Pumpkin by Jecobo
What is it about this time of year that compels every eatery in the country to serve up seasonal specials crammed with pumpkin (or at least pumpkin flavoring and FD&C Yellow No. 6 food coloring)? Sure, pumpkins are in season, but so are Brussels sprouts and horseradish, and you don't see anyone extolling those as "fabulous fall flavors." I sampled five of the most inappropriate-sounding abuses of pumpkin by Portland's purveyors of grab-and-go snacks.
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte ($3.49 for 12 ounces)
This tastes like neither espresso nor pumpkin, but rather cheap, caramel-flavored milk with some cinnamon sprinkled on top. It's like the bastard child of a Werther's Original and a Red Hot, all melted down into something that looks like an oily, two-day-old massaman curry.
Moonstruck Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Truffle ($2.50 each)
These two-bite chocolates are actually a lot less disgusting than they sound. The pumpkin buttercream filling may even have real pumpkin in it, and the rich, savory flavor and strong spices mask much of the nasty white chocolate—sorry, "ivory" chocolate (call it whatever you want, Moonstruck, it's still an abomination) topping.
Cold Stone Creamery Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream ($3.39 for 5-ounce cup)
This seasonal special doesn't taste like a pumpkin cheesecake, but it does taste remarkably like butternut squash—butternut squash dunked in a vat of cream and syrup, mind you, but butternut squash nonetheless. It works surprisingly well.
Burgerville Pumpkin Smoothie ($3.19 for 12 ounces)
Now this actually tastes like a pumpkin. It also tastes like an ashtray. It's thick and fragrant and full of little orange bits that I've no doubt come from a real pumpkin grown on some sustainable local farm where they kiss their vegetables every day, but it also reminds me of making out with Marlboro Light-smoking boys in high school.
Kettleman Pumpkin Bagel with pumpkin schmear ($2.95)
Kettleman's sweet bagel toppings already make me a bit nauseous, but sweet pumpkin? Oy. In fairness, the bagels themselves are OK—a mild, savory pumpkin flavor with a bit of chew, but the sickly sweet cream cheese would be more appropriate as cupcake icing.
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