Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Aliments: Sustenance and Libations - On Fall Food Favorites

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, though it is not officially autumn yet it is at least decently close enough to talk fall food.  As temperatures get cooler and days get shorter, there are certain foods I start craving like a squirrel gathering acorns.  

Some fall favorites:  

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Anything with apples - apple cider, baked apples, caramel apples, just plain crisp, juicy apples.  Frankly, any freshly harvested local fruit is great - apples, pears, grapes.  That stuff just tastes real.

Local potatoes – Now let me be specific.  There is a certain kind of potato grown at a local farm called Schramm’s.  I could seriously wax lyrical about these potatoes (Irish, much?)  They are huge, and perfectly colored, a translucent white skin, and they taste like a gift the earth itself.  They are worthy of the name pomme d'terre.  Mash them with just a bit of butter to go with either a pot roast and Yorkshire pudding or with city chicken.  They also make some of the best french fries you'll ever have.  The kind that are actually good enough to splash a bit of malt vinegar on.  These potatoes may or may not be related to the famous Neshannock Potato. 

Fresh, crusty bread - a must for fall, i love tuscan bread toasted with a bit of whipped butter and even if it gets a bit dry it's still perfect with fresh made bruscetta. 

Kettle corn - Every October there is a French & Indian battle re-enactment at Fort Ligonier.  The whole town square up the hill from the fort is packed with festival food vendors, but the most popular is the kettle corn.  You can almost smell it even over the gunpowder!  And let's be honest, popcorn is one of the simplest of life's pleasures and just about the healthiest junk good snack we've got.

Ham barbecue sandwiches - a Pittsburgh classic.  I'm not sure they have these anywhere else.  It's shaved ham, what we call chip-chopped, cooked in barbecue sauce and served on a sandwich bun.  With cold or warm apple cider, you don't need anything else at a fall festival to feel cozy.  Put some of those fresh cut fries on the sandwich for a real 'Burgh meal. 

Nachos and cheese - especially at a football game (or, dare I say it... playoff baseball game?) with a cold beer. 

Speaking of cold beer - Oktoberfest!  (There's a reason for those pretzels, you don't want to drink German beer without eating.  Trust me.)

Soups - especially good thick soup on a chilly, rainy day, lentils or broccoli and/or cauliflower and cheese.  And for “boxed” soups Campbell’s has two awesomely delicious soups – Thai Tomato Coconut, which has a tomatoey-spiciness to it that is perfectly tempered by the sweet coconut (great served hot but makes an incredible gazpacho) and their Butternut Squash Bisque (seriously, it's that good)... and there's where the crusty bread comes in again (and a pear and some of Cabot's Super Sharp white Cheddar). 

Fredonia wine - I love it no matter the season, but it seems to go especially well with a lot of my favorite fall foods.  Fredonia is a variety of grape grown in Erie wine country (which has quite a few nice specialties).  It’s quite sweet, similar to Catawba but richer.  It’s good for warming you up when the temperatures drop.

And of course, there’s pumpkin stuff.  I think we can thank Starbucks for the “pumpkin” trend (Pumpkin Spice Latte is in its 10th year and we never get tired of it).  Pumpkin beers are very popular but it should be noted that they vary significantly.  I’ve had a few that were so heavily spiced they were tough to drink.  And then I’ve had some that gave me no impression of pumpkininess whatsoever.  Best way to serve pumpkin beer goes to Shadyside’s 5801 where they put a cinnamon-sugar rim on the glass (like a margarita).  And if you come across pumpkin Pop-tarts, beware!  You will be addicted.  

Anybody else have any particular favorites for autumn?

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