By mid-October, many Americans are thinking of warming foods like pumpkin soup and chili. Seafood often is thought of as a fresh, summertime option to eat in the sun.

But fishermen and shore-dwellers know the fall actually is a great time to eat seafood such as oysters, crabs and swordfish. And with area restaurants' ability to get fresh seafood on tables quickly, there's a world of options available for diners this time of year.

"For cold-water oysters, it's actually the best time right now. We have Prince Edward Island oysters, where it's the cleanest water you'll find anywhere," says Scot Henry, the executive chef at Harry's Oyster Bar in Bally's Atlantic City.

Modern refrigeration and shipping technology allow Harry's to offer 14 varieties of oysters, despite a major red tide that's currently blocking the entire Texas crop. Henry also worked with general manager Kim Brownell to select Blue Point Brewing Company's pumpkin ale to pair with a selection of the oysters.

To celebrate its main ingredient during National Seafood Month, Harry's also is offering roasted-jalapeno crab dip and a 1-pound lobster roll with Old Bay-seasoned fries and homemade coleslaw.

Anthony "TJ" Ricciardi, the executive chef at Luke's restaurant inside Harrah's Resort says mid-October is when shellfish such as mussels and scallops have the richest flavor, particularly when served with seasonal produce such as squash and bitter greens.

"Fall is definitely my best season when it comes to seafood," Ricciardi said, explaining how he developed seasonal specials with his boss, Luke Palladino. "That's when the flavors really come out that make any dish great. And you have great fall fish that add to the menu, like mussels, oysters and trout."

Ricciardi is especially excited about offering a scallop souffle with butternut squash puree and pumpkin oil.

He says the dish exemplifies "Luke's way, which is whatever produce you find around you, that's what you base the culinary dish on."

"As with all seafood, there's a sweetness to it, when it reaches its peak," he said, of the scallops. "It has to do with the spawning time and when the fish hits its peak. In early September, that sweetness and character doesn't come out."

Ricciardi says most dishes at Luke's include produce that's currently in season in New Jersey. Twice each week, the restaurant receives a list of all the seasonal produce available in the region. Right now, that means radicchio, endives and Treviso for the autumn salad, mustard greens to complement the swordfish, and that rich butternut squash for the scallops.

Phillips Seafood also is offering a seafood celebration menu at its restaurant in The Pier at Caesar's, including crab ravioli with sauteed shrimp and a ratatouille-braised Chilean sea bass.

Contact Felicia Compian:

609-272-7209

Eating in Atlantic City

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