Good Gourd: 12 Pumpkin Desserts to Celebrate the Season

Once a humble, orange gourd best known for adorning dining room tables and decorating doorsteps, pumpkin has become a divisive element of the fall culinary landscape. Each year, pumpkin in all forms appears in coffee shops, grocery stores, and restaurants across the country, to the delight of some and exhaustion of others. We’re taking a stance, though, however controversial: we love pumpkin. Whether it be the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte, a creamy, comforting bowl of soup, or a hot-from-the-oven bread, we’re all in. However, pumpkin desserts reign supreme in our diets. From tiramisu to fritters to the most distinctly autumn ice cream sandwich, check out how chefs from around the country do justice to our favorite fall flavors.

Ginger Snap Cookie and Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwich, CBD Provisions, Dallas, Texas
This modern-yet-inviting brasserie in the heart of downtown Dallas is open all day, but make sure to stop in for lunch or dinner for a taste of fall on a plate. Executive pastry chef Keith Cedotal combined two of the season’s best, most quintessential flavors in his Gingersnap Cookie Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwich with housemade cookies and a coating of pumpkin seeds for a little added texture. If we could dole these out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween, we’d officially be the most popular house on the block. Make a reservation at CBD Provisions.

Pumpkin Desserts

Pumpkin Spice Gelato, Alla Spina, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Among the many reasons to love chef Marc Vetri’s Italian gastropub is the extensive beer selection (including the Victory Verde, a saison made exclusively for the Vetri family restaurants,) the comforting yet impressive, pork-centric menu, and, not least, the soft serve gelato. Flavors change seasonally, but this fall enjoy a Pumpkin Spice swirl in a cup, on a cone, or, for a little pick me up, an affogato with a shot of espresso. Make a reservation at Alla Spina.

Pumpkin Desserts

Pumpkin Basque Cake, The Bristol, Chicago, Illinois
Renowned chef Grant Achatz has called the Basque cake at this beloved American restaurant in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood one of his favorite desserts in the city. A staple on the menu, pastry chef Amanda Rockman has given the cake an autumn spin, adding pumpkin marmalade — made from scratch by cooking a mixture of small diced pumpkin tossed in maple sugar and lemon zest — and a garnish of candied sage, spiced pumpkin seeds, and maple chantilly to the classic Spanish dessert. “If you can find them, the best pumpkin for marmalade that I have found is called a Long Island Cheese Squash,” asserts Chef Rockman. “Odd name, but great pumpkin.” Make a reservation at The Bristol.

Pumpkin desserts

Tiramisu’ Alla Zucca, Lago, Las Vegas, Nevada
At this stylish spot in the Bellagio, get a front row seat to the resort’s famous fountain show while enjoying plates like crudo, small pizzas, and focaccia. And for those celebrating Thanksgiving in town, don’t miss the seasonal spin on the traditional Italian dessert. Tiramusu’ Alla Zucca layers pumpkin mascarpone mousse onto espresso-soaked lady fingers in an indulgent, impressive — and appropriately Vegas — presentation. Make a reservation at Lago.

Pumpkin Desserts

Pumpkin Cake in a Box, BOA Steakhouse, Santa Monica, California
The classic steakhouse gets an L.A. twist at this perpetually buzzing Santa Monica hot spot. After treating yourself to a juicy steak — the 40-day, dry-aged New York Strip or bone-in Kansas City filet mignon are among the many menu heavy-hitters — the Cake in a Box is an apt ending. With moist, spiced pumpkin cake, vanilla cream cheese icing, anisette cream, and candied pecans, the “box” aspect of this dessert means taking it to go is just as easy as diving in on site. Make a reservation at BOA Steakhouse.

Pumpkin Desserts

Baked Pumpkin Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts, Taste on Melrose, West Hollywood, California
Paired with a hot coffee at brunch or saved for dessert at lunch or dinnertime, the Baked Pumpkin Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut — made with a soft pumpkin brioche, drenched in butter, and covered in cinnamon and sugar — makes for a perfectly autumn indulgence at this warm little neighborhood spot. Or, opt for the spicy Pumpkin Crumb Cake, topped with an almond nutmeg crumb layer. With ample outdoor seating for L.A.’s 364 days of sunshine, enjoy either one of executive pastry chef Katie Shyne’s house-baked creations and win fall. Make a reservation at Taste on Melrose.

