The first time I heard this dish described, during a radio interview with Ruth Reichl (former editor of Gourmet and food critic for The New York Times), I found it so compelling I was ready to drive to the nearest pumpkin patch. (Ruth has a gift for making food sound really, really good.) Imagine, a small pumpkin as a gently yielding cooking vessel for bread, cheese, chicken broth, and herbs! Even though I couldn’t entirely imagine how the dish would taste, I knew it would be spectacular to behold. Well, years flew by and I forgot about pumpkin dreams, until all things Halloween settled in a few weeks ago. This time it was game on: I knew a cheese-stuffed pumpkin would roast beautifully on the grill, and that a fragrant charcoal fire would make it even more delicious.

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You might think of The Marigold as a margarita’s sultry, sophisticated cousin. The drink gets its smoky nuance from mezcal, the smoky spirit made from oven-roasted agave. For this cocktail, I love using Gem and Bolt mezcal made with Damiana, a Mexican herb believed to have aphrodisiac qualities. (Is there a better time to embrace such magic?) A touch of honeysuckle liqueur provides sweetness and a floral perfume that’s balanced by grapefruit bitters and bright, fresh citrus juices. From it’s soft peachy hue to a smoky, spicy rim, this drink is a study in contrasts that smooth out each other's edges--a helpful thing to have these days.

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I’m a sucker for seasonal whimsy so Mummy Dogs, the Halloween riff on pigs in a blanket, have always been a guilty pleasure. They’re easy enough for kids to assemble, a savory snack amidst the sugar tsunami, and, let’s face it--pretty adorable. But, it wasn’t until I spied plump wagyu beef franks at the market that I considered putting these horrifying hot dogs front and center for our annual Halloween potluck (for both kids and adults alike). In addition to premium beef, a couple things elevate this recipe from the ordinary. Like all things in life, they’re better with cheese. Just wrap a square or round of your favorite variety around the frank before you begin wrapping it in dough bandages. Second, baking the Mummy Dogs in a covered grill allows the meat and dough to absorb the aromas of a charcoal fire (and results in a delicious crusty bits of crust and cheese). Finally, dipping the terrifyingly enticing results in barbecue sauce covered with a mustard web (see above confession RE seasonal whimsy) transports these campy perennial favorites to the meat lover’s table.

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Like others among her generation, my mother was raised with a fear of undercooked pork. The culprit, of course, was trichinosis, the food-borne illness caused by undercooked meat. To avoid the risk, folks were encouraged to cook pork to a temperature that eliminated risk of illness--as well as any porky joy at the table.

Mercifully, trichinosis (and a generation of dry, chewy meat) is extremely rare these days, and we’re able to choose from different varieties of pork, including heavily marbled heritage breeds like Berkshire (known as Korabuta in Japan) that are less likely to dry out and offer a rich, deeply satisfying pork flavor. You still need to cook meat to a safe internal temperature, but with the tricks, you don’t have to sacrifice texture.

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