Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Just Desserts 11: The Pie Gourmet (Vienna, VA)
RESTAURANT: The Pie Gourmet
LOCATION: 507 Maple Avenue West Vienna, VA 22180
DATE: June 19, 2005
DESSERT: Raspberry-Peach Pie; Strawberry Pie
PRICE: Family dessert
At my wedding, I don’t want a cake. I want pie. Blueberry, pumpkin, peach, definitely pecan, maybe apple, and the ultimate black raspberry – I want them all and a host of tiny ovens to keep the pies warm. Throw in some high quality ice cream and I won’t even require a pre-nup. If the bride doesn’t like pie or at least acquiesce to this, my one demand, then she’s going to have to find another groom. Or at least accept that the only way I’ll be able to go through with the proceedings is if I’m very, and I mean very, drunk. I think pie is the more appealing option.
Every time I go home, my mom buys two pies from Vienna’s Pie Gourmet to appease my cravings. Call me a momma’s boy, fine, I’ll take the moniker without argument as I savor each bite of delicious pie. The Pie Gourmet’s creations show up on our Thanksgiving table, Christmas dessert, and any other occasion that merits dessert. Thus, with my grandma and aunt in town, and my sister just returning from China and Vietnam, there was cause for celebratory pie. I was lucky to be home.
Pie Gourmet’s best pies are the Sweet Potato and Plum-Walnut, but considering the humidity of summer in Virginia, the heaviness of these pies seemed far from inviting. Instead, my mom opted for the peach-raspberry and the quintessential warm weather pie, strawberry. The peach-raspberry has a French, butter crumb crust that warrants a favorable comparison to cobbler. The mixture of brown sugar and flour gives the pie a mild crunch which subsides to the taste of creamy smoothness once placed in the mouth. While surely laden with butter, the crust is sublimely dry, without the faintest sign of unwanted greasiness.
When Pie Gourmet bakes a fruit pie, they actually load it up with fruit. We’ve all had the disastrous experience of a fruit pie that is 90% crust, 5% fruit and 5% jelly, corn syrup and sugar mixture (Sara Lee I’m looking in your direction). But Pie Gourmet, whether dishing up pecan or key lime, emphasizes the filling and not the base. The crusts are as good as they are because they come in such moderated portions. The peach-raspberry was excellent, though the raspberries were a bit too dominant and the peach needed to play a more central role in the pie. Like all Pie Gourmet’s pies, the filling is only moderately sweet, relying not on voluminous amounts of added sugar, but on the fruit’s natural pectin to carry the pie. It’s a successful, though often under utilized, way to make pie in this era of Emeril lard and sugar overindulgence.
Though the peach-raspberry was wonderful, the strawberry was better. From looks alone, the congealment surrounding the strawberries suggested the pie would possess an offsetting sweetness. But this was far from the case. The filling exhibited a delicate liquidity hidden by its appearance. The huge, halved strawberries commanded this pie, leaving room for little else. The lack of a top cover of crust was a clear example of addition by subtraction. This was a true strawberry pie, with the crust used as a background compliment to the star attraction.
Well I recognize going home should involve the comfort of home cooked meals, maybe it’s alright to have dessert from the outside. Thomas Wolfe (the one that didn’t wear white suits, write “shocking” novels about how crazy college kids do these strange things called hook-ups and tout Republicanism with every swipe of his pen) was right to say you can’t go home again. Life moves forward and the Vienna of my childhood has long since ceased to exist. But Pie Gourmet is still around and for that I’m thankful. Now if I can just get pie at my wedding, life will be close to perfect.
Posted by Vincent Rossmeier at Wednesday, June 22, 2005