Sunday, March 20, 2011

Foreign Correspondent: Urban Gastronomy

As 2011 has been declared "the year of the pie" Jersey Pie has expanded operations. In addition to seeking out the best pie available to us in our home environs and posting our observations we will, whenever possible, submit reports on all things pie from correspondents outside of Jersey for your amusement and edification. First up, The Big Apple.

Urban Gastronomy for Jersey Pie

It was a cold February night, the type where most people cozy up next to a fire with a well made Manhattan or a neat pour of fine Scotch. All right, okay. I see what you might be thinking. Maybe most people don’t do that, but if I had a fireplace I surely would. But, I don’t. And I had a mission.

My mission was to eat pie at one of two places recently raved about in "Move over, cupcakes: Pie is the hot new dessert trend"--the very same article in the New Jersey Record that featured Jersey Pie. This was a most delicious mission indeed.

I should be honest about something before we go any further. Until recently, I wasn’t really that into pie. And still, given a choice, I’ll go for the molten chocolate cake or an after-dinner cocktail instead. So, I don’t have the connoisseur qualifications of our friends at Jersey Pie. But, that said, I do enjoy a good dessert.

So, on that frigid eve, I stood ogling the menu at momofuku milk bar with LP. We had decided to have pie before we had dinner at ssäm bar. Why not? We were celebrating LP’s birthday, and if you can’t have dessert before birthday dinner when can you?

The menu did not offer a traditional selection—no apple, cherry or lemon custard to behold. But, there was a slice that I suspected would satisfy even a staunch chocolateer like myself--candy bar pie! Chocolate crust, caramel, peanut butter nougat, pretzels--the words called to me like sirens on dessert seas!

I took a moment to quiz the gentleman at the counter. There are no actual store-bought candy bars in that pie, are there? I’m sure my question was annoying, but I’m that kind of girl. Food merchants all over town find me slightly exasperating because of my questions (e.g., Does that oat scone contain any whole grain flour? Is the chai latte made with a pre-sweetened mix or is it real tea with steamed milk and honey?) No apologies! An urban gastronomer has to have her standards.

The counter man at momofuku milk bar assured me that all parts of the candy bar pie were house made. So, I ordered it with glee (which is not to say that I sang about it, but rather that I ordered with a joyful heart--candy bar pie!).

LP chose their trademarked crack pie with a ‘toasted oat crust’ and ‘gooey butter filling’ because who, really, can refuse trademarked crack? Who?

We awaited pie with great anticipation. I envisioned a radically decadent yet elegant slice, carefully lifted from the pie plate and artfully arranged so its buttery insides ooze here and there over that dark chocolaty crust. What a surprise it was when the counter man deftly handed me a little cardboard envelope.

Momofuko pie is not your traditional fruit slice. It has a modern sensibility about it--portable pie for an on-the-go world. This is pie you can eat walking down the street while updating your FB status on your smart phone. I sighed. The part of me that likes pie is nostalgic. I wanted that fresh out-of-the-oven feeling. But, I put it aside. Pie can come in all kinds of packages and still be delicious, right?

Well, maybe... The crack pie was reminiscent of dulche de leche, but unlike its name suggested, we were neither high nor crazy about getting the next slice. If you'd like to try making it at home, the recipe is available on Epicurious.

The candy bar pie was achingly sweet. Three small bites, and I was done, but I do have a low sugar tolerance. A study of the label revealed a long complicated list of ingredients... way too many for pie! But I did finish the slice, bite by bite over the next four days…

Whether you venture to momofuko milk bar should depend upon your taste. If you are a die-hard pie traditionalist, then my friend, it is not for you. If you like your desserts super sweet and also want the flexibility to eat pie on the go, well this is your spot!

Monday, January 31, 2011

National Pie Day, 2011

In case you are new to Jersey Pie, The Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, NJ came out on top in our year-plus long search for the best cherry pie in New Jersey, which evolved into a search for a tolerable slice of cherry pie in a Northeast Jersey diner. It was our intention to keep Jersey Pie alive by continuing to search for good food and desserts in this neck of the woods, but our momentum slowed, and we haven't made any new entries in almost a year.

Turns out our efforts did not go unnoticed. Kara Yorio, staff writer at The Record, contacted us as she was preparing her article on the American resurgence of interest in pie, and she graciously included our thoughts in the recently published article Move over cupcakes: Pie is the hot new pastry trend. Reading her article we learned a few new things. Did you know of the American Pie Council? Are you aware that Sunday, January 23rd was National Pie Day? We admit we were tickled pink by our recent notoriety, and we decided to celebrate NPD at the Tick Tock, because their winning cherry pie was truly tasty.

That night, a crisp January night under a waning Ice Moon, the Tick Tock was quiet at 5:30 p.m. So quiet that we went unnoticed by our waitress for quite some time; time which we used to consider whether National Pie Day celebrated all pies, dessert pies, or possibly even only fruit pies. We later downloaded our 2011 National Pie Day poster from the American Pie Council. The poster pie is not a common man's pie, and we ventured a guess that it was a dessert pie, but not a fruit, and might be Chess. "Is that a raisin?" Jersey Pie queried. "It doesn’t matter if it’s Apple, Cherry or Chocolate Cream. It makes the time we spend together, just a little sweeter," the poster says. The savory pies, it seems, are excluded. Sorry chicken pot.

We ordered light, and let our waitress know we were saving room for dessert, which she took in stride. After soup and a sandwich, when we said we were interested in pie, her face lit up. "Cherry pie?" she asked with an in-the-know brightness all about her. We instantly looked at one another, wondering if (hoping?) we'd been made. "There was an article," she sounded delighted, "and people just kept coming in last night." She clarified that she had not been present, but had heard about it from another waitress. She speculated that maybe about "twenty five thousand people" had come in and that they had made their way through, literally, a dozen pies. "So it's fresh! They make it right downstairs." We could barely contain ourselves. The dessert trend was just announced yesterday, and today, it's already a new world. Never in all our travels had we received such caring and enthusiastic reassurance that the freshness of our pie experience matters.

This pie confirmed the Tick Tock Diner's winning status. Maybe they could turn up the temperature on their refrigerator a couple of degrees, maybe they could lighten up a little on the thickening agent in their matrix, maybe they could put a leeeeetle bit more salt in a leeeeetle bit flakier crust, but as diner pie goes, this is mighty fine pie, not too sweet, plenty of perky cherries, and truly fresh, with a satisfying crust. We asked our waitress which was her favorite pie, and she confessed that she had never tried any of them. She described herself as a chocolate mousse girl. But before we left she came by our table to share with us that she thought the cherry pie tasted good. She said that she had tried a piece that "they couldn't sell." We can only speculate on whether the pie was aesthetically impaired, cut too small, or perhaps had sat in the refrigerator too long. Whatever the case, Jersey Pie thanks the Tick Tock for making the distinction.

Now, we'd love to be able to say that Jersey Pie created or even predicted that pie was the next big thing in desserts, but we'd be setting ourselves up for a pie in the face. Still, as pie lovers, we are not going to miss an opportunity to leverage this overdue trend into some decent diner pie experiences in the state of New Jersey. So, Jersey diners: you have been served. Jersey Pie is back, rolling the Garden State's highways and byways to report on how this dessert trend plays out for the common man.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Way. Really? How Cool Is That?

Jersey Pie were just interviewed by The Record, a North Jersey Newspaper, for an article on, yes, you guessed it, pie, that will appear in the Saturday, January 22nd edition in anticipation of National Pie Day, January 23rd.

Will we end up on the cutting room floor? Will our stroked egos inspire further pie adventures? Join us on the edge of our seats in anticipation.