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Parisi Cafe

Pumpkin season has arrived Kansas City. So it’s time you embraced the orange fruit that has a lot more to offer than just roasted seeds. Exhibits A & B – the pumpkin mascarpone croissant and pumpkin caramel latte at Parisi Café in Park Place.

The croissant is a rosette shape with a pumpkin pie-esque filling in the middle – a savory/sweet combination of pumpkin, mascarpone cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove.

“The center bite is like the nucleus and it’s the best part,” Nicolette Foster, Parisi’s executive pastry chef, says. “But you want to taste the croissant.”

Kate Blackman, Parisi’s director of quality control and education, recommends cutting the croissant in quarters.

“You get the crust and the middle in every bite. It’s the best of both worlds like a little croissant pizza,” Blackman says.

“I’d say it’s like a slice of pumpkin pie,” Foster adds.

Foster has worked to perfect her croissant dough – searching for a light, buttery flakiness – since she began working for Parisi last September and she’s started to use it in different applications on the pastry menu.

“People are doing interesting things with croissants. You’ve got cronuts and cruffins,” Foster says. “But the croissant cinnamon roll isn’t a gimmick. The sugar is baked in so you get that caramelization. You get that flakiness and it’s a little bit crispy.”

Parisi’s cinnamon roll is made with croissant dough rolled in brown sugar and cinnamon before it’s topped with a vanilla bean glaze that has a hint of cinnamon. Foster strives to balance different textures and flavors while still producing scratch pastries out of the central commissary at Parisi’s roasting facility. In April, the coffee shop began selling French macarons (Foster recommends the mint chocolate) and they currently have a salted pecan toffee brownie.

“I think we give unique spins on classic things, but it’s still about having the balance,” Foster says.

That balance extends to how the food and drink menu are designed at Parisi.

“We work together, but we don’t necessarily pair things exactly,” Foster says.

“We’re not trying to make it matchy-matchy,” Blackman says. “But with the holidays, you have some mirroring of flavors and people go crazy for pumpkin, so we’re both going to use pumpkin.”

The drink at the top of the new fall menu – and the one that folks order hot and iced (it’s available, just off menu) in fall – is the pumpkin caramel latte. Blackman sources pie pumpkins out of Cortland, Kansas.

Blackman quarters the pumpkins and sprinkles them with butter, cinnamon and nutmeg before roasting them for about 45 minutes. The pumpkins are done when they’re “bendy.” She then scoops out the roasted pumpkin and simmers the flesh with heavy whipping cream to bring out the flavor of the fruit. She then purees the pumpkin with an immersion blender before straining out the solids and adding freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon. That’s the pumpkin cream. Then, Blackman adds the house caramel.

“Fat is the secret ingredient,” Blackman says and laughs. “Fat ties everything together. The cream brings together the vegetal quality of roasted pumpkin and then you have that sugar and spice. It’s takes the savoriness of pumpkin and makes it more mild and buttery. It tones down the spices, so it’s not a nutmeg bomb.”

The pumpkin caramel cream sits atop the house espresso blend, which is currently a blend of Ethiopian, Colombian and Sumatra coffee.

“We want a consistent profile, something that’s citrusy up front and has a pinch of sweetness, dates or figs in the middle, and then the finish of bittersweet chocolate.”

“You have all those spices that go into pumpkin pie and it’s comforting. You get that cozy feeling like Ugg boots and leggings or down blankets,” Blackman says. “It’s a nice mahogany, it shouldn’t be fluorescent orange. The pumpkin gives it this savory, earthy quality.”

The drink menu rotates seasonal drinks through every six weeks – a system that Blackman has developed since helping to open the first Parisi café at Union Station in 2010. The flavored drinks begin with house syrups, which become flavored lattes in the colder months and sodas in the summer.

“I have to do flavored lattes, but I want to use real food ingredients. I don’t want to put corn syrup in stuff,” Blackman says.

The current soda is a Cascara Cola made with the dried skin and pulp of coffee cherries. The syrup is cascara that has been cooked down with nutmeg, dried orange peel and fresh orange zest. The solids are then strained out and the syrup is sweetened with raw sugar and honey.

“It reminds me of hibiscus tea and dried apples. It’s tart and tropical,” Blackman says. “It’s like the weird colas my dad would seek out whenever we were traveling.”

Once you’ve delved into the new pumpkin options, there are a few other additions on the horizon at Parisi in Park Place. On the food side, they plan to add grab and go salads and sandwiches this month, while Blackman is looking at a whole host of new coffees that could be represented in the café. The success of Parisi’s Mother Earth brand has allowed Blackman, who oversees the green coffee program, to buy coffee in greater bulk. And that buying power will translate into more direct source coffee.

“You can see great coffees on a pour over list, but you don’t always get the opportunity to know where it comes from,” Blackman says. “We’re able to work more directly with producers, so we’ll have opportunities to purchase more exclusive coffee and tell those stories.”