Add Some Spice to Your Pumpkin

The flavors of autumn abound, and we’ve found some of the most tempting treats this season has to offer. From drinks that warm the soul to sweets and entrees that deliver comfort, these treats bring all the flavor of a Midwestern fall.

If you think about it, there are certain things that just go together: peanut butter and jelly, shoes and socks, Kermit and Miss Piggy.

The same can be said about autumn and fall-inspired food and drinks. What’s better than sipping on a pumpkin-infused drink on your porch while enjoying some cool autumn air?

From specialty burgers and seasonal drinks to sweet desserts, this season provides a wonderful opportunity to indulge in the flavors that coincide with this great time of year. Luckily for us, there are many tempting tastes that make this season stand out.

Maple Latte from Blue Collar Coffee Co., in Beloit

Something to Sip on

Wearing long-sleeved clothing can keep us warm this season, but don’t forget hot drinks and cold alcoholic beverages.

Wired Café, in Rockford, has a sampling of fall-inspired drinks to keep you and your taste buds warm this season.

Check out Wired’s Pumpkin Pie Latte, made with pumpkin pie spices. The Baked Apple Latte is also a crowd pleaser. Take it up a notch by combining it with oat milk, and then you have a Baked Apple Crisp Latte.

Blue Collar Coffee Co., in Beloit, celebrates the season with a fun assortment of drinks that scream fall. Be sure to try the Maple Latte, which is made with B&E’s Trees Bourbon Aged Maple Syrup, espresso, steamed milk and a dash of cinnamon.

Speaking of which, the Cinnamon Roll Latte will remind you of the warm, gooey dessert. This loaded beverage uses cinnamon roll flavors with espresso and steamed milk. It’s then topped with whipped cream and, of course, cinnamon.

No fall coffee menu is complete without the traditional pumpkin spiced latte. Blue Collar’s variation has espresso and steamed milk combined with a blend of pumpkin and traditional fall spices. It’s then topped with whipped cream, nutmeg and a sweet pumpkin drizzle. The pumpkin cold brew is another classic fall drink, and it has house cold-brew coffee with pumpkin spice flavor. It comes with either cream or cold foam.

If you’re looking to enjoy an alcoholic drink to accommodate s’mores and ghost stories, check out some fall favorites at Generations Brewing Co., in Freeport.

Cranacopia is an imperial double stout that’s both brewed and fermented with organic cranberry puree and finished with black walnuts. Black Mass Baltic is a porter that’s aged in cold Tennessee whiskey barrels for six months. The colder temperatures allow the lager yeast to thrive, thus adding complexity and making for a smooth drink.

Meg’s Daily Grind, in Rockford, features a fall latte every week. At least 10 fall drinks are part of a rotation that includes Apple Pie – a drink that comes with apple, vanilla and cinnamon powder. The Pumpkin Creme Brulee is served with white chocolate, caramel and pumpkin spice. The Pumpkin a la Mode i brings pumpkin and white chocolate flavors together with a topping of cinnamon powder. These drinks can be paired perfectly with a pumpkin muffin (loaded with frosting, of course).

Looking to enjoy an alcoholic drink on a fall evening by the fire? Enjoy some of Pier 290’s classic cocktails by one of the cozy firepits.

The Wild Buffalo is made with Buffalo Trace Whiskey and mezcal. The Salted Caramel Apple is made with sea salt, caramel liquor and apple. These fireside favorites pair perfectly with Pier 290’s cheese curds, house-made bacon and bleu cheese chips, and flatbreads.

There’s something that’s special about visiting an apple orchard this time of year. Jonamac Orchard, in Malta, Ill., has several specialty drinks including that fall must-have: apple cider. There are no extra preservatives or sugar, just good, wholesome apples grown on-site. Don’t believe us? Head over to the Cider House, and they’ll press a jug right in front of you.

Jonamac also has an array of hard ciders, including the JonaSMACK Honeycrisp Hard Cider, a semi-sweet hard cider that’s only made with honeycrisp apples. There’s also an assortment of wines, including Caramel Apple, a sweet treat that’ll remind you of a classic caramel apple, only without the stick.

GreenFire Restaurant Bar & Bakery, in Rockford, gets pretty creative when it comes to fall-themed adult beverages. There’s the Fall Sour, made with Corozon tequila, house-made cinnamon simple syrup, lemon and egg white. There’s also the fitting drink Summer Ends, with coconut rum, Modori, lime, passion fruit-infused simple syrup, rum and triple sec.

These drinks are especially tasty when paired with GreenFire’s extensive menu, particularly the wood-fired pizzas. The Babyback Chipotle pizza is made with chipotle barbecue sauce, pulled pork, mozzarella, cheddar and onion.

Fall treats from Bezzie’s Bakery, in Freeport

Indulge in Sweet Treats

Kids aren’t the only ones who get excited with they pull up to Jonamac Orchard and smell those apple cider doughnuts in the air. Adults have permission to act like kids, too.

