: I wish we could all venture to Missouri for Apple Butter Makin' Days. Sigh.

Aimee: I love that there's a rustic apostrophe at the end.

Allison: And for my final pick, apple strudel. HOWEVER: the strudel must not have raisins, because raisins are gross.

Aimee: Hear hear

Lillian: Important stipulation.

Allison: I love the crisp, flaky dough. I love drowning it in unsweetened whipped cream. God, I just love everything about it.

Marnie: I didn't know any apple strudel had raisins and now I'm mad

Dennis: Yeah, what's with the raisins

Allison: I don't know why fucking anything has raisins in it. Raisins can stay in their own little corner where they belong. Raisins don't get to just jump into other desserts willy-nilly

Lillian: Except Raisinettes! Those rule.

Dennis: Pipe down in back

Lillian: We're in a fight

Allison: If I want raisin strudel, I'll order raisin strudel. But raisin strudel doesn't exist, BECAUSE NOBODY WANTS THAT GARBAGE

Lillian: Who makes the best strudel you've ever had, Allison?

Allison: There's a haunted German restaurant in the darkest, scariest part of Staten Island called Killmeyer's that makes a great one. The building was founded as an inn by German brickmakers in the mid-19th century.

Dennis: So these are haunted apple strudels

Marnie: Time for Lillian's final pick! Choose wisely.

Lillian: This is really hard! Since Allison snapped up apple butter, I'm going with applesauce cake. I know it's kind of an old person pick, but I have a lot of evidence to back it up as an excellent Afternoon Cake pick.

A good one will involve streusel topping, which brings me back to my love of crumblies. And it's a dense-enough cake that also combines a bit of The Wets, which pretty much ixnays any possible dryness.

Aimee: There's a lot to be said for a good afternoon cake.

Lillian: I don't like an overly sweet afternoon cake, and applesauce cake is a really good option. I adapted Julia Turshen's afternoon cake recipe with applesauce and it turned out awesome.

Allison: For many of us, applesauce cake was one of the first things we ever baked, because there was a recipe for it in every kids' cookbook that's ever been published, and it's a simple recipe. There's no layers, no frosting. All you need is a bowl and a spoon.

Lillian: Sometimes you just want to kick back and enjoy the simple things after a long day of Tasting the Lard.

Aimee: The Lard's Day.

Marnie: For my final pick, I'd like to introduce mild chaos. Remember when Lillian mentioned "those nasty caramel apple lollipops" as a counterpoint to her pick of Green Apple Jolly Ranchers? Well, my final pick is THOSE NASTY CARAMEL APPLE LOLLIPOPS.


Aimee: Heh heh

Marnie: I'm afraid I must defend their honor

Dennis: I like that we've apparently agreed to call them nasty

Lillian: I am so sorry to have yucked everyone's yum!

Marnie: They combine the intensity of the green apple flavor with two crucial elements: a mitigating layer of caramel to dull their intensity, and a stick, so you can take it out of your mouth and have a damn break for a little while. A Jolly Rancher is a commitment to puckering levels of flavor until the whole thing is gone.

Dennis: I just wish there was an easier way to taste the both of them. You're committed to either the caramel or the apple lollipop part unless you chew

Marnie: It's a two-act treat! And they make red and yellow versions now too, which are a little less sour

Lillian: I think I should probably try these things again.

Marnie: Oh, you'd probably still hate them. More for me

Lillian: I'll be here tasting my lard.

Aimee: My final pick is apple compote. Specifically served with pork chops or sausages. It's such a nice sweet-savory combination.

Of course, you can also put it on ice cream or pound cake.

Marnie: What is the difference between apple compote and apple butter?

Dennis: Isn't it the chunks

Lillian: Wait, so compote has chunks?

Dennis: Chunks is a good word to use when describing food. Chunks

Aimee: Yes. I also have really nice memories of the mother of one of the kids I tutored bringing me a big plate of it on top of pound cake and telling me it was okay because it was lo-cal.

Dennis: It's fruit!

Allison: You can eat it right from the jar!

Lillian: I love the idea of it on pork. Apple and pork is such a sacred combo.

Aimee: Apple-pork pies are delicious also.

Allison: I like compote for an apple pie hack: I'll put it in a bowl with crumbled graham crackers and ice cream

Dennis: Compared to all of you, my life is colorless

Aimee: Oh, please. Are you not the one that made a Sauce out of 105 old condiment packets?

Dennis: It's because I'm a food nihilist

Marnie: On that note, what's your final pick?

Dennis: Yes. Speaking of food annihilation, and self-draft annihilation, my final pick is something way, way, way, out of left field. I'm picking: Korean potato salad

"Does Dennis not know the difference between potatoes and apples?"

If you've ever been to a Korean restaurant, sometimes they have a classic potato salad in the mix. Mayo based, etc. But some Korean potato salads have APPLE in them.

So you'll have cubes of other veggies, including cucumber and carrots, then the white cubes of potatoes, and cubes of apples that are the same size as the potatoes. You never know if you're going to get an apple!

Lillian: Ah, a surprise!

Allison: I love this damn salad!

Dennis: I can imagine it's off-putting for some people who aren't ready for it, but it's refreshing with something like Korean grilled BBQ

Aimee: That sounds delicious

Allison: I love surprise apples in salads. When I was a kid I learned my favorite tuna salad recipe from Sesame Street: the secret in Mr. Hooper's tuna was diced green apples and lemon.

Dennis: Here is an accurate recipe. Now you all wield a powerful knowledge of the banchan spread that you can brag to your friends about. You will all nod together and be accepted into the circle of experts.

Marnie: That might just win you all the votes.