A couple of years ago my friend, Shaft, decided he needed a downtown spot for pie. His mental image of a small diner with a glass display case offering fresh, homemade southern pies quickly turned to a quest. Likely, there was a time when several places downtown competed for “best pie” prizes, but clearly the era had passed. Finally, he found a place, called me and said he’d be here for pie before I could pull on my walking shoes. Minutes later we entered the establishment, noted the pie choices (on a menu, not displayed) and made our request, meringues of our childhood dancing in our heads, only to hear from the waitress, “I’ll have to see what they’ve thawed out.” Freezer pie! Talk about a buzz kill.
We’ve waited for pies ever since. It appears the wait may be over, though not with the kind of pie we imagined. I don’t know about your grandmother, but my Mamaw back in Alabama made another version of pies that didn’t involve a perfect topping, but rather a perfect crust surrounding a taste explosion of apple and cinnamon. Folded into a neat little pocket the size of an open palm, they could be fried or baked, then she’d wrap them in wax paper, place them in a re-used cereal box and send me home with a half-dozen for my lunches.
Sunday I attended the party for the Dale’s Fried Pie Stand Unveiling and found this very type of pie and immediately transported back in time. I told Dale the fruit versions (I had the delicious raspberry) reminded me of my grandmother’s pies. She said she was “very honored” at the comparison and “that’s the best compliment about the pies I’ve gotten to date!”
She comes as close to being a Renaissance Woman as most anyone I know. She works full time at Community Television of Knoxville filming, training volunteers to use the studio, cameras and editing equipment and scheduling programs. She’s very active in the Knoxville Writer’s Guild, serving on the board, writing with a poetry group. She gives presentations on social networking like the one mentioned above and is a published poet.
Also an actress, Dale is “a member of Knoxville’s Actor’s Co-op . . .performed with Shakespeare in the Square (Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream) and the Clarence Brown Theatre (Margaret in The Marriage of Bette and Boo) in 2008 and 2009 . . .” Oh, and she’s modeled, recently appearing in Brigid Oesterling’s downtown fashion show. Her wonderful blog often features these interests, plus cocktails and crafts.
I asked her why she chose to enter this new venture with so many other interests and pursuits already vying for her time. “I’ve always loved cooking,” she said, “and . . . I really like places that do one thing, and do it very well, and so when I started to dream about opening up a small culinary business . . . Fried pies were attractive because 1) they’re pies 2) they’re fried and 3) there’s room for endless variation in the fillings. I am especially happy I can make both sweet and savory options . . . I also like that they’re a traditionally Southern treat, which many people associate with family and childhood and a sense of nostalgia. I play that up in the 50’s theme of the stand and the way I dress when I sell the pies. It’s a way to squeeze in a little acting.”
Where does she hope this will lead? “I look forward to selling at venues around town (the Farmer’s Market, the Beer Market and various fairs and festivals), but ultimately I would really like to focus on private events like weddings, where I can work with the hosts to enhance their celebrations. I have some friends getting married in South Carolina this fall, and am bringing the pie stand to serve fried pies instead of cake. I’d love to do more of that. I also am looking into packaging the pies un-fried (they can be pan-fried, deep-fried or baked at home) to sell them in local grocery stores or maybe even mail-order.”
Earlier, I mentioned my reaction to the heavenly raspberry pie. I also tried the “mushroom and pesto” and it found it absolutely delicious, as well. Obviously, I was curious as to which Dale favored. She replied, “My favorite sweet pie is a “pina colada” pie, which is made with grilled pineapple and a coconut rum lime cream cheese. But the most popular sweet pie is the banana nutella.” Her favorite savory pie is the Green Chile Chicken, suggested by her coworker, Dave.
So, downtown will have at least the occasional pie as Dale begins to make her appearance around the center city. Shaft will be happy and so will you when you give them a try. Watch for the cart and tell her Urban Guy sent you. Oh, and if a wedding pie cart sounds like your style or if you have any other event in which you’d like to include a pie cart, e-mail her at Dalesfriedpies@gmail.com.