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Critic's Choice: The upper crust of pies in the L.A. area

November 10, 2012|By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic
  • Among the holiday pies at Cake Monkey Bakery is this honey-braised pumpkin tart.
Among the holiday pies at Cake Monkey Bakery is this honey-braised pumpkin… (Cake Monkey Bakery )

Though old-school places like the Apple Pan and Pie & Burger have never wavered in their affection for pie, the old-fashioned American dessert has been missing in action at most restaurants and pastry shops for years, except at Thanksgiving. You'd see French-style tarts and, very occasionally, coy individual pies in eccentric flavors. But a slice of honest pie? Very rare, indeed.

Fortunately, pie is making a comeback. It could have something to do with KCRW-FM's "Good Food" host Evan Kleiman's affection for pie, her annual pie baking contest and her app "Easy as Pie" for iPhone and iPad. Whatever the impetus, it's about time, I say. So let your Aunt Nessie pick up her apple pie from Marie Callender's or the supermarket. The rest of us have some more appealing options.

Cake Monkey Bakery

Cake Monkey is known for sweet little 3-inch cakes, but former Grace pastry chef Elizabeth Belkind harbors a secret love for pie. For the holidays, she's baking her stupendous Vermont cider roasted apple pie in a double white cheddar crust. She's doing a honey-braised pumpkin tart too, the silky pumpkin custard topped with toasted marshmallow frosting. But what about butterscotch pudding pie crowned with pumpkin seed brittle or a brown butter pecan pie? I'm in.

10844 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood, (877) 640-2253, cakemonkey.com. For the holidays, order by Nov. 20. 10-inch pies serving 8 to 10, $30 to $38. Pick up, or they'll deliver for a fee.

Jongewaard's Bake 'n' Broil

The Long Beach institution is famous for its cream pies, which come in nine varieties, including banana fudge cream and peanut butter cup. But this season, it's time to go for pumpkin streusel, walnut raisin (less sweet than pecan pie) or the festive "holiday lush," a cream cheese filling with cranberries and streusel topping. In the days before Thanksgiving, Jongewaard's usually sends a couple thousand pies out the door.

3697 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, (562) 595-0396. Pies, $11.95 to $15.95.

Cooks County

Genius baker Roxana Jullapat of Cooks County restaurant in L.A. throws herself into pie baking for the holiday season. Her two favorites: Southern chocolate, basically a chess pie with chocolate in it, a recipe passed along by a Southern friend; and a cranberry chess pie laced with a tart cranberry compote in a super flaky crust. Of course, there's a delicately spiced pumpkin pie too, and a cinnamon-scented apple streusel pie for traditionalists. She'll also make gluten-free versions of most pies.

8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 653-8009, http://www.cookscountyrestaurant.com. Last day to order pies, Monday before Thanksgiving for pickup the day before turkey day. 9-inch pies, $35; gluten-free, $40.

irene.virbila@latimes.com

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