Ahh pumpkin spice, you either love it or…
Nope. You hate it. Everyone hates it. Pumpkin spice is is the Guy Fieri of flavors: Easy (and fun!) to ridicule. But just like the King of Flavortown: The hate is mostly nonsense. As Shane Torres says about Fieri in his famous stand up bit, “People shit on that guy all the time. And, as far as I can tell, all he ever did was follow his dreams.”
Pumpkin spice is just trying to follow its dreams. And those dreams are simple: Not to be distilled down to the microgram level and then combined with pure-liquid sugar into a syrup for your dumb latte. Instead, pumpkin spice longs to inspire the feelings of fall — warm, earthy, curl-up-by-the-fire feelings. Hygge, as they call it in the Nordic regions.
After our summer barbecue competition stretched into September, we took a big risk by staying seasonal and decided to take on fall with “pumpkin spice.” It’s worth noting that we all interpreted that as “pumpkin & related spices” and not simply “the spices you use to flavor pumpkins.” The result was a contest that had a solid guiding principle with three widely varying takes and some inventive techniques (no sous vide, though 😢).
Take a look and see what you think. Hopefully, after reading you’ll be ready to give pumpkin spice a clean slate — besides it’s more fun to save your snark for the three chefs than waste it on an inanimate flavor combo. As always, your shares, Tweets, and comments are much appreciated.
BLT Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Mac & Cheese Showdown — 1) Vince 2) (tie) Zach, Steve
Taco Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Winter Stew Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Date Night Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Pasta Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Hot Beef Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Shellfish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
BBQ Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
We’re giving three points to the winner and one to second place for each round. As it stands, the score is:
I’m not gonna lie. The last two losses have hit me pretty hard. So, I’m going technical and delicious here with one of my favorite street foods — the Arancini. That’s a risotto rice ball with a cheese center that’s breaded and deep fried.
Since I keep getting docked for going places and doing things — fuck it — it doesn’t matter where I learned this recipe. Just know it’s the fucking bomb. I started off by making a classic risotto with spicy candied chanterelles and pumpkin that was topped with lemon-infused olive oil, fresh oregano, and sea salt. It was the sort of meal where everyone at the table went silent and didn’t speak again until they’d finished eating. It was a great plate of lush cheesy rice with hints of spice, sweetness, umami, funk, and bursts of citrus. Man, you should have been there.
Always make twice the risotto you need to serve. That’s a life lesson right there. The benefit? You can make Arancini with the leftovers the next day.