I’m just back from New York City. A curious place when it comes to so many things—especially pie. The week I was there the New York Times had just come out with an article about pie being the new cupcake. Well, something should be. I like a good cupcake, but what’s all the fuss about? (I have friends who are really into them and I always say, “You realize cupcakes are just small cakes, right?” )
I arrived in the city late on Tuesday night, after a harrowing flight in the middle of a storm. It’s a good thing I hadn’t eaten since noon because I’m sure I’d have gotten sick. But it was a bad thing, too, because I was starving and after placing my bags at my friend’s apartment and saying hello, I was off to find some food. I went to a local diner, and ordered soup and pie. According to the menu, the pie was homemade. Well, suffice it to say, it was not.
I ordered a gorgeous chocolate cream pie that was one of the fakest-tasting pies I’ve shoved into my mouth. Pure chemicals. The whipped cream was hardish and the “chocolate cream” was not creamy at all. The crust was like cardboard. Hmmm. A friend of mine stopped by to see me briefly and he took a bite. “Toxic,” he said. And that sums it up.
The next day at a meeting at my agent’s office, they bristled when I told them about this pie. “Never order pie at a diner in the New York City.” Curious. In the rest of the country, diners are usually a good bet when it comes to pie. If they are not homemade, they may be 50/50 pies (frozen crust, homemade filling), or decent frozen pie. (Some of that is not edible, but once in a while a good frozen pie will do.)
Even though I love pie and dessert of all kinds, I don’t make a habit of eating a lot of sweets. This pie affected my whole trip. It was awhile before I could look at a sweet.
So dear readers, my pie report is not much of one at all. But there was hope in the form of tarts, which I ate a little later during my trip.
I had a lovely lunch with my new Kensington editor, Martin Biro, at Bryant Park Grill. Of course, we had dessert. I ordered an apple tart. A long skinny slice of a big tart, served with a little scoop of cinnamon ice cream. There’s really not much difference between a pie and a tart, is there? This slice of apple and cinnamon and crust was perfectly spiced, extremely fresh, baked to perfection.
Later, I went out for pizza with a friend who is a native New Yorker. He bought the pizza: and I treated for dessert. I wanted pie. “When you are in New York, you don’t have pie, you have cheesecake or pastry. “ Curious. Okay, I had a cannoli, which was so delicious and rich that I couldn’t finish it. My mouth wanted more, but my full stomach protested.
The next day I wandered through Chelsea Market—I was eager to try a brownie from the famous Fat Witch, but alas, they were closed. But Sarabeth’s was open. Now, Sarabeth’s was on my original list of pies to try. But they weren’t offering pie so early in the day. I’ve always felt that when you travel, you must keep an open mind and go with the flow. So to speak. A tart would do.
I ordered a ginger pecan tart and if Sarabeth’s pies are the same quality as their tarts (small pies, after all), there is hope in New York City for not just decent pie, but incredibly delicious pie. Fresh ingredients. Good crust. Not too sweet.
Is it really that complicated, New York City?