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.