Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pie Tin, Newtown

Pies, glorious pies.

In Australia, pie isn't just for dessert.  And no, they don't break the "rules", rather, savory pies are a thing.  In fact, they are more common that sweet pies.  For the uninitiated, savory pies are like individual pot pies, with all sorts of fillings.  They are sold all over the place, generally as a fast food-like item, and even grocery stores are loaded with them, fresh or frozen.  Traditionally they are served topped with mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy, and folks tend to add tomato sauce (ketchup) too.

While I don't necessarily care for most savory pie fillings, I do love flaky pie crust, so I'm generally game to check out a pie place if others are so inclined.  Particularly when the pie place is not only known for their savory pies, but also for their sweet pie selection.  You know me and desserts.  I'll "suffer" through any main course to get to dessert at the end!

So when a couple co-workers joined us in Sydney, on their very first night, we made a voyage all the way to Newtown, to a pie place I had read about: Pie Tin.  Pie Tin carries about 25 types of savory pie and more than 30 sweet pies.  ZOMG.

Sadly, I think we liked the savory pies more than the sweet ones, but I think that was largely due to the choices available that day.  I won't venture back to Newtown just to get more pie, but if I was in the area, I'd certainly swing back in.
Communal Table.
Pie Tin is not a fancy place.  Most seating is at a large communal table in the center of the room.  There are a few small tables on the side as well.  Silverware (sporks!), water, and condiments are self-service.  Orders are taken at a register, you are given a number, and a few minutes later your number is called, and you must get up to fetch it.  Pies are served on metal plates.  Not fancy, but who needs fancy for pies?
Savory Pies.
The savory pies are all displayed in a case near the register, and are then warmed up once you order.

The pies available change daily, an on our visit, for savories, we had the choice of classic beef mince,  slow roasted smokey beef brisket & mushrooms, slow roasted southern style shredded pork with apple and bbq sauce, chunky steak and stout, chermoula mutton with eggplant and red capsicum, butter chicken with green beans, sweet roasted duck with cointreau and maple flavoured syrup, and even two vegetarian selections, cauliflower & zucchini with cheesy white sauce or lentil with sundried tomato pesto.  There was also a lamb roll with spinach and pine nuts and vegetarian roll.

Individual pies are $5.90 - $8.90, or available as a meal for $11.50 - $14.50, with up to two sides.  The sides to pick from are classic mash and gravy, mushy peas, chips, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, leaf salad, and greek salad.  For an extra $1, you could pick sweet potato fries.

After ordering, we were given a number, and went to take a seat.
Sweet Pies.
Of course, I stopped to admire the sweet pies.  I was actually a bit disappointed, as I had read the menu online in advance, and even though I knew they wouldn't have all 30 varieties listed, I hoped some of my top picks would be there.  Alas, no brown butter pecan, pumpkin, apple and mixed berry, lemon brûlée, passionfruit cream pie, mixed nut and caramel, or, the one I really wanted, banoffee, were available.  In fact, all were in tart shells, rather than flaky pie crusts, and most had chocolate crumb crusts.

The selection was almost all chocolate based, and since Ojan and I try to avoid chocolate in the evenings, this was a bit unfortunate.  The only non-chocolate choices were coconut cream (which Ojan doesn't like) or whipped lime (which I don't like), so, we knew there would have to be chocolate involved, if we wanted sweet pie, and, obviously, we did.

The pies were all a sight to behold, and I'm glad we had time while waiting for our savory pies for me to drool over the sweet pies.  If I had visited just for sweet pies, I would have been an annoying person standing there gaping rather than ordering.  This gave me plenty of time to select.  And then change my mind.  And select again :)

Many of the pies were candy inspired such as Snicker's, Mars bar, or Maltesers pies.  Others were cookie inspired, such as Oreo or Tim Tam.  Others were just pure decadence, like the chocolate peanut butter, gooey caramel & chocolate ganache, ‘noelines’ triple chocolate, maple soaked strawberries with belgian chocolate, and baked banana & belgian chocolate.

