It’s that time of year when we don’t know whether to drink artificial-gourd-flavored coffee or just make a regular cup. When we debate finishing a dozen apple-flavored doughnuts or simply polishing off a glazed box. When we move from the home desk to the couch (maybe just the other end of the couch) and think, “There’s a pint of ice cream in the freezer that’s calling to me. But will it be mint or pumpkin chip?”
Along with those big decisions we cast this week, there are also these bigger decisions to make right now. And we’re here to help. Here, a guide to some favorite fall treats around Denver so you can curl up and prepare for whatever’s next: winter and/or the apocalypse.
We all know the great grandaddy of fall coffee drinks, the pumpkin spice latte (really only 17 years old, so more of a petulant teenager, if you will). But so many others since have taken that syrupy sweet mystery mix and improved upon it. The best I’ve tried locally is a house-made version from Downpours Coffee, at 1200 Clayton St. and two other locations. It’s smooth and so subtly spiced, we could drink this PSL daily, in between runs to Starbucks.
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Apple cider doughnuts
These babies are in such demand around Denver that when Berkeley Donuts, 3920 Tennyson St., debuted them one Friday a few weeks back, they were sold out before 9 a.m. They’re as simple as a warm cake doughnut, mixed with Talbott’s High Country Apple Cider and rolled in cinnamon sugar. But the combination really is worth the early drive. Tip: Call ahead on the same day or email with 24 hours notice to place an order.
OK, so it’s always pie season (also see ice cream, eternal, below). But fall pies are hard to beat. Think apple, pumpkin, chocolate and the oft-overlooked pecan. Now that they’re on your mind, you’ll start to see them fresh, in their whole baked glory, and also by the slice, set upon window sills or just placed gingerly on restaurant and bakery menus around town.
But first, for a bite of that crunchy candied pecan with a dollop of whipped cream on top, go to Smok, 3330 Brighton Blvd. You can start your meal with a burnt end sandwich, creamed corn and other regional delights. Or just come for the pie and maybe a bourbon to drink.
While Oktoberfest beers or Märzens are some of our favorites, we’re now transitioning into the season for rich porters and malty stouts. Luckily, Denver is home to plenty of award-winning brews to taste this fall.
Start with some of the recent GABF award-winners at Denver Beer Co., 1695 Platte St. and in Arvada. The gold-medaled Amburana Dream is an imperial porter, and its silver-medaled Amburana Graham Cracker Porter is a barrel-aged version of the DBC flagship brew. And while you’re there, try a flight of sister brewery Cervecería Colorado‘s three different churro stouts.
Anyone else associate autumn with brunch? Something about that crisp air, a hot cup of coffee and warm pastries just pair so well.
For the most fall-icious of the brunches, try Stowaway Kitchen, 2528 Walnut St. The folks there make a seasonal spread of baked goods and bevvies, so you can eat a spiced fruit toast or carrot cake muffin with bourbon-spiked hot apple cider to drink. (They have savory seasonal dishes like kabocha squash salads and grilled eggplant halloumi sandwiches, too.)
Fall-flavored ice cream
Why stop eating ice cream when the temperature starts to drop? With flavors like Vegan Pumpkin Chai (Sweet Cooie’s), Apple Cider Sorbet (Frozen Matter), and Rise From the Dead (cinnamon coffee cake and oat crumble from Gelato Boy), you can enjoy fall straight from your cone or cup.
For a classic recipe that will take you back home, try Joan’s Pumpkin Pie from High Point Creamery, 215 S. Holly St. and two other locations. The flavor is made by blending a fresh-baked pumpkin chiffon pie with cream and crumbled graham cracker crust.
You’ll find plenty of seasonal cocktails around town on bars’ and restaurants’ fall menus, but we think the selection at Restaurant Olivia, 290 S. Downing St., takes the cake. While they may sound bananas, these combinations somehow always work perfectly in the glass.
Try the Baked Apple Boulevardier (with apple bourbon, Contratto Bitter, pie spices and wild honey), or the milk clarified PSL(it) (with rum, tequila, gin, preserved orange, pumpkin-spiced cola and lemon).
And in case you can’t wait a month …
The Christkindl Market is scheduled to come back this year, only more spread out and with entertainment adjusted for our pandemic times. It runs Nov. 20-Dec. 23 in Civic Center park, but if you just can’t wait for warm pretzels, mulled wine and more holiday fare, you can find some of these more wintery treats in the meantime around town.
For glühwein and other Bavarian specialties, head to Rhein Haus Denver, 1415 Market St. Pretty much anything here will transport you right to a Northern European Christmas market, but consider a brat, spaetzle or strudel to pair with your hot mulled wine.
And if you’re in Boulder, stop by the new Avanti food hall and take the elevator straight upstairs. New Yorkese, 1401 Pearl St., is a fine pizza window (with plenty of open-air seating surrounding it), and the pizzas are worth the trip. But for our seasonal purposes, try a fresh-baked pretzel topped with fennel and griddled Grana Padano cheese.
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