Slideshow: The Best Bites From the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival

Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Pie

It wouldn’t be a pumpkin festival without a slice of pumpkin pie. After being told Costco provided the pies, my expectations sank. Turns out, they know how to make a solid filling that was pleasantly smooth, though it could have used a bit more spice. The crust was more of the problem, tasting starchy and bland. Still, this was a fine pie that transported me to straight to autumn.

Pumpkin-spiced Muffins
Pumpkin-spiced Muffins

Breakfast included this excellent, moist pumpkin-spiced muffin. Flecks of raisins, walnuts, and the addition of ginger to the spice mix, plus a brown sugar dusting on top provided a beautiful, muffin that turned out to be the premier bite of the festival. Later I learned that downtown Half Moon Bay’s Moonside Bakery & Café provided the pastries.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes

With the morning fog causing temperatures to plummet down to the 40’s for opening time (that’s cold by California standards!), nothing sounded better than pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. Except there was a two block long, two hour line. In the cold. But don’t they look great or what?

Pumpkin Churros
Pumpkin Churros

There weren’t any pumpkin doughuts, but there were churros with a pumpkin glaze. The churro itself was fine, exhibiting the standard issue sugar-dusted crisp grooved exterior with a very thin cylindrical doughy interior. The pumpkin glaze was exactly like you’d imagine a normal glaze on a doughnut to be, with noticeable hints of clove and allspice.

Pumpkin Roll
Pumpkin Roll

Time for dessert. A big winner was this “pumpkin roll.” Think a carrot cake with pumpkin spice, then transformed into bread loaf form. After my second tasting of this at home, I noticed just how pumpkin-heavy and moist the actual bread was. All I was told was that this was homemade, and I could definitely tell.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cheesecake

An excellent graham cracker crust served as the base of this dessert, though I would’ve preferred a much heavier pumpkin emphasis. Still, the filling was not too light or dense, falling somewhere ideal in between. It was a fine barely-pumpkin cheesecake.

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese
Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

Another novel use of pumpkin in a savory form. Yes, the macaroni and cheese was clearly Kraft from the box, instead of some artisan dry pasta with Tillamook cheddar. Still, the toasted pumpkin seeds and coating of pumpkin powder gave the liquid cheese a lift full of zest and crunch. When in doubt, always add pumpkin seeds.

Baked Potato with Pumpkin Curry
Baked Potato with Pumpkin Curry

I’m not a sour cream guy to start with, and without a topping, does anything get more boring than baked potatoes? This option tried to get creative, with pumpkin replacing the usual butternut squash in a curry and a sprinkle of cilantro for garnish. Unfortunately, the curry itself had about as much spice as the baked potato itself…which means means it was neutral curry on neutral potato.

Pumpkin Chili
Pumpkin Chili

I barely detected any pumpkin in the pumpkin chili. Its texture was textbook hearty, filled with pinto beans and a few green peppers. Unfortunately, there was no excitement in this bowl, from pumpkin, spice, or anything else. At least it keeps you warm in the morning.

Brussels Sprouts with Marinara and Artichokes with
Brussels Sprouts with Marinara and Artichokes with "Italian Herbs"

This was the major clunker of the day, maybe because it didn’t have any pumpkin! However, Brussels sprouts and artichokes are two of the most prized local products, so you’d expect them to be treated with the utmost respect. Instead, the boiled Brussels sprouts were as bland as boiled cabbage, causing one of my dining companions to have nightmares of his youth. Just look at the “marinara.” It’s about six flecks of tomato skin. The artichokes were overcooked to a mushy state, overpowered by the “Italian” herbs, heavy on the garlic salt.

Pie Eating Contest
Pie Eating Contest

Presenting the next generation of Serious Eaters, going to work in the pie-eating contest. I bet most of them would easily defeat me if I competed.

Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.
Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.

The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company served three beers: the Pace Setter Belgian Style Wit, the Back in the Saddle Rye Pale Ale, and of course, the Mavericks Pumpkin Harvest Ale.

The Half Moon Bay Winery
The Half Moon Bay Winery

The Half Moon Bay Winery provided this enjoyable 2012 Chardonnay, which was well-rounded, tart, and full of slightly unripe berries. The 2012 Fisherman’s Red blend also was being poured from the winery. Did you know Chardonnay goes great with pumpkin pie?

Pumpkin Margarita
Pumpkin Margarita

Like something you’d get at a dive bar, the “Pumpkin-rita” is tequila, some Torini pumpkin syrup, and way too much cloying, sugary margarita mix. No pumpkin was evident upon tasting. You could’ve fooled me that this was Gatorade. Stick to pumpkin beer and lattes.

It's the Giant Pumpkin!
It's the Giant Pumpkin!

There they are, the giant pumpkins. Imagine all of the pumpkin pies and pumpkin bread you could get out of these!