The hint of a chill in the air, the crunch of a single leaf under your cute fall boot, hot cocktails replacing frozens, autumn in New York is the seasonal equivalent of a heart-quickening flirtation. And, unlike an early infatuation, it just keeps getting more delicious as the days go on.
Nationally, the arrival of fall is signaled by the annual pumpkin spice panic, but here in the five boroughs, we have many more seasonal flavor options than vaguely fragrant orange powder of dubious origin. Here are some to try right now, and we’ll keep adding more until it’s time to switch to Christmas cookies.
Cranberry Cup at Lindens at Arlo Soho
The Arlo Soho hotel’s ground floor restaurant serves one of Thanksgiving’s most familiar dishes in drink form. The Cranberry Cup cocktail includes vodka, apple, lemon, Lambrusco, and, of course, the titular fruit. Sip it in contemplation of the old relish versus jelly debate.
One of three locations of this Japanese restaurant, Momoya Soho’s as pretty as a parfait itself, with a high wall of windows, pops of light and a few vibrant hues. Its “Autumn in New York” dessert is similarly appointed, layered with apple sorbet, sweet potato ice cream, pomegranate mochi, sliced apples, spiced custard cream rosemary foam, and Assam tea jelly, and topped with shiso-apple gelée-filled sake mousse fashioned into an apple shape, a pumpkin macaroon and chocolate modeled after NYC sights.
Long famed for its banana pudding (second only to its iconic cupcakes!) it’s curious that NYC sweets shop Magnolia Bakery waited as long as it did to propose other pudding options. Last fall, Magnolia introduced a brand-new apple crisp variety, which layers a creamy, fresh apple base with a crumbly topping.
NR, an oyster and ramen restaurant on the Upper East side, is always tinkering over cocktail innovations. The Apple Pie is especially seasonally appropriate, made with gin, calvados, apple, fig, earl grey, ginger, vanilla and five kinds of spices, milk-washed. That’s almost as many ingredients as you might pack into a slice.
One of the 1990s and early 2000s most ubiquitous cocktails, the apple martini takes fall’s second most iconic fruit (see: picking, bobbing and carameling), turns it into liquid candy and adds booze. Why did these drop from menus in over the course of NYC’s intervening cocktail resurgence again? Only a few rounds at British import Hawksmoor will tell.
We (leaf) peep Talea’s menu for the arrival of its autumn suds every year, and its Basically Pumpkin ale has arrived. It's brewed with pumpkin pie spice and available with a cinnamon sugar rim at Talea’s Williamsburg and Cobble Hill taprooms.
It’s never easy to choose between Sugar Sweet Sunshine’s copious cupcake varieties, and at $3 each, sometimes we don’t. But the approaching season is as good a reason as any to swap the downtown shop’s lemon and strawberry varieties with its cream cheese frosting-topped pumpkin option.
Astoria favorite Sweet Afton is falling ahead this autumn with its Thanksgiving Leftover Egg Rolls, made with cornbread stuffing, cranberries and gravy. Pair them with seasonal drinks like the Leaf Peepin’ sangria or the rum-based Cuffin’ Season.
Doughnut Plant updates the novel offerings at its four NYC locations all the time, and this recipe marries local apples and real cinnamon in rings that gets covered in glaze. Cake and Doughnut Plant’s wild yeast “sourdoughnut” varieties are available.
Pumpkin Pie at Baked
The October/November mainstay that dare not flash its orangey surface the other 10 months a year really gets a lot of mileage out of these 61 days each fall. Soon, pumpkin pie will pop up everywhere: At the cafe, in the grocery store, and under your pillow. Baked’s take, available at its shop in Red Hook, hits all the right rich, warm spice notes.
This NYC mini-chain is a popular brunch spot year-round, but fall is the best time to enjoy the pumpkin waffles at its Park Avenue South and Tribeca locations. Sweet batter is poured into the ideal form and served in fragrant golden triangles along with sour cream, honey and raisins. Dessert for breakfast is the new breakfast for dinner.
For those of us who drink iced coffee, cold brew, or just drip that’s cooled off all year long, this Philadelphia import to NYC’s canned pumpkin blend is an entrée to autumnal flavors without having to order a … you know. It also has subtle pumpkin notes that you might not even notice if you didn’t know it was there.
Actual apples that you pick from trees in orchards near NYC? How do you like them?