Fall

From the Huffington Post

maplecoctailWhile summer cocktails conjure up a specific image -- usually of tiny umbrellas and slices of watermelon -- autumn brings about libations that are, shall we say, less photogenic. The dearth of the fresh ingredients that make summer drinks such colorful beachside accompaniments force harvest season cocktails into a comparatively substandard role. But this seems wrong considering the other pleasures we gleefully anticipate with first nip in the air. People salivate on line at Starbucks eagerly awaiting their pumpkin spice lattes and delight in slipping on lightweight jackets to compliment the blushing foliage. Why too shouldn't lifting the year's first glass of Apple Brandy be part of the tradition?

The beauty of it is, cocktails that evoke the changing of the seasons don't have to be entirely new drinks. They can follow the same basic template classics cocktails do, just with seasonal substitutions. Here are a few suggestions.

The best place to start is swapping out the sweetener in a drink, it's the simplest and most effective way alter a cocktail. Take for instance a whiskey sour which we know is generally two parts whiskey -- bourbon, rye, Tennessee, your choice -- one part simple syrup, and one part fresh lemon juice depending on taste. Instead of simple syrup make it with maple syrup and bam(!), the autumn whiskey sour.

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pumpkinsagesoupI'm pretending it's a crisp Fall day and I'm sitting in the sunlight enjoying a warming bowl of this creamy soup. The truth be told...I have the air conditioning turned down to 70 and I am enjoying this soup while wearing shorts and flip-flops. It's a little hot outside.

But the heat, did not stop me from making a spicy soup, in fact, I feel like it nudged me into doing it. We do love Sriracha around here. If you still haven't tried it, it's time!

And this soup is absolutely easy to throw together. Using pumpkin puree makes this an absolute time saver and there is no need for a blender to cream the soup. It couldn't be any more simplistic.

I have had a prolific sage garden this year. It has been growing like crazy. I need to get to work and dry some for the winter months. If you have never had fried sage leaves before, you are in for a treat. They are crispy, little, salty bites of goodness. The perfect addition to a creamy soup.

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hungarian-mushroomsoup.jpgThe first time I saw the word Hungarian describing mushroom soup, I was perplexed. I am a descendent of grandparents who came to the United States from Hungary when they were young adults. My mother was 100% Hungarian. I don’t remember ever seeing mushroom soup on the dinner table. No, I’m sure if I’d grown up eating Hungarian Mushroom Soup, I would have always enjoyed eating the earthy fungi.

The truth is, I’ve never cared for mushrooms. The texture, the taste — not for me. Since last August, that’s all changed. My transformation from mushroom-challenged to fungi-infatuated began with an unexpected hunt for chanterelles when I was in Duluth. It developed further when a farmer in Frazee, Minnesota shared some of his freshly-harvested shiitake mushrooms with me.

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ImageLast year I discovered that I actually enjoyed apples. I realize they are one of the most basic things on the planet and I won’t even pretend to touch on their historical or metaphorical influence, but let’s just say that the apple never made its way into my list of food cravings or desires.  I never bothered picking any up at the market, I never found them particularly sexy or exciting and I figured as long as I worked on Mac computers I was surrounded enough by them. Then a little thing happened where I tried a new crop Vasquez apple and realized what all the fuss was about. Apart from being nutritional gems, I was pleasantly surprised that an apple could be crisp, non-mealy, pleasant, and provide a happy balance between tart and sweet, or even not so sweet and just overall refreshing. Ok ok, I know what you’re thinking: um, could Matt come to this apple party any later in life? It’s ok, I completely agree. In fact I had never really shared my blasé attitude about them until it was replaced by my love affair with apples.

Now it seems I have random apples wherever I go. They are the perfect snack for me because they are portable, durable, fit in my computer bag and allow me to save those annoying little stickers with the PLU on them and put them on my fingernails and point at things until people notice. Plus they signal the arrival of fall and all the good stuff that is to come. It’s that new-crop versus cold-storage thing, not that I don’t eat the latter. And on rare occasions the apple allows me to observe mother nature’s miraculous break down of plant matter when a stray apple rolls out of my bag and under the passenger seat of my car, scenting my ride with the happy smell of Pink Lady* before giving way to the odor of rotting flesh, its origin alluding me until I take my vehicle to the car wash. And here I thought it was just the smell of Carson, California.

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baked-sweet-potato.jpgI fell in love on February 1, 2009. Two days later we got into our first and only fight. About root vegetables, specifically yams.

Before I continue I should say that I consider myself well versed in the subject. For six months in high school, I refused to eat anything but yams for dinner. Baked yams with butter. Baked yams with bananas. Yam fries. Boiled yams. Mashed yams. My mom could have thought my behavior toddler-esque the kind of thing my three-year-old cousin does “I no eat green things.” But my mom doesn’t know how to cook. So for her, my phase turned out to be pretty convenient. Poke some holes in it. Pop it in the oven. Forty minutes later, kid’s fed.

I grew out of the yam craze around the time I started making out with younger boys and failing AP Calculus exams. I have no idea if the two are related.

The point is. Yams and I have a history.

Cut to five years later.

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