On our way to the Rockaways, we stopped by Four & Twenty Blackbirds, whose pies made their debut nationwide when Whoopi brought them to share on the Jimmy Fallon show.
Opened in 2010 by two sisters, Four & Twenty Blackbirds is renown for homemade pies that are made from scratch every day using seasonal ingredients. The menu changes frequently which simply means I have an excuse for repeat visits.
Figuring there would be a mass of people waiting outside, we were pleasantly surprised to see no line since we dropped by mid-afternoon after lunchtime.
The quiet atmosphere reminded me of a library with various people studying, reading, and enjoying a brief respite from life with a nice latte. There was plenty of seating at the long gorgeous wood tables throughout the bakery so we snagged the one closest to the display case.
I found myself mesmerized by the sight of them taking fresh pies out of the oven, sprinkling sea salt flakes on the chocolate pie, and delicately spooning a mound of whipped cream on the plate when Julia snapped me out of my trance.
"Jesse, what flavors do you want?"
Feeling a wave of analysis paralysis, I left the ordering up to the rest of the group. (If it was up to me, I would have ordered them all).
We started with a slice of the salted caramel apple. The golden-brown lattice and crunchy specks of sugar tempered the tartness of apples which retained some bite, a welcome change from the typical apple pie - mushy apples, limp crust, excess sugar.
The black bottom oat reminded me of a pecan pie except it was topped with a handful of granola oats instead of pecans. If you like your sweets, this is the flavor for you - a tad too sweet and rich for me.
The strawberry streusel was a collective favorite because of its perfect balance between tart and sweet. The chunks of local strawberry doused in the fresh whipped cream - unmatched in its simplicity and flavor.
The salty honey was another crowd favorite. Each bite had a creamy layer of filling infused with honey while the roof of your mouth collected the salty flakes. This particular filling (think pumpkin pie velvety texture) pairs extremely well with the flaky crust.
Ordering an extra portion of whipped cream isn't a recommendation. It's a requirement.
Before leaving, we breathed in the aroma of sugar, flour and crust one last time as we made our way outside the door into the blinding sun.
We all were a bit happier than when we came in, which is the whole point, right?
What to get: I'm not a fruit guy, but if you could only get one slice there, stick to the fruit pies, since they naturally help counter the sugar and butter with acidity. A great example is the strawberry streusel. Don't forget a side of fresh whipped cream.
I hear the pies sell out fast so go early in the morning to beat the rush. Also, whole pies are available for pickup with a few days notice. No delivery at this point. Would be a welcome alternative for birthdays instead of the usual cupcakes/bday cake.
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