Though fall has only blessed us with its presence for a mere day or two, College Hill is a few steps ahead. Scratch that: College Hill is many baked goods ahead. Sacrificing our bodies, our minds, and our time, we’ve done the dirty n’ delicious work for you and embarked on the great Pumpkin Spice Challenge. We wanted to prepare you for a season that once consisted of hayrides and haunted houses and that now is incessantly linked to #basic Instagram posts of people fake laughing, wearing sweaters, and clutching steaming mugs. If you want pumpkin (we want pumpkin), you got it. Here’s a breakdown of everything pumpkin on College Hill, complete with information about what it is, where to get it, and how worth it the $4.38 and the 59 Instagram likes truly are.
Food: Pumpkin pancakes
Where from: Loui’s
How you feel?: When the waiter asked if I wanted granola, chocolate chips, or fruit in my pumpkin pancakes, I became immediately overwhelmed at the Instagram possibilities and responded “none” in haste, which I immediately regretted. Much to my surprise, however, the pancakes spoke for themselves. Melted butter was all they needed. The warm explosion of pumpkin flavor – which did not seem to be born out of real pumpkin – felt comforting and familiar. The smooth texture was exactly what a girl needed, and every bite got better and better. Numerous times, a swarm of bees tried to steal my pancakes, so I feel it’s appropriate to give them an 8.5 out of 10. They were literally the bee’s knees (lol).
Food: Pumpkin muffin
Where from: Da Blue Room
How you feel?: Most of my friends didn’t even know the Blue Room had a pumpkin muffin. Well, here’s my response: if ya don’t know, now you know. And you should get one. Now.
I went to the Blue Room at 11:57 a.m. in the hopes of finding one of these elusive baked goods. The muffins present were neither warm nor pumpkin. I asked when the next batch would be ready, and they told me 15 minutes. I returned in 15 minutes, to find that I should return in an hour. Frazzled, I returned every 15 minutes another four times. When they were finally out of the oven, they told me they were “not allowed to give [me] a muffin until 1:20,” so I returned at 1:20, and FINALLY received my warm pumpkin muffin. Talk about persistence. Ta-da!
Let me tell you, it was about the best darn thing I’ve ever eaten. It was warm and fluffy, but not so moist that it was mushy. (That’s what she said, right? [Ed.–no.]) The portion size was perfect. I told myself I was only going to eat the top knowing I would eat the whole thing and still be totally fine and perfectly satisfied. In terms of its pumpkinness, it was perfect. It wasn’t trying to be a pumpkin cupcake. It had autumnal spice without being spicy, and a recognizable pumpkin savor without being too sweet. Thus, the Blue Room astounds with enough authenticity to make it easy, peasy: 10 out of 10.
Food: Pumpkin croissant
Where from: Au Bon Pain
How you feel?: It looked more like a panini-croissant hybrid than it did anything else, but it tasted good enough for me to forget that it wasn’t freshly baked by an artisan baker in a little village where autumn is year-round and people speak by crunching leaves beneath their feet. Upon first contact with my taste buds, it tasted like a sweet cream cheese-filled pastry. They nailed the croissant aspect, and they did an excellent job of meeting my filling-to-croissant ratio expectations, but the filling was too unmistakably cream cheese-y. I give it a respectable 7 out of 10, and now very much want to try a bagel with pumpkin cream cheese. BGO, anyone?
Food: Pumpkin cheesecake F’real
Where from: The Marketplace
How you feel?: We had a special guest, Blog’s very own Creative Director, Albie Brown, help us conquer the F’real. It was a battle we knew we needed to tackle, yet could not tackle alone. Here’s what Albie had to say about the milkshake that brings all the #basic girls to the yard…
“It tastes like egg nog.”
“[Deciding to make it] extra thick is the move because it’s cheese cake, so it has to be like cheese cake.”
“They really have the best ingredients in here. They have some, like, not bad things. Like molasses, and real pumpkin purée! They have cream cheese powder, which I’ve never heard of before.”
“It’s fine. It’s, like, totally good for you.”
“…Cheese cake dough??? How did I miss that??”
Additional comments: all 600 calories and 73 carbohydrates of this are F’really, F’really delicious. Albie duly noted that they “hit the pumpkin cheesecake color.” Once in a while, we were tickled pink by surprise chunks of cheesecake that wandered up our straws. So authentic. So delicious. So good that it’s somewhat frightening. 9.5 out of 10.
Food: Pumpkin cream cheese muffin
Where from: Starbucks
How you feel?: The muffin was stellar. It was mostly pumpkin with a dollop of white goo resembling cream cheese on top, keeping the flavors in focus separate rather than blended. I liked the separation, but wished that the cream cheese dollop was more of an icing smothered on top of the whole thing instead of a wimpy dollop. Should we say dollop again?
