The arrival of pumpkin-flavored everything seems to have replaced cooler weather as the key harbinger of Autumn… since we’ve been knee-deep in pumpkin spice since somewhere around back-to-school week.
Whether you’re an avowed aficionado, hopelessly indifferent (that’s me), or somewhere in between – we’ve got four homegrown pumpkin treats that rise above the rest of the patch.
Perhaps the number one reason I’ve avoided this craze up until now is that it more or less began with coffee. I tend to prefer my drinks unadulterated – and this is especially true about coffee. There are, however, exceptions to every rule, and if you’d like to try a taste that eschews the super sweet and artificial flavor trends largely associated with the chain shops, look no further than Soul Full Cup on Market Street in Corning. I ordered a tall medium coffee into which they mixed their own house-made, natural pumpkin flavoring. More spicy than sweet, it complements the coffee rather than overpowers it. Bold cinnamon flavor with just a hint of nutmeg is what I got. Watch your last couple of sips since the bottom of your cup may contain actual pumpkin pulp (take it as a positive reminder of the real ingredients used in the flavoring).
Perhaps the only drink more sacred to me than coffee is beer, and I found that Horseheads Brewing’s Pumpkin Ale is a real revelation in the ever-growing field of pumpkin brews. Found on tap at Three Birds Restaurant in Corning, it smells so much like fresh pumpkin pie that the first sip amazes you with how little flavor it actually imparts. This is no gimmick but a quality beer that just happens to contain the flavor of real, fresh pumpkins and light spices. While I did not immediately want another, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Take care if you do elect to down more than one in a sitting… since its smoothness and clean dry finish bely its 7.2 ABV.
My third choice is the Pumpkin Ravioli at The Cellar in Corning. One of the nice things about this dish – and every entree on their menu – is that you can order it in full or half portions. I find the half portion of this dish – shared with a friend – to be a perfect appetizer. It’s hearty pasta pockets with a light filling that is neither too sweet nor too rich. If you’re hesitant about jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon, this is a tasty low-risk entry point.
The theme up until this point has been local creations that have been given a mild, natural pumpkin treatment. This last choice is only semi-local and has more sweetness and flavor than all the others combined… but I challenge you to buy a package of two chocolate-covered pumpkin spice Oreos from Dmitri’s Treats on Market Street and not eat both in one sitting. The inside is your stock Nabisco cookie – with all its sugar and artificial flavoring intact… but the Corning shop hand dips these in its own chocolate to add a thick layer of smooth creaminess to the outside. Decadent in every way, these are a once-in-a-great-while guilty pleasure.