No More Mr. Nice Pie

No More Mr. Nice Pie
Drawing by Retsu Takahashi

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pie Persnickety (Guest Post)

It has already been stated by my brother and my west coast aunt that my family’s relationship with food is a little out of the ordinary. We love the 2pm ice cream hour and are very particular about what food we consume and where we dine. We do not frequent meals at chains, and we can only eat at certain restaurants if they are filled at a 43.5% to 86.8% capacity. And don’t even get us started on desserts. We are particularly persnickety when it comes to the after dinner meal. Growing up, I was blessed with the gift that is my mother’s baking. However, that means it is a rare occasion when I eat desserts from “the outside.” It’s not that I don’t crave dessert, it’s just I know that some things will never be as good as my mother’s. A little harsh? Perhaps. But it has served me well. (Of course, desserts in Europe are an exception).

For this week I thought, what would be more fun than to do a pie tour of New York City? When I am in the mood for something sweet I usually ask my mom where I should go and what I should eat. However, this week I did not seek her advice. I took a chance by simply googling “best pie in NYC” and allowing the Internet to guide me. After conducting some research from various articles and blogs I decided that I would taste pies in Upper Manhattan. The places were selected, all I had to do was find friends to join me... and go for a run. Like my mother, I love a good run, and I thought it was only appropriate to exercise before eating many pies. Recruitment was easy; I selected three of my closet companions who had an extensive knowledge of Ellen’s pies. Elaine, Erica, and Adrienne were in and so our afternoon of pie began.

As much as the tour was about enjoying different pies of the city, we were also to judge each slice. Based on a 1-5 scale (with 1 the worst and 5 the best), the following were evaluated:
1.     Presentation- was it sliced beautifully or did it look like a mess?
2.     Crust- crust is always tricky because most of the time it is not handmade and tastes lackluster
3.     Overall Taste

The first stop on my list was Sugar and Plumm on 78th and Amsterdam. During my research I had learned about their key lime pie with oreo crust. Unfortunately, the key lime was not available as a slice and so Elaine, Adrienne, and I decided that we would order peach pie and peanut butter pie. Knowing that those are two of my mother’s best pies, I tried to dive into the first slice with an open mind. The pies smelled good, but would they taste it?

Peach Pie
    1.     Presentation 2.5. Although it looked pretty with the caramel decoration and whipped cream, the pie itself looked sad. It was falling out of the crust and the crumble on top looked peculiar.
   2.     Crust 1.5. It was mediocre, but the crumble topping was surprisingly delicious.
   3.     Taste 2.5. We were sad to discover that the peaches were perhaps not fresh.

Peanut Butter Pie:
1.     Presentation 4. It looked pretty with its decorative Reese’s cups and chocolate/peanut butter chips.
2.     Crust 3.5. It had a graham cracker crust that was nice, but you couldn’t really taste it.
3.     Taste 3.8. It was very tasty, all of the flavors worked, especially with some chocolate between the peanut butter and crust. It was rich, but not overpowering. It also had a nice consistency.
Our experience at Sugar and Plumm set us off to a great start!

Leaving Elaine on the West Side, Adrienne and I hopped in a cab heading east to meet Erica at our next location. 

Agata and Valentina’s on 79th and 1st Ave was next on our agenda. Agata’s is actually a fine food store, but they have a gorgeous dessert section with cakes, napoleans, cream puffs, tarts, you name it. I was strictly advised to go to Agata’s by a co-worker (whom I lovingly refer to as Mama Bird) who praises the store night and day and says that I must try the fruit tart. I know fruit tart is not pie, but I always listen to Mama Bird.
For the Fruit Tart…
1.     Presentation 5. Beautiful for a tiny tart.
2.     Crust 3.5. It tasted like a cookie and was a little difficult to maneuver with plastic forks and spoons.
3.     Taste 3.5. Tasty custard and fruit, but the fruit did not taste as fresh as I would have liked.

We then selected the Cherry Berry Crumb “Tart”/Pie
      1.    Presentation 3.5. Erica and Adrienne thought it looked fine, I thought it looked lame. I would have given it a lower number, but I didn’t want to seem like a snob.
      2.  Crust 1. It was SUPER mushy. Unfortunate.
      3.  Taste 4. The filling was delicious. It had the right amount of tart.

Next stop was Two Little Red Hens on 86th and 2nd. The bakery was adorable and had tasty-looking cakes and cookies.
We sampled a classic Apple Crumb

1.     Presentation 5.
2.     Crust 3. Dry but not terrible
3.     Taste 4 (I’d give it a 3.5). We thought it was tasty, but the other desserts were most likely better. If only the slice had been served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream…

The last leg of our journey was at Yura on Madison located at 92nd and Madison. (We did lots of walking that day- but it was good because it made us feel like we didn't each so much pie). Yura very much embodied the Upper East Side vibe and I liked it. While I carefully looked at the pie options from behind the glass, Adrienne already chose our last pies. I’m so glad she made the decision because they ended up being the best pies of the day.


Coconut Custard (on left)
1.     Presentation 3. Looked appetizing!
      2.     Crust 4.5. We thought it was the best crust of the tour. Nice and flakey.
      3.     Taste 5. So incredibly delicious. Just the right amount of tangy and sweet.

Lemon Chess Pie (on right)
      1.     Presentation 3. Nothing special
      2.     Crust 4.5 (I would have given it a 3, it was fine, nothing special).
      3.  Taste 5. Perfect custard. Best pie of the tour

6 pies, 1 tart, 4 locations, 4 hours, 4 friends, I would say our tour was a great success. We ate some great pie and some mediocre pie, but if there is anything we all agreed on it was that no one can make pie like our very own No More Mr. Nice Pie.

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