As much as I enjoy the summer harvest of corn, tomatoes, beets, and berries, I really look forward to that first taste of fall, particularly when the weather actually feels like autumn and not some greenhouse gas-induced Indian summer. Although a few chefs have delayed rolling out their fall menus because of the sweaty temperatures of late, I’ve still found a number of dishes to satisfy my longing for gourds, apples, and big heavy plates of meat. To wit:

  • Painted soup at Farrah Olivia. The liquids in this shallow bowl are mixed to look like a yin-and-yang symbol, with a small sunburst of beet cider to one side. Chef (and current Next Iron Chef competitor) Morou Ouattara has infused his soup with the flavors of fruitwood-smoked apple, gingered squash, and sweet, earthy beets. It tastes like the best cinnamon, caramel apple you’ve ever had.
  • Meatloaf with black truffle gravy at Colorado Kitchen. I consider meatloaf an enemy of the state, but in chef Gillian Clark’s hands, the dish is less a dense, nauseating slab of breadcrumbs and beef than a gourmet slice of firm-but-airy ground beef studded with fat diced onions and slathered in a gravy made pungent with generous slices of the black fungus.
  • Tortelli di zucca at Spezie. I broke down this squash-ravioli dish in last week’s Hot Plate. Its minor flaw doesn’t take away from its major flavors of fall.

I’ve haven’t tried the following two options, but they sound extremely promising, at least when described by the chefs with a vested interested in them.

  • Slow-roasted pork loin at Firefly. Sous chef Jason Mousseau says Firefly is rubbing its six- to eight-ounce portion of loin with a “fall-spice rub” that includes cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, and peppercorns. The protein is tied up and roasted for six hours until tender. The sauce is a balsamic gastrique, and the dish is served, Mousseau says, with “a gratin of sweet potatoes and parsnips, flavored with a little maple syrup.”
  • Smoked squab at Poste Moderne Brasserie. Poste chef Robert Weland has just installed a portable smoker on the patio at his Penn Quarter restaurant. One of the first dishes to emerge from the unit will be his smoked squab, which should hit the menu next week. The bird will be cold-smoked and then roasted to medium rare. It will be served with a gastrique of sherry wine vinegar, shallots, and honey.

Your turn: Where have you found a taste of fall?

Vincent Van Gogh, The Harvest (1888)