Sage Advice and Pumpkin Spice

Sorry, there is no advice in this article— or pumpkin. The title was just too good to pass up. 

Anyway, seasonal is always a buzzword when it comes to menu planning. Ingredients like spring peas and asparagus are typical and expected for spring. Fruits like strawberries and watermelon in the summer keep your menu refreshing and bright.  Each season has its unique ingredients that are only available during those certain times of year and it’s always exciting to feature them. Fall menus, though, seem to have their own genre.

There is just something about autumn. 

Maybe it’s the nostalgia of remembering family, holidays, and the changing leaves.  Whatever it is, no seasonal offerings compare to the warm and comforting flavors of fall menus.  

We decided to reach out to chefs around the country and put together a short list of some of the best fall menu items across the nation. Thank you, everyone, for your submissions.  We got a lot!

Our criteria for selecting the best dishes is, as follows:

  1. Ingredients - Are they actually seasonal?
  2. Visual appeal - Will the picture make me travel the distance to get this dish?
  3. Creativity - Is it unique?
  4. Nostalgia - Does it make me excited for the holiday season or bring back memories of quality time with family?

Ok, Here we go!

Turducken Dog # 3

Adam Gertler - DogHaus - Pasadena, Ca.

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Ingredients: Smoked duck, chicken, and turkey. It is packed with fresh herbs, sweet potato, and cranberries. Topped with sweet potato fries, gravy, cranberry slaw, and crispy onions.

Adam Gertler, is an actor, a host, and the Wurstmacher, a.k.a. “sausage master,” behind most of the creations at DogHaus.  This creation breaks the casing!  

 
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From the Wurstmacher: This “sausage” goes beyond the typical novelty factor that some may associate with the idea of stuffing a chicken in a duck in a turkey.  The rich flavor of the duck is balanced by the milder chicken and turkey.  The classic herb blend of rosemary, thyme, and sage put your head in that seasonal mood and the addition of cranberries and sweet potatoes add sweetness that balanced the savory sausage. The build is classic DogHaus "fun on a bun," with crispy sweet potato fries and gravy topping the turducken sausage on a sweet, buttery, grilled King's Hawaiian roll. The richness is balanced by crisp, tangy coleslaw with cranberries and finally, the texture of crispy fried onions make this limited time offering ring true of the holiday season.  So good!

  • Seasonality - 5
  • Visual appeal - 7
  • Creativity - 9
  • Nostalgia Factor - 9

Seasonality is tough in this instance.  The ingredients are not technically seasonal, even though the idea technically is ( I know, I took a hard line). Visually I’m in and will be making a trip to try this dish when in California.  Full disclosure, DogHaus has been on our show Fast Casual Nation, and their dogs are the f@%*ing bomb!  I assume this one is no different.  This made this list based almost completely on creativity. And, let’s face it, nothing is more nostalgic than a hot dog.

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Alaskan Halibut with Alaskan pickled Carrot Vinaigrette #2

Chef Lionel Uddipa - SALT - Juneau, Alaska

Ingredients: Alaskan Halibut with Alaskan pickled carrot vinaigrette, rooftop herbs, wild Alaskan foraged mushrooms (chanterelles, blewits, and gypsies) and black seaweed from Angoon, Alaska.

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Chef Lionel Uddipa is the third generation of chefs in his family. Born and raised in Juneau, his first restaurant job was as a dishwasher in his family's diner, where he made the kitchen his "playground.” Uddipa decided to further his career in culinary school and was classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta, Ga.

 
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His dish features ingredients that are hyper seasonal, featuring mushrooms and root vegetables that can only be harvested late in the year.  I mean, all plants, fruits, and vegetables are harvested in Alaska pretty much at the same time. Chef Uddipa does much with the mushrooms and halibut as he really wants to showcase their true flavor profile. He uses herbs that can be grown easily on your roof or inside your home, and also, fennel fronds, nasturtiums, shaved radishes, celery paper thin with a Japanese mandolin to add some bitterness to the dish.

  • Seasonality - 9
  • Visual appeal - 9
  • Creativity - 7
  • Nostalgia Factor- 7

Visually the dish is stunning and if it wasn’t in Alaska (I’m in Miami) I'd be right there to try it myself. I feel the dish is pretty straightforward, but I am not a chef, so what do I know.  For me, and please this should be taken with a grain of SALT (pun intended), it’s just above the curve. I’m an Italian-American, if you are too you may know about the seven fishes dinner on Christmas Eve. Because Halibut is always part of my holiday binge, I give this dish a seven, for seven fishes.  

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Pasta Mezzemaniche #1

Chef Michele Lisi - Nerano - Beverly Hills, Ca.

Ingredients: Laura Chenel’s Goat Cheese Crema, Kabocha squash, pistachios, Mezze Maniche Rustichella pasta, fresh sage, butter, salt, and extra virgin olive oil.

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Chef Michele Lisi grew up in Locorotondo, a small town in Puglia, located in the south near the heel of Italy’s boot.  A lot of chefs learned their chops from their mothers or their grandmothers and Chef Lisi, a good Italian boy, credits his mom’s home cooking for his desire to become a chef.

Michele’s menu is inspired by the dishes he remembers from his childhood, but he incorporates the fresh ingredients that can be found in Southern California’s robust culinary landscape.  

Kabocha squash is one of Chef Lisi’s favorite ingredients. Only available in the fall, Chef Lisi waits all year to create some dishes with this ingredient. As an added bonus (Obama nostalgia), Chef Lisi made this dish for Obama in 2010 and because the president loved it, he decided to add it to Nerano's fall menu.

 
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  • Seasonality - 10
  • Visual appeal - 9
  • Creativity - 8
  • Nostalgia Factor - 9

Squash is one of my favorite foods and I am always looking for new ideas. Because this ingredient is only available in the fall, it receives my highest points for seasonality. Visually the dish is stunning and goat cheese crema. Yes, please!  The nostalgia factor goes back to my roots.  My grandmother’s pasta dishes were always seasonal with ingredients from her garden. This dish reminds me of home in my grandmother’s kitchen.  

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Chefs know that fall is the time to flex their culinary muscles and excite their customers with the unique tastes of the season. These dishes don’t disappoint. Frankly, autumn is the best season for foodies. Please remember, when commenting, this article is supposed to be fun and I am no culinary expert... I just love this season. 

Happy fall dining everyone!