The amazing tart lemon curd at Magpie in Philadelphia. (Photo: Sam Kaplan)
By Charlotte Druckman
Pumpkin pie. Few dishes can cement a new memory—while also calling up cherished family moments—quite like this one. And few bakers make this famed holiday dessert quite like Maury Rubin, at New York’s City Bakery. This is no postmodern interpretation, just traditional pumpkin pie done especially right: a buttery graham-cracker crust with a well-calibrated punch of spice in the filling.
The appeal of pie is hard to describe. It’s more than just a delicious dessert. There’s comfort, tradition, and a strong sense of place in every bite. Whether it’s a classic standard or a fresh take with unique ingredients, a standout slice of pie will be forevermore associated with the when, where, and why of its serving.
If you’re looking for slices of nostalgia or bold new baked goodness, there’s a perfect slice of pie somewhere in America waiting for you. Whether or not to add whipped cream is entirely up to you.
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Magpie Artisan Pies, Philadelphia
You’ll find pie shakes and “pie fries”—but we still love the traditional tart lemon curd. (1622 South St.;iluvmagpie.com)
(Photo: Sam Kaplan)
Dahlia Bakery, Seattle
The triple coconut cream is the signature sweet at Tom Douglas’s shop (and an off-menu special at his other restaurants in town). (2001 Fourth Ave.;tomdouglas.com)
(Photo: Sam Kaplan)
Three Babes Bakeshop, San Francisco
The cult-favorite treats—including the salty honey walnut—are sold at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. (threebabesbakeshop.com)
(Photo: Ella Phillips/Flickr)
Hoosier Mama Pie, Chicago
In 2009, legendary pie-maker Paula Haney opened this “artisanal bakery” in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood and started cranking out pies. Chicagoans can’t get enough. Her fans include chef Graham Elliot. His favorite? The Key Lime Pie, which is distinguished by its gingersnap crust. The crunchiness stands in perfect contrast to the filling’s creaminess, while the spice provides an unexpected but winning complement to the tart lime. (hoosiermamapie.com)
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Mission Pie, San Francisco
Named for the district in which it resides, this seven-year-old pie shop uses only seasonal ingredients, which are locally sourced whenever possible. (This is San Francisco, after all.) The must-try pie is actually a tart prepared with plum and frangipane, a sweet paste made from almonds. The sweet nuttiness of the almonds comes through with impressive clarity, as does the fleeting flavor of the ripe fruit. (missionpie.com)
(Courtesy: Scratch Baking/Facebook)
Scratch, Durham, N.C.
Phoebe Lawless’s trademark crusts are made with plenty of butter (for maximum flakiness) and very little sugar (to showcase the milk’s natural sweetness). Most of her pies are stuffed with the season’s bounty—native persimmons, for example, available for a short stint during the holidays. But her double-crusted beauty Shaker Lemon is offered year-round. Lawless fills it with whole, sliced lemons that have been macerated for up to three days. Once baked, they take on the consistency of marmalade. Pucker up! (piefantasy.com)
City Bakery, New York
The holiday season in the Big Apple wouldn’t be the same without pies from City Bakery, where Maury Rubin is also known for inventing the pretzel croissant. When it comes to pumpkin pie, Rubin wisely sticks to tradition. After all, few desserts are more associated with nostalgia, comfort, and a sense of season. And Rubin’s tastes much like any other homemade pumpkin pie—only better. The buttery graham-cracker crust should be considered the archetype for all others, and the filling delivers a well-calibrated punch of spice. (thecitybakery.com)
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(Courtesy: Aroma Pie Shop)
The Aroma Pie Shop, Whalan, Minn.
“I have 11 sisters and they all have gardens and pick rhubarb for me. Some of the neighbors around here let me pick theirs,” says Maggie Gergen, who dishes out at least a dozen kinds of pie each day at her shop in southeastern Minnesota. There’s the timeless rhubarb custard and strawberry rhubarb, but her Bluebarb takes the cake. Gergen made it first—a combination of blueberry and, yes, rhubarb—at a nephew’s request. With so many sisters, let’s hope for more inspirations from the family. (618 Main St., Whalan, MN; 507/467-2623; thearomapieshop.com)
Judy’s Gourmet Garage, Bayfield, Wisc.
In 1982, Judy Faragher and her sister sold their first apple pies at a hometown festival. That original crowd-pleaser is always on the menu at her shop, but so are a host of other, less-conventional pies. She uses fresh local ingredients whenever possible, but when the cupboard is bare Faragher opts for frozen, not canned, fruit. Her rhubarb cream cheese pie “comes out of the pan almost like a cheesecake would.” Make it extra decadent with a topping of sour cream. (85130 Hwy. 13, Bayfield, WI)
(Courtesy: Strawn’s Eat Shop/Facebook)
Strawn’s Eat Shop, Shreveport, La.
At the original Strawn’s Eat Shop on Kings Highway in Shreveport, LA—established in 1944—you’ll hear customers talk about the fresh strawberry pie. It’s delicious, to be sure, but follow the advice of waitress Brandy Snow: order the chocolate. Like its strawberry spotlight-stealing cohort, the chocolate pie comes with a whopping pile of whipped cream and features a homemade crust that’s low on sugar. “It’s everything else on top that makes it sweet,” says Snow. (125 Kings Hwy., Shrevenport, LA.; strawnseatshop.com)
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