Every year at this time I patiently wait for Stephenson’s Apple Cider to show up in my local grocery store. There are several other brands that appear weeks before Stephenson’s but I never purchase anything else. For me, Stephenson’s is the thread that runs through my years of fall activities and holidays.
Hot mugs of cider are always present on cold fall evenings in this house and a favorite thing to offer guest throughout the season. It would not be Christmas Eve without a pot of cider warming on the stovetop fortified with orange and apple slices and cinnamon sticks.
When I was growing up we often traveled to Lexington, MO to visit my grandmother and from our house Stephenson’s Apple Farm Restaurant in Independence, MO, was directly on the path traveled. Invariably, my parents would stop on the way either to or from Lexington to enjoy lunch or dinner.
Having a working mom, we were no strangers to eating out but there are no other restaurants I can remember with such clarity. From my young eyes Stephenson’s was a “fancy” restaurant that included candle-lit tables with white tablecloths and dim lighting.
Due to it’s popularity there was often a wait to be seated at a table. This never proved to be a problem because while waiting you could serve yourself ice cold apple cider in a little white paper cup. No one limited themselves to just one cup.
The food served at Stephenson’s became folklore in my family, the green rice casserole, the melt-in-your-mouth brisket, and even the side salad served with a little horn of cheese garnish. Yet, the best thing on the menu was the hot apple fritters covered with powdered sugar that would be delivered to the tables throughout the meal. As an adult I have attempted to make those fritters on multiple occasions but they never measure up to those I remember.
I continued going to Stephenson’s Restaurant on a regular basis with my own family for years. Each fall we would gather up the kids and go to the apple orchard to pick our own apples bringing home more pounds than we could ever eat. One year the orchard closed permanently for pick-your-own apples but there was still a small farm stand next to the restaurant where you could appease the craving for Stephenson’s apples. Sadly the restaurant closed in 2007 after being in business for sixty years.
It was said that Stephenson’s was President Truman’s favorite hometown restaurant. Another story I love was when Bess Truman brought her bridge club to the restaurant and they ordered punch with their lunch, Bess added, “Let’s have it with a little authority.” The adult drink was soon added to the restaurant menu and called wine punch.
I know some day Stephenson’s apple cider will not show up in my grocery store because each year the volume available becomes less and less. However, until then I will continue to sip this cider and cherish all the special memories each mug brings to mind.