It’s the Great Pumpkin, Alice Stanley! [2012 Remix]

Alice Stanley eats, drinks, or otherwise ingests every pumpkin and “pumpkin spice” flavored thing she can find, and tells you all about it. Again.

alice

That’s right, yatches! Last fall season I crammed my face with a bumper crop of pumpkin junk and wrote about it. You might have thought, thanks to my helpful article on all treats pumpkin, you’d be set for life on choosing appropriate pumpkin items. But fall came back around with a seasonal vengeance. Let’s discuss the new pumpkins on the block in reference to last year’s winners.

ICE CREAM

Dutch Bros.’ Pumpkin Pie Shake beats out last year’s champ (Baskin Robbins) with its subtle pumpkin flavor in a mostly vanilla shake and crunchy pumpkin spice on top of the whipped cream. Coldstone Creamery Pumpkin Ice Cream then went on to beat Dutch Bros.’ with its ballin’ pumpkin-like consistency and addictive flavor.

However, the competition was extensive this year as Culver’s unleashed three pumpkin concretes. I ate them all at once (don’t wanna talk about it, I’m a heifer, it’s fine, I’m over it). Number one: Pumpkin Spice Shake — probably vanilla custard with pumpkin syrup. It’s in the top half of pumpkin ice cream overall, but simple. Number two: Pumpkin Cheesecake Concrete Mixer, not so great — too rich and the cheesecake was blended too smooth, meaning no gratifying chunks to chomp. The best of 2012 (and 2011) is the Pumpkin Pecan Concrete Mixer: the solid flavor and texture of the pumpkin spice version with pecans! I give it five out of five jack-o-lanterns.

Not tested: Ben and Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream. It’s harder to find than an orange balloon in a pumpkin patch.

COFFEE

Paradise Bakery Pumpkin Pie Latte was pretty sugary and blandly pumpkin. Halfway through, I didn’t want anymore, but until then, it was a good time. To be fair, I tried the same pumpkin syrup in a Panera chai latte, and then the fall flavor actually came through. I had a Caribou Coffee Pumpkin White Chocolate Mocha, but the pumpkin flavor was so subtle I literally couldn’t taste it. Dutch Bros’ Pumpkin Latte: solid B. Average in flavor and coffee blend. And, finally, Jazzman’s Pumpkin Latte was disgusting. It was overly herby and bitter. Threw it in the trash. The sunny side to lackluster coffee consumption is going back to the Starbucks original and sincerely appreciating the consistency.

BAKED GOODS

scone

Last year the Starbucks Pumpkin Scone was sold out so often I considered it a myth, but I finally got my paws on one. The flavor was meh, and the consistency was just short of cinderblock. I mean, it’s a scone. But! Einstein Bros Bagels’s managed to make a soft little lump of delight for their scone. You may remember the underdog Circle K winning last year’s coffee contest. The latte is back, and so is a pumpkin donut — a donut I could only eat one bite of. Underdogs can’t surprise us every time, y’all.

Jazzman’s is now 0-2 based on its Pumpkin Chai Muffin. Sounds good, right? A lil’ muffin drizzled with chai syrup! First bite was dry, tasteless, and hard. Walnuts inside pumpkin baked goods is a thing. No one asked my permission to include walnuts in the holiday fun. In the wrong context, they’re gross. Literally the same day, I saw a delicious slice of pumpkin bread with chocolate chips in it in the bakery case of Caribou. I took a big bite to find raisins. (Also, it was dry and flavor-lame even if you don’t find raisins a major offense, which you should.) To-do: set fire to Caribou Coffee headquarters. Paradise Bakery’s Pumpkin Nut Muffin also suffered from walnuts, but beyond that it was moist with classic pumpkin flavor. However, this is the only muffin I have ever met with a better stump than top because the top was hard and covered with sugar. Panera muffin was a solid A — soft, pumpkinful flavor, topped with a dusting of sugar.

Pepperidge Farm’s limited-edition Pumpkin Spice Swirl Bread isn’t bad, but it’s just some flavored-white bread. Soulplantation & Sweet Tomatoes’ buffet dessert of Gooey Caramel Pumpkin Cake was eh at best (like a B-). So the best new baked good award goes to Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies — super soft, very fall, and honestly not too sweet.

Yup! An on-shelf treat is sweeping the 2012 pumpkin-lympics, but, still, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin reigns supreme probably forever and always. To be fair, I didn’t try the Bob Evans’ Pumpkin Bread, but I’d rather kill myself than eat that garbage. Also, Panera and Paradise Cafe sell a pumpkin cookie, which is the current wallpaper of my cell phone. It’s super dang cute (jack-o-lantern icing what!) and delish, but not pumpkin-flavored in the slightest — just orange frosting on a sugary shortbread cookie. Still, I’d recommend it.

BAGELS

bagel

Both Panera Bread and Paradise Bakery’s pumpkin pie bagels are mediocre. Not very pumpkin-y, more cinnamon-y. The Thomas’-brand Pumpkin Spice Bagels are super dope — soft, moist, and strong flavor. Last year, I crowned Philadelphia Cream Cheese the winner, but it’s time for the position to be usurped. MVP of all pumpkin foods in 2012 goes to the Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Cream Cheese. Holy Halloween, this stuff is amazing. It has unsweetened taste of pumpkin butter with the consistency and substance of cream cheese. I seriously paused for a mildly religious experience after my first bite. Highly, highly recommended.

RANDO (In Order of Worst to Best)

Hershey’s Kisses, Pumpkin Spice: grody white chocolatey faux-spiced drops. Pass.

Jet Puffed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows: just tasted like a dang marshmallow.

Betty Crocker Pumpkin Spice Cookie Mix: I mean, it’s a step up from plain sugar cookies. It comes in a bag. It is what it is.

Celestial Sweet Harvest Pumpkin Holiday Black Tea: Just all right. It’s black tea with a hint of spice.

Pop Tarts Pumpkin Pie: What you’d expect from a Pop Tart. They were a good time, and I found them delightful, although the amount of pumpkin filling is a teeny little gel inside the pastry, and the icing didn’t seem pumpkin flavored at all.

Nature’s Path Organic Granola Bars, Pumpkin-n-Spice: Pretty stellar. I especially appreciated the seeds. New fave granola bars.

Cheesecake Factory Pumpkin and Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake: If you like cheesecake and you like pumpkin, you’ll love these. That’s really all there is to say. The cake melts in your mouth, appropriately sweet and creamy, and if I were rich I would fill a pool with this pumpkin cheesecake. I don’t even care if I ended up suffocating. If you like additional crunchy consistency, you’ll appreciate the pecan version of the classic. Both are delightful.

Could not find to save my dang life: Silk Soymilk Pumpkin Spice, Eggo Pumpkin Spice Waffles, and SAY WHAT Pringles Pumpkin Pie Spice chips. Apparently, Arizona isn’t “fall” enough for these brand treats. Maybe next year. Until then!

Alice Stanley is an MFA candidate in Dramatic Writing at Arizona State University. Follow her tweets or send her an email. She also has a website.