I was just leaving Michele’s Pies in Norwalk, Ct, when Suzen called to check on me.
“How was it?”
“Great. She’s fascinating.”
“How much pie did you eat?”
“Not a piece. I was doing an interview,” I protested.
“How many pies did you buy?”
“Not a one.”
“That’s very hard to believe,” Suzen commented.
“I can be disciplined,” I said. Suzen laughed and hung up. Which was very insulting, because I did not eat any pie there and I did not buy anything. True, Michele Stuart gave me two mini-pies but that never came up in the conversation with Suzen. I took the pies upstate and had to cut them apart to photograph them. And, then, once they were in pieces, well …
That picture above is Michele Stewart of Michele’s Pies [www.michelespies.com] with stores in Norwalk [the original starting four years ago] and Westport [just last year].
I often write in this blog about the wonders of pastry, especially from Paris. It may invoke visions for you of a nobly dedicated baker opening the door of his flour-dusted establishment at 4AM each day. And it’s true that in Paris they make things that you can rarely find on this side of the Atlantic.
But it works both ways. There are treasures on this side of the Atlantic, too. Each day at 4AM, Michele Stuart turns on her lights in her bakery and creates the best pies you ever tasted. The French do tarts, but not pies. Michele does pies, some cookies, but no cakes.
“I stick with my specialty,” she says.
Born and educated in Connecticut, she grew up with her grandmother’s pies. She wanted a culinary career but her parents steered her towards a more academic path. After college, she ended up as nuclear medicine technician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Life interceded, there were family needs, and Michele found herself back in Connecticut caring for her grandmother. Before her grandmother died, Michele made a promise to her: “I’m going to make your pies famous.” That is a promise well kept.
When Michele appeared on QVC with her awesome book Perfect Pies, she sold 12,000 copies in an hour. On Sunday, March 4th, 2012, she’ll be back on QVC between noon and 3PM. It you want to see and hear from an expert, set your cable box to watch or to record.
Michele has won 26 Gold Medals at the National Pie Championships — and she’ll be going for more this year. Her book is filled with award winning pie recipes, including her signature Chocolate-Pecan-Bourbon Pie [pictured below]. I’m going to blog that recipe in the coming days, but you should get all the recipes that the book offers. Buy the book!
Michele makes several hundred pies in a week. Its winter, so cream pies, like banana cream, fill her showcase now. But everything has fruit and only fresh fruit. She says fresh-only can be a challenge but the quality of freshness is something she insists on.
Quality would suffer if she shipped her pies, so she doesn’t. But, if you ever, ever are near the Connecticut coast, then you owe yourself a visit to Michele’s Pies. Check her website, www.michelespies.com for locations and hours. You will never have better pie in your life. It’s not just Parisian quality. It’s Connecticut quality.