I was just talking to a friend about pies the other day, about how there seems to be a dearth in places selling traditional hand-made pies – pies the kind your grandmother would make (if she was American). Good ol’ crusty, buttery, rustic pies, crimped unevenly at the edges with quick fingers and filled to the brim with filling. Grandma would roll out supple pastry sheets speckled with butter, tuck the edges into a snug pie pan, layer yet another sheet on top to sandwich it all, and then slip everything into a toasty oven to brown and to perfume the home with the heady scent of Pie.
I think it’s about time we all got American grandmothers of our own.
Of course, I thought of Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a cafe in the Gowanus neighbourhood of Brooklyn that specialises in double-crusted, wholesome pies that I popped into during one of my rare Me-times. I’d heard about it, and about the two-sister team that courageously decided to move their tiny pie-baking business out of their apartment and into a proper bustling cafe. They have been selling out their pies faster than they could make them ever since.
I remember taking a step inside the cafe and getting cocooned by a gentle commingling of warm aromas. It smelt like home.
“This must be where pies go when they die.”
Or, well, where people go to eat pies, and then ascend into Pie Heaven.
It should have been impossible to feel like I’d stepped into the interior of an actual pie, and it was only after I sat down at one of the unpolished mahogany tables that I noticed the kitchen directly behind the counter. Everything was being made by hand and in plain sight of any patron. Why squirrel away a kitchen, baking pies in obscurity when you could show it all off?
The slice of Salted Caramel Apple pie that I ordered was sublime. The filling was perfectly chunky, sweet and salty, and the crusts crunchy and flaky. I had a dollop of whipped cream on the side, but the pie was excellent as it is. I could eat an entire pie crust – yes, the crust – all on its own. It has the unmistakable taste of hand-made pastry.
There’s a sort of country feel to Four & Twenty, all wooden beams with that cosy, homespun beauty. Pie flavours change all the time, running the gamut from Strawberry Balsamic to Rosemary Honey Shoofly. I would be a hungry regular if I lived in the neighbourhood, because I can’t imagine getting sick of pies. Cakes and coffee I can do without, but pies and coffee? Perfection.
I frown upon chichi gourmet pie places. Where on earth does one go in Singapore for old-fashioned pie?! All this talk about pies has got me hankering for a bold, thick slice. I may get frustrated enough to bake one.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Address: 39 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11215
Corner of 8th street and 3rd Avenue
Area: Park Slope / Gowanus
Tel: (718) 499 2917