Here’s just a slice of ‘The Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookbook’

Pumpkin bread and muffins, pumpkin spice lattes and, of course, the quintessential pumpkin pie are common treats this time of year. But what about Maine Root’s pumpkin pie soda, Wrigley’s pumpkin spice gum, Country Crock pumpkin spice margarine or pumpkin spice Kahlua?

Fall-loving foodies find joy in diverse products using the gourd as well as pumpkin pie spice. According to Datassential Menu Trends, pumpkin has grown as a dessert menu flavor since 2005, increasing 11 percent since last year, and pumpkin on bar menus is up 38.1 percent from last year, mostly due to the pumpkin ales and beers produced, some using pumpkin in the mash and others using purees or pumpkin flavoring or pumpkin pie spice.To see the rest of the column and recipes, please go to

                            spicy apple cheesecake

Recipes reprinted with permission from “The Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookbook,” © 2014 by Stephanie Pedersen, Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. Photography by Guy Ambrosino.

At the spa - unwinding and dining at the Lodge at Woodloch

My search for “hidden gems” recently took me to the Lodge at Woodloch,, 866-953-8500, nestled in the heavily wooded mountains of Pennsylvania’s lake region, around Hawley, Pa.

A 3-hour drive from New Haven, even less time if you are close to I-84, takes you to this oasis for personal awakening and renewal. The award-winning 57-room destination spa was ranked No. 3 in Travel & Leisure’s Top Destination Spas in 2014 and No. 7 in the world by Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards in 2014.

Packages include three meals daily, experiences for the mind, body and soul (the daily guide to classes and activities is over the top). health and fitness amenities, pools with hydro-massage waterfalls, Jacuzzis, steam rooms and sauna. The 40,000-square-foot spa is inspired by nature, the sun, the lake and the surrounding woodlands.To see the rest of the column and recipes, please go to

See you at Chowdafest or the Garlic & Harvest Festival

Fall is in the air and so is the aroma of steaming chowder and the tantalizing scent of garlic. Autumn is chock-full of festivals, including one that invites you to sample the specialties of Iceland.

Chowdafest, New England’s largest cooking competition, will be held on Oct. 12 at Norwalk’s Calf Pasture Beach (I-95 exit 16), a new location spacious enough to accommodate the growing fan base; while another popular event, the 10th annual Connecticut Garlic & Harvest Festival, takes place Oct. 11-12 at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds. The following Saturday, Oct. 18, the fifth annual Iceland Affair and Fire and Ice Music Festival once again will bring fans to Winchester for a rare treat, one of only two such festivals in the United States.

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A little shopping and dining at Middlebury Consignment

Found: Patricia Petrelli of Wallingford wrote, “I have recently enjoyed a visit to the Middlebury Consignment. It was a pleasant adventure in itself. But the high point was discovering the charming cafe on the third floor. They have cooking classes there as well as a lunch spot.

“What a wonderful experience. We chose the soups of the day, a minestrone and a leek and fennel. Both were fabulous, but the one I truly recommend is the leek and fennel. I brought home some to try and duplicate. But I would love to find it in your column one day.

“It is delicious hot or cold. I highly recommend it cold on a hot day. They served it with a biscotti seasoned with rosemary. Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy your column and hope to find this soup recipe gracing your column soon.”

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A taste from ‘The Holiday Kosher Baker: Traditional & Contemporary Holiday Desserts’

Rosh Hashanah, often called the Jewish New Year, begins a week from tonight and marks the start of the year in the Hebrew calendar. I am always learning something new about this holiday, which begins on a different day each year since it follows the lunar calendar: I didn’t know that Rosh Hashanah starts 163 days after the first day of Passover.

Unlike Dec. 31, when many celebrate with parties and drinking, Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest days in the Jewish religion. The similarity of all holiday celebrations is food, and no matter what religion or culture, food has a symbolic meaning and kindles fond memories of childhood. The Jewish high holidays are all about family and friends sharing meals, and nothing enhances the dinner like a decadent dessert.