Those cinnamon and sugar doughnuts, made fresh daily, are sold by the dozen. That’s OK, because, let’s be honest: how many will you eat on the car ride home?

If that’s not enough, Jonamac’s cider doughnuts sundae is a mind-blowing twist on the fall treat. And did we mention it’s topped with caramel?

Jonamac’s pies include Fruit of the Forest, which is stuffed with apples, strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries and blackberries. All pies are made in-house and are generally ready for pickup the next day.

Wired Cafe’s most popular fall dessert is the pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. Pumpkin muffins are made with white chocolate chips and cranberries. These items pair well with the slew of fall-inspired drinks.
Bezzie’s Bakery, a home kitchen in Freeport, is making waves with its seasonal pumpkin bars.

“They are super popular right now as folks are starting to get in the fall spirit and pumpkin spice seems to be everywhere,” says Liz Pulgarin, owner of Bezzie’s Bakery. “My pumpkin bars are a moist cake made with the fall favorites of pumpkin and cinnamon and topped with a delectable cream cheese frosting.”

The Oh My Apple Pie cupcakes are another crowd pleaser.

“These beauties start with a vanilla batter, a hint of nutmeg and a bit of cinnamon to make the yummy ‘cake’ part of this cupcake,” she says. “I also make an ‘apple filling’ from fresh-cut apples and, of course, cinnamon. The filling goes right on top of our batter and then into the oven, where it’s baked right in.”

These tempting cupcakes are then topped with a homemade cream frosting, a sprinkle of cinnamon and an apple slice.

“You can’t help but say ‘Oh, my’ when you bite into these sweet treats,” Pulgarin says.

Decorated buttercream sugar cookies appear at Bezzie’s Bakery all year, but the fall themes take things to a new level.

“Our decorated buttercream cookies are always a hit with themes like ghoul girls, hayrides and Thanksgiving,” she says. “This secret family recipe will keep everyone coming back for more, and the fall fun designs will entice even the skeptics to give one a try.”

It’s nearly impossible to leave Pier 290 without enjoying the S’mores Skillet. This amazing fireside dessert is made with a graham cracker crust, marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate, then layered with just a touch of caramel sauce. This is why servers sometimes say, “Save room for dessert.”

Sips and Sprinkles, in Belvidere, is not your average ice cream shop. It also specializes in fun and unique autumn offerings, always with a fun twist on seasonal favorites. Here, the classic caramel apple is taken to another level, as the apple is wrapped in M&Ms, chocolate and, of course, sprinkles.

Ice cream is served year-round, so it’s only right that a few fall flavors show up in the freezer. This year, that includes apple pie and pumpkin flavors. Do yourself a real treat and order a slice of pumpkin or apple pie to go with it. Pro tip: Order the pie a la mode with a scoop of ice cream.

Autumn Harvest Burger from Lucy’s No. 7 Burger Bar, in Beloit.

Fall into Savory Flavors

There’s more to fall than just drinks and dessert. There are also some excellent fall-themed dinner ideas.
Lucy’s No. 7 Burger Bar, in Beloit, is known for its out-of-the-box Burgers of the Month, and October’s selection doesn’t disappoint.

You’ll need two hands and a bunch of napkins to enjoy the ultimate fall burger: Autumn Harvest. This thing is stuffed with smoked Gouda and cheddar cheeses, and then it’s topped with grilled onions, apple-cranberry chutney, roasted apples and maple bacon aioli.

For a new twist on turkey, check out the Turkey Pumpkin chili at Wired. This delicious and hearty meal is a delight to the taste buds, the way it combines flavors.

Now that fall is here, Sips and Sprinkles is unveiling its daily soup calendar, which features two daily rotating soups, including chicken noodle, tomato basil, ravioli potato and bacon, and broccoli cheddar. These delicious soups can be topped with cheese, onions and sour cream.

Acres Bistro, in Rochelle, Ill., is a new farm-to-table restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options in a unique and eclectic environment.

Enjoy a fall-inspired drink, like the Salted Caramel Apple Old Fashioned. It pairs well with a kale salad, served with grilled chicken, roasted sweet corn, pickled onion, goat cheese and Parmesan breadcrumb, then topped with a garlic honey vinaigrette. Or, try the bistro’s version of a Cubano, which comes with pulled pork and ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and garlic aioli.

The Acres Burger is another popular choice. It’s piled high with boursin cheese, onion jam, and arugula on a brioche bun.

Be sure to keep an eye on The Wagner House’s rotating menu of amazing dishes this fall. This Freeport eatery has new specials that keeps everyone guessing, including Herb Roasted Chicken, a boneless Amish chicken marinated in tarragon, lemon balm and garlic, then served with linguine in cilantro pesto.

The Chicken and Prosciutto Mushroom Caps are served with chicken, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese.

When fall comes around, we instantly think about football, colder weather, and vibrant colors glistening on the trees. But, some of the best food and drink choices were created just for this season, so take advantage of the wonderful food options we have in our region.