pumpktoberfest #43 -
treat yoself.

spice up yer nuts.

pumpktoberfest 2010!

#195 - links &
drinks 2011.


les foodtrepreneurs #2: first prize pies.

this is the lovely allison kave...

photo by kent meister

she bakes these gorgeous pies...

photo by nick ferrari

i occasionally eat these pies, and i'm going to tell you about my two favorites!...and allison is going to tell you about her wonderful company, first prize pies.

a few weeks ago, i was lucky enough to attend a BBQ that allison and her bourbon ginger pecan pie also attended. i basically sat down by the pie and didn't get up again until it was crumbs. i just couldn’t stop taking a little bit more and a little bit more. this pie is totally addictive! it's not overly sugary like many pecan pies and it has the bite of bourbon and ginger that perfectly complements the toasty pecans. it is no surprise to me that this is the pie that started it all by winning the first annual brooklyn pie bake-off back in 2009.

then, on a recent sweltering saturday, i had no less than three birthday parties to attend and i wanted to give each birthday girl a sweet treat before i ran off to the next one. i decided the perfect thing would be allison's adorable mini-pies, so i ran over to green grape provisions and grabbed all the mini s'mores pies they had! these little buggers are so tasty! they immediately take you back to grade school camp-outs or family BBQs where you could roast marshmallows on the grill after dinner was over. bonus: they're not as messy. the toasted marshmallow fluff on the top really makes these perfect, and it's that little attention to detail that makes allison's pies so amazing. needless to say, all my birthday girls loved them!

in between eating & gifting pies, i had a little chat with allison to find out more about her process and how she became an award winning pie-trepreneur (sorry):

natalie: what inspired you to start the business? why pie?! what were you doing before baking pie?

allison: it all started as a little side business--i'd been working in the contemporary art world for years, mostly in galleries, but was pretty burned out with that whole scene. i knew that i wanted to work in food, but wasn't sure exactly how to go about doing that. one day, my boyfriend jay emailed me about the 1st annual brooklyn pie bake-off, saying only, "you should enter this. you will win." i certainly wasn't expecting that to happen but i thought it would be fun. i entered with my bourbon ginger pecan pie, which i'd been making for every thanksgiving as long as i could remember, and the s'mores, which i had never made before in my life. lo and behold, the pecan pie won the top prize! i was over the moon and just wanted to ride the wave for a bit, so i started selling pies out of my mom's shop, roni-sue's chocolates (ed - whose beercorn has our approval). it started to really take off, with people placing orders and showing a lot of interest, and i found it so gratifying that i decided to give it a name, put together a little website, got my LLC, and then a week later daily candy wrote a review and i was suddenly seriously in business. within a few months i'd quit my day job and was an official pie lady! pie has always been my absolute favorite thing to make. i find it so soothing, so meditative, and it's an endlessly versatile format. you're given the constraints of crust, filling and sometimes, topping, and what you can do within those boundaries is practically limitless. i love coming up with new recipes, i love working with seasonal fruits (nothing has ever made me feel so connected to the annual growing cycle as baking pies for a living), and i love working with dough. it's physical, it requires patience, and the more you do it, the better your craft becomes. it also has such a rich history and there are a million amazing stories about pie--i love talking with my customers and hearing about their grandmothers' recipes, their own techniques, or just their fond memories of that perfect slice.

n: where do you bake the pies? how many do you sell on average per week?

a: i'm still baking out of my mom's shop, roni-sue's chocolates, in the essex street market on the lower east side. i love getting to see her all the time, and we both have a similarly playful approach to flavors and recipes. she's a great taste-tester for me! it's incredible how generous she's been with her space and her time. it's getting to the point where I reallllly need to move into a space of my own, as my production has increased a lot and i'm ready to step things up even more. i'm in the process of looking at a potential retail & production space, fingers crossed! right now i'm selling around 50 large pies and anywhere from 150-300 mini pies per week. sometimes it's more than that because of special events or big retail orders...i've been getting lots of requests for wedding pies--so rad!

n: where/how do you make the most sales?

a: i sell the most pies through the wholesale side of my business. fatty 'cue has been my longest-running wholesale client--they serve my pies for dessert. my brother corwin is the executive chef of all the fatty crab & 'cue restaurants--when i started my company, they were just getting ready to open 'cue after an eternal delay. i brought a shoo-fly pie as a thank you gift to the kitchen during the friends & family dinner and the next day my brother called me up to see if i'd be interested in baking pies for the restaurant. that really helped to launch things for me in a major way. now i'm also selling my pies to dean & deluca in soho, and they seem to be really taking off there. it's kind of surreal!

n: what is the most popular flavor? what is your personal fave?

a: i'd say the most popular flavor has to be the s'mores pie. i totally get why--it looks cool, it's delicious, and it brings back great childhood memories. my personal favorite changes often. i do love the chocolate peanut butter pretzel, as it's nice and salty from the martin's pretzels crust i make for it (it's also awesome frozen). i've been really into the shaker lemon lately as well, which is almost like a cross between lemon marmalade and lemon curd, and the root beer float pie is another favorite. i just adore root beer.

n: tell us about your mom? how is it working with her?

a: i wouldn't have made it this far in my business (or my life, for that matter!) without my mom. she has been an invaluable support both materially and emotionally. she's also just a huge inspiration for me, both for how she bravely switched careers and pursued her creative passion, and for her approach to ingredients and how she works with flavors. her mind is always churning out somewhat kooky and brilliant ideas, and it's a great environment to be in.

n: any crazy pie story you'd like to share?

a: not too long ago i got a call to be in a last-minute TV shoot for NBC's show LXNY. they were doing a segment on miniature desserts and wanted to include my mini pies. when they showed up, i had a few minis for them to taste on-camera and discuss. the host took one look at my banoffee pie (a british-style banana cream pie with lots of whipped cream on top), and insisted that i smash it in her face at the end of the segment! i was a little nervous and freaked out and to be honest it actually did feel rather violent when i did it, but in another way it was crazy fun and i loooved it! she was a real sport--i foresee a great television career in her future.

n: hahaha. well, at least she got to lick some of it off. sounds worth it. thanks for your time!

natthelibrarian resides in brooklyn where she dreams about chickens (live ones), gardens, cheese, beer and libraries. she is employed as a research librarian in manhattan. for further nosing around, see her on twitter and at her blog.

« and the tacos will set you free. | Main | only in ny #11: oaxaca. »

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>