In his post as executive pastry chef at world renowned French dining temple Le Bernardin, Michael Laiskonis doesn't turn out too many pies, but that doesn't mean the James Beard Award winner doesn't like them. "Sometimes we get too complex for our own good, so it's good to go back and sort of recalibrate," he says. We were more than happy to help him do just that on a recent afternoon, escorting the easygoing Laiskonis around town stuffing our own pieholes, so to speak, at the Dutch, Momofuku Milk Bar, M. Wells, Four & Twenty Blackbirds, and Pies-N-Thighs, plus one from Hester Street Fair vendor and Fatty 'Cue purveyor First Prize Pies. Laiskonis arrived with his appetite primed, announcing, as we dug in to our first specimen, "This is breakfast for me." See his thoughts on the crust, filling, and comfort factor of each slice, then check out his winner, straight ahead.
Pies-N-Thighs: Sour Cherry Pie, $4.50
"It looks like almost more of a crumble."
"I'm pretty sure it's made with dried cherries; I guess this time of year, I was expecting fresh. I'm a little disappointed."
COMFORT FACTOR: 3
TOTAL POINTS: 9.5
Pies-N-Thighs: Apple Pie With Cheddar, $5
"It's solid. It's still pretty clean and contained, so you know it's going to be a bit dry."
"The cinnamon — if there were any more, there'd be too much."
COMFORT FACTOR: 4
"It's not as luscious and unctuous as the peach one."
TOTAL POINTS: 11
M. Wells: Banana Cream Pie, $6
"This is a little bit thicker, to contrast the lightness of the whipped cream and the pastry cream."
"The filling, even though it's three distinct flavors and textures, they're cohesive."
COMFORT FACTOR: 4.5
"This is quintessential diner pie."
TOTAL POINTS: 12
The Dutch: Salted Lime Pie With Coconut Sorbet, $9
M. Wells: Maple Pie, $7
"Unlike some other pies, it's not so much the vehicle as a crucial component. It's incredibly flaky, maybe a little bit overcooked."
"It's a little bit more refined."
COMFORT FACTOR: 4
TOTAL POINTS: 12
First Prize Pies: Shoo-Fly Pie, $30 for a Pie
Momofuku Milk Bar: Crack Pie, $5.25
"I think here it's just kind of the vehicle."
"There are interesting things happening with the filling. It almost speaks to that idea of 'greater than the sum of its parts'; they have to be using quality ingredients.
COMFORT FACTOR: 5
"This lies on that guilty pleasure, pure indulgence side."
TOTAL POINTS: 13
The Dutch: Peach Pie With Candied Thyme and Lemon-Buttermilk Sherbet, $9
"The latticework is very well done. With something like this, you're in danger of the bottom becoming soggy, but it holds up without being tough."
"The candied thyme I thought would be overwhelming, but it's not as pronounced as I expected."
COMFORT FACTOR: 5
"Aesthetically, for me, this is how it's supposed to be. The filling is barely contained. I love how this falls apart."
TOTAL POINTS: 13.5
Four & Twenty Blackbirds: Salted Caramel Apple Pie, $4.75
"The bottom layer disintegrates a little bit."
"It's mostly apple. It's loose and kind of sloppy, which just means it's moist. There might be some cinnamon, but it's supporting."
COMFORT FACTOR: 5
TOTAL POINTS: 14
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