One thing I like better than searching grocery store shelves for pumpkin items is studying menus at Chicago’s best restaurants for seasonal items including squash and pumpkin! I have to apologize that this post is WAY overdue! I really wanted to get it out to you earlier this fall, so you could actually go try these things, but the time got away from me, so as we wrap up the year I thought it was a nice time to reminisce on these delicious pumpkin eats and look forward to having them again in 2018!
I’m also excited to share this list because it truly highlights the beautiful versatility of what you can put pumpkin into! From ice cream to hummus and every bite of pasta in between! If you’re already planning a trip to Chicago in 2018, make sure to time it right and plan one in the fall! Fingers crossed it will be like this year’s unseasonably warm autumn and you can enjoy some pumpkin at the top restaurants in the windy city!
Cappellacci di Zucca –Sapori Tratoria – If you’ve been following me for a while than you know that I frequent this Italian restaurant with Robby quite often to get this pumpkin dish! He actually was the one to find it when we were searching Yelp one rainy night years ago (and he likes me to remember that!). The taste of this pasta stuffed with pumpkin in a burnt butter sauce with butternut squash, sage and pine nuts is so unique. We’ve tried to recreate it at home before, and it doesn’t compare to the merriment of crispy diced butternut squash and sage that top off this dish full of fall flavor. The restaurant itself is very romantic, a perfect spot for a cozy date night to enjoy this exquisite dish. I love it so much that I featured it on my first TV segment this year!
Pumpkin Hummus –Ema – Straight from the kitchen of Chef CJ Jacobson (yes, from top chef!), Ema is a Mediterranean restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood serving up hyper-seasonal small plates. Cool California vibes will wash over you like waves on the beach from the moment you walk in. The seasonal pumpkin hummus is roasted with baking spices and topped with pumpkin seed oil. I can only describe the texture as “whipped clouds” because it was unlike any hummus I’ve ever had before. It hands down has to be the best new pumpkin dish I had in 2017!
Pumpkin Puffs- Imperial Lamain– An asian twist to pumpkin that is as delicious as it is pretty! Can you believe these pumpkin puffs look like actual pumpkins?! You can’t get more pumpkin perfect than that in my book. From beginning to end, the service, atmosphere and education that this restaurant provides is top notch. I say education because from your seat you can see the chefs hard at working pinching the soup dumplings and roping the dough for noodles. Dinner and a show! Add that to the carefully crafted cocktail selection (we got the one with the shot lit on fire) and you’ve got yourself great time. Ok, so back to the pumpkin puffs. Stuffed with duck, these puffs are light, airy and delicious. But again, it was hard for me to eat them because they just looked so darn cute! We followed this pumpkin appetizer with rainbow colored soup dumplings which were equally delicious. Something I would definitely go back to this River North restaurant for.
Pumpkin Ravioli – Monteverde – This west loop hot spot known for it’s perfect pasta was on our list of places to try for some time. Getting a reservation here is not easy, and now I know why! We didn’t get one, and after just showing up and playing the game of anxiously looking at people at the bar to see if they were getting up anytime soon, the gracious hostess had a table open up, and gave it to us. Praise the lord! Fast-forward to the pumpkin ravioli coming to our table, and I was as giddy as a 5-year old to see the melty cheese, pumpkin seeds and sage on top. It also had diced apples as a garnish, which was a great flavor combo, and a turn from some of the other pumpkin raviolis I had–a sweet side if you will. No matter what time of year, put this place on your list. The cacio e pepe dish was my second favorite!
Pumpkin Crepes – Meli Cafe – Holy crepe. Pumpkin brunch lovers rejoice! These pumpkin cream cheese filled crepes from Meli Cafe win the award for most fall tasting breakfast in Chicago! Dusted in powered sugar and filled to the brim with warm pumpkin cream cheese, these are definitely for you if you like a sweet start to your morning. I’m a die hard pumpkin pancake girl, but these crepes were the perfect dish to split alongside one of their omelettes. I highly recommend this laid back breakfast nook any time of the year. There’s something for everyone on their menu including lattes and an assortment of freshly squeezed superfood infused juices!
Pumpkin Pizza – Stella Barra – This special pumpkin “pie” Stella Barra was serving up as an October special totally knocked it out of the park. It came adorned with sweet sugar pumpkin, spicy house made sausage, parmesan cream sauce, pecorino, and grueyre. I have to admit, I modified a little bit and had them swap the sausage for an egg on top! And that was delicious too! The crispy, buttery crust lent itself so nicely to the hint of sweetness in the roasted pumpkin. Pro tip: Stella Barra serves up a butternut squash pizza year-round with candied bacon, taleggio cheese, fresno chilies, green onions, parsley, and oregano. I had that one first, and it’s definitely got a spicy, hot kick to it that I crave!
Pumpkin 5-spice Sundae –Jeni’s Ice Cream – Known for their eclectic flavors of ice cream, Jeni’s did pumpkin wonderfully with this pumpkin 5-spice sundae. That’s right. Not just pumpkin spice. Pumpkin 5-spice with coconut chips, cookie crumbles, raw honey whipped cream, a cherry on top and waffle-style fortune cookie called a convo cookie. What made the sundae stand out for me was the marshmallow sauce over the top–YUM! Safe to say that’s definitely a pumpkin combination you need to try if you haven’t yet! I could have done without
Howard-o-Lantern Smoothie –Real Good Juice Co.I first spotted this orange sign at the Whole Foods in the West Loop like it was flagging me down from miles away. Real Good Juice Co. made a real good pumpkin smoothie and when all was said and done, I think I had four of them in October! Made with almond, coconut nectar, roasted pumpkin, and banana–you can’t get much smoother than that! It was also perfect for those unseasonably warm October days that I long for on days like today when the high was only 4 degrees! p.s. Real Good Juice Co. is a Chicago juice bar that has locations in some of our Whole Foods and serves awesome noyo (no dairy froyo!).