It's been a bad week for pie -- but then, every week is a bad week for pie unless you make the damn things yourself. Or your mom does. Or the ladies who stage the not-at-all-famous Annual Pie Social in North Ferrisburg, Vermont, near where I spent my formative pie years.
Failing all of the above, I greeted the press release from Houston's fledgling Easy as Pie company with irrational hope. They promised real pie with real fruit; all it would take was $7.99, a trip to the Rice Epicurean Market's state-of-the-art frozen-food section, and a stint in my oven to revive the pie from its icy slumber. Peach, I decided, thinking nostalgically of my mom's version, tart and juicy and still possessed of some fresh-peach texture.
It didn't work out that way. Easy as Pie came up with a very respectable, flaky crust of the thickish variety, but the peaches inside had no more charm than processed fruit; cornstarch and cinnamon dominated the filling; and the sugar quotient scotched any hint of tartness. They've got a marketable idea here; wish they shared my notions of what a great pie should be.
Pie letdown is one thing, but within days I suffered a pie trauma. Well, a quiche trauma, if you want to get technical about it. All those patronizing quiche jokes notwithstanding, these savory French pies can be things of beauty. If you roll out a nice, thin crust; if you don't stint on the cream, eggs and cheese; if you blanch the bacon first or follow one of those Alsatian onion-tart recipes that can make you swoon.
But in the modern Frenchified bakery-cafes with which our burg is beset, microwave ovens (pie crusts' mortal enemy) nuke quiches into cowering submission. Dire experience has taught me to avoid them, but on a recent visit to Croissant-Brioche in the Rice Village, I must have suffered a pinpoint stroke, because when I came to my senses I was poking at a rubbery, brown-crusted... thing with a hideously sodden crust and a few hanks of tomato and onion trying feebly to lend some flavor. Worst quiche I ever attempted to eat, and that's saying something. If their cafe au lait hadn't been so good, I would have had a full-fledged pie breakdown. I may yet.