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Porcine goodness awaits at BarBacon, 836 Ninth Ave. in New York City

Single-subject cookbooks and restaurants are my favorite. Think cookbooks using only lemons, maple syrup, kale or bacon, or dining establishments featuring chocolate, oatmeal, rice pudding, mac and cheese, meatballs or bacon.

While National Bacon Day, the Saturday before Labor Day, has passed, I still want to pay homage to one of America’s favorites, and take you to one of New York City’s single-subject restaurants, BarBacon. If cookbooks and restaurants featuring bacon isn’t enough to get your fix, how about a bacon of the month club, bacon candy, soda, maple-bacon coffee, bacon body wash, bacon fragrance, ice cream and band aids?

BarBacon, 836 Ninth Ave.,, 646-362-0622, serves its star ingredient in the most unusual ways. Chef and owner Peter Sherman sat down and talked about the restaurant he opened in Hell’s Kitchen earlier this year.To see the rest of this column, video and recipe, please go to

Milford diner discovers tarragon-lobster sauce over cod at Gelston House

Found: Larry Solkoske of Milford wrote, “I went to Goodspeed Opera House for a play, and ate lunch next door at the restaurant. I can’t remember the name of the place, but they made this delicious cream sauce to put on the codfish I had. Is there any way to get that recipe for the cream sauce?

Larry, head to the fish market because chef/owner Iso Dedushaj and chef Rudy Cecunjanin of the Gelston House Restaurant & Inn,, 8 Main St., East Haddam, 860-873-1411, were delighted to share the recipe. This dish is on its Gastro Pub menu.

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You don’t have to be an Iron Chef to have a rewarding culinary career

The popularity of “Top Chef,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Iron Chef America,” “Cupcake Wars,” “Chopped” and my favorite “Food Network Star” proves that the food scene remains on the forefront of entertainment.

The astounding fall lineup of new food shows, thousands of food blogs, new cookbooks and the big-screen movies about food and chefs, support the fact that people are hungry to learn more about cooking.

Food TV shows have elevated the awareness of the industry as a viable profession. Once August arrives, and school is on the front burner of people’s minds, I receive dozens of phone calls about how to get started in the culinary and hospitality fields.

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Chef du Jour: Meet Frank Proto of Barcelona in New Haven

Editor’s note: Chef du Jour is an occasional profile of an area food professional.

Name: Frank Proto, 43, executive chef, Barcelona, 155 Temple St., New Haven, next to the Omni,

Type of food prepared: Spanish/Mediterranean.

Background/education: Nassau Community College, Culinary Institute of America.

Q. How would you describe the concept of the restaurant?

A. Tapas.

Q. What’s the most memorable meal you have ever eaten?

A. When we were on our honeymoon in Paris, my wife and I had an amazing breakfast at a local bakery. Warm bread and eggs cooked in a ton of butter.

Q. What’s the most memorable meal you have ever prepared?

A. I did a wine dinner in Oregon for 600 people. It was by far the largest meal and one of the most memorable.

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‘Chopped’ champ, 13, put on show at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital

I was surrounded by food celebrities recently at the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. The standing-room-only activities room was the set for a cooking demonstration featuring 13-year-old Chef Hunter Zampa of Stamford, who was the champion of Food Network’s “Chopped Teen Talent.”

This earned him a $40,000 college scholarship to an Art Institute International Culinary School. He would like to go to the one located in British Columbia. The young chef said, “the most important thing to winning is to have a positive attitude. It’s mind over matter.”

“Chopped” was not his debut on Food Network; Hunter was also on “Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off.” Hunter’s love of cooking began when his dad taught him how to cook his Italian-American grandma’s recipes. Hunter didn’t get the chance to cook with her as she passed away when he was very young. What a wonderful way to pass those family recipes and secrets to future generations.To see the rest of the column and recipes.please go to