Along with ginger-hued leaves, bright red apples and football, pumpkins are one of the most prominent autumn archetypes. After all, what would fall be for us without pumpkin pie, spookily-carved jack-o-lanterns, or Pumpkin Spice Lattes? It would be a sad season, indeed.
Native to North America, pumpkins are a winter squash and in the United States, over 1.5 billion pounds are produced annually. An excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin A, pumpkins can be both a healthful and flavorful feast and you can eat almost all of it, from the fleshy shell and seeds to the bright orange flowers and even the leaves! Though the mirliton is the most preferred squash to devour during the fall months in New Orleans, pumpkin is still very much in the running, so much so that there’s regulars available to gourd-mandize season after season.
Case in point, the pumpkin Cheddar biscuits at Breads on Oak. With a second location downtown on Carondolet, the rising bakery is proof positive vegan food can be both delectable and wholesome. One of its most popular sellers, the flaky, pumpkin cheddar biscuit – made with organic pumpkin and vegan cheddar – is made even more desirable as a breakfast sandwich stuffed with a sprouted tofu scramble, “andouille sausage,” and fresh tomato. This time of year they’ve also been known to offer a pumpkin spice brioche eclair with a maple glaze and candied pepitas.
Quite often, the simplest dish is best as French Quarter restaurant The Italian Barrel has shown with one of their most popular plates, re-gourd-less of the season! It will only set you back $18 for chef/owner Samantha Castagnetti’s toothsome pumpkin-stuffed raviolo sauteed in brown butter and sage. Can you smell this dish in your mind’s eye? Can you taste it? Stop fantasizing and go!
As we anxiously await the opening of his latest restaurant Tana (a new Italian eatery slated to launch in old Metairie early 2023), Chef Michael Gulotta has been known to pop pumpkin into the menu at his other two spots. In fact, an Indonesian Pumpkin Curry with spicy apple sambal, sweet soy and crunchy pepitas has made an appearance from time to time at both MoPho Mid-City and Maypop. While we understand to keep the menu fresh, there are many who wouldn’t mind seeing that dish come ’round again … and again.
While it’s hard to predict what savory dish New Orleans chefs will create from year to year, or even day to day (like the brief appearance of smoked lamb ribs over pumpkin congee at Marjie’s Grill), there always seems to be more annual continuity on the sweeter side of things. For example, Pumpkin Praline ice cream makes a regular showing at Creole Creamery, and with four locations (one in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi!) it’s hard to miss. If you pair it with a scoop of Creole cream cheese and brown butter pecan, it becomes a fall-icious split!
You can always count on District Donuts Sliders Brew to jump on the yearly pumpkin procession, with alacrity! Since it opened on Magazine Street almost a decade ago, this specialty coffee shop has featured golden gourd-inspired donuts like pumpkin cheesecake with candied pepitas and ginger beer glaze, pumpkin spice latte crème brulee, “The Great Pumpkin” with pumpkin pie filling and brown butter glaze, and pumpkin pecan rolls . . . not to mention a Caramel Pumpkin Spice Latte with pumpkin spice marshmallows because why not guild the gourd?
Another spot that loves its annual frolic in the pumpkin patch is the Gert Town-based Gracious Bakery. When the leaves start falling and the holiday season is close at hand, you can bet the farm that owner/pastry chef Megan Forman and her happy krewe will be rolling out delights such as pumpkin danishes sprinkled with pepitas, maple pumpkin knots, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin custard deliciously decorated with Valrhona white chocolate-whipped ganache.
Finally, almost every pie-purveyor in town will be offering the ubiquitous Thanksgiving treat, the one offered at Windowsill Pies is more than worth writing about. If you’ve never had the pleasure, it’s past time to make your way to Freret Street for their Ginger Pumpkin Tart with crispy pepitas. As a whole, the Food & Wine Magazine-featured pie runs a higher than the budgeted $20, but lucky for us, they offer a 2-inch mini that fits the bill.
*Article was published in the October 2022 issue of Where Y’at Magazine
*Lead image courtesy of Gracious Bakery