Been awhile since we had a Fort Smith Eats Pie-Off. Let’s rectify that.
In case you missed the first one, here are the rules:
Meet our contestants:
CHERRY PIE at GEORGE’S
CHOCOLATE PIE at BOB & ELLIE’S
George’s Cherry Pie:
We don’t know what it is about cherry pie that makes it so impossible to hold itself together. Perhaps it’s just in the nature of the pie that the crust always breaks up a little and the cherries sprawl all over the plate like they’ve landed in a king-size bed after being relegated to a sleeping bag all their lives. We’ve sampled several cherry pies around town, and so far, this one is the best-looking of them. (We were served one unfortunate slice from Lucy’s Diner that tasted great but looked like a butcher had gone after it with a meat hammer. So much so we’d feel bad about posting it on our blog as representative of their pie. Presentation, people! We may not always be so merciful.)
George’s — a true townie place if ever there was one — keeps several dozen slices of homemade pie on display in their pie case/cooler. Fruit pies they offer to heat up first, and we took them up on the offer.
What we love about cherry pie is the blend of tang and sugar on our tongue, and the contrasting texture of flaky crust with the firm plump cherries in what we call “pie juice.” That thick suspension of fruit syrups that looks so pretty, even spilling all over the plate. Pie juice. And we like it tangy. Too many cherry pies are off-the-deep-end sweet, sacrificing that distinctive cherry flavor in favor of tasting like Hostess filling.
This slice of George’s cherry pie wasn’t tangy. It was downright tart. Face-making, full-puckering, eye-wincing tart. Is that a bad thing? Well, it could have been. But then the crust came to play.
This crust — obviously homemade — was crusted (Can a crust be crusted?) in sugar, baked onto the flaky dough as it set. So as soon as we puckered up from the unexpected sourness of the cherries, a bite of the thick, sugary crust came in and hushed our worries. The result? As long as we were careful to pair every bite with a bit of crust — it takes a little fork strategy, mind you — each bite blossomed into a beautiful harmony of warm, comforting fruit and pastry flavors.
Bob & Ellie’s Chocolate Pie:
This pie really took us by surprise. When we’d asked what pies were available, the server had listed them all and we’d picked “Chocolate.” But we had assumed it would be what most of them are: Chocolate Cream Pie. Instead, she handed us this unadorned wedge of chocolate pie, with no whipped topping in sight. We’re not sure we’d ever had a simple chocolate pie without whipped cream or other toppings and candies and general whoopties fluffing it up. Chocolate peanut butter, chocolate pecan, chocolate chess, yes. But plain chocolate? After taking a moment to re-align our expectations with what we’d just ordered, we decided to dig in and find out what we thought.
“Simple” is a good word. The filling was cold and creamy, a dense chocolate pudding firmed up with tapioca. Not overly sweet. The firm crust looked manufactured but seemed to go with the pie pretty well. Sometimes crust and filling don’t match up, you know.
We sat back and thought about chocolate pie, sans cream, and came to a conclusion. It felt like trucker pie. Ya know? Come into Bob & Ellie’s off a 400-mile ride on the route to Tallahassee, take off the ball cap, sidle into a booth and order a big homestyle meal, followed by a slab o’ chocolate pie straight from the cooler. Nuthin’ fancy, just a few mouthfuls of cool chocolate to take the edge off that sweet tooth and give you an excuse for an extra cuppa Joe. Trucker pie. Good stuff.
Can there really be only one? Given our druthers, we’d get a slice of each, side by side and just alternate bites. Cool chocolate. Tangy cherry. Cool chocolate. Tangy cherry. Sip of coffee. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But alas, there must be only one. Rules say so.
We want to pick the chocolate trucker pie, because we are somewhat taken with the simplicity of it, but we keep thinking about that sugary, cherry-coated handmade crust at George’s.
Yep, George’s it is. We’ll fall for a good homemade crust every time.