Poor Linus is still stalking the Great Pumpkin in his backyard patch. But the Peanuts character’s quest is just one of the stories associated with the orange orb: there are also jack-o’-lanterns, Cinderella’s midnight carriage and the hilarious—and growing!—sport of punkin chunkin. In FDA-speak, pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse of fiber, antioxidants and vitamin A, which promotes good eyesight. Pumpkin beats a swift retreat after the winter holidays; we may eat strawberries in January, but the pumpkin defiantly sticks to its own season. In other words, the time to eat pumpkin is now, and everything is coming up pumpkins in our neck of the woods. We’d be happy to eat these pumpkin dishes all year round.
Pumpkin Spice Chai
Come fall, the Coffee Cottage whips up several festive pumpkin drinks. They make a yummy pumpkin spice latte, redolent of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon; there is also a pumpkin pie latte, which is sweeter, sort of like a hot pumpkin milkshake. Our favorite beverage discovery here is the pumpkin spice chai tea latte. It’s an inspired pairing, since chai shares many of the same spices found in a pumpkin pie. Medium $3.90, large $4.50. 88 Mahtomedi Ave., Mahtomedi; 651.407.0942.
American cuisine usually gives pumpkin a sweet treatment, but savory pumpkin dishes also deserve their due. Soup is particularly suited to the velvety character of the gourd, and Café Cravings makes theirs on-site from scratch, especially for the season. It’s a thick purée of concentrated pumpkin flavor; creamy, not cloyingly sweet, and lightly kissed with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. The sourdough bread bowl is the way to go—the lid is grilled with garlic and butter, so you can dip and slurp yourself into a state of blissed-out comfort. Cup $4.25, bowl $6, bread bowl $9. 1600 County Road E, Gem Lake; 651.482.7742.
The bakery at Keys is renowned. Their pumpkin pie is part of a stellar pantheon of classic favorites; theirs is the Platonic ideal of pumpkin pie. It’s judiciously laced with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, dense and creamy, and somehow more like “real” sustenance than a frivolous dessert. If any pie could be ascribed gravitas, it would be pumpkin. Served with whipped cream, as per tradition. $14.50 whole pie; $3.75, slice. 2208 Fourth St., White Bear Lake; 651.426.2885;
Quickbreads are an ideal way to showcase pumpkin’s gifts—moist, great with coffee, sweet but not overbearing, with a velvety crumb. Grandma’s Bakery uses pumpkin quickbread as a starting point for many of their fantastic desserts, including an individual-sized pumpkin cream cake: the widely adored “hockeypuck.” The top is swirled with a sweet, tangy cream cheese frosting and the cake itself is astonishingly tender. The bakery goes through tons of pumpkin every season; you’ll find bars, cupcakes, bread and pie there as well. $1.35. 84 Fourth St., White Bear Lake; 651.762.2900.
Brown Sugar Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Pumpkin quickbread is outrageously delicious in this quintessential bread pudding full of eggs and cream—a humbly old-fashioned dessert if there ever was one. It’s got a good dose of the pumpkin-friendly spices we love and the brown sugar adds a luscious caramel note. Vanilla whipped cream teams up with homemade cinnamon ice cream on top. Pumpkin spaetzle—an Austrian egg dumpling—is another one of several unusual pumpkin dishes here. $6.95. 4725 Highway 61 N., White Bear Lake; 651.426.6611.
Mummy Train Pumpkin Ale
Pop open a frosty Mummy Train pumpkin ale from Flat Earth Brewery and inhale heady aromas of cinnamon, clove, mace and nutmeg. The seasonal brew uses about 30 pounds of pumpkins to make, but the pumpkin flavor is modest. According to the legend told by the brewery, treasure-laden mummy-driven locomotives once cruised ancient Egypt; we’re not sure what this has to do with beer, but bring home a growler or two and perhaps you’ll hear the whistle of the mummy train. Seasonal price. 1219 Gun Club Road; White Bear Lake; 651.426.0022.