Author: Rachel Pinsky
Pumpkin spice invaded everything from kitty litter to Kraft macaroni and cheese this year. Has this trend finally gone too far? Is this the beginning of the end of its cloying sugary, cinnamon and nutmeg reign? Probably not, but local restaurants are offering some other flavors that may make you reconsider how fall should taste.
Autumn harvest in its purest form appears on the seasonal vegetable platter at Rally Pizza (8070 E. Mill Plain Blvd.). The unsung hero of Rally’s menu, this ever changing combination of locally grown vegetables and fresh sauces, gives eaters a good sense of crops growing on nearby farms. Owner Shan Wickham predicts carrots, sweet onions and Delicata squash from Wobbly Cart Farm will show up this fall. Shishito peppers may stick around for the next couple of weeks followed by potatoes, brassicas like bright Romanesco cauliflower or broccoli, then root vegetables such as parsnip and celeriac drizzled with complementary condiments including Rally’s smoky, nutty, tomato-based romesco sauce.
Wild mushrooms foraged from nearby forests fill the fall menu at La Sorrentina (3000 S.E. 164th Ave.). Chef Daisuke Matsumoto folds chanterelles into his homemade tagliatelle along with crispy prosciutto and cherry tomatoes. Lobster mushrooms and pancetta top a seasonal pizza. And a pumpkin cream base covers another specialty pizza.
“No pumpkin spice lattes here,” said Matsumoto’s wife and co-owner, Amy Hernandez Matsumoto. “But don’t be surprised if he makes pumpkin New York cheesecake.”
Pumpkin spice reached its peak popularity through lattes. Why not explore other cold weather combinations that include stronger beverages? Keri Buhman, owner of C’est La Vie Bistro (1307 N.E. 78th St.), recommends pairing brie and Champagne with a variety of apples — locally picked honey sweet Abrosias, sweet but tart Lady Alices and tangy, mouth-puckering Braeburns. For another classic pairing, she recommends trying a cabernet sauvignon from Burnt Bridge Cellars or Koi Pond Cellars with a sharp cheddar like Washington State University’s Cougar Gold or Beecher’s Flagship.
According to local beer aficionado Michael Perozzo, fall beer flavors come in three different styles: Oktoberfest, fresh hops and pumpkin ales. In the Oktoberfest category, Brothers Cascadia Brewing‘s Festbier has a crisp, malt-forward flavor reminiscent of fest biers served in Munich. Perozzo likes Fortside Brewing‘s fresh hop offering Hop Dunk, a Munich-style dunkel with a chocolatey, dank flavor. As fall gets darker and colder, Perozzo recommends beers like Loowit‘s Shimmergloom, an imperial stout, or a Trap Door Brewing‘s Velouria oatmeal stout.
Tim Augustin, owner of Ben’s Bottle Shop (8052 E. Mill Plain Blvd.), recommends Stone Brewing’s Xocoveza, an imperial stout inspired by Mexican hot chocolate, brewed with chocolate, coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and pasilla peppers. Backwoods Brewing Company recently released a tasty Pecan Pie Porter. In addition, Block 15 Brewing of Corvallis, Ore., just landed a unique fall hop blend with notes of melon, lychee, stone fruit and pine in its new Flicker IPA.
For those who crave seasonal flavor in a coffee drink, many Vancouver shops offer fall flavors in a mug. At River Maiden (5301 E. Mill Plain Blvd.), ordering the cold brew coffee topped with pumpkin cream cheese foam alongside a browned butter and pumpkin mochi doughnut creates an extreme pumpkin situation. Pumpkin caramel latte and Herbaceous Smoked Spice Latte appear on the fall menu at Relevant Coffee (1703 Main St.).
The fall drink menu at Seidy Salinavow’s shop, Kafiex Roasters – Coffee Lab (720 Esther St.), showcases Mexican-inspired fall drinks like a traditional Mexican Cafe De Olla with Kafiex’s own syrup made from piloncillo, orange peel and spices, as well as a Cajeta Latte with a sticky, gooey caramel-like sauce. Several blocks away, Compass Coffee (817 Washington St.) added its super-popular Everything but the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Pumpkin spice will likely return next fall like a Halloween horror-movie monster that has been shot, stabbed and burned but still arises to terrorize the villagers. Fortunately, we live in an area where chefs, brewers, vintners and baristas offer other autumnal flavors, too.