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It starts in mid-August and usually lasts through the end of November: the American obsession of adding pumpkin spice to just about everything rolls through the food industry, from restaurants to coffee shops, packaged food products, and bakeries.
McCormick spicemakers first capitalized on the flavors of autumn in 1939 when the company started producing its original pumpkin pie spice, intended to be used as a shortcut while baking pumpkin pies.
The trend has been fueled by the successful marketing campaigns of Starbucks. The Seattle-based coffee chain launched “PSL” — pumpkin spice lattes — in 2003. By 2015, market experts said Starbucks was earning about $100 million in revenue from PSL and similarly spiced offerings each fall.
Even without sugary chain-created drinks, Rhode Island has plenty to offer each fall: sprawling, multi-acre farms are a 20-minute drive from the cities and chefs are always looking to incorporate the most seasonal ingredients in specials and new menu items.
Where can you get your favorite fall flavors in Rhode Island? I’m glad you asked.
For classic pumpkin picking and purchasing goodies: Since moving to Rhode Island, I’ve enjoyed the drive from Providence to Johnston, where wind turbines overlook sprawling pumpkin patches and working farms. Salisbury Farm was founded in the 1800s as a dairy farm and remained that way until the mid-1970s. Now, they are known for their thousands of strawberry plants in June, their 5-acre corn maze, pumpkin patches, and raspberries. Their produce is sold at farmer’s markets, but I like to purchase it freshly picked from their barn.
For pumpkin beer: Gourds Gone Wild is a new delicious pumpkin spiced ale from Smug Brewing in Pawtucket. It’s not overly sweet like some of the mass-produced brews out there, but has a slight hint of vanilla that ties the allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon together nicely.
For apple cider donuts: Appleland Orchard in the Greenville section of Smithfield has been in the same family since the 1960s, where their fresh cider — made with a blend of Macs, Empires, and Delicious apples — creates delicious apple cider donuts.
For hot mulled cider and cider slushies: The Hard-Pressed Cider Company in Jamestown has spent years pressing cider at orchards across the state. Take the chill out of a crisp fall day by trying their hot mulled cider with spices like cinnamon, orange peel and cloves. If you’re one of those who drinks iced coffee even when there’s a foot of snow on the ground, try the cider slushies.
Fall coffee flavors: The Nitro Bar, which has locations in Providence and Newport, has a great pumpkin spiced latte if you want to stick to the basics. But their maple sea salt latte uses syrup from Vermont, the apple cider they serve is sourced from Bardens Family Orchard in North Scituate, and their chai lattes are a solid choice all year — including the crisp afternoons of October.
For a fall mocktail: Foglia, which was just named one of the Best New Restaurants of 2022 by Vegetarian Times, is an all-vegan spot by the water in Bristol that is designed to change with the seasons. Their apple crisp mocktail, made with sparkling cider, is one to try.
Pumpkin cheesecake: In Coventry, Borelli’s Bakery is selling giant pumpkin cheesecakes alongside maple walnut cupcakes, Jack-O-Lantern and ghost-covered strawberries, “witches brew” cauldron-shaped cakes, and these adorable chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting that look like monsters.
A s’mores old fashioned: In Warren’s historic district, bourbon bar and new American restaurant The Revival is serving S’mores old fashioneds. Try it after a bowl of their fall pasta special, which is egg fettuccine, duck confit, roasted local mushrooms, grated nutmeg, and butternut squash.
White truffle and mushroom risotto: From October to January, La Masseria in East Greenwich spends about $5,000 on white truffles each month for their $400 tasting menu and specials. I recently went for a beautiful dinner of massive cheese boards and this pistachio salad, but their white truffle and mushroom risotto really stood out as serious autumn night dinner.
Ice cream: Millie Millie Ice Cream, started by Big King’s former pastry chef who just helped open Pickerel in the same space, is still crafting her gorgeous handmade ice creams. In September, she featured a corn ice cream with carrot cajeta and honey roasted peanuts. This week, she introduced a new flavor: butterscotch plant-based ice cream with peach.
Fresh morning pastries: Little Sister, a Puerto Rican-inspired all-day cafe and tapas restaurant on the East Side of Providence, serves delicious sweets for the morning like their cardamom knot, a layered bun with spices, and their sweet meringue and peach and oat crumble muffins. In downtown Providence, Little City Coffee & Kitchen is serving apple butter snickerdoodles, apple cinnamon coffee cake, pumpkin muffins, and this pumpkin pecan blondie that I can’t get enough of.
Fall pasta and gnocchi: At Giusto in Newport, owner and chef Kevin O’Donnell is offering a gnocchi dish with local mushrooms that are roasted and cooked in a bolognese style to create a sugo finto. Another dish — ricotta ravioli with carrot, hazelnut dukkah, and medjool dates — is a new staple. In Providence, Bacco has been serving a pumpkin ravioli with a sage sauce that is a butter-lover’s dream.
If you have suggestions or need a recommendation, shoot me an email at Alexa.Gagosz@globe.com.
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