First, we tried the muffin sans dollop. It had some oats, or something that resembled oats, mixed into the batter, contributing spunk to the texture but not too much to the taste. I mean, who doesn’t like a little granola in everything? It was a clever addition.
Then, we tackled the cream cheese dollop. It was unwilling to sever, like a really cheesy pizza. Except you don’t want your muffin to resemble a pizza, so this was kind of gross. What could this cream cheese be made of??? A mozzarella blend, perhaps? It didn’t taste like cream cheese. I thought I liked it until I realized it tasted like goo. 7 out of 10.
Food: Pumpkin latte
Where from: Blue State Coffee
How you feel?: While we’re big fans of all things Blue State, the pumpkin latte didn’t exactly win us over. That being said, one of us doesn’t like strong espresso and the other one needs her caffeinated beverages to be sweet: “It needs two Splendas or the ratio is off.” If you enjoy the classic Blue State latte and just a whisper of fall in your beverages, you will probably enjoy this fall staple. 6 out of 10.
Food: Pumpkin Spice Latte (yes, we’re deeming it a proper noun)
Where from: Starbucks
How you feel?: I feel like I should be wearing Uggs, Abercrombie & Fitch, and standing in a pumpkin patch. BUT THE LATTE WAS SO GOOD. I ordered it soy (because everything tastes better soy), with whipped cream, and without a top. If you ever find yourself face to face with a barista, ready to take the PSL plunge, order as I did. Please.
The soy was definitely the right call because it added a slight vanilla flavor. The whipped cream, sprinkled with a brown powder that may have been cinnamon (?), was thick and cold to balance out the steamy stuff underneath. When it melted, the latte got even better. It was a perfect combo of spice and sweet, hot and cold, basic but worth it. Shawty is a 10.
Food: Pumpkin coffee cake
Where from: Au Bon Pain
How you feel?: Out of the three ABP goodies that we sampled, this treat took the cake (no pun intended) for most autumnal. While the other two items tasted vaguely of pumpkin, the coffee cake really brought the spice. In fact, the center of this baked good seemed to be entirely comprised of one gooey, delicious blob of cinnamon roll guts. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the pumpkin coffee cake is cinnamon-y, and the other ABP pumpkin treats are decidedly not. 8 out of 10.
“The perfect combo of coffee cake and pumpkin. It lives up to its name.” –Hannah
“At first it kinda tasted like a holiday edition Febreze scent. But then I liked it.” –Sydney
Food: Pumpkin croisbun
Where from: Au Bon Pain
How you feel?: How does one pronounce croisbun? Just wondering. This one looks the prettiest and fanciest of them all, even though we bought it in a 2-for-$4 deal (shh). The croisbun shaped similarly to a cinnamon bun, but without the ogre-like layers and with croissant dough. So by “similarly,” we mean not that much. The crust was buttery, soft, and flakey, the inside was just pumpkin filling — which we will discuss in a hot sec — and the top had three drops of a sauce that was maybe supposed to be pumpkin? Maybe supposed to be caramel? Maybe supposed to be an autumnal spice? Does anyone know the answers to these questions anymore? The filling was pumpkin-tangy, as opposed to pumpkin-sweet or citrus-tangy. Its texture was nice, and the whole thing all together was great, but on the true pumpkin flavor scale, it was eh. 7 out of 10.
“If you want to pretend to like pumpkin but aren’t truly obsessed with it, this is for you.” –Hannah
“This is making my face feel heavy.” –Sydney
Food: Pumpkin chai
Where from: Tealuxe
How you feel?: This was a truly baffling experience. I ordered the iced version of the beverage since it comes sweetened (I wanted the full experience) and picked soy as my milk of choice. I was expecting something along the lines of a standard iced chai. After all, in this day and age, pumpkin is often synonymous with cinnamon/spices, so I didn’t see how a pumpkin chai could deviate much further from the original. But boy was I surprised. This tea latte tasted like neither pumpkin nor chai. It was actually reminiscent of apples, with an aftertaste of green tea. Very Japanese-candy-inspired. It’s a good drink for those who enjoy the taste of fall but have an aversion to pumpkin flavoring. And chai. WTF, Tealuxe. 3 out of 10.
“I thought I had picked up the wrong drink from the counter.” –Sydney
Disclaimer: Now, you might be asking, “What about pumpkin fro-yo from from Fro-Yo World? Ben & Jerry’s autumn ice cream?” We ventured to both with high hopes in what ended up being a complete FARCE. There wasn’t even pumpkin flavored shit there. Let the sheer disappointment sink in. Let it sink.
Image by Jason Hu.