The pumpkin diaries of southeastern Connecticut
If my face seems unusually orange-hued as of late, it's not because I've spent time in a tanning bed or am suffering from some malady, but because I've spent more than $118 on local pumpkin- and pumpkin-spice-flavored creations in the past month.
You might be rolling your eyes right now. My take on pumpkin is that it's fine if you like it and it's fine if you hate it, but neither obsession with nor mockery of this gourd constitutes a personality trait.
I enjoy but am not obsessed with all things pumpkin. I just decided to write a roundup of the foods and beverages that local businesses — no Dunkin' and Starbucks here — have to offer, and then I committed to this project at a level bordering on extreme.
Still, there were plenty of things I didn't get to. I didn't get to the coffee with homemade pumpkin spice syrup from Vault Coffee Roasters, or the Fallfest cupcake with pumpkin cheesecake filling at NoRA Cupcake Company, or the NarWitch pumpkin beer from These Guys Brewing Company. But if I were awarding prizes based on what I did taste, Flanders Fish Market and Sift Bake Shop would take the top spots for both creativity and deliciousness.
Sept. 10 — I was driving from a dentist's appointment in Waterford back to the office in New London, so how was I supposed to not stop at NV Bakery and Market (40 Boston Post Road, Waterford)? I ordered the pumpkin smoothie, which also featured soy milk, carrots, banana, maple syrup, vanilla bean and cinnamon. Putting banana into smoothies can be tricky because it's such an overpowering flavor, but NV nailed the proportions. I would recommend the smaller size, as this is a decadent drink.
Sept. 13 — Accompanied by a friend visiting from out of town, I went to Mel's Downtown Creamery (37 West Broad St., Pawcatuck) and ordered the pumpkin Oreo ice cream, a flavor I later learned is popular this year at various locations. I liked having the crunchiness of the cookie cut into the smooth texture of the ice cream.
Sept. 22 — I went to Olde Mistick Village for the Garlic Festival but was also on the prowl for pumpkin, a combination that made my friend grimace. At Sticky Situations, I sampled the pumpkin honey butter, which the shop recommends pairing with cranberry walnut bread, roasted turkey and baked sweet potatoes. I ordered a butterscotch pumpkin cupcake at Bleu Squid and picked up a jar of pumpkin butter at Franklin's General Store.
Sept. 24 — I ordered the buttery, apple-and-cinnamon-topped pumpkin ravioli to-go from Paul's Pasta (223 Thames St., Groton) and sat down in the grass at Fort Griswold to eat it on this sunny, 75-degree day.
Sept. 26 – I swung by Café Otis (80 Broadway, Norwich) and ordered a pumpkin caramel cupcake. Of anything I'd eaten thus far, this had the flavor I most associate with classic pumpkin spice, and it was only on my last bite I suddenly remembered I was eating something vegan. Owner Nancy Isa said she previously had vegan pumpkin apple soup, and Café Otis since posted about white chocolate pumpkin snickerdoodles.
Sept. 27 — On this day, I went on a pumpkin tour of downtown Mystic. I started with a pumpkin spice coffee from Mystic Market (63 Williams Ave.), which also had a pumpkin cream roll. I then sat outside Sift Bake Shop (5 Water St.) eating a slice of white chocolate pumpkin cheesecake, a dessert stunning in both appearance and taste, and took a pumpkin chai macaron to go. The lighter top layer, denser lower layer and slightly chewy crust of this cake balanced each other out perfectly. At the Spice & Tea Exchange (6 West Main St.), I bought some loose leaf pumpkin spice tea. The store also had a pumpkin pie spice blend, pumpkin powder, pumpkin pie sugar and a pumpkin chai latte soy candle.
Oct. 1 — I ordered the pumpkin pie latte and pumpkin muffin at Mitzi's Coffee & Crepes (39 Kings Hwy., Gales Ferry). The latte was creamy and sweet, with a pumpkin flavor that was not too overwhelming. I appreciated the crumble atop the muffin so the texture wasn't too homogenous, similar to my feelings about the pumpkin Oreo ice cream.
Oct. 2 — I picked up an apple wine with pumpkin flavoring, pumpkin bread mix and pumpkin fudge from B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill (129 North Stonington Road, Mystic). The shop was also selling house-made loaves of pumpkin bread, pumpkin ale seasonal beer jelly from the Vermont-based Potlicker Kitchen, pumpkin honey mustard from the Florida-based Terrapin Ridge Farms, and bread mix with options of pumpkin caramel, pumpkin chocolate chunk, pumpkin maple and pumpkin toffee.
Oct. 3 — I picked up pumpkin nut bread — which further reinforced my texture theory — at Holmberg Orchards (12 Orchard Lane, Gales Ferry), which also had pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, a pumpkin bread and muffin mix, and a pumpkin spice candle.
Oct. 4 — I went to the next level this day: I didn't eat any non-pumpkin food until after 9 p.m. Eating a short stack of pumpkin walnut pancakes at Gumdrops & Lollipops (334 Main St., Niantic) was the perfect way to start a lovely autumn day, and then I got coffee with pumpkin syrup from Café Sol. The newsroom got cupcakes in the afternoon to wish reporter Ben Kail good luck as he leaves for MassLive, so I had a pumpkin cupcake from The Cake Lady Café (256A South Frontage Road, New London) for "lunch." For dinner, I picked up some pumpkin crab bisque from Flanders Fish Market (22 Chesterfield Road, East Lyme), which was just wonderful. It had a bit of a kick but was not overwhelmingly spicy, and I got a big hunk of crab a few spoonfuls in.
Oct. 5 — The pumpkin maple whoopie pie from Zest Fresh Pastry (American Velvet Mill, 22 Bayview Ave., Stonington) was a tasty — albeit messy — treat to eat on my car ride to Boston.
Oct. 7 — I ordered an iced pumpkin latte from Muddy Waters Café (42 Bank St., New London), which had a distinct flavor. Despite the Caffe Italiano syrup being sugar-free, the drink was sweet, and it tasted more of actual pumpkin than the usual pumpkin spice. After work, I got a pumpkin spice martini from Recovery Room (445 Ocean Ave., New London), but I think I've had so much pumpkin I'm losing the ability to differentiate between what does and doesn't taste like pumpkin.
Oct. 8 — I had a dentist's appointment in Waterford again this morning and decided again to stop at NV. I could've brought things full-circle and ordered a pumpkin coffee or pumpkin muffin, but I couldn't do it. I ordered a regular coffee. I may not want to eat or drink any pumpkin items ever again — or maybe just until Thanksgiving.