Battle of the Dishes: Fourth of July Berry Pie Edition
Two Little Red Hens' strawberry-rhubarb pie.
This weekend is prime berry pie time -- cherries, blueberries, strawberries, and gooseberries are at the farmers' market, and we all have license to eat liberally at Fourth of July barbecues. Be a hero: Bring a pie to a cookout. But if you don't feel like turning on the oven, where should you procure this pie? We stopped in at two of our favorite bakeries -- Trois Pommes and Two Little Red Hens -- to check out their berry pies and see which one would prevail in a taste test.
Trois Pommes' cherry pies.
We had been planning to taste two sour cherry pies side by side, but Two Little Red Hens had sold out of most of their pies by 10 a.m. If you want your choice of fillings, go early! Instead, we picked up a beautiful, lattice-crust strawberry-rhubarb pie ($29). At Trois Pommes -- the winner of our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie Battle of the Dishes -- we went for a few mini sour cherry pies ($7 each). (You can also order full-sized sour cherry pies.)
Then we hustled back to the office, where we suddenly became very popular.
The strawberry-rhubarb filling is soft and thickly stewy. It tastes vibrantly of strawberries: floral and sweet but not sugary. The rhubarb gets lost a bit, though, and we wished the fruit mixture was more tart. The very flaky, tender, almost savory crust suggested it had been made with shortening, and the bottom crust soaked up the fruit juices, getting deliciously goopy but not soggy. We also liked the sprinkling of sugar that goes crunchy and slightly caramelized on top. It's a classic American-style pie, something a Midwestern grandma would make.
"I would eat this pie for breakfast," said an enthusiastic taster.
Is anything prettier than a cherry pie? The filling in Trois Pommes' version is pitch-perfect: very tart, juicy fruit. "I like how they left the cherries alone," said a taster, and she was right -- with just a bit of sugar and some heat, the cherries went limpid but retained their character. This is a pie that George Washington would cut down a tree for. The crust tastes of butter and faintly of almonds -- is there extract in there? -- and is much sweeter than Two Little Red Hens'. In fact, we found the crust to be more like a French tart crust than an American pie crust -- light-textured but not terribly flaky and very rich.
You can't really go wrong with either pie. But because we're feeling patriotic this weekend, we're declaring Two Little Red Hens' strawberry-rhubarb the winner. It's a classic fruit pie, the kind that should be cooling on the sill of a farmhouse. And if there's one thing we can all agree that America excels at, it's pie. And eating pie. Happy Fourth of July!
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