There is a certain savory pastry that seems to have eluded popularity with the American public. A dish pervasive throughout the British Isles that is seemingly lost in translation here in the states, despite sticking in other British colonized areas such as Australia. It is a breakfast, lunch, or dinner served in a form fit for the person on the go, but even better when it can be enjoyed with leisure. I speak, of course, of the savory pie. Though chicken pot pie is a well-known American staple, other hearty pies are hard to find.
A few years ago it was not quite so hard with the presence of Pie Face in NYC. My family and I first attended a Pie Face while looking for a quick and easy pre-show dinner in Hell’s Kitchen and were delighted with the selection of savory pies, each flavor with a different facial expression painted on. Every time we would return to the city, we sought out a Pie Face near us. It was different, tasty, and something we couldn’t get anywhere near us. Unfortunately, one visit we went to the Hell’s Kitchen location for a bite, and there was no Pie Face to be found. Upon googling, we found that the chain had shut down all of its locations in NYC and was only accessible via a trip to Australia.
So it has been quite a while since such readily accessible hand pies have been a reality. We make them from time to time (one very successful venture including a jumble of Thanksgiving leftovers) but we have always been on the lookout for a place that provides them. The good looking savory-specific locations found on the internet have just never been around where we need to be going, and so our beloved savory pies have been out of reach.
But sometimes we find what we desire when we stop looking. Such was the truth when I went on a mission for sweet pie and found the savory ones for which I had been searching for years. It was a rainy Monday, and I felt that the weather was calling me to find a bakery to get a slice of pie while I did some writing. Browsing my possibilities, it seemed that Daly Pie was just what I was looking for. A small shop tucked away near the base of Prospect Park, it seemed like a great place to get some distance from FiDi and get some work done. Their selection was also intriguing, in that it is ever changing. They make their pies seasonally, and are eternally on a rotating menu. They’ll often post the flavors offered on Facebook or Instagram, but I tend to enjoy the surprise of walking in and seeing what’s available at such an establishment.
So on that rainy Monday morning I ventured across to Brooklyn for some pie. Emerging at the base of Prospect Park I felt that I was in a world unlike the concrete New York City that had been pressing in on me at break neck speed throughout the busy semester. In contrast, my walk to the café was spotted with plant life illuminated by the rain that, conversely, sent all human life indoors, leaving the sidewalks fresh and clear for a stroll, if a little wet. It was a day to take a breath for oneself. To sit alone and take in your favorite media, or work on a passion project. To indulge in a slice of one of the most comforting desserts: pie.
I came upon the bakery and was struck by how its quaint exterior supported my already cozy mood. A brilliant white and red paint lining the square windows that adorn the storefront, a slice of pie accompanying the “Daly Pie” written across the top. I increasingly felt that I was moving from city, to town, to village as I entered the small establishment. With one bench lining a row of four small tables against one wall, a small counter against the other, and one larger table up by the window, there was nothing grand about Daly Pie in its ambiance. The chair upholstery is mismatched, there’s no vast open floorplan, or dim lighting. But that is the charm of Daly Pie. It is a rural haven in the big city. There for you to sit, relax, and have a slice of pie.
I took a look at the small glass box that contained that day’s variety, and it was then that I saw the savory pie variety. Large disks of flaky pastry containing sausage, egg, and cheese, mushroom and gorgonzola, vegan curry potato (and another variety that I frankly cannot remember) lined the top of the case and sparked that special joy of unexpected discovery in me. Though not my original intention, I knew I must satisfy years of yearning, and order a savory pie in addition to my sweet. To fulfill this, I went with a mushroom and gorgonzola, a combination that pleased my most prominent savory taste buds. My sweet selection was undeniable from the second I saw it, so the s’mores pie would be the sweet pairing.
As the tables lining the wall were all full, I was given the gift of the window table and settled in with my two pies and Microsoft Word to get two different kinds of work done. Naturally, I had to try the mushroom first, not only because it was the savory entrée, but it was the one of the two that had a classic pastry crust. This crust glistened beautifully, with a golden brown hue that boasted a perfect doneness and sheen advertising ample butter. Buttery was the name of the game with this crust. Not so much that it was weighed down or gummy, but just a little rich in its flakey layers. This was a great fatty foil to the meaty interior of the mushroom. When they said the pie was mushroom and gorgonzola, they meant it, because that was the entire contents of the filling. This was a well-seasoned combo that filled the entirety of the monstrous disk. However, while yummy, I could have used a third ingredient to break up the mass of mushroom. Perhaps some egg, some potato, spinach? Even just more Gorgonzola used as an element of filling rather than a binding agent for the mushroom. Just a little something different in texture. But in terms of flavor I was pleased. The pie did its job admirably, a perfect rainy day comfort food. It was not Pie Face, but it would certainly do the trick for the next time I’m craving a hand pie.
Next was the original reason for my coming – dessert. There were many things that had me excited about this pie: the graham cracker crust, the chocolate pudding filling, the toasted meringue top. This was a classic s’mores pie construction. The meringue was a little soft rather that crisp on the outside, though this was understandable given the high moisture in the air, and therefore forgiven. There was still a visible toast and good body underneath. There was also not too much meringue, which I was grateful for. I did not want this star combination of flavors to be ruined by the overriding sweetness of mass amounts of meringue. But how would the entire slice fare in terms of proportion? Would the thin layer of graham cracker crust be enough to get the importance of the flavor in the mix?
Luckily, all three sections shone through. The crumbled graham cracker served as a crust akin to the crust it forms on an actual s’more, a wonderfully crumbly base that mixes into the soft chocolate and mallow of the interior, or in this case the top. The chocolate was not a basic milk chocolate, but similar to that in a hot chocolate, with that indescribable quality so loved after an afternoon of sledding. The sugary pillow on top acted as a conduit for marrying the two stronger flavors into one harmonic finish. Each element shone on its own, but not so bright that it overpowered its comrades. It conveyed the flavor profile of s’mores precisely in a way that not only celebrated it, but celebrated each of the elements of the pie as well.
With these two pies and the homey surroundings, I felt perfectly at ease watching the rain fall as I did my writing. And that is why I look forward to returning to Daly Pie. It is a place tucked away from the polish of the city and left for one to step in, have a comforting slice of pie, and relax. Their pie serves to uplift you, celebrate the day you are having, eat well and fill your heart. Perfect for eating as you read a book, or perhaps to cap off a walk in the park. A great place to enhance a joyful day.