With local berries and stone fruit appearing at farmer's markets all over the tri-state area, a man's attention turns to pie.
Real pie, doublecrusted pie, the crust made with some combination of shortening, lard, and butter. The mark of a great pie maker is his or her ability to make a great doublecrusted fruit pie. Don't get me wrong, I love crumb pies and meringue pies and cream pies as well. It's just that a perfectly flaky doublecrusted pie, with the bottom crust golden brown instead of gummy, the fruit tender and not goopy or too runny, is a thing of beauty, and mighty delicious as well.
So without further adieu my top five NYC pie bakers:
Yura: Yura goes by one name, like a rock star or a supermodel. She can get away with that because her pies are so damn good. I serve her ready to bake apple pie at Thanksgiving, and unless you're one of those persons who insist on making their own pies, you should, too.
Sweet Melissa's: Melissa Murphy Hagenbart first became known for her delicious butterscotcch pudding when she was the pastry chef at Home on Cornelia Street a zillion years ago. She started selling extraordinary Thanksgiving pies outside the side door of the restaurant around that time, and she's just kept on going. She's got two bakeries now, one on Houston Street and the other on Court Street in Carroll Gardens (it takes guts to open a bakery in Carroll Gardens and not sell cannolis), and her pies are still very serious indeed.
Two Little Red Hens: I know I kvelled over their cheesecake in the Times and their birthday cakes on my blog, but Christina Winkler and her partner Mary Louise Clemens just flat out know how to make great homey baked goods using terrific ingredients and ferocious culinary curiousity and passion.
Mitchel London Foods: Mitchel London is an eccentric to be sure, but the man flat out knows how to make great food. His apple pies are towering beauties, filled with firm fruit and just enough cinammon and sugar. Sometimes his all butter crust isn't quite as flaky as I would like.
Little Pie Company : The place has gone a bit corporate in recent years, and the sour cream apple streusel pie, while still being pretty good, has become a cliche, but these guys still make a mean double-crusted pie. The crust is flaky and light, the fruit doesn't drip out of pie like a waterfall, and the bottom crust is usually just as brown as the top.
I know I've probably missed somebody, but I gotta go.
P.S. I know we all like to think of all these farmer mothers and grandmothers making great pies that their sons and daughters schlep to the city farmer's markets, but invariably I have been disappointed by pies I've bought at farmer's markets. That's why I always say let farmers grow and bakers bake.