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Local chefs get inventive with pumpkin 

Smirking jack-o'-lanterns are popping up on patios and stoops all over town, while a slew of inventive chefs in our area have spruced autumn menus with delicious dishes featuring their filling.

Chef Andrea Reusing at Lantern (423 W. Franklin St., 969-8846, www.lanternrestaurant.com) features an intriguing appetizer: Cane Creek Farm pork belly with five-spice pickled pumpkin. I hurried over last week to try some, quickly realizing I should have paid attention to the Web site's fine print, which notes limited availability. Oops. My kind waiter scrounged up a bit of the pickled pumpkin to try, saying the appetizer would be available again in a few days. Bright orange chunks started with a tangy bite that finished off with the familiar flavor of pumpkin. Paired with the pork belly, the "pickledness" does a wonderful job in cutting the fat of the pork belly. Call ahead if you'd like to try some.

A Raleigh favorite reappears this week at Bella Monica (3121-103 Edwards Mill Road, 881-9778, www.bellamonica.com). Pumpkin ravioli is Italian comfort food, cooked in a brown butter sage sauce complemented by pancetta and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For local brews, Raleigh's Big Boss Brewing Company (www.bigbossbrewing.com) has made its Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale available in Triangle bars—on tap or in bottles—and in six-packs at many groceries and supermarkets. Fans say this ale doesn't have an overbearing pumpkin flavor and maintains its signature spice to the end.

Pumpkin-chocolate Locopops (Trianglewide, www.ilovelocopops.com) and the pumpkin gelato at Sugarland (140 E. Franklin St., 929-2100, www.sugarlandchapelhill.com) are perfect sweet endings to a meal. Durham newcomer Local Yogurt (2501 University Drive, Suite 8, 489-5900, www.localyogurt.com) has kept frozen yogurt freaks coming back for seconds after four months on the scene. Ted Domville, former head chef at Six Plates, is devoted full-time to experimenting with flavors at LoYo, including pumpkin. He launched it about three weeks ago, and after thinking he made enough for three days, he says, they sold out in just one day. Without adding sugar, Domville spruces it up with cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg. He recommends topping off a cup with warm caramel and gingersnaps. In coming months, we can look forward to flavors built around Counter Culture coffee, as well as local apples, pears, persimmons and scuppernongs from Melvin's Gardens.

Solas (419 Glenwood Ave., 755-0755, www.solasraleigh.com), in Raleigh's upscale Glenwood South, is serving a local pumpkin cheesecake soufflé through October for $6. Executive chef Cliff Vogelsberg says the treat is made from scratch in-house, as is the cinnamon ice cream served with it.

Cary's Bistro 64 (103 Edinburgh South Drive, 380-1322, www.bistro64.com) may just have outdone itself with a seasonal twist on a Southern tradition. Its dessert list includes a double-layer pumpkin bread pudding, made from locally grown pumpkins, sweet potatoes and fresh ginger and served with homemade gingersnaps and fresh-squeezed orange ice cream. Thanks to Emily Massey of Bistro 64 for sharing this recipe, below.

Double Layer Pumpkin Bread Pudding from Bistro 64

Reprinted with permission from Bistro 64's executive pastry chef, Nien Huang

This recipe consists of two parts, a bottom layer of pumpkin bread pudding and a topping of pumpkin-sweet potato curd, which are prepared separately and then combined, chilled and reheated prior to serving.

click to enlarge nowserving-web.jpg
Bottom layer

1 cup half and half
3 1/2 ounces coconut milk
1/2 ounce fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 whole allspice
1 whole clove
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ounces fresh pumpkin puree
2 1/2 cups baguette, cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups pumpkin bread, preferably homemade, cut into small cubes

Grease a 10-by-13-inch baking pan and set aside. Cook half and half and coconut milk with ginger, cinnamon, allspice and clove together until boiling. Discard cinnamon stick, allspice and clove. Cool for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together brown sugar, eggs and pumpkin puree. Whip spiced milk mixture into egg mixture. Combine milk and egg mixture with bread until bread is soaked well. Spoon into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes and cool.

Top layer

4 ounces sweet potatoes
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 whole clove
1 star anise
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/2 ounce butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 ounces coconut milk

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil sweet potatoes with spices until soft. Drain water and discard spices. Puree sweet potatoes and add remaining ingredients.

Layer the pumpkin-sweet potato curd over the cooled pumpkin bread pudding. Chill. Slice and warm in microwave before serving. Top with crumbled ginger snap cookies and orange or vanilla ice cream. Serves 6 to 8.


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