Snow flurries dusting the palm trees? While that proves extremely rare, Bay Area residents know that the sensations typically associated with the arrival of autumn can seem less pronounced in a city as far south as Tampa. Regardless, some of the area's finest restaurants take pleasure in translating the change of the seasons into changes on their menus. Once the "dog days" end and the heat alleviates, we can sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of a long, hot summer with some of the best autumn-inspired and fall-themed desserts Tampa has to offer.
4205 S. Macdill Ave.
Tampa, FL 33611
What is Wimauma? Tampa-native Gary Moran and his wife Amy explain that their new restaurant's name renders homage to the unique history of this part of Florida, as well as to the traditions of southern cuisine in general. The restaurant's kitchen manifests the complex and evolving relationship between the small farming community of the same name at the southern end of Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa with its new-found gourmet, organic foodie vibe. Moran proves that spontaneity and improvisation, when paired with delicious fresh and local ingredients, can lead to wonderful surprises. For this fall, Moran intends to offer a salted caramel pot de crème garnished with a caramelized sweet potato, cranberries and crushed almond brittle, a sweet potato buttermilk pie with cream cheese ice cream and an apple, bleu cheese and celery crumble with dulce de leche. These new spins on holiday classics should provide even the most experienced palate with a rush of excitement. If any of these tickle your fancy in particular, check in with the restaurant for the exact dates of availability.
Le Macaron French Pastries
2223 N. Westshore Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33607
The beauty of diversity in cuisine from around the world becomes particularly apparent as the seasons change, both in terms of the ingredients and the methods of their preparation. For an out-of-the-box experience, Le Macaron imports a slice of Europe to Tampa's doorstep. Although rival patisserie powerhouses with centuries-old legacies and celebrity-status chefs in Paris continue to debate the history, one can be certain about one macaron fact: their unique shape, size and flavor have made them the quintessential French cookie. Rosalie Guillem opened Le Macaron, a shop named in honor of the famous sweet, a few years ago on St. Armand's square in Sarasota. Each of the now several locations in the Bay Area serve more than a dozen flavors of macarons at any given time. Several varieties accent fall-friendly flavors such as the gingerbread with white chocolate ganache, the walnut and crème de noix and the chestnut with crème de marron filling. For those who enjoy chocolate more than gâteaux, the manager of the Tampa store says Le Macaron's line of Norman Love Chocolates include a "simply beautiful" (in her words) pumpkin-flavored white chocolate with orange swirls.
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Harry Waugh Dessert Room
1208 S. Howard Ave.
Tampa, FL 33606
In addition to the heavier, classic dishes of Bern's, across the street one finds an alternative of tapas and lighter fare at the adjacent Sidebern's, a tasting lounge and bar with a decadent twist. However, in the interest of this article, we turn our attention to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room located upstairs in the original Steakhouse building. While wine still plays a prime role in the Bern's experience, the Dessert Room offers more than a thousand kinds of spirits, liquors, cordials and varietals of wine. Around the end of summer and early fall, Bern's seasonal selection of cheeses and desserts include a luxurious collection of the preceding months' bounty. In terms of desserts, blueberries make a big appearance with a combination of cobbler, ice cream, streusel and sour cream squares, all blueberry-flavored and topped with fresh blueberries. A Macadamia nut-flavored ice cream, served with crushed Macadamia nuts on top, may count as a flavor exclusive to Bern's. Around Halloween, you can expect to see a guava cheesecake, a mini-flan Clarita and a key lime square, all topped with strawberry ice cream.
3225 S. MacDill Ave.
Tampa, FL 33629
This famed Italian-American fusion bakery proposes another unique cultural interpretation of autumn desserts. Started 13 years ago in another, much smaller location on Bay to Bay, the supreme quality of Pane Rustica propelled it into legendary status among Tampa bakeries. As with the other restaurants highlighted in this article, Pane Rustica's menu accommodates transitions of climate, highlighting fresh produce of outstanding quality. At the beginning of the fall season, the restaurant boasts its rustic apple tarte. The baked shell, made with high-quality flour and as owner Kevin emphasized, "real butter, not margarine like other places," comes out of the wood-fired, stone oven still warm and is then glazed to perfection with a drizzle of honey. Filled with a delightful melange of fresh apples, cinnamon and other spices, Pane Rustica tops the tarte with a generous scoop of authentic Italian-style vanilla bean gelato, fresh strawberries and blueberries. When the apple season comes to a close, the restaurant plans to add its unique interpretation of the classic pumpkin pie in the form of a pumpkin cheesecake. A constantly-evolving menu and accessible prices, especially during lunch, provide more than enough reason to enjoy Pane Rustica as much as possible.
Alessi Bakery and Catering
2909 W. Cypress St.
Tampa, FL 33609
Another Tampa culinary landmark, the traditions of Alessi date back to over a century ago when Italian baker Nicolo Alessi first relocated to Tampa. While the importance of and dedication to tradition continues to ring true, Alessi also recognizes the need to adapt to the changing times. As we approach the holiday season, Dan, the head of Research and Development for Alessi with over 50 years of experience in the baking industry himself, said the bakery adapts with several time-appropriate options. The pumpkin bread loaf and gingerbread sliders always attract quite the following. A peppermint cheesecake lollipop provides a creative spin on the traditional sucker. To more demanding clientele, Alessi will custom bake a strawberry rhubarb pie at the customer's behest, a perfect pairing to meld the flavors of the tart and sweet fruits. Dan reminds us that the month of September marks "Alessi's 100th year in business, with the third generation of the same family running it." This is all the more reason to support this original Tampa treasure as it continues into its second century of operation.
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Aaron Phillips has experience in marketing and journalism. Recently back to his hometown, he's excited to discover and share what Tampa has to offer. His work can be found at Examiner.com.
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