It's that time of year again. Get ready for the pumpkin to make it's annual debut.
Thursday, October 10th, 2013 at 12:00 am | Lana Adler
The leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter, and the weather's cooling down. As much as we hate to see it go, summer is officially out the door, and fall has arrived. The good news is that fall means pumpkin season, and ample opportunity to get stoked about creative, delicious pumpkin food and drink.
Pumpkin is one of America's favorite fall foods and U.S. farmers grow 1.5 billion pounds of it a year. There's good reason for the pumpkin's popularity: pumpkins are super versatile, and can be prepared pretty much any way you can think of. Whether baked into a pie, tossed into a stir fry, or brewed into beer, pumpkin is a champion of tasting good. It's also good for you: low in calories, fat, and sodium, but high in fiber and protein, pumpkins are great sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, and iron. So now that you've got proof of how awesome pumpkins are (as if you needed it), check out some of the best places to go pumpkin crazy in the city this fall.
This midtown spot for coastal Mexican cuisine is offering a delicious pumpkin dish in time for the fall. The Calabaza en Tacha is an inspired desert made from caramelized, oven-roasted pumkin and crème fraiche gelato, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. While you're there, make sure to try their stellar red or white Sangria.
The Roasted Baby Pumpkin at The Quarter might look adorable, but don't be fooled: it packs a seriously refined and flavorful punch. The pumpkin is hollowed, roasted with brown sugar, and filled with a stew of pumpkin flesh, lima beans, okra, corn, and shrimp in sweet-and-savory harmony that's perfect for a fall day.
Preserve24 proves once again to be worth all the surrounding hype with a pumpkin-focused pasta offering, Gnocci with Roasted Pumpkin, Sage, Toasted Mushroom, and Black Truffle. Everything about that dish just screams sweater weather, in the best way possible. The earthy sweetness of pumpkin is paired wonderfully and warmly with sage and mushrooms.
Quaint eatery Home/Made Brooklyn serves a killer brunch that's worth the trip out to Red Hook, and features a number of delicious pumpkin dishes on the menu. The Pumpkin Waffles with Pecan Cardamom Sauce are a decadently sweet pumpkin experience, while the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust surprises and delights with it's spicey goodness.
If you're looking for an Asian-inflected pumpkin dish at a reasonable cost, check out Topaz Thai. They give the spice treatment to pumpkin with their Pumpkin Curry, served with jumbo shrimp. Watch yourself, though: when they say spicy, they mean spicy.
Maritime-themed hipster hangout The Drink is serving up a pumpkin-themed seasonal libation in signature punch style. Stop in for The Headless Horseman, a cold-serve punch made with pink peppercorn-infused Weller Bourbon, fresh pumpkin juice, maple syrup, vanilla black and chicory teas, and fresh lemon and grapefruit juices. You can get it by the glass or pitch in with friends to get a ten-serving pitcher.
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Once you've had your pumpkin fix, you might be inspired to celebrate another pumpkin-related fall tradition. Though pumpkin-chucking might not be for everybody (though, if that's your thing, you do you, we won't judge), pretty much everybody likes a good pumpkin carving. Remember, it's already October, and you're going to start seeing Jack-O-Lanterns lining neighborhood stoops before you know it. You really be that lame person who's the only one on the block without one.
If your're craft-challenged, check out this video on how to carve a pumpkin like a champ.
Jack-O-Lanterns actually have an interesting history (which we looked up, because when we thought about it, we realized that carving a pumpkin is actually kind of a bizarre thing to do without context). The term "Jack-O-Lantern" originally referred to mysterious lights sometimes seen at night over bogs and marshes. There's a scientific reason for the lights (namely, that gasses that come from decomposing plants ignite when they come in contact with electricity or heat), but without that knowledge, people told stories and created legends to explain them. The most popular story within Irish folklore was the legend of Stingy Jack, a man who essentially pissed off the devil by cheating him out of a bar tab, but then saved himself from hell by trapping the Devil and not letting him go until he promised not to take his soul. When Stingy Jack died, God wouldn't let him into heaven, and the Devil couldn't take him to hell. Instead, he gave him a single burning coal and sent him to wander the night forever. The lights, legend has it, were Stingy Jack and his coal, doomed to restlessly roam the countryside. They therefore were given his name: Jack-of-the-Lantern, or Jack-O-Lantern.
It was also an Irish tradition to make lanterns from root vegetables to celebrate the fall harvest, carved-out turnips and beets stuffed with coals or wood, and a common prank that arose from that tradition was to wander out into a field with a lit vegetable lantern in order to fool passerbys into thinking you were Stingy Jack. More refined pranksters began carving elaborate spooky faces into their lanterns, to get them to project the spooky shape with light. Hence, the Jack-O-Lantern was born. The pumpkin was a uniquely American touch to the tradition: when Irish immigrants came to America, they started using indigeously-grown pumpkins as the carving veggie of choice. With time, the harvest aspect of the festival faded away, and the general time of year coincided with Halloween enough to continue the tradition started by the story of Stingy Jack.
Now that you've gotten your history lesson for the day, make sure to embrace the fall season and indulge in some pumpkin-flavored treats ASAP. And, for a measure of how awesome pumpkin-carving can be, check out one fan's impressive Breaking Bad fan art.