To paraphrase our food writer, Mike Lintal: Pie. Is. Delicious.
Especially this time of year, when harvest fruits, nuts and vegetables are at their peak, pie is a dessert that eats like a meal – especially at some of our favorite diners, orchards, and bakeries that specialize in pie.
Last week we put apple pies in the spotlight. Today those two other fall pie favorites, pecan and pumpkin, get their due.
Day was when these were regional favorites. Pumpkin pie ruled the northeast and pecan was the south’s own. No longer. Great fall pies are available everywhere, as you can see:
Ithaca Bakery, Ithaca, N.Y. (Pumpkin): Whole-wheat flour and unsalted butter are the keys to this pie’s delectable crust. Cloves and cinnamon give the filling its zing. And the funky, artsy college-town atmosphere of this 100-year-old establishment can’t be beat – if you like funky, artsy, college-town atmospheres.
Mama’s Daughters’ Diner, Irving, Texas: (Pumpkin): The home of Texas diner cooking at its best, Mama’s is equally famous for its pies, which include pumpkin on a rotating basis (best to call ahead). Nothing fancy, but its meat-and-three-sides lunch finished with a slice of pumpkin is more than enough to tide you over ‘til dinner.
City Bakery, New York (Pumpkin): City Bakery is the place where the New York cognoscenti get their pumpkin pies. Head pieman Maury Rubin switches out the traditional lard-and-flour crust for a buttery graham-cracker crust, and delivers a perfect balance of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and brown-sugar flavors through a perfectly textured custard.
Sweet Auburn Bread Company, Atlanta (Sweet Potato Cheesecake): Our Minneapolis-based “In the Middle of Nowhere” writer John Seals knows pie, and Atlanta, and he says: “There is only one place to go for pie in Atlanta. It’s the Sweet Auburn Bread Company. Three words: Sweet Potato Cheesecake. It’s so good I took my Mom there once, and after having a piece she bought the last two complete pies out of the display case and took them back to Minneapolis with her on the plane. If anyone mentions pie in Atlanta and does not talk about the Sweet Auburn Bread Company they simply do NOT know pie. Shoot. Now I want to drive there right now.”
Petsi Pies, Somerville, Mass. (Southern Brown Butter Pecan): Grandmother’s-kitchen-trained baker Renee “Petsi” McLeod makes you choose between bourbon chocolate pecan and southern brown-butter pecan at her four north Boston locations. Tough choice. While we prefer to eat the brown butter in the pie and drink the bourbon on the side, rest assured you can’t go wrong with either, or the pumpkin, or the salted caramel apple, or anything else crusted on the menu.
Pielab, Greensboro, Ala. (Pecan): Okay, so maybe the pecan pie here is top-50 as opposed to top four. But Pielab brings such an audacious concept to the dessert table – pie shop plus design studio plus community center, all under the slogan “Pie + Conversation = Ideas” – that their pies taste even better than they ought to, just for the thought behind them. Still, this is Alabama, and you can taste the South in every rich, nutty, brown-sugary bite.
Brigtsen’s, New Orleans (Pecan): Pecan pie has been on Brigtsen’s menu for all 23 years of its life, and for some very good reasons. Number one, hey, it’s New Orleans, and New Orleans sits squarely at the intersection of pecans and cane sugar. Number two, it’s a wonderful pie, a testimony to Brigtsen’s broader philosophy of cooking simply, traditionally, and smartly, honoring the traditions of the South by recreating a classic Southern dessert. Grated butter in the crust makes it more crisp cracker-like and and a shade less flaky, and two types of pecans, dark and light roast, make for a more consistent pecan flavor. But don’t take my word for it. Read the recipe here.
Three Babes Bakeshop, San Francisco (Chocolate Pecan): Warning: After you eat just one piece of this pie – baked by two-not-three, yes, babes and sold out of the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market — you will never want to eat anything sweet ever again. Hey, but what a great way to go, carried off to Savoryville on rivers of rich chocolate, graham crackers (gluten-free!), Karo syrup, and those amazing roasted pecans. And if you’re not desiring to end the sugar-fix phase of your life just yet, the Babes have been known to turn out amazing pumpkin, bourbon-pecan, and bittersweet-chocolate-pecan pies. Not in the Bay Area? They’ll ship their chocolate-pecan and bourbon-pecan pies.