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10 Pumpkin Dishes to Try in Houston: #5: Pumpkin Spice Latte at Diedrich "Dirk's" Coffee

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I adore pumpkin. It's orange (my favorite color), healthful (fiber! Vitamin A!), and associated with two lovely, food-centric holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving). Starting around October, I always find myself on the hunt for pumpkin-flavored foods, and this autumn is no exception. So, between now and Turkey Day, I will be counting down 10 Pumpkin Dishes to Try in Houston.

#5: Pumpkin Spice Latte at Diedrich "Dirk's" Coffee

This week's cold snap finally put me in the mood for warm beverages. Abnormally sensitive to caffeine, I normally stick to tea, only allowing myself coffee drinks when I need to stay up all night.

But in honor of this list, I made an exception for a small Pumpkin Latte ($3.65) at Dirk's Coffee (4005 Montrose). The peppy barista asked if I wanted whipped cream (a non-question, really), and I was pleased when he gave me a mole-hill rather than a mountain. A little cream garnish is perfectly acceptable for a hot, sweet beverage but nothing screams ridiculous quite like a giant mound of Reddi-Whip atop a cup of coffee. He also added a few sprinkles of cinnamon, which provided some nice extra spice and some much-needed color to the monochromatic latte.

Dirk's Pumpkin Spice Latte is less saccharine than the Starbucks version, with a pumpkin flavor that plays second fiddle to the bolder tastes of cinnamon and nutmeg. I would have preferred stronger hints of squash to temper the slight bitterness of the espresso; however, I wager serious coffee drinkers probably don't like to have to guess whether there's caffeine in their latte.

I initially planned to drink only half, but the combination of rejuvenating warmth and increased alertness led me to down the whole cup. Fortunately, I didn't up end climbing the walls at two o'clock in the morning, although for the next three hours I was strangely content to clean every part of my kitchen.

The list to date: #10: Pumpkin Cheesecake Balls at Chocolat Du Monde #9: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale #8: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin from Stone Mill Bakers #7: "Halloween" Pumpkin Curry from Khun Kay Thai Café #6: Pumpkin Praline Ice Cream at Amy's

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