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Top Boston Rooftop Bars: Where to Sip + Soak in the City Skyline

Whether you’re dining or just raising a glass, those who want to savor this awesome weather before the clocks turn in Boston have a plethora of options. Think Italian, sushi or BBQ, with craft cocktails and local brews to boot. Here are the top Boston rooftop bars — and a preview of what you’ll see.

Lookout Rooftop + Bar at the Envoy Hotel
Lookout may be perched high above Boston’s hottest neighborhood for nightlife, but if you don’t line up by about 4PM in the afternoon the line may snake around the block for the stunning Seaport views at this trendy newcomer. Head bartender Michael Ray works together with Beantown brewery Harpoon and local spirit makers like GrandTen for WireWorks gin and Bully Boy for rum, vodka, and whiskey to craft artisanal cocktails. The latest seasonal hit — the Rum for Your Life, with pineapple, lime, and simple syrup — celebrates the last blast of Indian summer. Views through modern glass walls offer a prime panorama of the city skyline and Boston Harbor. Post-game with noshes like tuna poke, flatbreads, and locally caught scallops from chef du cuisine Tatiana Rosana at Outlook Kitchen and Bar, also at Envoy Hotel. Make a reservation at Outlook Kitchen and Bar.

Boston Rooftop Bars

Legal Harborside
Good things come in threes at Legal Harborside, where the trio of sangrias (red, white, and strawberry) are the perfect way to toast the all-seasons rooftop bar and lounge —and three very different dining experiences on each floor. The first is a casual concept with “picnic tables” and a market, the second offers fine dining and an interior reminiscent of a ship’s dining room, and the third is the cherry on top: a four-season space with a copper fireplace and retractable glass walls and ceiling just right to admire those harvest moons glimmering over the marina. The adult slushies and Top Deck Margarita are the top choices to wash down a menu focusing on sushi and oysters. Make a reservation at Legal Harborside.

Boston Rooftop Bars

Though the vintage airstream trailer converted into a bar may be the most memorable décor on the Coppersmith roof deck, the drinks are far removed from the Solo cup beverages found in most double-wides. The mood is festive and casual, especially this fall as football lovers get a kick on Sunday and Monday game days when executive chef Jason Heard busts out a “rivals menu” including regional fare from the New England Patriots’ opposing teams including pierogies from Cleveland and crab cakes from Baltimore. Hungry for more? The Air Deck is the only space you can order “Air Deck Picnics,” family-style bites like BBQ, tacos, and sliders served up in vintage Radio Flyer wagons for 6-20 people (must be ordered in advance). Make it a party and tap your toes to live music being offered Sunday afternoons on the deck from 4-7PM, too. Make a reservation at Coppersmith.

Boston Rooftop Bars

 Top of the Hub
Top of the Hub may be in the heart of the Boston, but the drink menu hits are straight up Caribbean. Lead bartender Arley Howard serves up frothy pina coladas in a city largely devoid of frozen cocktails, in addition to a plethora of mojitos. One of the most popular tipples is the Level 52 — so named for the floor the restaurant occupies in the landmark skyscraper of the Prudential Center — featuring vodka and Chambord topped with Champagne in an ice-cold martini glass with raspberries. It’s great to raise a toast to the stunning views across Boston Harbor up to 80 out, and try one of the more than 3,000 bottles of bubbly or wine in the Hub’s two large wine rooms. Any and all drinks are a terrific way to get those dancing feet loosened up for live music or as a precursor to new executive chef Stefan Jarausch’s menu, which changes seasonally. Make a reservation at Top of the Hub.

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Counter Point: 5 Restaurants Offering Reservations and Counter Service

Traditionally, there was a strong split between casual counter service eateries and fine dining restaurants with table service. These days, enterprising entrepreneurs are trying to recalibrate restaurants by blending the two experiences together in a variety of creative configurations. Here are five restaurants offering reservations and counter service — rewriting the rules.

Megu, New York, New York
Make a reservation to sit down in the dining room or simply saunter up to the sushi counter where it’s first come, first serve. Chef Frances Tariga-Weshnak’s dishes delight the eye and the palate equally, so be prepared to shoot an Instagram before you take a bite. Hone in on the spicy tuna and truffled avocado roll, radish-adorned Wagyu beef, and the Matcha crepe layer cake. Make a reservation at Megu.

