Pumpkin fever

This time of year, it’s hard to avoid that perennial symbol of fall, the pumpkin.

With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving on the way, we’re thinking about them less as decoration and more as pie filling. Recently, we combed campus haunts for edible pumpkin treats.

We began with the obvious—the farmers’ market that sets up in front of the Penn Bookstore at 36th and Walnut, every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sure enough, the Amish market was a jackpot, with creamy pumpkin pies ($6.50), spiced with just the right amount of nutmeg and moist but not-too-sweet pumpkin bread ($2.75 for a small loaf). Plunk down a couple of quarters and you can satisfy your sweet tooth with a pumpkin whoopee pie—sugar-laden, buttery cream sandwiched between two pumpkin cake-like cookies. (Just an FYI: these indulgent cookies are delicious frozen).

Stopping by Metropolitan Bakery (4013 Walnut St.), we found pumpkin chocolate bread ($2.25 per slice) that was baked in a loaf pan, much like pound cake. Pumpkin and chocolate seemed an odd pairing, and truthfully, we weren’t convinced the combination worked. The pumpkin bread is dense and spicy on its own. Adding strong, bittersweet chocolate just seemed like overkill.

If caffeine alone doesn’t seem to give you enough of a morning jolt, the super-sweet pumpkin spice latte from the newly opened Bucks County Coffee at 30th Street Station might be for you. There’s nothing subtle about this drink, which is heavy on both pumpkin flavor and sugar. Talk about a wakeup call.

While a cold pumpkin drink may sound unappealing, we found Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino ($3.85 for a grande) to be lip-smacking good. As with most pumpkin treats we sampled, the sweetness factor was high, but if you ask, the barristas will make your regular a light, slashing some of the calories and toning down the sugar.

In search of pumpkin donuts we made a pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts where we were disappointed on that score but did pick up a pumpkin muffin ($1.39) festively decorated with orange icing and appealingly light in texture and flavor.

Seeking full-on pumpkin nirvana, we visited Ben and Jerry’s on 40th Street for pumpkin cheesecake ice cream ($3.85/$4.50) swirled with crunchy morsels of graham cracker. If that’s not decadent enough for the holiday season, try the sundae version ($4.99) nestled in a waffle bowl and topped with whipped cream, walnuts and drizzled caramel.

If you’re in need of a classic dessert at Thanksgiving, you can load up on pumpkin pies ($3.99 for an 8-inch) at Fresh Grocer (4001 Walnut St.). Pre-made pies will likely fly off the shelves, though, so be sure to place a special order with the bakery—and give them at least 48 hours notice.

Originally published November 16, 2006.

Originally published on November 16, 2006