Thursday, January 23, 2014

Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State

Dozens of different pies on restaurant menus from the Delta to the Ozarks await hungry diners, and almost every delectable creation is a masterpiece of southern baking. Join food writer Kat Robinson and photographer Grav Weldon on a tour through an Arkansas culinary tradition. Kat has traveled the state, sampling more than 400 different varieties and absorbing stories along the way. Learn where fried pie is king and why a pie called Possum should be the official state pie. Meet the North Little Rock man who made and sold 100 different pies in a single day, and discover the new and innovative pie-making methods of chefs in Fayetteville and Hot Springs. It’s all here in this mouthwatering and informative collection.


Available at a wide selection of booksellers -- links are in the right column.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reece's Peanut Butter Cup at Red Rooster Bistro.

Our latest trip back to the Red Rooster Bistro in Alma surprised us... sadly, not in a good way.  The pies are still there, still remarkable and still as plentiful -- but the slices have now gone from a six-to-a-pie size to an eight-to-a-pie size.

However, we're loving on the Reece's Peanut Butter Cup pie.  Sweet cream and peanut butter cups with chocolate shavings is pretty awesome -- but the true secret is the peanut butter infused bottom crust.  Excellent.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Possum Pucker at Top of the Hill Cafe.

One of the restaurants named in both Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State and in Classic Eateries of the Ozarks and Arkansas River Valley -- has moved on. The Chuck Wagon Restaurant in Bee Branch has been sold, and is now operating as the Top of the Hill Cafe. Opened just two weeks ago, this place is promising.

Each day you can get a burger or one of the day's lunch specials (Saturday's barbecue) on a hot line. And every day there are desserts -- bundt cakes, cupcakes, layer cakes and of course pie.

The pie recently experienced at the Top of the Hill Cafe is the Possum Pucker Pie. This is a dessert entirely different from the better known Possum Pie. This dessert consists of tart lemon curd over a sweetened condensed milk cream base and a sweet cookie crust -- for a good combination of both sweet and tart.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Peach fried at Hilltop Travel Center.

Here's a great unexpected find.  Traveling over the July 4th holiday, we stopped in at the Hilltop Travel Center north of I-40 on I-540 to catch a drink and a snack for the road.  These big nine inch long fried pies were on a rack right by the register.  Turns out the girl who works in the little deli there gets up and makes them each morning.  The peach pie was full of fresh, stringy peaches... and was gone before we could photograph it out of the package.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cushaw pie at William's Tavern Restaurant.

Here's a south Arkansas delicacy called Cushaw Pie. It's made from a goose-necked squash that's green with white or yellow stripes. What memories that evoked! So, for you pie lovers, here's a recipe.

And if you want a slice like this, head to William's Tavern Restaurant at Historic Washington State Park near Hope.

Cushaw Pie.  (Kat Robinson)
Cushaw Pie

2 cups prepared cushaw squash puree
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces evaporated milk
Single pie crust 

Combine cushaw squash puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add eggs and vanilla then beat lightly with a whisk. Stir in evaporated milk. Mix well. Pour into a pastry-lined pie plate. Bake on the lowest oven rack at 375-degrees for 50-60 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Chill before serving.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Peach at Ventris Trail's End Resort.

It may not be even close to the beaten path, but the folks at Ventris Trail's End Resort on Beaver Lake know what they're doing. Six years ago they opened a little cafe inside the main lodge of the resort. Decorated in white and red, the place sports burgers and lunches and even wine and beer.

But your goal, should you choose to accept it, is to drive out down the peninsula from Garfield, off the paved road and out onto the tendril of a peninsula, climb the stairs and eat here. And when you go, get a pie. The crust is delicate and handmade, and the pies come in a variety of sorts -- from coconut cream and banana cream to delights such as those posted here.

The upper photo shows the peach pie and the strawberry rhubarb pie. The lower one showcases the peach pie. This isn't from a can, that's for sure. It's seasonal peaches. How can you tell? One is by texture -- there's a certain slight stringy consistency to local handpicked peaches you don't get from cling peaches. Two is by color -- look at the pinking. That comes from the bit around the pit.

How's it taste? Heavenly. A perfect early summer pie.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Blackberry fried

The haul across Arkansas from east to west or west to east is most likely taken across the excellent ribbon called Interstate 40.  This vital link through Arkansas connects North Carolina to California and all points in-between.

When the nights are long or the holidays nigh and there is no open restaurant in sight, stop in off Exit 35 at Ozark and take yourself inside the I-40 Travel Center.  Yes, here you will find the magnificent Hillbilly Hideout, a grand new comfortable and affordable restaurant where you may sit and dine on American and Ark-Mex favorites and breakfast standards.

But if time is short, comfort yourself with one of Ms. Janie's eight inch or bigger half-crescent fried pies, cellophane wrapped and showcased at every register. Peach, apple, cherry -- but it is the blackberry we must heartily recommend, along with a cuppa joe and a full tank to get you back on the road.

Hillbilly Hideout
I-40 Travel Center
Exit 35, I-40
Ozark, AR 72949
(479) 667-0711

Hillbilly Hideout on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 31, 2012

Blueberry fried.

There are too many items to confuse the mind at the bakery at Country Village near Star City.  Between the cakes, the pies, the doughnuts, the loaves of bread and cookies and jams and jellies and canned goods and such, there are so many things to make the mouth water.
Yet it's a very good idea to keep your sense of purpose, to walk in and order a blueberry fried pie or three.  Made from blueberry preserves created on-site, wrapped in doughnut dough and deep-fried, this is a pie with heft and moxie, and it deserves your full attention.

