By Tom Kozlowski and Courtney Wirths
A&E Editor and Photo Editor
F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Life starts again when it gets crisp in the fall.” So does the obsession with pumpkins. Autumn is the time when all can embrace the warm and cozy goodness of a cup or bowl of pumpkin. One Sunday morning, Tom Kozlowski and Courtney Wirths set off on a journey to the small-town main street of Princeton, N.J. Their mission: vindicate or destroy every first-world fangirl’s craving for the seasonal veggie savor. Their targets: three pumpkin dishes. One was to be a hot drink, the second a dessert and the third, ice cream (which is, in fact, another dessert). Their success rate? Fall-ing fast.
Coming in hot, the team landed on Nassau Street, hungry and impatient. With caffeine on their minds, they hooked a left through an alley and found themselves at Small World Coffee, Princeton’s premiere indie “we don’t accept your credit cards” café. Consequently, they were broke, especially after the meter gorged on all their coins. Still, with overzealous Greenwich rejected baristas pelting them with options, they settled: one hot pumpkin cappuccino and an iced pumpkin latte.
Small — that’s how they would describe their purchases. Once they picked up their jaws and realized they were charged for sample cups, Wirths sipped the delicate foam off the cusp of her coffee while Kozlowski funnelled his latte down like he was late for a meeting. The hot cappuccino was aesthetically pleasing, as there was a lovely pumpkin swirl through the white delicious steamed milk. The foam was also the best tasting part of the coffee — a light and airy sip of Grandma’s house. And while the latte was refreshingly cold, it blended the seasonal spices to a sweet perfection.
Now caffeinated beyond safe levels, the team scampered from the café with dessert on their minds. Naturally, this encompassed all three meals in one day, so a balance of high fructose corn syrup and icing was totally kosher.
House of Cupcakes stands out among its surroundings as a homely, enticing hamlet. Naturally, they barged in. The woman behind the counter greeted them with a big smile when, in unison, Wirths and Kozlowski asked, “Do you have pumpkin?”
She smiled warmly and handed the pair a pumpkin cupcake in a small covered cup. The cupcake had a rich cream-cheese frosting piped on the top and was sprinkled with cinnamon. At the tippy-top was a candy corn pumpkin for decoration. The cake was moist and the frosting was perfectly sweet, but one thing that was missing from this pumpkin cupcake — the pumpkin.
“I think this is carrot cake,” Kozlowski said. “No, this is actually carrot cake.” He was certainly not impressed.
But they refused to end their mission on a sour note — they still had to get that cream. “Off to the Bent Spoon!” Wirths yelled with conviction. “I’m getting fat!” lamented Kozlowski. The ice cream establishments would not give in, though. Bent Spoon: pumpkin-less. Halo Pub: a myth. And as they dragged their feet in a Charlie-Brown-trudge of disappointment, lo and behold came Thomas Sweets.
The highest leaf of the oranging oak — a cup swirling with autumnal ecstasy, Thomas Sweets’ pumpkin ice cream was the essential seasonal treat. Like a cool creamy sister to pumpkin pie filling, this was the real canned-pumpkin deal. Any declared aficionado of the pumpkin persuasion is obligated to close a fall evening wrapped in a Snuggie with a spoonful of this frozen pumpkin cream.
Bellies full, they rolled their way back to the car with their happiness raising like the Great Pumpkin. So this harvest, in celebrating the ancient rite of the pumpkin spice, make your way to Princeton on a hayride of flavor and simply, tastefully, enjoy.