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Apple Pie : PIES: We Pick the Best

September 20, 1990|CHARLES PERRY

No bakery seems to make plain apple pie exactly the way my mother did. Hers had a thick but not over-rich crust and a filling that was generous but neither excessively sweet nor soupy (though some always leaked out of the crust and caramelized appetizingly). I don't believe there's a single Platonic Ideal for most foods, but apple pie is an exception. I've never been interested in any pie but hers.

The recipe was probably straight from Fannie Farmer to begin with, but she must have changed it and made it her own in some obscure way, perhaps unconsciously. As the German poet Rilke once observed, if you give two children identical pocket knives they won't stay the same. Six months later they'll have come to look quite different, bent and scratched and smoothed in unique ways. He was explaining why everyone has a different idea of God, but Mom, God and apple pie all do sort of go together.

Chapo Restaurant on Melrose makes an apple tart that at least takes my mind off hers. It's not a pie at all but an elegant bit of European haute cuisine. On a bed of puff pastry there's a layer of apple essence, then a layer of Granny Smith apples sliced paper-thin and painted with apricot glaze. It's just a mouthful, but flaky and buttery and delicate.

And it's not apple pie, but I'll have another piece right now.

Chapo Restaurant, 7661 Melrose Ave . , Hollywood, (213) 655-2924.

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