Country Village Bakery
158 Knight Haven Circle
Star City, AR 71667
(870) 628-3333

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Apple cinnamon fried.

In the book, we talk about the Delta custom of the fried pie by the cash register.  You can find them all over the state, wrapped in wax paper or cellophane and offered for sale for a buck or two to pick up and take with you.

The danger in this is when the pie needs heat.  A good pie is buttery and spice-packed enough where it doesn't matter.

That's the case at the Country Store in Rison, a gray-washed convenience and fuel center that offers wax paper wrapped fried pies in a cardboard box right next to the register.  The apple-cinnamon pie is our favorite; packed with soft-stewed cinnamon spiced apple and just the right amount of sugar, this pie takes it over the top with a decadent dusting of even more cinnamon and sugar.
Rison Country Store
1980 U.S. 63
Rison, AR 71665
(870) 357-8259

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Strawberry icebox.

The buzz around Searcy is that there's a new great place for catfish in town.  That place is The Lunchbox, and it's less than a year old.  But its recipes and catfish roots go straight to the famed and now defunct Georgetown One-Stop, the final word in all things catfish in Arkansas.

However, cheating oneself of a slice of the strawberry icebox pie at The Lunchbox is paramount to personal mutiny, and one's tastebuds might take an act of protest, if one can be determined.

What we do like about the strawberry icebox pie at The Lunchbox -- fresh-frozen chunks of Arkansas strawberries suspended in strawberry-juice pink tinted whipped cream, with enough extra whipped cream from a can on top to choke a horse.  The only other viable option is one of the restaurant's fabulous homemade fried pies, which can suitably be accepted if you're absolutely freezing.

1100 East Race Avenue
Searcy, AR
(501) 268-4040
On Facebook

The Lunch Box on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 28, 2012

Coconut meringue.

Every morning, Tuesday through Saturday, Charlotte Bowls makes pie crust.  She makes just enough pie crusts to fit in enough pans to fill every section of counterspace in her kitchen at her famed Keo shop -- and no more.  The pies are filled, the meringue is beaten and dotted on top, and the pies are baked.

Locals know to order pie when they come through the door -- or better yet, have an order called in when the restaurant opens at 11 a.m.

If you miss out on the coconut meringue pie, named the best coconut meringue in the South by Southern Living, there are other pies... and cakes as well, though the layered delights are often overlooked.

And if for some reason you eek in the door at the end of the day looking for your Keo Klassic and miss out on burger AND pie, you still have an opportunity at greatness with a classic milkshake.

Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets
290 Main Street
Keo, AR 72083
(501) 841-2123

Charlotte's Eats & Sweets on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Apple tartine.

How about an upside-down pie?  Though it doesn't look out of alignment with its internal axis, this slice of apple tartine was cooked the other way around.  The chefs at Terry's Finer Restaurant, the little French-inspired cafe attached to Terry's Finer Foods in the Heights, prepare this beauty in a flat iron skillet apples-down, each slice coated in a blend of cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and butter, the dough for the crust sprawled over its top like a firm blanket.  It's only when the apples have fully caramelized that the pie is inverted into its final form.

Terry’s Finer Restaurant
5018 Kavanaugh Boulevard
Little Rock, AR 72207
(501) 663-4152

Terry's Finer Foods - The Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brown sugar.

Is there any sort of pastry Tandra Watkins creates that we don't love?  We haven't found it yet.

Her brown sugar pie with bourbon whipped cream deserves to be highlighted on the menu at upscale Ashley's at the Capital... what surprises us is that it's actually the featured wintertime dessert over at Capital Bar and Grill across the lobby.  The brownie-crisp top crust, the almost pecan-custard (yet pecan-less) filling, the decadent and light slightly alcoholic cool cream... it'll make you thankful.

Check out the book for the recipe, and for more on Tandra.

Capital Bar and Grill
11 West Markham
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 374-7474

Capital Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sweet potato.

There are two types of sweet potato pie.  There's the really sweet version, and there's the spicy, more savory version.

Sim's falls more on the savory side, but splits the difference as well.  Made over the years by different members of the family, the pie has essentially remained the same over the past several decades -- a spice-packed smooth concoction packed into a simple flour crust.

Why it goes well with barbecue, we may never really know.  But this specialty is a good one to counteract the astringently pungent and sweet barbecue sauce that soaks every slice of white bread that barbecue comes into contact with.

Sim’s Bar-B-Que
1307 Barrow Road
Little Rock, AR 72204
(501) 224-2057
Sim's Bar-b-que on Urbanspoon

2415 Broadway Street
Little Rock, AR 72206
(501) 732-6868
Sim's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

7601 Geyer Springs Road
Little Rock, AR 72209
(501) 562-8844
Sims Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 23, 2012

PCP (pineapple, coconut, pecan).

Ed and Kay's Restaurant in Benton is known far and wide for the Mile High Pie, but that's not the end of good pie at the whitewashed, red topped restaurant on the southwest side of town.

Our favorite, bar none, is Miss Alma's PCP pie.  The restaurant was, after all, Ed and Alma's before it was Ed and Kay's.  That pie... made from the same recipe after all these years, is still just as good (and it's in the book).

Somehow, the blend of pineapple, shredded coconut and pecans comes out buttery and pleasant, a perfect concoction with heft and sweet dreams.  It's almost good enough to allow you to eat nothing but pie -- but then you're missing out on fried potatoes, humongous breakfasts and homegrown lunches.  And you don't want to do that.

Ed and Kay’s Restaurant
15228 Interstate 30
Benton, AR 72019
(501) 315-3663

Ed & Kay's Restaurant on Urbanspoon