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Fall brings pumpkin beer, cupcakes and more

Autumn has arrived, and while it’s hard to ignore the lack of fall foliage and persistent humidity, there are nonetheless some signs that Miami is getting ready for fall.

Specifically: pumpkins.

The familiar gourd is not only making its annual appearance at pumpkin patches in the lead-up to Halloween — they are also appearing in local brews, baked goods and even beauty treatments.

“Why should the North have all the fun? We deserve to have fall here, too,” said Vanessa Goodis, event director of the Coconut Grove Pumpkin Patch Festival.

The event is a two-day celebration of all things autumn.

“This gives us a glimpse into the season,” said Goodis. “South Floridians really want something like this.”

Around the county, several spots have added pumpkin to their menu and are planning events around the fruit.

Pumpkin Patches

For Terry Rodriguez, a true sign of the season is when she and her children join other volunteers to unload hundreds of pumpkins for the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School’s Pumpkin Patch, 602 NE 96th St.

“We help set them up and bring them to people’s cars if it is too big to carry,” said Jack Rodriguez, 10, a fifth-grader at the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School. “It’s fun.”

Since South Florida isn’t the ideal location to grow pumpkins, the school purchases theirs from a farm in New Mexico.

The pumpkin patch will open on Oct. 15 and continue until supplies run out. The patch is open to the public from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Prices for the pumpkins start at about $0.50 and go up depending on the pumpkin size.

After pumpkins go on sale, the school also hosts its annual Fall Festival, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 20.

“There are things for kids to do for all ages,” said Rodriguez, a Miami Shores resident. “It’s a nice community event, and I think the whole community can’t wait for it.”

In Coconut Grove, the inaugural Pumpkin Patch Festival is set to be the “official kick-off for fall,” according to Goodis.

It takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 29 and 30 at Peacock Park, 2820 McFarland Rd.

“We’re taking over Peacock Park and transforming it into a magical fall wonderland,” said Goodis, adding that more than 2,500 pumpkins from an Amish farm in northern Michigan will be trucked in for the event.

The pumpkins will range in price from about $3 to $15, depending on the size .

“Once families pick out their perfect pumpkin, they can walk over to our decorating tent and decorate their pumpkin,” Goodis said.

There won’t be any carving at the event, but for $5, participants can decorate their pumpkin with stickers, googly eyes and other items.

The festival also includes activities such as scarecrow-decorating, games and a hay maze.

“I really wanted to give families the full experience,” said Goodis.

There is a $10 entry fee for adults and $5 for children younger than 12 to attend the festival.

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The Poinciana United Methodist Church will host a pumpkin patch from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays daily from Oct. 16 to Oct. 30 at 300 N. Royal Poinciana Blvd., in Miami Springs. The prices for the pumpkins start at fifty cents and go up depending on the size of the pumpkin.

Bottoms up

Pumpkins aren’t just sold whole this time of year, they are also incorporated into beverages — including beer.

The Local Craft Food & Drink, 150 Giralda Ave. in Coral Gables, has about five pumpkin beers on tap as a part of their rotating menu.

Those beers include Harpoon brewery’s UFO Pumpkin and Post Road Pumpkin Ale from Brooklyn Brewery, which Abel Alicea, 42, drank on a recent visit.

“That was a good one,” said Alicea, a Coral Gables resident. “I usually don’t go for pumpkin beers, but it had a good flavor and was smooth.”

Pumpkin-flavored beer will remain on tap at The Local until the end of the year and ranges in price from about $6 to $8.

While most pumpkin-flavored beverages are seasonal, pumpkin-flavored coffee can be found year-round at the Alaska Coffee Roasting Company, 13130 Biscayne Blvd in North Miami Beach.

Of course, there is a spike in sales this time of year.

Prices for a cup of pumpkin-spice latte range from about $3.55 for a small to about $4.55 for a large.

“It tastes like pumpkin,” said Scotty Brown, 52, who is from the Little Haiti area. “I am a coffee guy, and this is the best I have had.”

The store also sells pumpkin baked goods from a rotating bakery menu to go with the pumpkin lattes.

These treats include pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie and pumpkin muffins — all of which range in price from about $2 to about $5 and are sold seasonally.

Sweet treats

When Martha Villalba hosts her Halloween and Thanksgiving parties, she doesn’t go the traditional route and serve her guests pumpkin pie — she gives them pumpkin cupcakes.

“It’s so good. I love pumpkin,” said Villalba, a Pinecrest resident who purchases the treats from Clarabelle’s Cupcakes & Other Creations at 9800 SW 77th Ave., in the Kendall area. “They are so flavorful here.”

Jessica Knopf, creator and owner of Clarabelle’s, said pumpkins trigger fond memories.

“When people smell the pumpkin, they think of brown leaves and fall,” she said, adding that “people tend to be more lenient about their diets and allow themselves to enjoy sweets a little more.”

The bakery sells pumpkin cupcakes, such as a pumpkin-spice cupcake with maple rum buttercream, a pumpkin-chip cupcake with fudge frosting, and a pumpkin-pie cupcake with maple cream-cheese frosting.

The cupcakes sell for about $2.50 for a regular-size cupcake and $1 for a mini. They also sell a pumpkin loaf for about $15.

All products from the bakery are dairy-free and kosher and are on sale now until about January, but the bakery will make them on request any time of the year.

The Sweetness Bake Shop & Cafe, 9549 Sunset Dr. in the Pinecrest area, also sells pumpkin-inspired treats during autumn.

Their selection includes pumpkin whoopie pies, which range in price from $2.50-$4, depending on their size.

The bakery also serves various cupcake flavors that incorporate pumpkin, such as the maple pumpkin cupcake, which is a pumpkin-spice cake topped with maple cream cheese frosting, and the “jack o’lantern,” a pumpkin-spice cake with chocolate chips topped with cream cheese frosting. Prices for them start at $1 for a mini cupcake.

“I think people relate this time of year to family; certain flavors trigger those memories, pumpkin especially," said owner Stephanie Diaz-Perez.

Beautified for fall

Eric Vasallo, 43, is among those who get into autumn by incorporating pumpkin into his life.

Vasallo treats himself to a pumpkin facial at the Skin Institute Day Spa, 13499 Biscayne Blvd. in North Miami, when he needs a little more of that pumpkin fix.

“It’s so soothing,” Vasallo said as he got a pumpkin mask placed on his face. “It just calms you and makes you feel like you’re home.”

It turns out that pumpkin has some nurturing qualities.

Sheila Treadway, the director of the spa, said the organic facial will brighten and rejuvenate skin partly because of its concentration of vitamins and beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant.

The spa offers the pumpkin facial year-round, but like the food locations, they see a spike in requests during the fall.

“During the holidays, we do see more requests,” said Treadway. “I think it has something to do with Americana, it makes people think of Thanksgiving with pumpkin pie.”