A few nights ago the good folks at Food Republic invited us to their Summer Pie Party, held at Little Owl: the Venue in the West Village. It featured more amazing pie than anyone could possibly ever eat, all from some of the best bakers and chefs in the city. Plus: lots of fun, refreshing cocktails. Needless to say, we took Food Republic up on their offer, gorged ourselves silly, laughed and chatted with pie makers and our excellent Little Owl hosts, and walked away with five valuable lessons.
1. Pie Trumps Cake, Always and Forever
Sorry, cake bakers out there, but all else being equal, pie is not only more delicious than cake because of the crust, but because it's also so much more versatile and can done up sweet or savory. I mean, just look at the range of taste sensations we had to choose from at the party! There were:
- Duck and Cherry Hand Pies from Geraldo Gonzalez of El Rey Coffee Bar
- Buttermilk Chess Pie with Peaches and Cream from Husk Nashville's Lisa Donovan
- Smoked Chicken and Onion Pie via Richard Kuo of Pearl & Ash
- Amazing Birch Beer creation from the wizards at Four & Twenty Blackbirds, which in my opinion is still the best pure pie shop in the city.
Make a note for all those pie-required occasions coming up this holiday season.
2. Miss Lilly's 7A Cafe in the East Village is Worth the Trip
My favorite savory pie of the night–and the competition was fierce–came from Miss Lilly's Adam Schop, an insane Game Pie stuffed with all sorts of meat (pigeon, deer, grouse, pig) and served with a Caribbean Jerk Aspic, Mango Chutney, and Spicy Cucumbers. It was unbelievably good, this dish. Schop told me he's coming up with more and more crazy combos like this at Miss Lilly's 7A, including a Jerk Ramen special that I'll bet is worth the trip. Update: I went last night, had the ramen, it was awesome.
3. Babycakes Reigns Supreme in the Vegan Baking World
I'm neither vegan nor gluten-free, but because more and more NYC bakers are catering to those with dietary restrictions, I've had more than my fair share of such goodies over the last few years. And still, as far as I can find, no one has bested Erin McKenna's Babycakes, which has been delighting all comers since it opened on the Lower East Side in 2006 (also owner of Pip's Place on the Upper East Side). I just recently popped into McKenna's shop for a Samoa Doughnut, inspired by the Girl Scout cookie Samoa. One word: delicious. Her Summer Pie Party contribution, a decadent Peach and Cherry Cobbler with caramel and vanilla, was possibly the winner among all the sweets.
4. Jeni's Ice Cream is Worth $13 a Pint
The finest pies deserve the finest "a la mode", so Food Republic and Little Owl had plenty of Jeni's Splendid on hand. Based in Ohio and with a storefront Nashville, Jeni's has become increasingly available in NYC of late–all Whole Foods carry it, as well as most "specialty" food stores–and it truly is on-another-level heavenly. Start with the Salted Caramel (by far the best version of this now-ubiquitous flavor), but you really can't go wrong with anything Jeni makes. Like my scoop of Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk, for example, pictured below with the Buttermilk Chess Pie. Yes, Jeni's Splendid costs about double what even most premium brands and ice cream parlors in NYC are charging, but if you only indulge a couple of nights a week, it is so worth it.
5. Little Owl Has an Amazing Event Space
What a great event space! I don't have call to book party spaces that much (or, really, ever) in my life, but if I did, Little Owl: the Venue would be my go-to for small to mid-sized gatherings. Located on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village, the famous restaurant's "catering showroom" is smartly designed with a full open kitchen, a cozy bar, and enough room to seat as many as 40 guests up front, or accommodate 70 people mingling about. The food is guaranteed to be good if you use their in-house service (this IS a Joey Campanero joint, after all), but even if you bring in your chefs, you can count on the supremely friendly and professional staff to make sure everything runs smoothly.