Restaurants offering reservations and counter service

Kingside, New York, New York
You’ll need a reservation if you want to score one of the plush booths at this New American stunner from chef Marc Murphy. However, the counter with red stools at the back is open to walk-ins. No matter where you sit, make sure to order the burger topped with fiery giardiniera relish, soppressata, and a slab of white cheddar, as well as Pecorino toast slathered with a snowdrift of ricotta and a golden drizzle of truffled honey. Make a reservation at Kingside.

Restaurants offering reservations and counter service

Little Gem, San Francisco, California
Counter service by day, reservations by night. This out-of-the-box groundbreaker is the brainchild of owner Eric Lilavois and chef Dave Cruz, both alums of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. The idea is to accommodate a casual crowd during the day, while making it a potential date-night spot after darkness falls. Expect globally inspired salads, soups, bowls, hearty plates, and a variety of shared plates. Read the full story of this modern California eatery in our blog post here. Make a reservation at Little Gem.

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Dine Like a Local in Chicago: 8 Top Neighborhood Gems in the Windy City

A city of neighborhoods, Chicago is unsurprisingly full of hidden-gem eateries. Even in the most intolerably touristy areas, you can find a few spots packed mostly with locals if you know which tree-lined street to duck down or who to ask. We’ve done some of that legwork for you, highlighting nine Chicagoan-approved restaurants that span old-school red sauce joints, fine-dining temples, heartland-tinged gastropubs and even a few favorite haunts of local chefs. So, travelers, put away the map, and bring your Midwestern-sized appetite. Here’s where to dine like a local in Chicago.

High-end, retro pub fare at The Duck Inn, Bridgeport
A favorite among local and visiting chefs alike, chef Kevin Hickey’s gastro-tavern with retro decor in the warehouse district of southside Bridgeport raises the bar on this oft-overlooked dining neighborhood. Playful dishes range from potted foie gras with ginger-plum gelee and masterful rotisserie duck to one of the best gourmet takes on the legendary Chicago-style hot dog — a beef and duck-fat dog with onions, relish, and celery salt on a housemade brioche bun. Wash it down with clever cocktails like the Daily Intake with brandy, house “Newtoncello,” apple butter, brown butter, and lemon in a midcentury globe-lit lounge and you’re halfway to Mad Men. Make a reservation at The Duck Inn.

Dine like a local in Chicago

Multi-course theater at goosefoot, Lincoln Square
This diminutive, 24-seat BYOB spot in the tree-lined Lincoln Square ‘hood isn’t listed among the fine-dining spots you hear about all the time (Alinea or Grace ring a bell?). But it should be. Chef Chris Nugent’s market-driven, modern American tasting menu seamlessly blends disciplined French training and contemporary artistry for a memorable, dozen-odd courses. It may start with lemongrass-tinged scallops with lobster and sun blossoms, building to asparagus tortellini with smoked rabbit or Angus beef with fragrant nasturtium. Dessert is always followed by a packaged treat from the kitchen’s chocolate lab. Such intricate dishes make for a slow-paced meal, so give yourself a couple hours to soak in this intimate bit of dinner theater. Make a reservation at goosefoot.

Dine like a local in Chicago

Unique sea-inspired fare at Sink | Swim, Logan Square
You might overlook this nautically tinged Logan Square restaurant in search of newer, buzzier spots — all of which seem to flock to this super-trendy hood. But the 18-month-old Sink | Swim from the team behind Scofflaw (a gem of a gin bar in its own right, just down the street) offers some of the most unique takes on seafood you’ll find in the city — not in the oddity of sea creatures they source, but rather in how they punctuate everyday dishes with oceanic nods. Take the refreshing crushed cucumber salad with crème fraîche, dill, and the subtle funk of dried seaweed or the BBQ fish collar with tangy kimchi. Roomy booths, a long wood bar, and easy-drinking cocktails make it an ideal weeknight retreat in this area. Make a reservation at Sink | Swim.

Dine like a local in Chicago

Whimsical tasting menus at Ruxbin, West Town
Five years after Edward Kim’s Ruxbin splashed on the scene, this BYOB New American spot with its funky, repurposed interior remains a fave among Noble Square residents. Kim’s subtle creativity in blending his French training and Asian heritage is on display better than ever since the a la carte menu was replaced by a five-course, prix-fixe one late last year. Unlikely yet whimsical matchups range from yuzu ponzu-bathed cobia with horseradish pomme puree, heirloom cucumber, and foie gras to chicken-fried celery root with white bean “ranch”, smoked tomatoes, and wild watercress. Make a reservation at Ruxbin.

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