Smitten with Smitten’s pumpkin

October always finds me in the midst of a serious pumpkin binge. I’m one of those people, the pumpkin obsessed. This year, of course, has been no different, and while I’ve already eaten plenty of tasty pumpkin treats, my favorite, by far, is unfortunately almost 3,000 miles away.

It was during my days in San Francisco that I ate the most delicious ice cream to maybe have ever landed in my mouth, the maple brown sugar squash ice cream at Smitten Ice Cream in Hayes Valley.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin ice cream I could eat all day every day

All of Smitten’s ice creams are made to order on the spot using liquid nitrogen to freeze the ingredients at crazy low temperatures super fast. In this case, the ingredients were pumpkin, milk, molasses, cinnamon, cardamom, brown sugar, nutmeg and ginger. If you want the whole scientific breakdown, better read this than try and get a proper explanation from me. What I can tell you, however, is that this ice cream is phenomenal. Thick and deliciously creamy, with all the spicy warmth of pumpkin pie spices, this was the ice cream version of the best imaginable pumpkin pie.

It’s a seasonal ice cream but all kidding aside, I could eat this year round, every day actually.

Smitten Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Pumpkin mania continues

The annual pumpkin binge is upon us. It’s upon me. It’s. All. Up. On. ME.

During my usual autumn pumpkin binge, most of the things I eat are sweet. Pumpkin muffins, lattes, cakes, pie, ice cream. You name it, I eat it. But this year, one of the best pumpkin foods I’ve had wasn’t a sweet at all. It was a pizza! Yes, a pumpkin pizza! Talk about awesome worlds colliding!

Forcella’s Autunno Pizza, introducing pizza into the Great Pumpkin Binge

I was at Forcella, the super-freakin’-delicious Neapolitan pizzeria on the Bowery between NoHo and the East Village, having dinner with a friend, when she pointed it out on the menu. (I was probably staring at the word burrata and having cheese fantasies and hadn’t already noticed it.) I wasn’t sure what to make of pumpkin on a pizza, but the Autunno pizza, with it’s pumpkin puree base (instead of tomato sauce), smoked mozzarella and pancetta, inspired all sorts of confidence.

And good God! It was delicious! The pumpkin puree had just enough subtle sweetness to play the perfect complement to the flavorful, salty pancetta sprinkled throughout. To round everything out was the smoked mozzarella which was just the right amount of smokey instead of the usual creamy, milkiness to make for a really delicious pizza.

As the great pumpkin binge of 2012 continues, I’m glad to know I have Forcella’s delicious autunno pizza to turn to when I need a break from the sweet stuff.

I’m back! Someone pass me a pumpkin pie soda.

Summer’s never been an easy time for me. The heat makes me crazy and bitchy, the humidity makes me a sweaty, frizzy troll, and this summer, to add something new to the mix, my long-term relationship completely fell apart, the frequently aforementioned Flaneur moved permanently back to Italy, and for the first time in my entire life I found myself living alone. Throw in some skull-crushing hangovers, too many sad meals eaten in front of the TV, and a particularly unpleasant incident involving a locksmith and 325 of my hard earned dollars, and I’ve had one hell of a summer. (I know, what a whiner.)

But thankfully, summer, and the share of heartache that came with it this year, are on the way out.  Things are starting to look up, temperatures are starting to cool down, and I for one, am ready for fall.

I love lots of things about autumn: crisp weather, changing leaves, apple cider, my birthday (wait, no, scratch that last one), Halloween, Thanksgiving, lower electricity bills… I mean really, the list goes on and on. But perhaps my most favorite is the yearly pumpkin binge I go on where I eat everything and anything with pumpkin as an ingredient.

Pumpkin pie soda, a whole new take on my favorite fall treat

I thought I’d seen it all until earlier this week when I found myself at Whole Foods in Tribeca (i.e. my new happy place) where I saw…wait for it, wait for it… are you ready? Ok, here goes: Pumpkin freaking pie soda!! I know, MIND. BLOWN. Bam, in the basket it went.

Some of you are probably grossed out, and I get that, but trust me, you’re wrong. This Maine Root pumpkin pie soda is delicious, the perfect bubbly take on one of my favorite desserts. It’s sweet and smooth, with a very similar taste to cream soda (which I also looooove) but because it’s pumpkin pie based, it also has hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. Delicious, I tell you!

So yes, things have been rocky lately and especially here on the blogfront, there’s been a big fat nothing going on, but that’s all changing now. With a cold pumpkin pie soda in hand and fall officially just a week away, things are getting sweeter already.

A bread pudding victory

I see foods in blogs, magazines, books and TV shows all the time that I want to eat, but rarely do I feel like actually making them. I usually just rather go the restaurant or store where they’re sold and cut straight to the chase. But every once in a while when the spirit moves me, I think, “You know what, I can make that.”

Earlier this week, while reading old entries of a blog I’m newly obsessed with (Cupcakes and Cashmere) I came across a recipe which the blogger had actually found in another blog I really like (Smitten Kitchen) where that blogger had adapted it from Gourmet magazine (ahh, the power of the interwebs): pumpkin freakin’ bread pudding. Mind. Blown.

So I immediately ran out and bought all the ingredients. I followed Smitten Kitchen’s variation of the recipe which you can find here, but instead of bourbon, which I didn’t have any of, I used a little bit of brandy. (Not pictured though.)

