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October 10, 2006

Apple Pear Crisp with Muscato Ice Cream: Ode to Autumn

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Being a child of spring and of California, I have a predilection for sunshine like poured honey, flowers in burgeoning rainbows beneath scrubbed-blue skies, and berries ripe as promises, heavy with scent, tumbling through my fingers.

But over the years autumn has slowly worked its smoky, dusky spell on me. Surely if I'd visited more places where the leaves actually changed colors I might have come around sooner, but even in a place where Indian summer is expected in a few weeks and we haven't put our shorts away yet, you can feel autumn creeping in with the breeze.

We had our first rain last week, a real rain and not just a sprinkling of drops from the sky. The clouds above my head as I drove home were massed, weighty, and dove-grey. As I walked into the apartment I could hear pattering on the roof, that slow percussive beat of soft rains where you can still make out individual drops. I stepped out on our balcony to feel the cool mist on my face, smell the newly earthy air, and watch a city softly muted to a murmur under a shimmering silver curtain.

A few nights later, I walked to my car in the early reaches of morning, that queer in-between pause inhabited by late-night denizens straggling home and insomniacs waiting for sunrise, and stopped to watch the full, round moon, glowing yellow and straddling the top of the hill, regarding me silently with the mysterious gaze of autumn's eye.

And yet a few days later, we drove through the dense, wooded Santa Cruz mountains on a gorgeous windswept day in search of a winery secreted in the forest like Hansel and Gretel's gingerbread house. Navigating twisting roads through towering groves of redwoods, sunlight barely penetrating the canopy, we felt deep in the heart of an autumn that had never left. In the cool, dark reaches beneath the trees, we were not surprised to see deer wander out in front of us, or a little cottage of a tasting room materialize around a bend of road, like something out of myth.

Autumn is slowly making her presence felt, she of dusty twilight, crimson sunsets, fallen leaves floating in slate-grey puddles, air scented with smoke and chestnuts, nights of cider and down comforters, the quiet winding down to the ending of the year.

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Of course, there are so many things from the kitchen to celebrate autumn: roast turkey, fruit pies, sweet squash, simmering stews - that veritable cornucopia of delights. I chose a relatively simple dessert to welcome autumn, but one I feel sings of cooler weather perfectly. Taken from Emily Luchetti's A Passion for Ice Cream, a tumble of apples and pears baked to just fork-tender, covered with a crunchy crown of spices and nuts, is accompanied by a quenelle of muscato ice cream. Warm, sweet fruit in its own bubbling juices, laced with cinnamon and almonds - what lovelier way to end to ward off the chill of a nippy evening?

The muscato ice cream is what prompted a visit into the woods and the wonderfully eclectic Bonny Doon Winery. Unable to find a suitable Beaumes des Venise as the recipe suggested, I found a more than worthy substitute in Bonny Doon's honey-sweet Vin de Glacière. Yes, it does translate to "Wine of the Icebox" - they have quite a skewed sense of humor in naming their wines -  but there is nothing funny about how quickly this bottle of muscato can disappear when you open it. While not a true eiswein, its gorgeous, potent mix of pineapple, citrus, and peach makes a more than a worthy dessert wine - and a lush partner to the apple-pear crisp in the form of a voluptuous, honeyed ice cream.

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So with open arms and an oven-warmed kitchen I say hello to crisp apples and pears, hello to butter-hued squash and pumpkins, hello to pies and tarts and cobblers, hello to autumn.

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I've just received a dessert wine from Australia and was wondering how to serve it. Thanks for the idea. Your apple-pear crisp and ice cream look wonderful.

Very Autumn indeed! Looks good.

I just wanted to drop in and let you know how very much I enjoy the beautiful, lyrical quality of your posts. Your words portray as vivid a picture as your stunning photography. Thank you for sharing your reflections on autumn.

Ah! You've given words to the beauty of Autumn! And this crisp is perfect for the season.

As always, Anita, thank you for the inspiration!

What a gorgeous ode to autumn!

I love Vin de Glaciere, but would have never thought about ice cream, I am intrigued. I wish I could dig my spoon inti the screen. Sounds delicious as a light contrast to the crumble! Very nice picture!

hi anita, if you ask me, you've written the quintessential ode to autumnal moods and appetites - and what a divine looking crisp! i can almost smell the wafts of cinnamon from my screen ;)

Mmmmm, very tasty, and such a fall flavour

This is a delight to read, and surely beautiful to eat.

I'm from California too and feel the same way about autumn. I hope to move back to the west coast someday, but I sure am going to miss the seasons! This pear crisp looks like just the thing to use up those extra pears I have lying on the counter. :)

Kat,
Thanks so much! Ice wine is the best, if you want the recipe I'd be happy to share with you!

Peabody,
Thank you! I'm finally getting into the fall dessert mood!

Curious,
Thank you for your compliments. I enjoyed writing this post and I'm glad you liked reading it!

Ivonne,
Thank you! I'm sure you're enjoying a beautiful fall up north, glad I can share just a little bit of it!

Karina,
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it, thanks for visiting!

Helene,
The wine makes a wonderful ice cream, you should try it sometime! I loved it with the crisp!

J,
Thank you! I wish I'd had a bit more of the fruit showing from the crisp, but you are right - the cinnamon smells were heavenly!

Brilynn,
Thank you! It was nice way to start the fall:)

Bea,
Thank you! I'm glad you liked the post - I've loved reading about your trip to France so far:)

Ari,
Nice that you're getting to experience real seasons:) But I do love California. Let me know if you'd like the recipe, I didn't get around to posting it up on this site!

What a gorgeous post! Your writing is as lovely as your desserts.

This is a lovely, beautifully written post.

Tea and Julie,
Thank you! I loved writing this post and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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