I used to have a popular pie cart called Pie Fridays. I’d wheel it out on Fridays but that wasn’t why it was called Pie Fridays. It all started on Friday nights in a bar in San Francisco. I was a bartender there. I took over Friday nights expecting to make way more money but the first couple nights I worked it was painfully slow. I needed to find a way to increase my night.
“What if we sell snacks after the kitchen closed?” I asked Corrine, an old friend and the waitress that worked the tables with me. I brought in late night snacks, nothing changed.
“What about desserts? “ I made some brownies but nothing.
I brought in a beautiful and delicious lemon tart. A little bit better, but nope.
Then I brought in an Apple Crumble Pie, wrote a “Pie Inside” sign on notebook paper and taped it to the door. People came in just for the pie. It sold out.
During that week I looked up recipes and made a wooden sign in the shape of a hand with a finger pointing into the restaurant. It said Pie Inside. When I opened at four pm with two pies, a few people immediately came in asking for slices. Maybe this would work.
I started an email list so people could know what pies I’d have that Friday. I made a chalk board sign for the other door with the night’s pies written on it. My night grew. It turns out people really enjoy drinking booz and eating pie. I started inventing recipes, obsessively baking sample pies during the week.
Here’s my dirty little secret. I don’t like pie. I rarely have had pie that I’m crazy about. I’m really a cake person. So I made pies that I thought I might like in a way I might like them. I made old fashioned pies I had heard about but had never had before like Key Lime, Banana Cream, Chocolate Custards, Lemon Custards, Cheese Cake Pies, Strawberry Rhubarb. I meticulously crafted recipes until they were exactly how I would like them. Here were some of my pie principles:
- Use graham cracker or cookie crusts as often as possible.
- Banana Cream Pies should always have graham cracker or cookie crust.
- Make pumpkin pie with a ginger cookie crust, not traditional pie crust.
- Pie recipes are from the old days when they lacked good ingredients and refrigeration. Never expect to have a good outcome based on a recipe. You will have to modernize it.
- Use salted butter.
- Always offer whipped cream
- Always sweeten whipped cream with powdered sugar and flavor it with vanilla or there’s no point.
- Rhubarb is disgusting and over rated. Use it sparingly.
I built a couple of cute pie safes to carry my pies and to store them at the bar. My night became a hit. Pie Fridays continued at that bar for two years until I had a vision to take it to the streets. But that story is for next time.