The ingredients

I put the butter and the bread aside and threw everything else (in their appropriate quantities, duh) into a bowl. But because I’m ever the rookie in the kitchen, I used a bowl that wasn’t big enough for me to whisk it all together without making a huge goopy mess, and ended up having to pour it into a big pot. Unnecessary steps are always part of the experience for me.

Mixing everything up

After melting the butter and coating the bread in it (a very hands-on step, by the way), I filled a square baking pan with the now slightly soggy, buttery bread. I will fully admit several pieces of bread never made it into the final version because I ate them along the way.

Warm, buttery bread cubes are hard to resist.

Next, I took the pumpkin-milk-eggs-spices mixture, which had been whisked together into a velvety, gold, sweet smelling cream, and I poured it over the bread cubes, using a spoon to make sure it seeped into all the corners and edges.

Nothing like a little creamy pumpkin bath.

The good thing about having a small apartment is that when you make something like this, the whole place smells like it. So while I waited for the bread pudding to set, I enjoyed the warm, spicy sweet smell that quickly filled the air. Once out of the oven, it didn’t immediately look very different than when it went in, but after poking it a bit I could tell the bread had soaked up the pumpkin mix and all of it congealed together to make bread pudding. (At which point, I may or may not have done a little celebratory dance.)

I wish the technology existed for you to be able to smell this.

While a scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream would have been great, I took Smitten Kitchen’s recommendation and topped my chunk of pumpkin bread pudding with a generous dollop of vanilla greek yogurt. With its subtle sweetness and sour tang, the cool yogurt was a nice contrast to the warm, soft creaminess of the bread pudding. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m going to: this was a damn good bread pudding! Maybe there’s hope for me yet!

And voila! Pumpkin bread pudding!

Autumn’s ice cream sandwiches

I’ve never been one to let a little cold weather get in the way of me stuffing my face full of ice cream. (I mean, what, am I supposed to subsist off soup and tea during fall and winter? You know how long that is in New York??) So even with a crisp autumn chill in the air this weekend, I dragged Flaneur with me to find the Coolhaus NY truck, a Los Angeles food truck dishing out gourmet, artisanal ice cream sandwiches.

The ultimate fall ice cream sandwich: sweet potato ice cream and pumpkin spice cookies. Mmmm mmm mmh!

With combinations like blood orange and cranberry ice cream and snickerdoodle cookies, and brown butter ice cream with candied bacon and red velvet cookies, I had to put some serious thought into what ice cream and cookie combo I wanted. In celebration of the beautiful fall weather I went with sweet potato and marshmallow swirl ice cream between pumpkin walnut spice cookies with cream cheese frosting drizzled on top. My chocolate chip cookie-loving-beau, on the other hand, opted for the  Maker’s Mark bourbon pecan pie ice cream between chocolate chip cookies.

Both were ridiculously good, perfect for either a sweltering day in July or a January blizzard. The pumpkin walnut spice cookies were pillowy soft and sweet, without being too much (I promise!) and the ice cream was rich, creamy, and with a more subtle sweetness than its flavor inspiration might make you think. It had just enough of the spicy sweetness of sweet potato and just the right hint of sugary marshmallow to make it the ultimate fall ice cream sandwich. If I could buy these packaged and by the dozen, I would bring them to every holiday party from here to New Year’s.

Chocolate chip cookies and Maker's Mark bourbon pecan pie. BAM!

Flaneur’s was good too, with the same autumn themed flavor but different individual tastes. His ice cream for example, had more of a smoky smoothness from the Maker’s Mark but still had the spicy, syrupy holiday sweetness of pecan pie that makes you want to sit in front of a Christmas tree and eat until you fall into a happy food coma. His cookies, unlike mine, were a little firmer and had a more traditional cookie crunch.

Lucky for my waistline, the Coolhaus NY truck changes location every day, because if I always knew where to find them every day, especially if it was as easy as it was this weekend when it was parked in Union Square…oh boy, that might be trouble. I might look like Santa Claus come next fall.

Yes, more pumpkin!

 

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

Just when I thought pumpkin-flavored foods had been retired till November, BAM! I found something new! And delicious, I might add.

This classy cocktail from the Mandarin Oriental’s Lobby Lounge,  made me want to rekindle my annual pumpkin binge. The creamy, dessert-like drink was a velvety sweet concoction of Stoli Vanilla Vodka, Kahlua, Coole Swan Irish Cream, pumpkin purèe and spiced pumpkin syrup.

Sigh. It’s always a good time for pumpkin.

Instead of Jack-o’-lanterns

More than any other season, fall is my favorite time of year. Lots of awesome things happen in the fall: the stifling heat of summer dissipates, I celebrate my birthday, and my boyfriend’s, Halloween, post-Halloween candy sales, the leaves turn colors, Thanksgiving, and the electricity bill goes down. But my favorite part about autumn is, not surprisingly, one of the edible parts: pumpkins!

In the last month or so I’ve been on a pumpkin binge. Pumpkin ale, pumpkin scones, pumpkin butter, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin spiced lattes. If it’s got pumpkin as an ingredient, I want it. Which is why when someone back in San Francisco told me about a delicious recipe for soup made in a pumpkin, I made a mental note to make it as soon as I could in New York.

The main ingredients

Continue reading