The blackforest meringue pie was the most eye-catching, with a layer of meringue that was about 3 times taller than the pie itself.

Slices range from $7.90 - $10.90, with a dollop of cream for an extra $0.50 or scoop of ice cream for $1.
Slow Roasted Southern Style Shredded Pork with Apple & BBQ Sauce, Mushy Peas with Gravy, Coleslaw. ~12.50.
Ojan and I decided to split a meal, since we knew we wanted room for sweet pies.  I let Ojan pick the pie flavor, since I didn't care much about the savory.  He went for the pulled pork.

The pie was served nice and hot.  I'm impressed with how well heated it was, given that it didn't take long.  There was a generous amount of pulled pork inside, slathered in a not too sweet bbq-style sauce, and ... slices of apple.  The apple was a bit strange, but I liked it, as the slices were tender and warm, and with the crust, it was almost like eating apple pie.  Which really is what I wanted anyway.   The crust was quite good.  It was thick, flaky, and buttery.  Ojan wasn't into the crust, and I wasn't into the filling, so we made a good team.

For sides, I really wanted the coleslaw, since I love slaw.  Ojan thought it didn't look very good, but I insisted, and I'm glad I did.  It was creamy, super flavorful, and crunchy.  Sure, perhaps a bit overdressed, it certainly wasn't healthy, but come on, we were there eating pies for all courses, healthy was given up long ago.  I did notice that many patrons ordered the simple green leaf salad, perhaps a wiser choice.

Ojan picked the mushy peas.  I didn't like them, as they reminded me of split peas.  He really liked them though.  The gravy was tasty on top, and I dipped my crust in it.

Overall, neither Ojan nor I loved our pie selection, but both of us agreed that it was a really well made pie.  The sides were a bigger hit.

As I mentioned, they only had sporks, so no knives even, and it is encouraged that you just eat the pie with your hands.  I had a fun time observing different techniques.  One kid sat down next to us, removed the pie top completely, and placed it under his pie, eating it along with the bottom crust.  Another woman took of her pie top and discarded it.  She ate the filling out of her pie, and discarded the entire bottom crust too.  Yet another took off the top, and broke the pieces off one by one and dunked them into the filling.  I had no idea there were so many ways to eat a pie!

Anyway, the serving size was quite large when you added sides, and the price was quite reasonable.  Two people can easily split a meal if you intend to get dessert, which, how can you not?
Cauliflower & Zucchini with Cheesy White Sauce, Chips. ~11.50.
Our vegetarian dining companion was happy to have not one, not two, but three choices!  I think he expected one token vegetarian offering.  I didn't try a bite, but he seemed quite happy with his choice, and in particular, like me, he really liked the flaky crust.  The fries, er, chips, looked pretty basic.

Another companion got the sweet roasted duck with cointreau and maple flavoured syrup, along with mashed potato, mushy peas, and gravy.  He really liked his, and commented that the balance of duck to sauce was perfect.
Hot Chocolate. $4.
Finally, it was time for dessert!  Back up to the register we went.

To go along with his pie, Ojan also ordered a hot chocolate.  It looked quite pretty, but he said it tasted like it came from a powdered mix.  We appreciated that it was served with a little marshmallow on the side, but he only took a few sips.  We later saw these exact same marshmallow show up at several other places, so they must be a local thing? Notable to us in that they are a totally different shape than we are used to for marshmallows.  Ojan tried to give the hot chocolate to the others, and they all agreed that it wasn't very good.

Not worth the $4.
Decaf Long Black. $4.
Since I knew we were about to get a bunch of sweet pie, I decided to order a decaf coffee to have something bitter.  Just like I try not to have chocolate in the evening I certainly try not to have coffee, even decaf, but, black coffee and pie just go together so well.  I couldn't resist.  And since I was having chocolate anyway, who cared right?  I was already breaking all the "rules".

