Perhaps I exaggerate. But can you afford to take that chance and go on believing that transcendence eludes the pie category when I, yes I, say I have tasted it this very night?
Let me back up. There are some foods that seem to offer limitless opportunity for subtle gradations of goodness and greatness-- and some that don't. I always find it hard to answer "where is the best breakfast"-- how much better can one set of scrambled eggs or pancakes get than another? It's more like, ask me for the name of a reliably competent breakfast place near you, and the ones you absolutely should stay away from.
That's basically how I think of pie. There's generic pie, like you'd buy at Jewel. It's fine. There's a class of pie above that, like the Achatz ones you find at Whole Foods. You know you're eating real crust and not a styrofoam-based crust substitute, as may be the case with Jewel's pie. But I did not believe in transcendent pie experiences... until tonight, when I had a sliver of apple-raspberry pie from a place called Toni Marie's in Hinsdale.
I know nothing about this place or what else they make or what they're most famous for; it was simply a pie that someone brought to a Christmas party (in Hinsdale). Not until I did about five Google searches did I find the correct spelling (see below). But the sliver, the thin dietarily correct holiday season sliver I had, was magical. The combination of apple and raspberry-- brassy, immature raspberry mellowed out by the relaxed, grownup bass of baked apple-- was inspired; but there was more, a concentration of flavors, subtle spices existing just beyond my tongue's ability to identify them, that moved it into the realm of the sublime. All of that between the covers of an honest, styrofoam free, flaky crust.
(I have to admit something now. I have held my tongue when people like RST have talked about the lack of support for the surviving Viennese model bakeries and whatnot. But the fact is, I've tried a lot of these old places and never been that thrilled. I get my kids' birthday cakes exclusively at Dinkel's out of neighborhood loyalty, and they're very good, as are their chocolate bismarcks. I hit Swedish Bakery this time every year for cookies and weird peppery coffeecakes to take home for Christmas. I buy a six-pack of Ann Sather cinnamon rolls on occasion. But I have to admit, I am rarely delighted with the results when I pick up the usual coffee cake or danish or a loaf of storemade bread in a randomly selected old school bakery. The newer ones, the yuppie ones you might say like Red Hen, beat them hands down for imagination, flavor, texture, everything. Maybe there are ones that are truly transcendent, or at least as intermittently excellent as Dinkel's is-- Reuter's? Roeser's? I don't know. If you do, tell me. In the meantime, check out the pie at Toni Marie's.)
51 S Washington St
Hinsdale IL 60521
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