One of the joys of summer – in theory at least – is pie. Fruit pie, specifically. There’s an abundance of fruit in the summer months just begging to be baked into a good, old-fashioned double-crust pie. Blueberries, cherries, peaches, and strawberries – just to name a few. Everywhere you go there are road-side stands offering “fresh baked pies” – you can’t drive more than half a mile in the Hamptons without passing such a place.
So why is it so incredibly difficult to find a good piece of pie?
Dear reader, this has been a vexing problem for me for many years. The temperature heats up (which I hate, BTW – three months of bad hair days, sweat-soaked blouses and making excuses for not being seen in public in a swim suit) and one of the supposed consolations of 90 degree weather is a fine piece of pie. Preferably cherry. Every summer I go in search of new pie source. And most summers I am left feeling terribly disappointed and bereft.
Now don’t get me wrong: I believe that there is no such thing as a bad piece of pie. There’s good, better, and best pie. That’s it. It’s like French fries. There are no bad ones. Plus, with a less-than-stellar piece of pie you can always drown it in whipped cream or ice cream, which never fails to improve the situation.
But sometimes, the heart wants a truly great piece of old-fashioned pie: fresh fruit, just the right amount of sugar, not too runny but not too gelatinous, and with a crust that tastes really good on its own (translation: it has sugar in it).
I’ve been on a multi-year odyssey to find sources of such pies in every locale where I find myself in the summertime. The Hamptons, the Berkshires, Martha’s Vineyard, Lake Winnipesaukee, Aspen, wherever the road leads. I always start the month of June feeling optimistic, and by late August, I am back in a funk. It is really, really hard to find an exceptional piece of pie. Soggy crust, insufficiently sweet, way too sweet, not enough fruit – been there, done that. Ate it all anyway, of course, ‘cause it’s pie, but still – it’s disheartening after a while.
To save you some shoe leather, I’m going to share the tried-and-true sources of truly outstanding fruit pies. If you find yourself in one of these places, do yourself a favor and buy one. I promise you, it will be worth the calories:
1. Martha’s Vineyard. It begins and ends with the fresh, hot pies from Morning Glory Farmin Edgartown. Just walking into the charming shop at the farm will make your mouth water – the scent of coffee and fresh baked goods, the sight of vibrantly-colored displays of fresh produce, and a cheerful crowd of shoppers carrying wicker baskets and bunches of sunflowers – this place has been a summer paradise for over 40 years. The good news? The baked goods taste even better than they smell! We personally opt for the peach pie and the zucchini bread, but any of their pies, muffins, cookies and quick breads are off the chain. We have friends who bike there almost every day, so that they can consume these delights with no guilt, and burn the calories off on the bike ride back home. If you’re invited to someone’s home for dinner, bring a couple of these as hostess gifts, and you’ve ensured yourself a return invitation.
2. The Hamptons. Our favorite roadside stand alongside Route 27 is sadly gone without a trace. But happily, The Milk Pail in Water Mill has set up shop along the main route into and out of the Hamptons. Their pies are terrific, and we usually wait to buy them on our way back home – it takes the sadness out of leaving such a lovely place when you know there’s going to be pie on the other end. We can vouch for both the cherry and the peach. Forks in the air!
3. The North Fork of Long Island. I’ll confess that I conducted my own personal pie-tasting contest during a recent trip to the pastoral North Fork. I stopped at three random stands by various roads, bought a cherry and a peach pie at each, and then brought them home and asked my family to help me award the “Best in Show” for each flavor. The winner, and by a long way? Bayview Market and Farms on Main Road in Aquebogue. The fruit was sweet and fresh, the crust was delicious, and the consistency was ideal. While you’re there, you can stock up on fresh asparagus, tomatoes, corn, and all manner of other farm-fresh delights. The scent of the place alone will make you want to linger.
4. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. This idyllic part of New Hampshire is a must-visit if you prefer a lake cottage to an ocean view. If you’re not staying with friends, make the Wolfeboro Inn in the charming town of Wolfeboro your home base, and you’ll find beautiful lake views, an outstanding bookstore (The Country Bookseller), lots of farm-to-table dining options and Black’s, one of the best general stores in all of New England. You’ll also find some amazing baked goods. Head to Gatherings by Stellaloona; they make fruit tarts instead of pie, and the cherry is fantastic. They also have delicious cookies and cakes.
5. Aspen, Colorado. Culture mavens usually find themselves in Aspen in early summer for either the Ideas Festival or the Aspen Music Festival. If you go, make sure to stop by the Paradise Bakery for dessert. I confess, when I’m there, I opt for the carrot cake bar, a brownie, or a chocolate chip cookie. But since they clearly know their way around a stove, I’m certain that their pie would pass the taste (and smell) test. Make it a-la-mode, as they also make incredible ice cream right in the store.
6. The Berkshires in Massachusetts. Come for Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, Shakespeare & Company or The Mount – stay for the baked goods at Patisserie Lenox on Church Street in downtown Lenox, Massachusetts.
7. The Adirondacks or Duchess County, New York. If you find yourself heading north from the city to upstate New York, we strongly suggest that you make a detour and stop at Wilkins Fruit and Fir Farm, just off the Taconic State Parkway in Yorktown Heights, New York. It is totally worth the 15 minutes or so that it will take you to hop off the freeway, grab a few fresh-baked pies and hot-out-of-the-fryer donuts, and then be back on your way. It might actually change your life. Theirs is the definitive cherry pie in my book: it may be possible that someone on planet Earth is making a better one, but I haven’t yet found it.
Why not just bake your own fruit pie, you say? Well, funny you should mention that. I actually do bake, from time to time. But never in the summer (did I mention that I cannot stand being hot?)
Besides, there’s something wonderful about a summer adventure in a beautiful place that’s topped off by a dessert that you can only get there. It’s a sense-memory of carefree summer days, guilt-free pleasures, and happiness. Sometimes a pie is more than just a pie.
So we here at Dandelion Chandelier wish you many perfect summer days and nights. And we hope that some of them involve a perfect piece of pie.