It's officially fall, so you know what that means: it's time for pumpkin-flavored everything, from lattes to beer to pancakes. We know you'll be inundated with pumpkin-this and spiced-that over the next few months, but here's a look at some particularly creative, flavorful or otherwise standout dishes that deserve your attention.
Alden & Harlow. Chef Michael Scelfo harvests a sophisticated salad of raw sugar pumpkin ($13), the smaller variety with a firmer flesh than the stringy "meat" inside those larger types you carve into jack-o'-lanterns. The pumpkin is plated with almonds, dates and a mellow sardo cheese, tossed with a Thai chile brown butter.
Back Bay Harry's. A hearty autumnal brunch awaits at chef Jason Santos' restaurant, one of the neighborhood's new(er) kids on the block. Pun intended: because this Sunday, October 5, the eatery hosts a special "Boy Band Brunch" from 11 AM to 3 PM. Hot off the heels of last month's hit Beyoncé-themed installment, this throwback feast will feature a '90s soundtrack and loops of TRL-era music videos, photo booths, concert ticket giveaways and a $24, three-course menu with options like the MMMBop Pumpkin Pancakes, served with caramel pecan sauce, cream cheese whipped cream and a chicken-apple sausage. Can't dance on over? Don't worry: the pumpkin pancakes will remain on the menu through the rest of fall.
Bistro du Midi. This classy Public Garden-side French brings welcome pumpkin notes to its porcini mushroom consommé ($14), which features agnolotti made of slow-cooked, puréed pumpkin and ricotta cheese. More pumpkin is roasted and used as garnish in this savory soup.
Juniper. Pumpkin pie? So predictable. At this Wellesley newcomer, pastry chef Katie Kitendaugh has created a pumpkin cheesecake ($10) with a spicy whipped cream, caramel apples and candied walnuts. So basically, it's our daily required intake of all the flavors of fall. (For more must-orders at this Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, check out our recent guide here.)
The Painted Burro. A Mexican cheese dip might not be the first place that most New Englanders expect to find pumpkin. But this Davis Square favorite is serving an autumnal spin on its warm "tres queso" dip: Pumpkin Fundido ($12) features sugar pumpkin purée and roasted squash with spiced pepitas. For three more bucks, add the house chorizo.
Party of Two. This Sunday, October 5, Barbara Lynch's The Butcher Shop will host Harvest Fest from 2 to 6 PM, a chance for diners to graze among endless small plates from about 20 restaurants and purveyors, including Fairsted Kitchen, Neptune Oysters, Myers + Chang and Tavern Road. (Tickets are $125 here; $150, if available, at the door. Proceeds benefit the Barbara Lynch Foundation.) It's likely a few pumpkin plates will be on the agenda, but we know for sure they'll come courtesy of Party of Two: the pop-up of Trademark Tarts and Stacked Donuts, the latter run by Top Chef alum and former No.9 Park sous Stephanie Cmar. Among their flavors, Trademark Tarts will include a brûlée pumpkin pie and Stacked will have on hand pumpkin-chai donuts.
Prezza. Chef-owner Anthony Caturano always manages to create some of the most consistently excellent Italian cooking in the North End. (Which, given the thick competition, is no easy feat. Here are some of our other neighborhood favorites.) But he embraces the spirit of the changing seasons with his pumpkin ravioli ($18/$36), served with lobster and mascarpone, brown butter and sage.
Saus. Menus around town are overflowing with "pumpkin cocktails" around now, but here's one libation that we love: a pumpkin-pie beer float at this Faneuil Hall-side destination for brews and poutine. Each pour features a rotating pumpkin beer in a glass rimmed with sugar and spices, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream from Inman Square's Christina's (one of our must-try ice cream shops) and drizzled in homemade caramel sauce. Sinfully in season.
The Tap Trailhouse. And nearly next door to Saus is The Tap Trailhouse, a full restaurant that replaces the former Tap bar. Chef Bill Brodsky of City Landing created the menu, which keeps with the Colonial-inspired decor by modernizing classic New England cuisine. And sweet tooths will be satisfied by a signature dessert: Pumpkin Whoopie Pie (pictured) served with a Moxie-ginger syrup. Indulge. 'Tis the season, after all.