Special Issues » Fall Issue

Que Pasa, Calabaza: Our Panel on Pumpkin Bites in San Antonio

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JESS ELIZARRARAS
  • Jess Elizarraras

The high for August 28 was 100. The low was 79. Neither of those digits hinted at an impending fall, but it didn’t matter: Starbucks released its Pumpkin Spice Latte, and it was all downhill from there.

Nationally, the pumpkin craze is all over our cereals, our dish soaps, our deodorants. Locally, restaurants are waiting to roll out fall menu items for at least a few more weeks. But the Great Pumpkin still lingers like a rotund elephant in the room (or, in this case, pastry case).

But are any of the products worth the buzz? Does pumpkin actually have its own unique flavor? Or are we enamored by the cloves and ginger and cardamom that is most often paired with it? Or because it teases cooler temperatures – reasons to wear boots and an excuse to bring out all those sweaters and scarves tucked in the back of our closets?

We scoured the city for pumpkin-flavored treats and assembled a panel that spans pumpkin eaters from fanatical to skeptical, including social-media influencer Candice Trevino (@smilesandpearlss), music writer Chris Conde and food critic Ron Bechtol. Here are their thoughts:

Locally Sourced

Pumpkin Empanadas // The “baby food” texture was a turn-off for one of our panelist who tasted H-E-B’s pumpkin empanada. It was enough to start a conversation on whether people can discern the differences between pumpkin and sweet potato or camote. Still, it’s good with a cafecito.
Ron Bechtol: [No rating]
Chris Conde: 3/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 5/10 pumpkins

Snooze Smashing Pumpkin Pancake // The Smashing Pumpkin Pancakes, part of Snooze’s fall menu, are billed as “homemade pumpkin pancakes with cream cheese filling, topped with bourbon-infused maple syrup, sweet cream drizzle & maple-spiced pepitas.” It’s a sweet breakfast, but it won most of our panelists over.
Ron Bechtol: 8/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 5/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 9/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Snickerdoodles // Lily’s Cookies shared fall-inspired items such as pecan pie bars and pumpkin bars with a rich cream cheese frosting, but the clear winner of the batch was the pumpkin spice white chocolate snickerdoodle, which was crumbly, moist and didn’t pack in a ton of sweetness. One panelist squirreled some away for later.
Ron Bechtol: 8/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 8/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 9/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Spice Up Your Life Cookie // What’s not to love about a cookie frosted to look like a coffee mug? At $4, the Bread Box creation is perfect for teacher gifts or that perfect Instagram photo.
Ron Bechtol: 7/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 8/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 8/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Spice Milk Tea // A pumpkin caramel swirl and a hearty shake of pumpkin spice are the starting and finishing touches for Brew’s Lee Tea Station’s fall-flavored drink available as of this Monday. Though our panelists missed the flavors of pumpkin, the chai tea was a solid offering.
Ron Bechtol: 4/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 8/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 7/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Macarons // Andrew Gonzalez, a father and baker, has been mac-ing it up since 2016 with his made-to-order macarons. His fall offering: pumpkin macarons that added enough hints of pumpkin AND spice to keep our panelists happy.
Ron Bechtol: 7/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 8/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 10/10 pumpkins

Trader Joe’s Haul

By far, TJ’s packed the most gourd-flavored goodies out of any store we visited, especially given their relative size. But not all the pumpkin goods were great.

Pumpkin Greek Yogurt // If you’re going to promise pumpkin, it better taste like pumpkin. Our panelists were not impressed.
Ron Bechtol: 5/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 4/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 7/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Biscotti // A winner. Crisp without calling for a trip to the dentist, and spice-laden enough to go with your drink of choice.
Ron Bechtol: 7/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 8/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 10/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Madeleine // Though buttery and moist, the pastry lacked in actual pumpkin taste. No matter – two panelists would dunk it in their PSLs any day.
Ron Bechtol: 7/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 5/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 9/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Spice Muffin with Cream Cheese and Walnut Streusel // Middle of the road reaction. The muffin, it seems, had more bark than bite.
Ron Bechtol: 6/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 5/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 7/10 pumpkins

Frosted Toaster Pastries // Hard pass.
Ron Bechtol: 3/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 2/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 3/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Tortilla Chips // Though pumpkin puree was listed as a prominent ingredient, the tortilla chips were less gourd, more corn. We wouldn’t kick them out of bed, and they’d actually pair well with a chili or lentil daal.
Ron Bechtol: 5/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 7/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 8/10 pumpkins

Pumpkin Chai Spice Loaf // A noble loaf that packed in flavors of clove, cardamom and black pepper. Try it instead of coffee cake.
Ron Bechtol: 7/10 pumpkins
Chris Conde: 9/10 pumpkins
Candice Trevino: 5/10 pumpkins

So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.