Tara's Food Notebook

How Do You Like Your Pumpkin Spice?

Trends in sweet and salty with staying power

New trend in pumpkin spice and savory?

A couple months ago, as I was finally accepting that maybe summer was pretty much over, I took a wistful Instagram of a salted caramel soft-serve ice cream cone from my favorite roadside attraction on Route 113 in Lorain County, OH, just a short drive south into the country from my house. This place is part of a real farm. It features a different flavor every week, and in the summer it's always a fruit, like strawberry or raspberry. (My Instagram soft-serve ice cream cone series is unstoppable.)

Somebody commented on the salted caramel Instagram, "I'm so over salted caramel." Sheesh, people always call me out! I'll get comments like, "Kale is so 2012." My friends know I always like to be cool, so they're quick to point out when I'm being a total dork.

But I don't think the salty-sweet thing is really a trend. It's just good eating! Last year, I did a story, Salty & Sweet Treats, about onsite chefs making some awesome desserts that dip into caramel and emerge encrusted with huge grains of sea salt. You know what? There's no reason to stop.

Please keep an eye out for the December issue, where you'll find a story about desserts that use ingredients like rosemary and cayenne, called Unique Sweets.

Just as salty and sweet is, in my opinion, totally here to stay, this time of year is officially Pumpkin Spice Time, thanks in part to Starbucks' insanely successful Pumpkin Spice Latte. It's called pumpkin spice, but it's not actually pumpkin flavor: it's cinnamon, nutmeg and sometimes allspice.

In a recent article in Slate, the author, J. Bryan Lowder, observes how "our culture is now thoroughly dusted with pumpkin spice from early September to the advent of gingerbread season."

For the article, he ate a diet based on pumpkin spice for a week. From pumpkin spice Pop Tarts to pumpkin spice coffee creamer to pumpkin spice ravioli for dinner to pumpkin spice pudding for dessert. Even pumpkin spice jerky for a late-night snack.

Sound good? You may be hooked on pumpkin spice! In the end, the author found that sometimes pumpkin spice is way better with savory ingredients, trying a pumpkin spice curry, an amazing-looking Spanish pumpkin soup and Sunny Anderson's pumpkin spice rubbed pork. This led to, "my main takeaway: We should be using pumpkin pie spice far more often in savory foods than we use it in sweet ones."

My takeway is that it can't be a bad thing to use flavors (trendy or not) in unexpected places. When you're not enjoying pumpkin spice in a latte, where have you used it?

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on Jan 22, 2014

Great Article

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Tara Fitzpatrick

Tara Fitzpatrick is associate editor of Food Management and has been a full time staff editor since 2008. She covers food, culinary and menu trends   for the magazine, its...
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