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.”

Pub grubbing

Here in the land of the free and home of the brave, eating in a pub usually entails greasy potato skins, goopy chicken wings, baskets of tater tots, or the odd pretzel dog (Rusty Knot, I’m looking at you).  But across the Atlantic, over in England, I love that eating in a pub can be so much more civilized.

What I eat at bars in the States would make my mother burst into tears (especially if she knew how much I’d drank to arrive at the point of eating in a bar) but what I’ve eaten at pubs in London would make her beam with pride at my ability to recognize a balanced meal and vegetables that haven’t been deep fried.

savory pie at the Tea Clipper

Lunch at The Tea Clipper would make my mother proud

Take the lunch I had at  The Tea Clipper in Knightsbridge, for example. Pretty standard pub, with sticky tables, semi-surly bartender and lots of beer to be had, yet lunch was a perfectly respectable, and quite tasty, savory pie of the day with a generous serving of steamed carrots and greenbeans and a not-too buttery mound of mashed potatoes. Underneath the flaky, golden pastry crust of the pie, was a hearty beef stew of sorts, filled with chunks of juicy, soft meat and mushrooms, all perfect for wolfing down with forkfuls of mashed potatoes.

I am not, even for a second, hating on the greasy, fatty, guilt-inducing pub grub of American bars. I’m just saying that it’s nice to be able to have the option to have a more responsible, sensible, yet still delicious meal in a bar… even if it’s just serving as a foundation for lots of drinking and debauchery later on.

3.14 = Pi = PIE!!!

It's a celebration!

I am perhaps the least mathematically inclined person you will EVER know. I fared well enough in the bare minimum of math classes I was required to take in school, but even in “Math for Liberal Arts Majors” (a real class taught at the University of Florida. I took part 1 and 2 to meet my journalism major’s math requirement) I still had to put in serious study time to get by.

And while I’ve forgotten almost everything math-related I ever learned, erased by time like the painful memories that they were, a couple of things still remain. One of those is that pi = 3.14. So today, when I wrote the date and noticed that it was 3/14 I immediately thought one thing: PIE!!!

I’d long been looking for an excuse to take a subway ride up to Hell’s Kitchen and try out the Little Pie Company and today’s date was all the sign I needed to go. I originally wanted to buy a few slices and bring them home to share with the boy, but I wasn’t crazy about the selection they had available by the slice so instead I came home with two 5-inch minis, a banana coconut cream pie and the shop’s signature pie, the sour cream apple walnut.

I love bananas with the enthusiasm of a cartoon monkey so LPC’s banana coconut cream pie was perfection in pie form. The firm, crumbly crust was the best complement to the smooth, creamy banana filling it was holding, chock full of cool, fat slices of banana. On top, a small mountain of fluffy soft whipped cream and crispy, toasted coconut shavings made this not only a delicious little pie, but a pretty one at that, all cloud like in its sweetness.

Dear Banana Coconut Cream Pie, I'm kind of in love with you.

The sour cream apple walnut pie, made with a creamy, chunky filling of juicy granny smith apple chunks and fresh sour cream under a thick, crunchy cinnamony walnut, streusel is mind boggling in how delicious it is. Even after we decided to save the rest for later, the beau and I kept carving out great big spoonfuls. This pie is homey and comforting, like something your grandmother might have made… if she were an evil genius.

The Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie might just make Pi Day a new favorite holiday for me

This is my first year celebrating pi/pie day, and after today’s major success, I’m glad to dust the cobwebs off this ol’ math relic and celebrate it every year because if 3.14= pi and pi= pie (to me) then pi day = one pie-eating happy camper out of this girl. (If that pseudo equation made no sense to you, please refer to the first paragraph of this post.)

‘Tis the season to be gluttonous

Holidays are about spending time with the ones you love: pies.

I gently stepped on to the scale, as if acting like I was light as a cloud would somehow affect the outcome of this.

The scale at the gym is one of those that doctors have, with the movable units you can tinker with until the bar is perfectly balanced and you know exactly what your weight is.

I slid the metal weights to where my weight had been last week. Nothing. The bar didn’t even bob up and down, it just sat. I pushed the single-pound weight over one. Still nothing. One more. Nope. Another. Nothing. And another. It wobbled uncertainly but still leaned down. I inched it over one more pound. Now the bar bobbed up and slowly found its balance.

Shit. Five whole freakin’ pounds? I gained five pounds in ONE weekend? Dammit. How is that even possible?

“Oh I’ll tell you how it’s possible,” answered the voice in my head, the skinny person that wanted to jump out of this now five-pounds-heavier body. “That chocolate cream pie, pumpkin pie, more chocolate cream pie, hunk of apple pie, apricot kiffles, and raspberry ones, and chocolate ones, a second helping of pumpkin pie, enough egg nog to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool…”

“Alright, alright, I get it,” I cut myself off. So, who cares? Big deal. So what if I put on a few pounds because of Thanksgiving weekend, the official kick-off to a month of holiday binging? Nothing a few hours at the gym won’t burn off, right?

I hope so anyway. Because now that the holiday season is in full swing there isn’t a holiday treat I’ll say no to. Gingerbread houses, candy canes, panettone. You offer, I’m accepting.

A certain someone (we’ll call him Babbo Natale) gave me a camera for my birthday so now I’m going to make a concerted effort to not just eat like a fatty, but write like one too. That’s all for now though. I have a massive workout regimen for 2010 to plan out…

And while we’re on the topic, read this: Festiveness, Stacked Up Southern Style