No More Mr. Nice Pie

No More Mr. Nice Pie
Drawing by Retsu Takahashi

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

French Press and Pears

Working in a small space where kitchen and retail become one, allows you to overhear customer transactions. There's a little game I play and it goes like this; I no sooner hoist a tray of cardamom-spiked pear pies out of the oven and a customer will ask, "What kind of pie is that?" waggling a finger towards the baker's rack. When they hear, "Pear" they respond, "Oh." Pause. Here's where the game comes in. I then mouth the words, "Do you have any apple?" at about the same time the customer responds, "Do you have any apple?"  It's a short lived exercise, but I find it entertaining.

Sometimes I think that it takes a while for we East Coasters to embrace that which the Pacific Northwesterners have long held dear.  In the season of things autumnal-pre Christmas, I'm reminded of my foray into the restaurant world. Philadelphia, November 1984. This was before Starbucks-emblazoned cups were in the clutches of seemingly every pedestrian. Our little restaurant boasted a Faema espresso machine and we also served freshly brewed coffee in French press Bodum pots. Customers were cautious. An individual pot of coffee? Not a cup of coffee from an hours-old Bunn Pour-omatic?  There was a bit of a learning curve, but in time, we earned our coffee standing on cobble-stoned Germantown Avenue.  You would think that once we had conquered the coffee, we could introduce some of the pear desserts I had seen (and devoured) while visiting my sister in Seattle.  After all, wasn't it Homer who had dubbed the pear, a "gift from the Gods"?         

A ripe pear is indeed, a gift.  An under ripe pear, well, not so much. And maybe that's why sometimes pears get a bum rap. On the sports team of fruit, apple tends to be the cool, first pick, with pear, although just as deserving, chosen after all of the apples are high-fiving each other.

Lately, I've started a quiet pear revolution at work. I've been swapping out pears for apples and there appears to be a following. Particularly for a pear pie with sour cream custard and brown sugar crumble. And more recently for the unadorned, but equally delicious pear galette.  It boasts little more than ripe pears on an all-butter crust with a hit of lemon zest. If the almond spirit moves you, a sprinkling of the nut is apt. It's a minimalist pie, and rather easy to execute. 

The beautiful thing about a pear galette is that it slides effortlessly from last night's dessert to the next morning's breakfast. Yawn. A wedge of pear pastry and a pot of French press.  Who are the cool kids, now?

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