Urban Dictionary defines “pie in the sky” as a reward one receives upon death. Can’t wait that long? Get your fix ahead of time with one of these delicious options recommended in part by Tony Sansalone, executive pastry chef at the high-end Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas. You’ll thank us later, even if your waistline does not.
For Sansalone, the sweet tooth doesn’t finish when he hangs up his chef hat at the end of the day. “Since moving to Texas, I’ve experienced a few buttermilk pies,” he says. “Cutie Pies in Austin has the best hands down. It is more custardy than others I’ve tried, almost like a flan, and not eggy at all. The texture is very complex. It can stand on its own, but it melts in your mouth and has a great creaminess to it. It’s a great balance of vanilla and nutmeg in the flavor profile.”
“Starting my culinary career in South Florida, I’ve had to opportunity to sample this pie—a lot,” says the former Four Seasons pastry chef. “When in the Keys, I would take the time to have Kermit’s key lime pie. The two noticeable “key” things that distinguish this pie are that they use fresh juice—it is rather tart, not too sweet like the others I’ve had—and the crush has a buttery flavor. It is simple but perfect.”
Be careful not to accidentally drive by Pie Shop, located in a strip mall in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. Just behind a nail salon, you will eat the best homemade pies in Georgia. Should you ever tire of the flavor, this pie vendor only has a million delicacies you won’t find in other Southern diners. Rice Krispies pie, chocolate turtle pie and the Grasshopper, made from chocolate chip cookie crumbs, round out the long list of dessert pie selections.
“These are my next pie inspiration projects,” Sansalone raves. “My mother-in-law makes the best fried pies in the world! This form of pie is something overlooked!” Try making your own at home with a classic cherry or blueberry pie from the grocery store. To intensify the flavor, add a bit of cinnamon to your butter sauce when pan frying it. Or order some from The Amish Pie Company in Ohio. They’re available in cherry, apple, blueberry and peach flavors.
You have to trust a place where every dish served is a pie. Chicago’s Hoosier Mama Pie Company has fluffy cream atop their passion fruit pie in its thick, whipped glory, but they also offer a pie for just about every personality. Bring your date, frenemies or annoying grandmother—the selection really is outstanding.
Sansalone walked into the best apple pie in Texas unexpectedly: “In the fall, while on a hunting trip in the Texas hill country, I stopped in at Love Creek Orchards cider mill in Medina, Texas. They have a little café on the premises, nothing fancy. I got an order of apple pie that was as good as it gets! They use a variety of fresh apples rather than one kind. This pie was very homemade and had an excellent flavor.” If a trip deep into the heart of Texas is too far for you, make your own by throwing some green apples into your homemade pie.
San Francisco’s Green Chile Kitchen opened up a pie business, continuing their Mexican flare. At Chile Pies (& Ice Cream), customers keep coming back for the one-of-a-kind pecan pie, because where else can you get your abuela’s homemade chocolate and an American classic melded into one? A must-try the next time you’re in the Bay Area.
“The historical Driskill Hotel has a great pecan pie,” Sansalone humble brags. “Most pecan pies I’ve had—lots of them!—tend to have too many nuts. Our pie has the right amount of pecans and still has its gooey wet side. We use locally grown ingredients. We utilize sea salt in our filling and in our crust. The crust is a little on the salty side, creating a fine balance with the sweet filling, and the pie is served with a scoop of homespun vanilla ice cream.” Consider our arms twisted.
On your way through the Show-Me State, stop by Lula Belle’s in Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal. Mike Ginsberg and his third-generation baker wife, Pam, offer homemade pies of all varieties including key lime, carrot and the Bordello Bombe, “a giant wedge of layered ice cream, fudge, candy bar crumbles and Oreo cookie crust, dipped in chocolate, served with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry.” Still, we’re partial to the Grasshopper, featuring several layers of chocolate underneath delectable rich whipped cream, with a gourmet chocolate chip garnishing each slice. Think Mississippi mud pie meets 1950s cafeteria dessert. So you know, a light treat.
Oh yes, it’s real! Laura’s Candies in New Orleans’ French Quarter sells a Dark Chocolate Mississippi Mud Pie flavored delight. Take home your own box at Mardi Gras, with no need to flash anyone for beads (or boxed candy).
This article was originally published on MadeMan.com, owned by Defy Media. Defy Media closed the website in January 2019. I am thankful for my time spent with my interview subjects and the Mademan.com editorial staff. To keep the articles alive, I have republished everything on my website.