Where pies go when they die

“This must be where pies go when they die” reads a small hand-painted sign next to the door at Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Park Slope. And truly, it must be.

It’s also not far from what I imagine one version of heaven might look like either, depending who you are. If you like a pie shop that’s simple and cozy, just perfectly worn in and charmingly old fashioned, where you can sit at an old wooden table and be wrapped in the smells of butter and vanilla and coffee while you dig a fork into a wedge of pie so good it feels like God himself might’ve slipped it down to you through a break in the clouds, then yea, you must be where pies go when they die.

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Pecan pie’s never been my favorite but this bittersweet chocolate pecan could change my mind.

I know I tend to speak in hyperbole when it comes to food, but the pies at Four and Twenty Blackbirds are deserving. I’ve had seven or eight different kinds, sometimes at the shop on a little white plate with a metal fork, other times in a to-go container when I couldn’t stay, and sometimes from the plastic packaging they come in when you order from grocery delivery service, Fresh Direct. They’ve all been delicious.

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Coffee custard pie with fresh whipped cream. A dream.

Their chocolate chess pie was velvety and rich, the chocolate custard like a perfect pudding cozying up to a buttery, flaky crust. The Salty Honey pie was pure decadence, all butter, caramelized sugar and honey, sea salt sprinkled on top like snowflakes. The matcha was silky and calming, the bittersweet chocolate pecan gooey and indulgent, the coffee custard like a perfectly, creamy coffee in pie form.

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Lemon lavender pie, not at all floral, just creamy, summery sweet.

Every time I’ve gone to the little shop on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, I’ve wanted to stay for hours. And every time I’ve had a mouthful of Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie I’ve thought, “My God this tastes like heaven.”

Forget the dessert menu, I’ll order from the bucket list

Most people who’ve only lived in New York for a short time and aren’t originally from the city or the tri-state area have New York bucket lists. They’re full of those touristy things that we want to do at least once just to say we’ve done them, and then never have to do again. (Or only do again the next time you have guests in from out of town who insist you do them again with them.) Examples: riding the boring-as-all-hell Staten Island Ferry, paying an arm and a leg to visit the Empire State Building, and meandering around Times Square like you’ve never seen electricity in action before.

The insanity sundae

Along with all of these, one thing that’s been on my NY bucket list was getting dessert at Serendipity 3 in the Upper East Side. “It’s so overrated,” said the people who’d lived here before me. “There’s better ice cream elsewhere. Oh and it’s so expensive. Ugh. Total tourist trap.” I didn’t care. I wanted to do it. So I did. Just a bit after two years of living in this zoo.

Yes, it was expensive. Yes, it was a bit overrated. And yes, there certainly is better dessert and ice cream to be had in the city, but like buying hot dogs and pretzels from street vendors, going to the Top of the Rock, and seeing (and being disappointed by) Little Italy, getting one of the ridiculous sundaes at Serendipity was just something I had to do.

Flaneur and I split a monstrosity of ice cream called the Insanity Sundae, a towering mountain of tooth-achingly sweet, sticky pecan pie, creamy butter pecan ice cream, rich hot fudge, candied walnuts, sliced almonds, and at least a whole can worth of fluffy whip cream. It was probably the most appropriately titled thing I’ve ever eaten, and a small miracle that my teeth didn’t immediately rot and fall out of my mouth.

Do I want to eat another one again? No, believe it or not, I don’t really. But like walking around the Financial District, eating enormous pastrami sandwiches at Katz Deli, and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, I’m ready to do it again if I have to.

Serendipity 3 on Urbanspoon

At long last, chicken and waffles

I was starting to think I’d never try them. Back in New York, every time I brought up the idea of going to Harlem to get chicken and waffles, something came up. Either no one felt like going, no one was available, it was too far, other brunch plans came up, there wasn’t enough time. Always something.

Little Skillet: just a little walk-up window

But then I moved to San Francisco and found out that one of the 100 things I had to try here before dying was chicken and waffles at a place called Little Skillet. The food gods were in my favor, or so I thought, because it was just a few blocks away from work. I’d easily be able to pop over during my lunch break and finally basque in the delicious, fried, wonderfulness that is chicken and waffles.

But then, on two separate occasions, I went and came back chicken-and-waffleless. The first time it was at the hands of my ol’ nemesis, the “cash only” sign. I rarely have cash but I looked anyway and found a two-dollar bill and some euro cents. I left, empty stomached and dejected. Then the second time, with fresh-out-of-the-atm bills in my wallet, I went over during a lunch break with one of my coworkers… just to find out it had closed 15 minutes earlier, at 2. I won’t even get into how ludicrous I think it is to close a lunch place at 2pm, but just know that I’m not ok with it.

I wanted to give up but I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to wait till I got back to New York (still about another month away) and I didn’t want to look up other places in the city. I wanted chicken and waffles dammit, and I wanted them from Little Skillet. So, for the third time, I went. I had cash and left early, and thankfully, the food gods rewarded my commitment to the cause. I had my chicken and waffles.

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