No More Mr. Nice Pie

No More Mr. Nice Pie
Drawing by Retsu Takahashi

Pies About Town

Hacklebarney Farm

Traveling to Hacklebarney Farm does not involve over the river, but it certainly requires through the woods. The Chester, New Jersey farm is extremely popular for its wood-pressed apple cider and cider doughnuts. But based on the lines wrapping around the quaint barn, it appears their pies have a very loyal following. My original intention was to buy one half-gallon of apple cider and a basket of local apples. What was I thinking? In order to secure the cider, I had to first find the end of the line and wait my turn for access into the farm store. We inched along like lemmings, with the folks ahead of me repeating the same mantra, “Pie.” What was all the fuss about?

The farm store is situated in their circa 1853 barn with the bakery adjacent. Within the span of the 45 minutes (I know, crazy) that I waited on line, I observed towering trays of hot apple cider doughnuts enter the farm store through one door, and within moments, empty trays exit the same door. It was somewhat frightening. Once inside the tiny confines of the market, I was up close and personal with the pie table. I have to admit, they were impressive. For a commercial enterprise, despite the pie press that saves the pastry crew the effort of rolling pie shells, (imagine that) the pie assortment was tempting. And fresh, with steam still escaping through their lattice topped crusts. What I found staggering, was that people were buying more than one pie at a time. One of each flavor and placing orders for Thanksgiving. That is an awful lot of pie.

A separate counter was designated Cider Doughnut Central and again, folks were buying doughnuts by the dozen. I didn’t even have to walk through the market, the crowd just moved me along, until I had reached the cider cooler. Sheepishly, I selected my little half gallon of cider and paid.

The cider was truly delicious and provided the key note to my cider caramel recipe. I’ve been thinking about it and if I had it to do all over again, I might just consider entering the exit door of Hacklebarney’s tiny market in order to purchase a solitary jug of cider. I know, Rule Breaker. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I might be ushered to the back of the line and sentenced to 45 minutes of waiting. 

Pie Face

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the pie emporium, Pie Face. Is it the same as baking your own pie at home? Not quite. But it’s worth noting that some locations are open 24 hours a day, (my kitchen is not) and they also deliver. If you are Desperately Seeking Pie, this is worth knowing about.

I came across the Pie Face near the Ed Sullivan Theatre a while back. Smiling from behind the glass bakery cases were both sweet and savory pies. I admit I was rather taken with the mini cherry pie. Dozing with a broad grin, the happy little pies were stacked by the bakers dozen. Teamed with a “flat white” (espresso and steamed milk), the diminutive sweet was a happy combination of cherry and crust. They also offer Lamingtons, little sponge cake treats filled with jam, dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut. (As a chaser; it’s always good to have a chaser when the pies are mini and the coffee is large.)

There appears to be a devoted audience for their savory pies, but I took a pass on those. I have a bit of a history with Australian meat pies stemming from my days at the farm. The owners became smitten with meat pies on one of their holidays Down Under, and returned bearing “pie molds” which are commercial pans devoted to the crafting of savory double-crusted pies. Whenever I’m working with vast quantities of any kind of baked good, it squelches its novelty (and appeal). Rolling out crusts on the commercial dough sheeter, draping it over the pie molds, filling each round with a medley of meats and ‘veg’ and then topping it with another draping of dough is a process and a visual I will never forget.

Forgive me if I stick to the sweet side of the pie counter at Pie Face. For mass marketed baked goods, they do a fine job. And any place that offers delivery of caffeine and double crusted sweets is worth adding to one’s speed dial.


This week's Pies About Town is admittedly a bit of a stretch.  It's not even about pie and it's about Getting Out of Town.  More specifically, it is prompted by this week's date of January 14, 2014.

Ninety years ago, on January 14, 1924 my grandparents, Dorothy and Milton married in New York City. Following the reception, they boarded the Cunard ship, the Berengaria. What I find so remarkable about this formidable young couple, was their honeymoon itinerary. My grandfather was a dentist with a private practice in Manhattan.   He took a five month leave of absence joining the Berengaria as the ship's dentist.  To notify his patients, he printed the following cards:

In researching a bit about the ship, I came across a copy of a typical dinner menu from the luxury liner. They certainly didn't skimp on the dessert course; Fancy Cakes, Puddings with Fruit Sauces, Glaceed Fruits, European Ices, Teas and Cafe Noir (not a mocha-cappa-soy-latte in sight).  A trunk emblazoned with labels of the 25 ports of call they visited resides with my sister. If that trunk could talk, the stories it could tell; about a couple who cherished both travel and each other.


Should one of your 2014 resolutions involve honing your baking skills, check out the site Baking with Betsy.  I can vouch for Betsy's pastry talents as I've had the good fortune of being on the receiving end of her scrumptious baked goods.  Not only is she a Paris trained pastry chef, she's a witty writer and gifted instructor.  She was also my Ithaca College roommate and sidekick.  More importantly, Betsy baked an incredible chocolate ruffle cake for my wedding which she transported from Connecticut to New Jersey. I returned the favor, baking her wedding cake and driving the three tiers oh-so-carefully from Philadelphia to Connecticut.   In our old age, I suspect we will still be reminiscing about Sophomore Review, our lack of skill in both ballet and tap dance, and discussing in great detail our favorite pie recipes.  Happy New Year, Bets.

Pie memories are powerful things.  If you are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, there are infinite bakeries and restaurants dedicated to the art of pie.  One slice, however, haunts me still. Seattle's Dahlia Lounge Triple Coconut Cream Pie. A towering dessert, boasting coconut flakes in the crust, coconut milk (and more flakes) in the pastry cream, finishing with a crown of toasted coconut and curls of white chocolate. In fact, the Tom Douglas Restaurants of Seattle celebrate National Coconut Cream Pie Day.  A holiday dedicated to this particular dessert is so enticing, I just may have to pay a visit to my Seattle sister, Barbara, so we may join in the festivities. Until then, I will bide my time poring over the Dahlia Bakery cookbook paying particular attention to pages 161-163.

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