In honor of Top Chef Duels, airing on Bravo at 10 ET tonight, we’re taking on some food duels of our own. Tonight Tiffani Faison and Dale Talde are cooking for Rob Zombie, which inspired us to consider two of the season’s loudest flavors.
Technically, the first day of fall is almost two weeks away, but recently Starbucks did something that, previously, only Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII, had managed to accomplish: It shifted the calendar. Starbucks moved autumn up several weeks with the early release of the beloved/despised pumpkin spice lattes. But with the early entry of fall food and drink on to the scene, FWx’s Justine Sterling and Noah Kaufman try to decide if apple—that other juggernaut of seasonal flavor—can give pumpkin a run for its money.
NK: This one isn’t so much about defending the apple as it is simply making a list of pumpkin’s sins. Pumpkin spice or pumpkin flavor will whore itself out the highest bidder. Lattes, vodka, condoms (I don’t care if they are a joke, the fact that this idea seemed plausible to tens of thousands of people should give all of us pause). Apples have upheld only the highest standards throughout their history, lending themselves to respectable endeavors like the patriotic apple pie or seasonally appropriate apple cider. Even apple’s missteps, like green Jolly Ranchers, are a far cry from the way pumpkin thrusts itself at any food or drink item willing to give it the time of day.
JS: Class is a thing of the past. Millennials are all about flash and irony and not giving a damn what common decency dictates—just look at Miley Cyrus. So pumpkin-flavored things are everywhere. So most of them don’t actually contain any real pumpkin. Who cares? You’re young and you’re cool. You wear neon bras and no shirts and you will twerk your pumpkin latte anywhere you please. You can keep your fancy apple-flavored things, Generation X.
NK: Apples can be found in desserts, salad dressings, drinks, cereals (Apple Jacks, people) and unlike pumpkin or its accompanying spices, they can be eaten raw. Have you ever tried to eat a pumpkin? It’s like trying to eat a basketball from 1945. And they didn’t make tasty basketballs back then.
JS: If it’s edible or potable, then it can be pumpkified. From pie to Starbuck’s cult-favorite latte to whey protein (because even buff athletes like to get into the fall spirit), the options for pumpkin lovers are endless. In fact, you could happily live on pumpkin-flavored things alone and rarely have to repeat a meal.
NK: There’s a reason blogs everywhere are atwitter about pumpkin season. That’s because, thanks mostly to the masterminds at Starbucks, people expect and desire pumpkin flavors from Labor Day until Halloween. Thanksgiving, if you really push it. Apples are a 24-7-365 experience. From the time you’re gumming apple sauce as a baby to the time you’re gumming apple sauce as a senior citizen and all the pies, drinks and Danishes in between, it is always either literally or figuratively apple season.
JS: Pumpkin-flavored things are so popular that brands didn’t even wait until September to start releasing them. You know what that means: Pumpkin is breaking free of its seasonality. Soon you’ll be eating pumpkin popsicles in June thinking, Why did I ever doubt how valid pumpkin-flavored things are?
NK: There is nothing better on a crisp afternoon than curling up with a nice mug of warm apple cider and a blanket while you wait for the leaves to change. It’s like living in an episode of the Martha Stewart Show.
JS: When you dip your pumpkin-flavored Oreo into your pumpkin spice latte, you just know it’s fall. There’s something about that blend of sweet pumpkin and baking spices that ignites a warm, autumnal fire in your belly. The flavor brings back memories of Halloweens spent joyfully gutting and carving a pumpkin. And there’s nothing happier than a kid finally getting to use a giant knife.
NK: Hard ciders are just about to have their moment. Craft brewers are no longer treating them like a red-headed stepchild, and showing them the love they deserve. Hard cider also has the benefit of actually tasting like apples, as opposed to most pumpkin beers, which tend to be a bit more confused. Oh, yeah, and apple can actually make tasty liquor, unlike the aforementioned pumpkin vodka.
JS: Pumpkin beer is Thanksgiving in a bottle. It’s the best. For those who can’t drink beer, there’s pumpkin pie vodka from Pinnacle. I’m not going to drink it. But I’ll defend to the death its right to exist.