September 19, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

It seems every year about this time I feel compelled to write about how much I enjoy the fall.  It brings to mind comfort for me-warm sweaters, beautiful colors, piles of leaves, warm apples cider, and a little chill in the air, tinged with the scent of wood smoke.

One of my favorite foods of the season is apples. So versatile, so many varieties, eaten anytime of the day.  I’m partial to the crisp, tart varieties, old fashioned ones like the Macintosh and newer varieties like the (relatively) recently released Zestar. 

The Zestar is an apple that was created at the University of Minnesota in 1999. It’s an early season apple that is also cold hearty.  The flavor is amazing-just the right combination of sweet & tart.  Texture is just as I like it-nice & crisp, without being too hard, like a Granny Smith.

From the experts:
The Zestar! apple helps fill a gap. Most early season apples are mealy, which is why you should be making applesauce in August and waiting until later in September to start your pies.The Zestar! is a crunchy apple that is available early in the season. It also has a long shelf life, unlike it’s early season counterparts. You can store them in the fridge for up to a couple months. One negative of the Zestar! is that it tends to bruise rather easily, so one must be careful when harvesting and handling. A bruised apple will not have that long shelf live. I think this easy bruising is why I am not seeing this apple regularly sitting next to the Galas and Fujis at the local mega mart.


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The food is just incredible! I really mean it...I hope you know that I am not just saying this. It's so colorful, fresh, and special every day!"

Faculty Member 

Just a note to say thank you for all of the delicious food you and your staff serve each day. I never knew kale could taste so good!


Outstanding food, outstanding service, outstanding people. I brag about MG to my peers at other schools, and even to my friends and family!


Thank you so much for all the gluten-free options this year! All of your staff have been so helpful. They make a point to come up to me at meals and let me know what options you have for that meal. Salads are great, but sometimes a warm meal is just what you need!

Faculty Member 

Thanks for all of the good work you and your team did to ensure that last night’s welcome gathering for new faculty went off without a hitch. I’m so grateful for Team MG working so hard to make sure things are done the right way.

Head of School 

It’s an understatement to say we were surprised by the excellent quality of the food. We could not recall having a better tuna dish, even at the four-star resturants we frequent in Raleigh. Duke Integrative is a special place.


Many times I find a favorite thing out of the many items served during lunch, and although the featured spinach and fruit salad was visually stunning; the SHOUT OUT winner of the day hands down was the very delicious unassuming Vegetarian Pinto Beans!!! The onions were glistening and the peppers served as a complimentary color to the two different shades of beans...I have one regret and that is I didn’t think to take a picture!


Thank you for making pimento cheese today! It not only is divine, but also hit the spot. I now regret wasting 62.5 years of life on this planet in which I did not eat this heavenly mix. As I explore different recipes in my home kitchen I will try my best to live up to the standard demonstrated by what I had today.

Faculty Member 

Everything was usual! The food was scrumptious...and the weather was gorgeous!

Conference Client 

I would not change a thing! Your staff was not only professional, but warm and caring. They truly set the tone for a memorable night. The food was delicious...our family and friends left with hearts and bellies full!

Catering Client 

I just wanted to thank you so much for all the delicious food at Duke. Your food was such a happy and positive experience and it made the days there so much more enjoyable to eat healthy, but tasty, great food.


Thanks for the delicious soup and the new harvest salad - and thanks for removing half the calories out of the Farm Basket brownie...haha.


THANK YOU for your help today with the open house! Our visiting families raved about the personalized environment. We had a student tell us that Guilford went from his 3rd to 1st choice!


Thank you for all of your hard work on the meals and breaks for the Alumnae Board. The food was outstanding; everyone raved about each meal. Favorites included the grits on Saturday morning and the butternut squash soup on Sunday. YUM!!!


The amazing characteristic is that, on a day by day basis, you give us nutritious, varied, interesting, delicious food...not just something special for company. Please know how much you are appreciated and loved by this community.

Conference Administrator