So given my general writing uselessness over the past couple of months, I’ve got some catching up to do. So, here is the first of two quick fire posts of places I wanted to give a special biggup to that we visited in New York back in October. Jesus. That seems like an awfully long time ago.
The first of these is Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Gwanus, Brooklyn. Now, as I’m sure you know, ‘pie’ is an American institution. It’s an old school love affair that has outlived cupcakes, macarons, whoopie pies and whatever sweet thang is currently de rigueur. The Yanks love it, and the queue outside Four & Twenty proves the legend above the door, ‘this must be where pies go when they die’.
Run by two sisters who cut their teeth working at their family’s restaurant in South Dakota, before slinging pies from their apartment in Crown Heights, NY, they set up Four & Twenty almost two years ago, and have been rammed ever since. There’s nothing particularly unusual about the place itself. It’s got all the trademarks of your typical hipster cafe. Bare brick walls, stripped back wood, tattooed serving staff etc, but it has a really welcoming, homely vibe. I guess you could describe it as pie in atmosphere form.
The pie on the other hand is unusual. And in a good way. We tried a selection including the plum crumble, brown butter pumpkin and the salty honey. All the pies are hand made, and come with the same crust, which is totally the right combination of tenderness and crumble, with a great buttery flavour. The plum crumble was amazing. Sweet and crunchy with a tart punch of local plums, all smoothed out with some lightly sweetened whipped cream. The pumpkin was everything a pumpkin pie should be. Dense, deep, moist, pumpkin-ey custard filling spiked with cinnamon and the surprise addition of a nutty richness supplied by the brown butter. And finally, and I have to be honest my least favourite, the salty honey. Richer than Daddy Warbucks, the custard filling was packed with butter and honey, set off with a generous sprinkling of salt crystals on the surface. It wasn’t in any way bad, but just too much for me.
I’m not going to lie to you, Four & Twenty isn’t exactly in what you’d describe as a ‘handy mid-town location’ but Gwanus and neighbouring Red Hook are areas on the up and up and well worth a look around, and I’m telling you, the pie alone makes the trek a no brainer. Special Agent Dale Cooper would be a very happy man.