With the red-, gold-, and purple-hued leaves of autumn comes cooler weather and the need for warming, comforting food. Beautifully prepared fall dishes can go beyond the pumpkin spice mania that sweeps the nation every fall. After all, fall is harvest time, which means apples, squashes, mushrooms, root vegetables, game meats, and the deeper, earthier flavors of warming spices can all be used to create unique, delicious dishes. Here are some creative ways to feature seasonal flavors in your dishes this fall.

Squash and Root Vegetables with a Twist

In restaurants across North America, humble root vegetables are getting a bit of a face-lift. At Vancouver's Gyoza Bar, butternut squash usually makes it onto the menu as the filling for their famous gyoza. You'll also find a pickled beet, feta, and toasted almond version that lets the sweetness of the beets shine with the salty kick of the cheese.

Without a doubt, this is also the season to give Italian classics, such as risotto, an autumnal spin. Campagnolo in Vancouver offers a turkey risotto dish, which is enriched with turkey stock, squash, sage leaves, and even crispy turkey skin to give the plate texture. Other restaurants, such as Mar'sel in Palos Verdes, California, put a spin on traditional butternut squash soup by infusing it with a unique flavor like coconut broth. Chef Charles Olalia serves his version with a meaty duck confit base and tendrils of spaghetti squash to happy guests.

Sticking with an ethnic theme, Bonjuk in Los Angeles offers Korean juk, which is similar to Chinese congee and made of stewed rice and broth. At Bonjuk, the hobakjuk is made with mashed kabocha squash, which makes the dish slightly sweet. The bonus? Juk is known in Korea as the ultimate hangover helper—just in case Thanksgiving gets out of hand.

Fresh Takes

If you live on the West Coast, you can get inspired by Butchers & Barbers in Los Angeles, where you'll find fresh, seasonal creations like the delicata squash with persimmon. The smoked trout roe and Burrata cheese salad is another inventive plate, which offers guests sweetness, saltiness, and crunch all in one dish.

At Toronto's Vegetarian Haven restaurant, vegetarian fare is given a fall makeover with the use of seasonal fungus (the Pleurotus ostreatus to be exact). Their "king prawn" and oyster mushroom tempura uses konnyaku root flour to simulate the prawns, while the oyster mushrooms are given a light batter tempura before getting dusted with cayenne chili spices and hitting the plate alongside a tangy cocktail sauce.

Skillet cornbread is another fall favorite that you can add a unique twist to by incorporating caramelized apples and onions. You won't regret these sweet and savory additions.

A Full Ode to Fall

In Galena, Illinois, the team at One Eleven Main has a yearly menu that's dedicated to fall dishes and seasonal flavors. Some of their inventive takes on the season include a hen of the woods bruschetta served over crisp sweet potato chips, a pierogi duo stuffed with ground boar and demi glace, and a turkey with port cream sauce. You'll also find a venison roast with mushroom gravy served over a squash and root vegetable hash. The restaurant's pumpkin and pecan streusel and maple-bourbon ice cream help guests finish off their fall-inspired meals.