Ah, Fall. My favorite time of year. Time for crisp falling leaves crunching under our feet, warm soup, a deep inhale of a chilly breeze....Yeah, right. In this weather? We St. Petersburgers know better. Our first indications of “Fall” are the change of light as the sun positions itself and the noticeable desire to purchase warmer clothes that we probably won't wear until February when it actually gets cold. However there are some things I do to trick myself into feeling “Fall-ish”. Add cinnamon to your morning cup of joe, cook with beets, eggplants, pumpkin and squash (I make a mean pumpkin soup) and go out on autumn nights and enjoy a fabulous city that comes back to life after a sleepy summer. And the fact that Halloween is around the corner, I have ideas for you in the costume department...Oh, yes, you're dressing up!
Topping off my list of recommendations is the India Grill downtown. Now, I realize that Indian cuisine may not be to everyone's liking, but if you haven't tried it you really should and the India Grill is the perfect place to start. There, nestled in the middle of the 400 block of Central Ave, you will find a wonderful starter kit of India's finest foods. For an appetizer the naan breads are to die for. Try the Peshawari Naan that's seasoned with nuts and raisins. (I personally like dipping the bread in whatever I'm stuffing into my face for the entree). Also the Veggie Samosas. This perfect fried patty is stuffed with spiced potatoes and green peas (also good for stuffing of the face). For an entree try the beloved Lamb Palak. In a sea of creamy spinach swims lamb tid-bits awaiting their destiny and purpose; your enjoyment. For a safer bet, if you're intimidated, try the Tandori Chicken- chicken marinated in spicy yogurt grilled to perfection with herbs and spices. All while pleasing the senses you are entertained by a stream of Bollywood on the TV hanging over the bar station. Bollywood (Hindi musicals interwoven with story and catchy pop tunes) is always an education and completely mesmerizing (and would make for some smashing costume ideas too)!
A fine beverage to tackle these tough sensory overloads? Walk down to the Independent Bar on 3rd St and order whatever IPA they recommend. An IPA (India Pale Ale) is a popular, hoppy and flavorful beer that tends to lean on the perfumy side of beers and the only beer that can tackle the tough spices and flavors you've just devoured. If they have the seasonal Lagunitas IPA, that's a safe bet for a positive beer experience. Having previously worked as a beer bar-maiden, I believe that beer is much more of a flexible beverage than wine or cocktails. Beer can be paired with desserts, breakfasts, Mexican foods and, yes, Indian cuisine far better than wine. Whilst at the Independent, pull up a bench and make some new pals-I happened to meet my fiance there on that bench. (Cue the “Aww”). Chat about your Halloween Costume plans (Charlie Chaplin and Louise Brooks would be a good one). It's the best place for casual conversation without the awkward rules that society places on bar atmosphere. Always try something new at the Independent. Any OktoberFest beers you can get your mitts on would be worthwhile in addition to the myriad of pumpkin ales for something sweet. The staff is highly educated, friendly and will let you sample and help you dismantle the intimidation that tags along with extensive menus at beer bars. Another beer recommendation, if you're not up for hoppy or seasonal, is the secret crowd pleaser, Tilberg's Dutch Brown Ale. It's the perfect beer. Brown, friendly and non judgmental, this ale aims to please with it's velvety tones of caramel, coffee and chocolate. What on earth could be better than that?
Now, what are you wearing for Halloween, really? Don't do that same old costume you wear every year- “the go-to” has got to go! Time for something new. Everyone is a scary horror flick character or a sexy nurse, well why not try dressing as a sprig of broccoli? You can do it! Green face paint, green tights and thick paper shaped as a cone for your hat topped with styrofoam balls painted green for the blossom. How about a buzzing wasp? Brown tights, brown pantyhose stuffed legs and stuffed pillow tush with black stinger? Oh, I can just see you now. Want to know what my sister and I will be doing in preparation for the big day? We'll be practicing for the nationwide Zombie Dance of Michael Jackson's “Thriller” on October 29th. The Pier will be hosting free lessons every Friday night at 6PM on the 3rd floor from here until the dance. Come join us! You know you want to show off those moves you've memorized just from seeing the video countless times.
Pumpkin ideas? Steer yourself right to Martha Stewart's special edition magazine on Halloween. I think I've carved each and every one of her different types of pumpkins. Looking for different color pumpkins? Paint one! Glossy black pumpkins and silver ones make for an elegant table decoration or spooky display on the porch. Carving ideas are boundless and if you want some clues on other designs than the typical, try doing a Gothic initial for your family name. Or a pumpkin that is drilled full of holes. Insert Christmas lights into each hole and it makes for a dazzling display! There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, I enjoy more than carving a pumpkin. Oddly enough it's my favorite smell, the guts of a degraded pumpkin.
Every year for Halloween I am so proud to be part of the Old Northeast community. Having been part of the original clan that started the performances on 19th Ave, this neighborhood has always held a special place in my heart for Halloween and Fall. No where else nearby will you see so many homes open up and participate. The sense of community that is here is truly something to cherish. All the creativity with costumes, makeup, pumpkin décor and most of all the home decorations is something that inspires me every year. Here's to hoping you enjoy every minute of Fall because even though it may not feel like the real Fall, just being here in the ONE and creating the feeling for myself with yearly family traditions is beyond rewarding. Cheers to you, Fall!