Indulge this fall at the Ritz-Carlton with dishes, sips and a spa treatment paying homage to pumpkin.
During the fall, and particularly in October, people fall into one of two camps: those who loathe pumpkin and those who love it. Either way, you just can’t avoid it. Stores and restaurants are inundated with products and ingredients which give ode to the big orange orb.
If you fall into the love camp, you’ll want to head to the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner this month. Walk into the lobby, and you’ll be greeted by a fall display that includes corn stalks, bails of hay, a scarecrow, and a super pumpkin that weighs more than 600 pounds. You can nibble on pumpkin cookies and sip apple cider while watching the Charlie Brown Halloween special and pondering just how many spiced, roasted seeds you’d be able to make from that monster.
Continue on to the spa, and book a Pumpkin Peel Facial (50 minutes for $140, 80 minutes for $199). Apparently, pumpkin is known for having many benefits for your skin. Fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxyl acids brighten and smooth skin, and antioxidants boost collagen production, soothe skin and help with hydration—perfect as we head into the drier seasons. The treatment includes cleansing and exfoliating, followed by a facial massage, pumpkin peel and moisturizing treatment. My aesthetician warned me that some guests experience a “slight tingling” during the pumpkin peel; that was an understatement for me, as my skin was really itchy, and I did all I could to keep it on for the required amount of time. But if you book this facial, I encourage you to hang in there, as the benefits are worth it. My skin looked amazing afterwards—radiant, glowing and without that typical post-facial blotchiness. I received compliments about my skin for several days, so I’m now a definite believer in pumpkin’s restorative properties.
The spicy Pumpkin Martini ($14) is really a liquid version of dessert—I wouldn’t order it before a meal, or to pair with one. Staff mixes Captain Morgan spiced rum with dark crème de cacao, Bailey’s, half and half and a pumpkin spice syrup, served up in a cocktail glass rimmed with brown sugar. If you like creamy sips, you’ll love it.
More fun for me was the Pumpkin Pie and Bulleit Bourbon Milkshake ($15), an ultra-thick boozy shake that gets a nice kick from two ounces of Bourbon. It’s so thick that its sippable only through a thick paper straw. Chef shared the recipe with me, so you can whip them up at home:
Pumpkin Pie and Bourbon Milkshake
Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, VA
4 ounces pumpkin puree
2 ounces simple syrup
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice (4 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ginger, 1 part allspice, 1 part nutmeg)
2 ounces Bulleit Bourbon
2 large scoop vanilla ice cream
Graham cracker crumbles, for rimming glass
Whipped cream, and more graham cracker crumbs, for garnish
Put all ingredients except rimmer and garnish into a blender, and blend until smooth, adding a little milk or half and half if needed. Rim a glass with graham cracker crumbles. Pour the milkshake into the glass, top with graham cracker crumbles, whipped cream and more graham cracker crumbles.
By far, my favorite pumpkin item on the Ritz Carlton’s menu is the Pumpkin Mac and Cheese ($16). Chef Johnson seasons and roasts a hollowed out baby pumpkin, fills it with creamy macaroni and cheese and tops it with maple pepper bacon. I loved alternating bites of the creamy pasta and crunchy bacon with the seasoned, butternut squash-like roasted pumpkin. I all but begged chef to keep this on the menu beyond October 31, as I think it’s just one of those perfect fall dishes, and it would make a great Thanksgiving side dish. His decision seemed up in the air, so I would head there stat before it disappears.
For a super sweet ending, order the Pumpkin S’More Bar ($11), which has a graham cracker base, pumpkin pie filling and an ooey gooey sugar cane marshmallow. The coolest part of the dish is actually its garnish. Maltodextrin has the unique property of being able to turn any liquid to which it’s added into a powder; here, it’s mixed with Nutella to render a powder that has the same flavor of the beloved hazelnut spread. Very cool.
The Ritz-Carlton is continuing its pumpkin love with a few upcoming events. On October 18 at 10 am and 1 pm, the culinary team will offer a jack o’lantern carving class ($50/person, inclusive of tax and gratuity). The same day, a Halloween Scary Tea at 11 am and 2 pm will offer treats including Hair Raising Ham and Cheese Fingers, Creepy Cookie Fingers and apple cider, along with a magic act and photo booth. Children are encouraged to dress in their favorite costume, and will also receive a photo and a sweet treat ($65/person, inclusive of tax and gratuity.) For more information, check out their website: http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/TysonsCorner/Information/Calendar/Default.htm.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter or Instagram @kmagyarics.