The coffee comes from Double Roasters of Marrickville, and was really, really good.  Definitely one of the best decaf I had in Sydney.  No funk, no strange sweetness, just complex and really quite good.  And indeed, definitely the right thing to go with my sweet, sweet pie.

A regular coffee is $3.50, decaf an extra $0.50.  This is normal for Sydney prices.
Black Forest Meringue Pie. ~$7.90.
As I mentioned, none of the pies I really wanted were available.  My biggest disappointment was that none had pastry crusts.  I liked the flaky pastry dough so much in the savory pie, and was looking forward to more.  Alas, tart shells were the only option.

My first choice was the black forest meringue pie, partially based on looks alone.  Seriously.  Look at that meringue!  And it was the soft, sweet, fluffy style of meringue, not the hard type of meringue used in pavlova that is more common in Australia.

We did not add a dollop of cream, nor a scoop of ice cream, even though it was offered.  While I love both those items, and normally always serve my pie with one, if not both, I'm not sure how how either would possibly go with the pie.

Anyway, the pie.  Sadly, it looked far more impressive than it tasted.

The crust was a thick, hard, chocolate crumb crust.  It was fine, but not the style of crust I like.  Above that was sweet chocolate pudding, with a few cherries in it.  I was pretty disappointed with the scarcity of the cherries, and would have really liked more.  Isn't that what black forest is all about?  And ... the meringue.  I did like the meringue, don't get me wrong, it was fluffy, it was sweet, but wow, there was actually just too much.  Impressive, yes, but not what we wanted.  I think this pie would have been better as just the bottom layers topped with some whipped cream.  Don't get me wrong, I love meringue, but it would go better with a different type of pie.  The topping just didn't match the base very well.

One of my dining companions doesn't really like dessert, so he took only one bite.  The other took one or two bites, and quickly moved on.  Ojan managed perhaps three.  And then, there was me.  And this massive, massive slice of pie.  I didn't like it very much, but they were all clearly not going to eat it.  How can you possibly let pie go to waste?  So, I took one for the team.  And kept eating.  And eating.  And eating.  Now that I see the photo, I realize why I felt so sick afterwards.  That was a massive, massive slice of pie, and I can't believe I took it down, fairly singlehandedly.  Or, stated more accurately, I guess I can believe that it took ME down.  Doh.  It actually makes my stomach hurt just thinking about this again!

This pie was better to look at that to eat, but the price was reasonable for the massive size.  Warning: do not attempt to get a slice by yourself!
Mississippi Mud Pie (fudgy chocolate, caramel, and pecans). ~$7.90.
But you didn't think that we possibly just got ONE slice of pie, right?  Not with me involved!  Our other dining companion selected this one, Mississippi Mud Pie.  We again declined cream or ice cream.

It had the same chocolate tart crust as the black forest, which I again didn't really like.  On top of that was thick caramel, with a few nuts in it.  I found that layer to be fairly sweet and one dimensional, but appreciated the nuts.  On top was a layer that looked like it might be cream cheese frosting, but was just thick sweet icing.

I liked this pie even less than the other, as it was really, really too sweet for me.  I know, I know, I love sweet things, but, they need balance.  The others claimed this pie was less sweet than the blackforest, but I think they are crazy.  It was also another case of the topping not quite matching the rest of the pie.  Why did it have the sweet frosting on top of the already sweet caramel?  Also, it wasn't really a Mississippi Mud pie ... isn't that normally a chocolate pie, topped with whipped cream?

Once again, the diner who doesn't care for dessert took one bite.  The person who ordered this pie took a few bites.  Ojan took one or two.  So yet again, another huge slice of pie, that I didn't really like, left for me to deal with.  I'm so bad at throwing out food.  Did I mention that I felt awful when I left Pie Tin?

I liked this one the least, yet ate most of it too.  Doh.  I actually think it would have been better with ice cream to cut the sweetness, which I said to my dining companions, who all thought I was even crazier for suggesting adding a sweet thing to it, but honestly, I think it would have helped.
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