By: Alex Peduzzi | The Duquesne Duke
As soon as I flip my calendar to October, I eagerly reach for the can opener to create my first pumpkin-laden treat of the season. It’s finally time for the cozy fall dishes that warm your soul from the inside out, and popular restaurants in the Pittsburgh area are cashing in on nature’s bountiful (and delicious) produce.
While fall flavors are wonderful warm, sometimes a cool concoction is exactly what will satisfy a fall harvest hankering. South Side’s The Milkshake Factory is famous for their blissful homemade milkshakes and delectable chocolate delights. The Milkshake Factory is (a little too) well known in my house as the producer of Snappers, a chocolate, pecan, pretzel, and caramel treat that tend to disappear as quickly as they are purchased.
The Milkshake Factory has pumpkin ice cream and customers can create their own pumpkin pie sundae and top it with gooey caramel sauce and buttery pecans for some crunch. You can also go the milkshake route: capitalizing on their milkshake creation prowess, one of The Milkshake Factory’s 55-milkshake offerings includes the fall-inspired Pumpkin Spice Mocha milkshake.
If it’s too late for ice cream, maybe something exotic will satisfy for your palette. Dubbed one of Pittsburgh’s top restaurants by Pittsburgh Magazine, the Strip District’s Kaya knows a thing or two about food. Specializing in Caribbean-fusion cuisine, Kaya’s menu always features the freshest ingredients meticulously prepared to satisfy your every craving.
Once a month, Kaya creates a seasonal vegetarian prix fixe dinner that caters to a growing minority of vegetarian and vegan clientele. This month, the dinner falls on Wednesday, October 16. The menu highlights the character of the season with dishes like Curried Pumpkin Empanadas with raw pumpkin, arugula, and lentil vinaigrette or a Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake paired with cinnamon soy ice cream and fried pumpkin caramel sauce. Even the most devoted carnivore will delight in Kaya’s vegetarian and vegan offerings. This one-night-only extravaganza costs $39 per person, and includes five uniquely delicious courses.
If a fall snack is more your speed, popcorn may be the choice for you. Pittsburgh Popcorn Company, with four locations in the Pittsburgh area, has a constantly changing popcorn menu, with additions for fall as well.
In addition to their tasty menu staples like Wisconsin Cheddar and Chunky Chocolate Caramel, Pittsburgh Popcorn also sells flavors from a menu that changes every week. Depending on the time of your visit, you could be greeted with the scents of tangy Dill Pickle popcorn or of the sugar coma-inducing Creamy Salted Caramel popcorn. This month, Pittsburgh Popcorn has chosen to feature some seasonal options. Visit any of Pittsburgh Popcorn’s locations from October 25-October 31 and delight in a Halloween-inspired Candy Corn flavor, a dyed kettle corn topped with a hardy drizzle of white chocolate. That same week, the Strip District location will also highlight a warm and crunchy Maple Pecan popcorn. Whichever location you choose to visit, make sure you go with an empty stomach: Pittsburgh Popcorn offers free samples of all of their mouthwatering flavors.
With a cultivating food scene, Pittsburgh is quickly becoming a unique hotspot for culinary masterminds. This month, expand your cuisine horizons from that grande Pumpkin Spice Latte and take the time to try new seasonal dishes budding from the minds of talented local Pittsburgh chefs.
While these treats sound sublime, sometimes, I want the coziness of fall without leaving my house. Here is a dorm-friendly recipe to get you in the autumn mood:
Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal
Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
Cook Time: 8 minutes + overnight refrigeration
½ cup rolled oats
1 and ½ cups + 2 tbsp. water
¼ cup pure pumpkin puree
cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, sweetener, to taste
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Optional mix-ins: nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut, nut butter, additional spices, mashed banana
Add the rolled oats and water to a 20 oz. coffee mug. Place in microwave and microwave for 1 minute on high. Give the mixture a stir, then microwave for 2 minutes and 30 seconds on high. Be sure to watch the mixture; it is fine if the oats puff while heating, but make sure the mixture does not boil over the sides. Microwave wattages and times may vary, so if your mixture looks like it will boil over, stop the microwave without opening the door.
Allow the mixture to sit in the microwave for at least a half hour, and then transfer to the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, mix your oat mixture and add water if necessary. Microwave for 1 minute on high, and then thoroughly mix in the pure pumpkin puree. Microwave for 2 minutes on high, and then mix in the spices and sweetener (keep in mind that pure pumpkin is fairly bland, so a robust sweetener like honey or maple syrup adds a wonderful warmth to the meal). Microwave for 1 more minute, then mix in the vanilla extract and optional mix-ins. Again, watch the oatmeal at all times to make sure it does not boil over.
Feel free to make this breakfast your own. My bowl always consists of an avalanche of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice and a handful of chopped almonds. Pecans or walnuts, as well as a healthy glob of peanut butter or Nutella would also make fantastic additions to this dish. Not only is it delicious, this powerhouse breakfast also offers a nutritious serving of protein, whole grains, and fruit!
So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, fear not: you are now well equipped with a formula for warmth and comfort right at your fingertips.