Autumn is in full swing in the East Bay, and what better way to embrace it than by enjoying pumpkin-infused dishes at your favorite eateries? Prepare to venture far beyond your standard pumpkin-spiced latte.
Build Pizzeria's Torta di Zucca
If you're debating between a dessert and a drink, the answer is both. Downtown Berkeley's Build Pizzeria offers the perfect Thanksgiving treat: the torta di zucca (or pumpkin cake in Italian). As part of the new dessert cocktail program created by bar manager Jay Crabb and bartender Jesse Baughman, this pumpkin cocktail combines spiced and solera-aged rum with real pumpkin, as well as fresh lemon and orange juices, autumn-spiced bitters, and all-spice liqueur. Sprinkled with cinnamon and fresh slivers of nutmeg, the drink is pleasantly strong and frothy but not too heavy, even with the dollop of house-made whipped cream on top. We're giving thanks for this Thanksgiving dessert-in-a-coupe-glass.
2286 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-898-1839, BuildPizzeria.com
Bocanova's Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Take a stroll along the Jack London Square waterfront and then warm up with a bowl of pumpkin soup at Bocanova. Executive Chef John Jackson uses French Red pumpkins as the key ingredient for his rich (but light) soup. The roasted pumpkin is mixed with a vegetable stock made of celery, sage, parsnip, and chili for a spicy kick, and then creamed with butter and maple syrup. A bit of crème fraîche floats on top, carrying pioppini mushrooms and chives for garnish. It's just the thing to prepare you for the upcoming winter.
55 Webster St., Oakland, 510-444-1233, Bocanova.com
The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards' Goat Cheese Pumpkin Farce
Enjoy the auburn foliage with a dash of wine. At the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, Executive Chef Matt Greco has crafted an autumn menu with a new pumpkin ravioli dish. The cappellacci is filled with roasted pumpkin and a blend of goat cheese and mascarpone, and is tossed with sage brown butter. Atop are thin slices of speck prosciutto and pear, as well as a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts and a splash of aged balsamic. Enhance the dish with the vineyard's Morning Fog or Riva Ranch Chardonnays. At Wente, you're sure to eat, drink, and undoubtedly be merry.
5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, 925-456-2300, WenteVineyards.com/restaurant
Burma Superstar's Pumpkin Pork Stew
Warm up your belly at Burma Superstar. We love the restaurant's pumpkin stew selection, which includes pork, tofu, salmon, and chicken versions. Our favorite is the pork curry, which is slow cooked with Japanese kabocha squash and seasoned with ginger, garlic, and mild curry spices. Topped with a mint leaf garnish, the tender spiced pork complements the soft bits of pumpkin for a rich flavor in each bite. Pair this dish with rice and a mango mojito to get the full effect.
4721 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-652-2900; 1345 Park St., Alameda, 510-522-6200; BurmaSuperstar.com
A16 Rockridge's Pumpkin Fritters
For a sophisticated fall evening, stop by A16's newest location in Rockridge for dessert and a glass of wine. The warm lighting and intimate ambience add elements of romance, and the pumpkin fritters — essentially pumpkin-pie hushpuppies — are the perfect dessert to share with a loved one. Coated in a layer of fine sugar, the fritters contain a pleasantly creamy pumpkin-pie filling. They come paired with a butterscotch zuppa anglaise for dipping, and roasted pumpkin seeds for a salty crunch.
5356 College Ave., Oakland, 510-768-8003, A16Rockridge.com
Hopscotch's Kabocha Cake
Uptown Oakland's Hopscotch hits it out of the park — or should we say pumpkin patch — with its kabocha cake. Executive Chef Kyle Itani, named Rising Star Chef by the San Francisco Chronicle, has created a dessert that captures the essence of autumn while teasing all the parts of your palate. Two halves of a soft pumpkin cake occupy most of the plate, but there's also two dollops of light-but-rich cinnamon cream cheese and peels of dehydrated kabocha for a pleasant crunch. A drizzle of pomegranate reduction dances around the plate, and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds packs a tart kick. The lightly candied walnut crumbles neatly balance the sweet-sour mix, and small red shiso leaves soften each bite. If you want more pumpkin, try the Fireside Chat, a warm cocktail of pumpkin purée, Laird's AppleJack, cinnamon, clove, mace, vanilla, and maple, garnished with dehydrated orange.
1915 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, 510-788-6217, HopscotchOakland.com