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Tasting Notes Blog

November 2, 2017

Beyond PSL: Fall-Ready Pumpkin Flavors to Savor

I have to admit: everything pumpkin makes me happy. This time of year as the sun rises later, sets earlier, and the evenings turn cool, the craving for everything pumpkin goes into overdrive. The onset of fall brings the excitement of some of our favorite seasonal items, like pumpkin spiced drinks, various baked goods, and of course, pumpkin pie. But, the pumpkin’s cousin, butternut squash, should not be overlooked – as it also plays a starring role in many featured delicious dishes from assorted pastas to soups. We are lucky in Newport Beach to have many places to enjoy our favorite savory and sweet pumpkin tastes of the season.

Photo by Lesley Riccabona

Did someone say “Spiced Pumpkin CHAI Latte”? Oh yes they did – and at Pain du Monde, they do it right. Nothing can beat the aroma of their seasonal specialty, which is black tea infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and the addition of pumpkin-spiced syrup. The warmth, not only from the latte but the spices as well, envelop you into a heavenly pumpkin cloud you will not want to leave. Locations can be found in Corona del Mar, Fashion Island, and off Bristol.

Haute Cakes Caffé is offering a breakfast dish made in pumpkin heaven: Pumpkin – Chocolate Chip Pancakes. Top with a sprinkle of roasted pecans, it’s a pure balance of cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate rounding out perfectly with a buttery-syrupy-nutty topping that, I am positive, will bring you back over and over again. Located off of Westcliff Drive, this popular breakfast spot is at the top of everyone’s list, and these pancakes are worth the wait.

Photo by Lesley Riccabona

It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere in my mind. As the temperature drops in the evening there is nothing better than a delicious libation to awake the senses and the taste buds. Sweet and savory, tart and effervescent, the Pumpkin Paradise at Tommy Bahamas in Corona del Mar Plaza is sure to get your night off to a great start. A mix of Knob Creek Whiskey, Sailor Jerry Rum, Pumpkin Puree, Ginger Beer, and Maple Syrup, it’s like sipping a wonderful Dark and Stormy while enjoying a slice of Pumpkin Pie. Indulge in this seasonal beverage while it’s available through the holiday season.

To me, finding a good breakfast muffin can be like a shot in the dark. It can be a fight between being too dense, too sweet, not enough flavor – you get the point. BUT! Like finding a hidden jewel, I stumbled upon a rare find while grocery shopping at Bristol Farms. There, I found the ultimate Pumpkin Muffin. Soft to the immediate touch, studded with a bit of raw sugar, it was calling my name. I took a small bite and was lifted into orbit – the natural sweetness of the pumpkin mixed with delicate yet traditional spices, the tender chew of the cake – it was one of the most satisfying pumpkin moments of the season thus far. I paired it with a latte at their coffee counter and was in sheer breakfast heaven. Check the bakery counter for availability as they don’t last throughout the day.

Photo by Lesley Riccabona

Ok folks, there is Butternut Squash Ravioli, and then there is Butternut Squash Ravioli at Pirozzi. When the restaurant first opened a few years ago in Corona del Mar, I was immediately told that not only was the recipe a family secret, but that it was a MUST try. Chef Alessandro Pirozzi and his team have perfected this harmonious dish as a combination of exquisitely cooked homemade pasta filled with a luscious yet slightly sweet puree of butternut squash and homemade ricotta cheese, bathed in a beautiful brown butter-sage sauce. Order as an appetizer or as a full entrée and pair with one of their hand-selected Italian varietal wines. You won’t want to leave, but you will be left coming back for more.

Pumpkin pie: you know I was going there at some point. But truly, one of the best in town is at The Quiet Woman. Affectionately called the Q Dub, they do homemade desserts well, and their pumpkin pie is better than perfect. A favorite for 15+ years, the recipe has stayed the same, as has the level of delicious and the same customers coming back for more. When you are served a slice, upon presentation you can tell it is not your traditional pie, which is light due to the addition of whipped cream during the mixing process. This pumpkin pie is sure to please any palate. Also, you can order a pumpkin pie to go (whipped cream included) any time this holiday season.

My grandma used to make the most incredible Butternut Squash Soup – seasoned and pureed to perfection. It was a mainstay in her recipe repertoire. And when you find a restaurant that evokes that same feeling, one can’t resist but go back over and over again. Juliette Kitchen + Bar does the same for me with their Butternut Squash Soup. Studded with toasted pepitas and a dollop of crème fraiche, Chef Daniel Hyatt has created a lovely and elegant soup that not only reminds you of comforting recipes from the past, but a movement towards the future of clean and simple dishes that satisfy your soul and your appetite.

A great risotto can be hard to find, but here in Newport Beach, there is one in particular that stands out: the Butternut Squash Risotto at Cucina Enoteca in Fashion Island. Italian imported arborio rice is cooked to a perfectly al-dente creamy mixture with chicken stock mixed together with cubed butternut squash, butternut squash puree, topped with delicate buffalo mozzarella cheese and toasted pepitas. This is a dish to be enjoyed as a side or can also be ordered as a full entrée. Available for dinner only.

Main image by Freepik
Written by Lesley Riccabona

Lesley Elliott Riccabona brings more than just food to the table – there is always a glass of wine included. Graduate of the University of Southern California and Le Cordon Bleu, her passion for all things food and wine related pours over into her 20 year career. Her knowledge of the culinary and hospitality industry has been shaped by her experiences working in local restaurants, starting and owning a catering company, food sales and marketing, and managing catering sales in and around Orange County. Good food makes her happy, and she loves to read and write about it.

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