A week of summerlike weather in late September may have tricked us into believing that the sun wasn’t going to give us the cold shoulder this year, but as we wake up to frosty windows and start to see our breath while bidding farewell to loved ones in the driveway, the reality has begun set in – fall is here.
Alas, do not mourn for the death of the beach season (or for your hard-earned suntan for that matter), because with the turning temperatures also comes the awesome aura of autumnal auspices. Leaves explode in color, sweaters return from the depths of drawers and closets and the entirety of New England seems to shift into a cozier, folky feel as preparations are made for another bitter winter.
Nothing can ease the woes of another bygone summer like a hot drink and a twine-wrapped box full of pastries either – and nothing brings out the creativity in chefs and bakers like the increasingly chilly weather that makes the heated space in front of an oven quite the favorable place to be.
As all Rhode Islanders know, everything your heart desires inside the state’s borders is within your grasp any day of the year, and while most in the Ocean State may be most at home holding a cold beverage and standing on the sand, its culinary experts certainly shift into high gear come October.
A single day trip, encompassing a loop starting in Western Cranston, up through Johnston, over to Pawtucket, down through Providence and back through Cranston and home to Warwick yielded a trunkload of tantalizing treats – all with some happy blend of cinnamon spice, pumpkin pomp or a medley of maple.
The trip started off at Pippin Orchard in Cranston, where if patrons are lucky enough they will be able to witness their famous cider donuts being made fresh by a small, automated fryolator.
On this particular day that time had just passed, but the hot donuts were still wetting the lids of their containers with fresh condensation at the time of purchasing. These doughy delights are worth a trip any time, encompassing just the right amount of crunch on the outside with an unparalleled soft and fresh center. Also worth noting was the pumpkin fudge – which tasted like bites of solidified pumpkin pie – and the apple cider sorbet was a unique and delicate palette cleanser that simply screamed “fall!”
Just north in friendly Johnston rests a gem of a hole in the wall, Sans Gluten Bakery, which just celebrated its first year anniversary in June. Those with celiac disease or a gluten allergy who don’t want to be left out of the sweet tastes of autumn should write down that name, as this 100 percent gluten, additive and preservative free bakery serves up cakes, muffins and scones that you will be convinced contain all three.
The master chef behind the unbelievable desserts is Dr. Leah Adams, who not only has celiac disease herself but also treats people with the condition in her practice. The cinnamon pumpkin coffee cake, topped with cream cheese frosting, was delicious beyond simple verbal description.
A short skip over to Pawtucket and we landed at the holy land for the health-conscious, Wildflour Bakery, where the vegan pumpkin tofu cheesecake was awarded the most outlandish and interesting dessert of the day, but the pumpkin whoopie pie emerged as the clear winner in the “best tasting, healthiest choice” category.
Just south, downtown Providence bustled on what turned into a beautiful, crisp day. Pastiche, well-established as a purveyor of high-quality eats, dished out what amounted to be the hands-down tastiest treat of the entire day – a pumpkin cheesecake with candied pecan-laden whipped cream and a dark chocolate, pumpkin-shaped garnish as an autumn cherry on top. Simply divine.
Back near the home base, on the Cranston and Warwick line in lovely Pawtuxet Village, Sweet Indulgence transforms any regular morning into a feast for the senses, with amazingly decorated candies, cupcakes, chocolate-covered pretzels and Oreos – all decked out in orange and black icing alongside ghosts and pumpkins to create a perfect Halloween flourish.
The last, but certainly not least, stop was Warwick’s Le Favorite Bakery, whose helpful and friendly staff stuffed a box full of seasonal scrumptiousness, including their own cider donut creation which is topped with a salted caramel frosting. The maple walnut muffin made for a perfect pairing with a coffee, and the pumpkin scones could send anybody screaming back for more.
Needless to say, a single day and only a handful of eateries doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is available. Whether it’s an annual staple or a spot you’ve never been to, the harvest season is truly a time to explore, sample and experience the festive nature of our friendly and phenomenal surroundings.
Locations listed above:
Pippin Orchard – 751 Pippin Orchard Road, Cranston
Sans Gluten Artisan Bakery – 39 Greenville Ave., Johnston
Wildflour Bakery – 727 East Ave., Pawtucket
Pastiche Fine Desserts – 92 Spruce St., Providence
Sweet Indulgence – 2202 Broad St., Cranston
Le Favorite Bakery – 951 Namquid Dr., Warwick