The fall season brings with it lots of wonderful seasonal specialties, especially in the Capital Region. Even though the weather has turned decidedly winter-like in the past few days, I wanted to highlight a few food items that make me excited about fall when I start seeing the leaves turn.
I have long been championing the beautiful simplicity of the cider donut to my out-of-town friends and visitors. The best purveyor near my house (and the winner of the Fussy Little Blog’s East of the Hudson Tour de Donut) is Golden Harvest Farms in Valatie. In addition to lots of fresh produce and other baked goods, they churn out fresh batches of these beauties all day.
These donuts are great because they have the perfect ratio of outer crust to soft inner crumb, with just the right amount of sugar sprinkled on the outside. They are light and airy but still have that solid heft that you want in a cider donut.
If you’re not into traipsing around orchards in the countryside and you want a more central, year-round option, I can’t endorse Cider Belly Doughnuts on Pearl Street in downtown Albany enough.
This isn’t the place for a simple cider donut (although they have those too), but instead for unexpected and creative toppings. Think giant mounds of cookie crumbles or pieces of sugary cereal as a topping. One of my favorites is the berry glazed donut, which has a real fruit flavor but isn’t sickly sweet. Some of the other glazes (like the cappuccino one) can border on being a little too sweet for my personal liking.
I also love to pair a good cider donut with an espresso drink in sweater weather. Yes, I’m an unabashed fan of seasonal coffee flavors like pumpkin, but I think a sweeter donut kind of demands a more simple coffee backdrop. I had a delectable (and very pretty) latte at Moto Coffee in Hudson the other day that would have paired perfectly with a cider donut. The light touch of simple syrup alone would complement a good donut without having pumpkin or caramel or some other “fall” flavor out-competing the apple notes.
Pumpkin is such an underutilized food commodity. It’s a shame that it mostly gets relegated to pumpkin pie around Thanksgiving and then forgotten for the rest of the year. I like to seek out some fall menu specials that incorporate pumpkin in non-dessert ways to get my fix when I can.
I was recently invited to sample the seasonal menu at the Bonefish Grill in Colonie on a promotional basis, and I was excited to see that one of the specials was swordfish with pumpkin ravioli. The ravioli were the high point of this dish for me, with a smooth and savory pumpkin filling that was nicely offset by the saltiness of the feta and the crunch of little onion shreds that made up the topping.
I also love a good butternut squash ravioli, but I haven’t found many versions that I love lately.
Root Vegetable Soups
Fall is the perfect time for simmering a big pot of soup made with something like potatoes or butternut squash or carrots. When I don’t have a couple of hours to spend staring impatiently at my stove top waiting for it to be ready (and taste-testing it fifty times along the way), my favorite version to buy is from Uncommon Grounds. Both the Albany and Saratoga Springs locations periodically offer a Chipotle Sweet Potato soup that is out of this world good. The base is a rich and thick sweet potato puree without too many other elements. There’s a mellow amount of chipotle spice as well as some cilantro and onion undertones that really round out the soup.
I’m curious if there’s other fall foods that are found in the Capital District that people would recommend (especially if you have seen something good using pumpkin on a menu somewhere). Let me know what I’m missing in the comments below!