It’s a source of both contentment and ridicule, boasts legions of fans and has a Twitter account (@TheRealPSL), with nearly 120,000 followers. Safe to say, while it may be mocked, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte cannot be ignored.
Certainly not by competitors. From coffee to doughnuts and all the way to beer, local purveyors of food, pastries and beverages are jumping on the cinnamon-scented wagon.
PJ’s Coffee greets fall with its dulcet Pumpkin Latte drink. PJ’s also offers Pumpkin Velvet Ice, an espresso-based treat featuring flavors of pumpkin and dulce de leche, topped with whipped cream and graham cracker crumbs.
“As everyone knows, pumpkin has been really big,” said Felton Jones, the PJ’s Roastmaster. “In the last two years, it’s exploded.”
PJ’s collaborates with coffee importers and flavor companies to create special edition coffee drinks. For its fall menu, PJ’s focused on the pumpkin flavor and downplayed the spicy notes of cinnamon and nutmeg.
“Our focus is on finding the perfect flavor that complements the coffee,” said Jones.
Blue Dot Donuts prepares doughnuts made with pumpkin purée and a myriad of spices. The treats are either glazed or topped with a fluffy cream cheese icing, dusted with doughnut crumbs. Pralines by Jean sells two varieties of pumpkin spice cupcakes, coated in a blood orange cream cheese frosting.
At Truck Farm Tavern in St. Rose, pastry chef James Leslie has created a Death by Pumpkin dish, containing roasted pumpkin pie, cradled in a sugar cookie crust and topped with pumpkin ice cream.
Emeril’s Delmonico is serving Pumpkin Hot-Buttered Rum, which incorporates Rougaroux Praline Rum and pumpkin butter. The hot cocktail is garnished with a cinnamon stick and served in a snifter glass.
And next week is “Pumpkin Week” at The Avenue Pub, where a selection of pumpkin-based brews, such as New Belgium Pumkick and Southern Tier Pumking, will be available.
“Pumpkin beer has become a big thing,” said Polly Watts, the owner of Avenue Pub, explaining that some patrons love it, while others … well, let’s just say that there is a popular meme that urges the hasty disposal of pumpkin beer.
“It’s very polarizing, but in a cheerful kind of way,” said Watts, of spiced beer.
On the final day of Pumpkin Week, which includes a pumpkin-carving contest, The Avenue Pub will serve Saint Arnold Pumpkinator: a brew that everyone seems to enjoy.
The pumpkin trend has longevity, with restaurants like Café Hope and Muriel’s weaving it into their Thanksgiving menus.
But why has this relative of the squash acquired such prominence in the realm of sweet, seasonal offerings?
Perhaps it’s the background flavors, like cinnamon. PJ’s successful Santa’s Blend and King Cake Blend also feature subtle spice notes.
For some people, these flavors evoke pleasant memories of fall rituals. Others regard it more skeptically.
Ronnie Sciortino, a flavorist at SnoWizard, creates flavors for snoballs and other food items. Sciortino acknowledges that pumpkin spice is indeed having a moment. He credits publicity and clever marketing.
“There have been numerous products like that. It’s a craze for a while, then it fades, and something else replaces it,” said Sciortino. “There will be another craze shortly. I don’t know what it will be.”
He’s probably right. But for now, you can savor pumpkin spice to your heart’s content … until the onset of peppermint mocha mania, that is.